medgar evers haitian students
Thanks to a new city program, Medgar Evers College will be able to offer scholarships and job training to more than 1,000 students. Photo by Sam Bojarski

To help Black college students cover gaps in financial aid, New York City is making $20 million available for scholarships and job training opportunities at Medgar Evers College, school officials announced June 18. The fund will provide $4,000 annual scholarships to 1,000 Medgar Evers College students, according to a news release. 

The scholarship fund is part of the city’s $45 million Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan aimed at closing the racial wealth gap.

“As part of this funding, our students will be better equipped to intentionally prepare for their futures and realize their dreams while contributing to the economic recovery of Brooklyn and New York City,” said Dr. Patricia Ramsey, president of Medgar Evers College.

The scholarship fund was welcome news to Carole Berotte Joseph, retired past president of CUNY Bronx Community College. She said the scholarships would be a “big help” to immigrant students in the Haitian community.

“I’m sure a lot of families would benefit from that, because most of the CUNY students have to work, even if they’re eligible for financial aid,” said Joseph, who helped found the Haitian Studies Institute at Brooklyn College. “A lot of kids struggle even to pay CUNY tuition.” 

A community fixture

Founded in 1970, Medgar Evers College has more than 5,000 undergraduate students, said Giulia Prestia, a spokesperson for the school. In recent years, the school has catered to the non-student Haitian community in Brooklyn, opening its facilities to offer free assistance with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applications. 

Following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the school offered extra counseling services to its roughly 700 students of Haitian descent, according to Insider Higher Ed. 

Of its current student body, 82% of learners are Black, said Prestia. Of the 28% of students known to be foreign born, 71% are from the Caribbean. Among these, 289 have self-identified as foreign-born Haitian students, she said. 

Separate from the scholarships, the Juneteenth Fund provides money for 200 Medgar Evers students to gain internship and job training experience. Students can gain this experience working in the fields of science, business, public health and the green economy, the school said in a press release. 

Specific allocations for career preparation and tuition assistance have not been determined yet, and funding is contingent on an agreed-upon city budget. “The program is for new first-year students and new transfer students with a CUNY associate’s degree,” Prestia said. “The program and student selection process will be similar to the criteria used at other CUNY institutions that have the ACE program.”

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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