These 40 Newark Students Are Getting a Debt-Free College Education

“I feel like this would be a really great opportunity - to get a full-ride scholarship. You can’t beat that,” Eli said.

Sitting beside Eli was his classmate, Noel Rolon, who expressed his gratitude to be selected for the program and have a chance to pursue a debt-free college education.

“I know a lot of people who wish they had an opportunity like this. A lot of people don’t get an opportunity,” Noel said.

The program, which was launched in partnership with Saint Elizabeth University, the city’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery and the Brick City Peace Collective, targets students who have an incarcerated parent, have a parent who was recently released from incarceration within the past two years, has lost a parent or sibling to violence, is a victim of violence, or who is a first-generation college student.

Officials from Newark and Saint Elizabeth University want to make sure these students don’t get overlooked.

“Those hardships make it difficult for us to do the things that we dream about,” Baraka said.

“This announcement underscores our collective commitment to providing a high-quality and affordable education to 40 resolute, brave, strong, and brilliant scholars,” Saint Elizabeth University President Gary Crosby said. 

Eligible students also had to have a cumulative grade point average between 1.8 and 2.5. Additionally, students had to choose an academic focus in social work, psychology, education or nursing.

One student selected to the program who has her sights on the nursing field was Ikeiya Oakes, a senior at Newark Street Academy who noted her interest in the healthcare industry. 

“I’m good with people,” Ikeiya said. “The most exciting part is to have a free ride to college and take on all the opportunities.”

On-campus support for the students will be a critical component of the program as well.

Nationwide, many at-risk students’ dreams of earning a degree are stymied by limited supportive resources on campus.

A survey conducted by Blackboard, an education tech company, found at-risk students were at a far greater disadvantage than their when accessing support services at school. The report looked at a variety of areas of campus resources including IT and career services, academic support, financial aid, registration, and mental and physical health.

Of more than 2,000 students surveyed, 74% of students reported positive experiences with those services while at-risk students were less confident. About 32% of at-risk students could find support for academics, 25% for advising and 39% for financial aid, according to the report.

In order to prevent students selected to the Guaranteed Education pilot program from having their academic dreams squandered by limited on-campus support, both city and Saint Elizabeth officials have plans in place. Students will be backed by Saint Elizabeth’s Educational Opportunity Fund, which provides disadvantaged students with resources needed to succeed and graduate such as counseling, tutoring, and educational seminars and workshops.

Baraka noted officials from the city will be of assistance as well.

“We have other social workers and other folks that are here that are also going to be case managing folks through this process,” he said.

Following the press conference, the Newark students stepped onto charter buses parked outside City Hall and trekked to Morristown for a tour of their new campus, where they were joined by Crosby and university staff members.

As the students get ready to make Saint Elizabeth University their new home in the coming months, the mayor left them off with one mission.

“When you walk out of here and get to see that campus and you feel good about yourself because you’re going to be walking on that campus and hanging out up there, make sure you remember all of the things you had to deal with when you were here and the sense of urgency that you had - that feeling in your gut,” he said. “Those butterflies in your stomach when you walk up there the first day… turn those butterflies into the reason that you're going to excel, that nobody can make me miss this moment.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-05-10 03:57:03 -0700