Scholarships Awarded to East LA Public Housing Residents

Nearly $200,000 scholarships awarded by Community Development Foundation since 1997

By Jennifer Blackwell-Trotter
Published on LatinoLA: August 27, 2013

Scholarships Awarded to East LA Public Housing Residents

On August 28th, the Community Development Foundation (CDF) will award more than $25,000 in scholarship funds to low-income Public Housing and Section 8 residents. In total, twenty-eight scholarship awards will be made to students attending a 4-year university, community college, or vocational program. Annually CDF offers the Housing Authority Resident (HAR) Scholarships as it fulfills its mission to inspire Public Housing and Section 8 residents by providing positive life-changing opportunities.

This year's recipients include 12 residents of the public housing complex known as the "Maravilla projects." These students are not only excelling in school, involved in community work, and active in extracurricular activities, but they are also working diligently to erase the negative perception of the Nueva Maravilla Public Housing Community, owned and operated by the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles.

As recent Garfield High School alumnus, Saaron Ramirez, stated "despite living in the projects, I have turned my adversities into a positive motivation which has instilled in me a desire to go to a university and obtain a degree." Saaron will attend Occidental College as a freshman this year studying government and law as she one day hopes to be a lawyer representing underserved communities much like her own.

Juan Gutierrez, another awardee that resides at Nueva Maravilla, was once a lost student failing to attend traditional and alternative schools. As a freshman at Garfield High School, Juan did not pass a single class. It's not that Juan wasn't smart enough to keep up with the other students. Rather he simply wasn't motivated. In 2011, seven years after dropping out of high school, Juan discovered and enrolled in the LA CAUSA's YouthBuild charter school.

With Robert Zardeneta's, Executive Director of the charter school, emphasis on education coupled with nurturing a sense of community service and leadership development, Juan developed into a motivated student. This past June Juan graduated from high school and is now enrolled at East Los Angeles College and Antioch University Los Angeles' Bridge Program all while expanding the first community garden in East Los Angeles with a grant from the Lead Now Fellowship. Juan now aspires to be an academic counselor to help motivate students like him that too get forgotten and slip through the cracks of overcrowded schools.

Nerissa Ucab, an East Los Angeles resident will enroll as a freshman at Cal State Long Beach to studying engineering in the fall. Ucab, like many of these top high school graduates and first-generation college students aspires to succeed within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. President Obama has continually highlighted STEM careers since 2009 as a key to our country's continued economic recovery and growth.

Scholarship recipients have not only become architects, doctors, counselors, lawyers, among other professions but they have also become positive role models for youth growing up in subsidized housing. As career professionals, past awardees contribute to the mainstream economy by purchasing homes, investing in savings, and starting new families in the middle class.

"The 28 awarded scholars were selected for their academic excellence, community involvement, and their exceptional resiliency in overcoming life challenges to pursue their educational and career goals, and ultimately obtain financial independence," stated CDF Executive Director Jennifer Blackwell-Trotter. "We are extremely proud to support them in their educational and career endeavors."

A report from the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University found that students living in public housing are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to graduate in four years, and less likely to pass standardized math and reading assessments than those who do not live in public housing. The Public Housing and Section 8 residents able to beat these odds and attend college face more challenges in financing their education. These scholarship funds come at a time when both public and private college tuitions are at an all-time high. Not only is tuition costly and rising, but students often incur other school-related expenses. These barriers make higher education a dream rather than reality for many financially disadvantaged people.

To hear more amazing and inspiring stories or to provide scholarship fund donations, please contact Jennifer Blackwell-Trotter at the Community Development Foundation 626-586-1899.

About Jennifer Blackwell-Trotter:
Jennifer N. Blackwell-Trotter is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Community Development Foundation. Since February 2011 she has awarded 61 scholarships to low-income Public Housing & Section 8 residents attending college.
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