Alumni Provide a Boost for Books

Books, covered

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Paul Britton, BCOT ’11 (L) and Ron Jean, BEET ’11, with Associate Vice President of Community Relations Sandra Pascal.

 

When Wentworth acceptance letters arrive, students and families are first filled with pride. Soon after, logistical questions come into play: Where can we apply for financial aid? How much should I budget for meals? Where is my first class located?

Amidst these thoughts is another, often forgotten question: What about books?

Textbooks are not the first thing most students imagine when they dream of traveling off to college, but they are nonetheless a vital part of an education—and they are not usually cheap. As Wentworth students, Paul Britton, BCOT ’11, and
Ron Jean, BEET ’11, often dealt with the struggles of saving enough money for books. Now they want to help current minority students who could use that extra boost to succeed.

Both students come from working-class upbringings—Britton a graduate of Boston Public Schools, Jean from Brockton. Before applying to college, both were interested in the STEM fields, but neither was aware of many other minorities who studied those subjects.

“In high school, I always knew I wanted to be an engineer,” Jean says. “I think my father planted that seed. But I had never seen a black engineer.” Jean persisted, however, and was accepted to Wentworth in 2007. He and Britton roomed together and joined various leadership groups, including the Wentworth chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

One night during his junior year, Britton sat in the Dobbs 202 laboratory and began to reflect on his time at Wentworth, and specifically on those who helped him succeed.

“Because I was seen as this student who was able to utilize his resources to better himself, I thought, ‘Why not teach others to do the same?’” Britton remembers. He spoke with Jean, and the idea of a book scholarship was soon born.

The first scholarships are scheduled to be awarded this semester. Candidates must be minority students with demonstrated financial need who are engaged with NSBE. Britton and Jean believe that early membership in the organization supports student success through academic and professional networking, and provides valuable peer mentorship. It is their hope that by offering support to students with critical needs like textbooks, that they will positively influence the retention of these students, helping to ensure that they make it to graduation.

Scholarship recipients are given $500 per semester for two consecutive semesters to be applied toward textbooks. Britton and Jean plan to regularly check in on recipients to ensure that they are active in leadership groups and taking full advantage of their opportunities. The duo is currently working with employers and other funders to help increase the money available through their grant to eligible students. Since graduation, Jean and Britton have returned to Wentworth numerous times, most visibly as advisors for college access programming through the Center for Community and Learning Partnership’s (CLP) and an alumni advisory board they helped create along with other alumni interested in giving back to local students. They have also come back to speak to other Boston students attending Wentworth as panelists at the annual Boston Public School Dinner. “Paul and Ron are two students who love Wentworth,” says Sandra Pascal, associate vice president of community relations.

“They really value their education here and they want to help the next generation of students find the same benefits afforded them.”

Jean and Britton are optimistic that their efforts will inspire further giving among other young alumni.

Says Britton, “We envision more alumni starting scholarship foundations of their own, in efforts to build their own legacies and give students motivation as they take on some of the most challenging experiences they’ve ever faced.”

—Greg Abazorius

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