South Philly residents awarded scholarships by PHA

Local current and college-bound students were gifted thousands of dollars from the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

Last week, more than 71 residents of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, including six South Philly locals, received a total of $270,000 in college scholarships. (South Philly Review/Grace Maiorano)

Six locals have moved one step closer to their college dreams.

The progression was made possible by the Philadelphia Housing Authority as, last week, PhillySeeds, Inc., a subsidiary of the PHA, awarded a total of $270,000 to 71 of its residents across the city — a handful of whom live in South Philly.

At their July board meeting, PHA commissioners individually honored the scholars, which included current students and other college-bound folks of all ages.

Both the number of gifts and the amount of funds given were record-breaking figures for the PHA’s scholarship program, which totals $1.3 million that has been distributed to 324 residents since the program’s inception in 2013.

“We do this once a year, and it’s my favorite part of the job,” Kelvin A. Jeremiah, president and CEO of PHA, told SPR following the meeting. “To see these kids so excited about going to college, furthering their education, growing their training, and then PHA stepping up to the the plate to support that.”

Among 108 applications, candidates were finalized based on essays, community service, extracurricular activities, internships, recommendation letters and academic transcripts.

The PHA awarded 41 scholars with GPAs between 3.00 and 4.00 $5,000, another 19 with GPAs between 3.00 and 3.29 received $3,000, and the final 11 with GPAs between 2.50 and 2.99 walked away with $1,000.

Scholarship money stems from PHA’s operating budget with additional funds contributed by other program supporters and vendors through Section 3 commitments.

From Community College of Philadelphia to North Carolina A&T State University, South Philly residents are en route across the country this fall.

The six residents include Amani Ball, 19, a sophomore majoring in dance at the University of the Arts; Alvina Belcher, 20, a sophomore majoring in human communications at Shippensburg University; Keaira Johnson, 28, a junior majoring in ASL/English interpreting at CCP; Rayana Keel, 20, a sophomore majoring in neonatal nursing at Delaware State University; Nayyar Tenner, 19, majoring in English at North Carolina A&T State University; and Nadera Robinson, 18, a recent graduate of Mastery Thomas Charter, located on 9th and Johnson streets, who will be attending Delaware State University to major in psychology.

“The scholarship basically paid most of my tuition, so (the scholarship) helped influence my future career in a good way. … I would say ‘thank you’ to the PHA,” Robinson said. “And I want to show them that I’m going to make the best of this scholarship.”

Robinson says she is especially interested in studying the correlation between human behavior and criminal activity, hoping to land a career in the mental health field, which she says seems more realistic after receiving the $5,000 gift.

For PHA, its scholarship program represents more than money. It also fosters a path diverted from trying circumstances recipients may know well.

“We subscribe to the view that education is key,” Jeremiah said. “It is what allows our families to escape the poverty trap. … Too many of our families are trapped in poverty and that sometimes feels like it’s inescapable. Education gives those families an opportunity to escape.”