Fifteen high school students from Princeton Community Village (PCV) have won grants from the New Jersey and National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) and its New Jersey affiliate (JAHMA). The students are high achievers in both academic performance and community service. All but one are graduates of Princeton High School (PHS).
“It really does take a village to ensure success,“ said Susan O’Malley of Princeton Community Village. “We work closely with PHS guidance and with organizations such as Corner House, and parents are heavily involved. Many of these young students are the first of their families to attend college and many of their parents are immigrants.”
In order to be selected, the students had to demonstrate significant community involvement. They worked with organizations such as Big Brother Big Sister, End Child Hunger Organization, Latinos Unidos and Minority Achievement Network. This year’s recipients also worked on projects to reduce child hunger, promote racial justice, provide assistance to the elderly, and mentor youth. Their efforts were recognized at an awards ceremony, Monday at Princeton Community Village.
“This is a remarkable year with seven of our 15 award recipients receiving both state and national awards,” said Edith Juarez, PCV activities coordinator and one of several people encouraging their success. “Of the past 11 years, this is the highest number of award winners so far.”
Guest speakers at the ceremony were Charlene St. Clair, a three-time-award recipient and now a doctor in optometry, and Officer Shahid Abdul-Karim, of the Princeton Police Dept. who grew up at Princeton Community Village where he lived on Butternut Row.
In his speech, Mr. Abdul-Karim shared memories of growing up in the “ville,” as PCV is affectionately known, and described his own path to success as a police officer in his home town. “I applied three times before I got the job,” he said. Even though he likes to work out, he told the students, his first attempt failed when he completed only seven of the eight pull ups required by the admission test. Instead of giving up, he took the test again and then again. “Take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you,” he told the students.
Dr. Bruce Johnson, Scholarship Program Administrator for the awards and a former school principal, introduced each of the recipients, eight of whom were present Monday. “The culture of PCV supports education and you should feel proud of that, these are terrific students with above 3.0 grade point averages making a commitment to education and to their community,” he said. “Education leads to opportunity and opportunity leads to success.”
Asked about PCV in relation to other affordable housing, Mr. Johnson described it as outstanding. “Susan [O’Malley], Mary [Maybury] and Edith [Juarez] do an excellent job of promoting JAHMA and NAHMA and the highest number of applicants each year comes from PCV,” he said. “Students here attend one of the best high schools in the country [PHS], which gives them a very good preparation; they go on to some of the best colleges and universities; and the retention rate is impressive.”
This year’s students will attend Fairleigh Dickinson University, Franklin Marshall College, Haverford College, Ithaca College, Mercer County Community College, Norwich University, Rowan University, Rutgers University, Seton Hall University, and Strayer University.
In contrast to JAHMA, which gives awards to 80 percent of those who apply, NAHMA awards only about 40 percent of applicants. Eight of the fifteen PCV scholars received the former, making this an outstanding selection of students. All in all the 15 were awarded some $40,000 from the two award programs; $22,000 from the state organization and $18,000 from the national organization. In general, NAHMA awards range from $1,500 to $2,500 and JAHMA from $500 to $3,500. Since 2002, students residing at PCV have been awarded scholarships from these sources totaling close to $200,000.
JAHMA is a nonprofit organization of property managers and owners who specialize in the development and operation of government assisted/affordable housing. NAHMA is dedicated to improving the skills and knowledge of affordable housing professionals, to industry representation, and to providing a better living environment for all residents of assisted/affordable housing.
Set for Success
The 2013 award winners are: Jackelynn L. Chmiel, Jonas I. Daniecki, Mary C. Ebong, Cynthia C. Fuentes, Cindy M. Guzman, Vanessa Guzman, Phoebe Hanna, Kumail S. Kazim, Tori N. Julious, Julio R. Lopez, Christian James Nazario, Juan Polanco, Syed H. Raza, Courtney D. Sackey, and Andres Felipe Velez.
At 21, Kumail Kazim has finished three years of a seven year combined biology and doctor of osteopathy degree at Rutgers University and will attend medical school at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine in the fall. “The foundation has been everything to me, without it I’d be up to my ears in loans. I am so thankful to Mary [Maybury], Edith [Juarez] and Dr. Johnson for making sure that I keep on top of things. Because you are allowed to apply for support year after year, as long as you meet the academic and extracurricular requirements, there is a constant incentive to keep up your grades, and the end-of year celebration is something to look forward to. I really appreciate the supportive environment of PCV. I have two younger brothers one of whom, Murtaza Kazim, will be applying next year.”
Mary Ebong, 18, who moved from Nigeria to the United States with her father Emmanuel when she was just six, will be a freshman at Rutgers this fall, studying human resources management. Already planning ahead, she hopes to go on to a master’s program. She has been active as a tutor at the PCV after school learning center in reading and geography. “We don’t have a lot of money since we support our family back in Nigeria. I have taken out some loans, so these awards are very important to me,” she said. Mr. Ebong described his daughter as “hardworking” and doing all she can to take advantage of opportunities. “I am very proud of her,” he beamed. The oldest of three girls, Ms. Ebong is a model for her younger siblings.
Christian James Nazario will be attending Mercer County Community College and studying fashion management. Cynthia Fuentes will be there too, studying nursing. Jonas Daniecki will be going to Norwich University where he will study mechanical engineering and Vanessa Guzman will be at Fairleigh Dickinson. Courtney Sackey, who attended Princeton Day School, will be attending Haverford College in the fall to study political science with a view to going on to law school. Her mother Henrietta, originally from Liberia, spoke highly of the program and of her daughter’s accomplishments.
Ed Truscelli, executive director of Princeton Community Housing, commented on the atmosphere in the PCV club house. “We are like a family here, we all have the same sense of pride and you can feel that in this room,” he said.
Princeton Community Village (PCV) is an affiliate of Princeton Community Housing (PCH). Located on Karl Light Boulevard, across from Hilltop Park, it opened in 1975 to provide low and moderate income townhouses and apartments and provides homes to 238 households or about 630 residents. Of the approximately 1,400 students enrolled at Princeton High School, 31 are PCV residents.
The nonprofit PCH provides, manages, and advocates for affordable housing. Founded in 1967, it works to ensure a balance of housing opportunities that it deems essential to Princeton’s continued success and economic diversity. For more information on affordable housing available in Princeton, including locations, eligibility criteria and application forms visit, www.princetoncommunityhousing.org.