Nine 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). All are graduates of Princeton High School (PHS).
Princeton Community Village, an affiliate of Princeton Community Housing (PCH), is located on Karl Light Boulevard, across from Hilltop Park. Since 1975, it has been providing low and moderate income rentals, one, two three, and four bedroom units, in a European-style housing complex that is home to 238 households or about 630 residents.
To be eligible for an award, students must demonstrate not only strong academic records, but significant community involvement as well. This year’s scholarship recipients are high achievers in both academic performance and community service.
“These are all great hardworking kids and its amazing to see them going out into the world,” commented PCV’s Susan O’Malley at a celebratory event for awardees and their families last week.
PCV Executive Director Ed Truscelli agreed. “People tend to think that those who live in community housing are on the receiving end but these kids are most definitely paying it forward.”
Five of the nine students received both JAHMA & NAHMA grants; one only applied for and received the JAHMA; and three applied for both, but received only the NAHMA.
Jackelynn L. Chmiel, who attended the event with her father Frank Chmiel, will be majoring in politics as a sophomore at Rutgers this fall. Ms. Chmiel has a 4.0 grade point average. Her community activities include volunteer work at the University Medical Center of Princeton. During the summer she takes honors courses at Rutgers and she hopes her interest in international studies will allow her to travel.
Nursing major Phoebe M. Hanna will be a junior at Seton Hall University this fall. Her volunteer work is carried out at nearby hospitals. “It is great to come home and especially for this event; this is my third time now.”
Cindy M. Guzman, a Rutgers sophomore, is double majoring in business and communications. She hopes one day to found her own nonprofit organization, perhaps a shelter. “I want to help others and want to have business experience first so that I can do it well,” she said.
Vanessa Guzman (no relation to the above-mentioned Cindy) will be a sophomore at Fairleigh Dickinson. She is also interested in business.
The other 2014 scholarship winners, unable to attend the celebration because of work, are Jonas I. Daniecki, who attends Norwich University; Mary C. Ebong, who will be a sophomore at Rutgers this fall; Christian James Nazario, who is studying at Mercer County Community College; and first-time scholarship recipients Hiba Fatima and Chelsea M. Pierre, who will be freshmen at Rutgers and Fairleigh Dickinson respectively.
“This always feels like a family event, “ said Mr. Truscelli as he introduced PCH board member Sarah Just, who then quoted the late poet Maya Angelou: “‘When you learn, teach/when you get, give,’ and I urge you to share what you have learned with your friends, your brothers and sisters, your neighbors. Tell them about the this program so that they might benefit too,” she said.
Local Princeton Police Officer Shahid Abdul-Karim has become a repeat speaker at the event. This is his third year. “Everyone is connected here,” said the former PHS alumnus who went on to coach basketball for the school team.
Mr. Abdul-Karim described his years growing up in “the ville,” as it was known with affection; and how he came to Princeton from New York City with his family when he was just five-years-old, how he and his four siblings squeezed into his grandmother’s two-bedroom house on Ewing Street while they waited for their Butternut Row home to be ready. “A lot has changed since those days,” said Mr. Abdul-Karim, before recalling times spent catching fish in a nearby creek, games of basketball with friends, hanging out on the rocks, and riding bikes through the woods. “I’ve seen every angle of this great town of Princeton, from growing up here, to teaching, to coaching, and policing,” he said, as he urged younger residents of PCV to take advantage of every opportunity presented to them. “There are a lot of resources here and all you have to do is keep your focus, prioritize your goal, and you will reach it.”
As if to demonstrate Mr. Abdul-Karim’s words, former Greenbriar Row resident Kyleigh Pope stepped up to speak about her educational experiences. Ms. Pope attended Princeton public schools and the Hun School of Princeton. She obtained her BA from East Carolina University and her Masters in Speech Pathology from Boston University. She was the recipient of the JAHMA scholarship for six consecutive years including graduate school.
Now a speech therapist, Ms. Pope offered her congratulations to all of the scholarship winners. “To be continuing your education is a huge accomplishment,” she said before describing the contributions that the grants had to her own successful career. “I love doing the work I do and that’s the reward. I am in the amazing position of being able to continue to learn every day.”
“Kyleigh personifies what the JAHMA and NAHMA awards are trying to accomplish,” said Scholarship Program Administrator Bruce Johnson. “She was an outstanding student and now she is a fully certified speech pathologist with a job. That’s our goal, education that leads to a career.”
Mr. Johnson described 2014 as a significant year for both award programs. Although JAHMA granted only 6 scholarships per affordable housing community, each award was of a higher value. Grants which formerly ranged from $500 to $3,500 have been raised from $1,000 to $4,000. NAHMA, he said, has funded 67 scholarships of $2,500 each. “With education costs continuing to spiral upwards, this is absolutely thrilling. Nine PCV residents received $32,000 from these two programs. These are students who have worked hard, maintained good grades, and demonstrated their involvement with the community. I wish I could bottle whatever it is that you have here at PCV,” he said.