Brianna Walker must be not only a terrific young photographer, but also a graduate of the Donald Trump School of Leverage.
A 2015 Co-Op High graduate and New Haven Promise Scholar, learned that her first-choice college, the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan, is offering her a $20,000 scholarship ... against that school’s annual whopping—can you believe it!—$65,000 tuition.
When she told the SVA folks the Promise program is giving her a full ride at any Connecticut state school, SVA immediately upped itsr offer to $60,000, with Walker and her family family responsible only for the remaining $5,000.
So Walker is headed for SVA in the fall. But if the tuition or school don’t work for her, her Promise scholarship benefit is deferrable for a year.
Her story was one of many about finances, emotions, and the struggle for education as a vehicle for social mobility that emerged at the New Haven Promise Scholars’ annual celebration. New Haven Promise is the program that since 2011 offered scholarship money to all city high schoolers who succeed in their studies.
The festive event drew this year’s record number 253 scholars, their families, and past scholars—in all more than 650 people across the generations—brimming with optimism, high expectations, and pride to the the Omni Hotel on Thursday night.
This is the first year that Promise’s qualifying students—city high schoolers who maintain a 3.0 GPA and fulfill the required attendance and community service requirements—will receive the planned full benefit: up to $10,000 a year or $40,000 over four years if they attend state schools and up to 25 percent at the state’s private schools.
Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton said the program is setting record numbers: $1.2 million given in scholarships last year, $2.2 this year, and an expected $3.2 million next year.
The emotional heart of the event, and of the program, is not about money, said Jordy Padilla.
A 2011 Promise scholar, ahe was also the recipient, along with his friend James Doss-Gollin, of the program’s Legacy Award.
Padilla (pictured) and Doss-Gollin have set up the New Haven Reach program, centered at Yale University, to help future scholars, many from families where they will be the first to go to a college, negotiate the increasingly expensive and byzantine process.
“Promise is not about money. It’s more to get kids to attend, and stay,” Padilla said.
Padilla, a graduate of Wilbur Cross High School, in May completed the University of New Haven with a degree in civil engineering. He said that the Promise program helped him get his first internship with the Gilbane Building Company.
Since graduating he has stepped into a full-time job as a cost engineer with Walsh Construction and is working on the New Haven Harbor Crossing project.
Padilla said that providing internships is one of the keys to the program.
Melton agreed. This year, in addition to a record number of scholars, there are a record number of paid internships, 56. The internships are mostly at Yale University, which is the prime funder of the Promise program.
Internships, past and future, have also played a big part in the success of Adisa John, like Padilla, in the first 2011 class of scholars.
She just graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a degree in social work and Spanish and is now headed to New York University for her master’s degree in social work.
She, along with her friend from the same class, Davon Myles, addressed the incoming group of scholars headed for Southern in one of the side rooms of the hotel Thursday evening before the crowd moved into the ballroom.
“I had an internship [while at Southern] at my old high school [Wilbur Cross],” said John, whose family came to New Haven 11 years ago from the Caribbean island nation of Dominca.
She has another internship already set up in connection with her NYU work at the New Haven Family Alliance.
Myles, who just graduated from Southern with a degree in accounting and hopes to become a CPA, also praised the Promise program. Like John, he has worked part and full-time jobs all through college, including custodial work in the city’s schools, in no small part.
John’s advice to the future scholars: Take every opportunity to be involved in student life, even if study and work are demanding.
Myles agreed and added, “I forgot to tell the kids to take internships.”
Former Mayor John DeStefano, who dropped by the proceedings, remembered both John and Myles from various events, including Promise recruitment efforts at Wilbur Cross High.
“Are you running for office now?” DeStefano said to Myles, and congratulated both of the young graduates before he moved on to the proceedings in the ballroom.