By Keely Savoie
After Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico last September, obliterating the power grid and devastating homes and neighborhoods, Mount Holyoke College stepped up to offer two full and two partial scholarships for students enrolling in the class of 2022 or transferring from a college or university on the island.
This year, with a harrowing hurricane season already underway and the Hurricane Maria death toll having been revised up to nearly 3,000 — nearly 50 times the last official estimate of 64 — it is clear that Mount Holyoke still has a role to play in helping the Puerto Rican community recover, and is extending the same scholarship offer to Puerto Rican students this year.
Robin Randall, interim vice president for enrollment management, noted that the scholarships are just one aspect of Mount Holyoke’s commitment to the Puerto Rican community. The College recently piloted a summer camp for girls in Puerto Rico with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
“The Maria scholarships we are offering are a part of the College’s longstanding commitment and involvement with the Puerto Rican community, whether that is in the city of Holyoke in our own backyard, or on the island itself,” said Randall.
Through the Maria scholarships, the College has offered to award two full-tuition scholarships, a value of close to $200,000 per recipient over four years, to admitted first-year students from Puerto Rico.
The College has also extended an offer of a renewable $25,000-per-year merit scholarship to two students who transfer from colleges and universities in Puerto Rico due to circumstances arising from the storm.
The scholarships are just one of the ways in which the College enjoys a long-lasting education and intellectual partnership with the Puerto Rican community.
In April, Mount Holyoke hosted San Juan Mayor Carmen YulÍn Cruz Soto in April, sponsored in part by the Weissman Center for Leadership. That event led Amy E. Martin, director of the Weissman Center, to travel to Puerto Rico over the summer and pilot the STEM camp for girls focusing on science, technical, engineering and math concepts. Led by Jennifer M. Matos, visiting lecturer in psychology and education with Jared Schwartzer, assistant professor of psychology and education, the camp addressed the expressed needs of the Puerto Rican community. It was so successful that Matos will offer Mount Holyoke students a course on teaching STEM concepts in Puerto Rico in the spring.
More than 1,600 miles away from the island, the College maintains close relations with the local Puerto Rican community near its campus located in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The College is a long-time partner with Holyoke Public Schools through its Urban Teachers Pathways program. In 2017, the College facilitated an art education program that connected the Springfield Renaissance High School and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Through these, and the College’s Community-Based Learning program, which seeks to implement classroom learning via community engagement that includes a college access initiative spearheaded by a student, Mount Holyoke has embodied the belief that change cannot happen in a vacuum.
There is no separate application required to be considered for a Maria Scholarship; eligible students are automatically considered for the award when they apply through the Common Application or the Coalition Application.
In 2017 Carola Oliveras ’22 applied to Mount Holyoke on the advice of her guidance counselor who had heard about the scholarships.
“I made the decision to come to Mount Holyoke after I visited and saw the great multicultural perspectives here and opportunities it had to offer me,” she said.
Oliveras has found community within Mount Holyoke’s Living-Learning Community, Mi Gente, for students of Latin American descent, identify within the Latin American diaspora and/or wish to foster connections between different cultures within the diaspora.
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