On Wednesday March 1, Queens College held a check presentation ceremony and celebrated a major milestone in public higher education.
The check presentation ceremony marked a 1 million dollar gift from the Give Something Back Foundation. The gift will support 50 lower income students through four years of tuition-free study at Queens College, as well as cover the cost of room and board. QC is the first public college in New York State to be recognized by the Give Something Back Foundation. QC President Felix Matos Rodriguez felt a sense of pride that Queens College was the first public college selection.
“Queens College opened its doors 80 years ago during the depression, a time of economic turmoil, with a vision to make an investment in public higher education and support students who come from different backgrounds with financial difficulties,” Matos-Rodriguez said. “I am honored Queens College is the first public college chosen by the Give Something Back Foundation to receive an investment of 1 million dollars. The gift and partnership will be for 50 women and men, who have the desire to pursue a college education, without the cost of tuition, fees, or room and board.”
The Give Something Back Foundation will identify and select academically driven 9th graders from lower-income backgrounds and pair them with a trained adult mentor who will provide support and guide them to become college ready.
Bob Carr, founder, chairman, and writer of “Through The Fire” and “Working Class to College” established the Give Something Back Foundation in 2003. Carr came from humble circumstances, and was able to go to the University of Illinois courtesy of a scholarship from a women’s club.
“I still don’t know why I won the scholarship,” Carr said, “but the idea that someone believed in me meant a lot. My goal was to make a lot of money, to go into politics, but that didn’t work out. I was determined to have a job I liked; my parents didn’t like their jobs. Things didn’t always work out. It’s not an easy life, but these kids have it a lot worse.”
Carr explained the selection process of the Give Something Back Foundation and the commitment the foundation sees all the way through to the selected candidate’s success.
“We rely on FASFA and Pell Grants to select the students we put through college. When you tell a kid they have this opportunity, it changes their outlook. We assign mentors, and treat them like family. They’re part of the Give Something Back Family,” Carr said. “What we want to do, by spending money the right way for young kids and getting them on the right path to graduate, is change some laws and the way the government thinks of children. There’s a lot of work to do here.”
The event featured many speakers, including NYC Outward Bound Schools Alumni Manager Julia Forman, Eagle Academy Foundation Director of College Partnerships Donald Ruff, and QC graduate student and Student Association president Japneet Singh.
A key feature of the Give Something Back foundation is to encourage students to engage in philanthropy. Paola Peña, a Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK student majoring in biology and women and gender studies, explained the importance of this, recounting her experience as a student through the years.
“I was born in the Dominican Republic… At age 10, I migrated to the U.S. and left a very comfortable way of living, to live in a room for my dad, brother, and I. It was challenging… All my mom asked from my siblings and I was to do well in school and I did just that. Applying for college, I checked off the SEEK box… I suddenly realize how unprepared I was for college. My mom didn’t go to college and I was the first to graduate high school. SEEK made it clear I was unprepared, but had potential… Honestly, I do not think I could’ve made it without SEEK… I hope to give back to QC a grain of what I have received.”