New Haven Promise Sends More Freshmen to UConn

New Haven Promise Scholars and incoming Huskies Nicole Rivera Rodriguez '20 and Godwin Jean-Baptiste '20
New Haven Promise Scholars and incoming Huskies Nicole Rivera Rodriguez ’20 and Godwin Jean-Baptiste ’20 (Credit: UConn Foundation)

Announcing their names with a grand flourish usually reserved for big-time sports, announcers introduced 64 high school students who officially become UConn freshmen Monday with the help of the New Haven Promise Program and an additional $5,000 UConn scholarship.

“From the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, Ni-collllle Ri-veeeeeera Rod-ri-guezzzz,” announcer Kevin Laseau trumpeted into a microphone during the New Haven Program celebration on Aug. 11.

The UConn-bound students, along with about 240 other college-bound students, marched one by one across the enormous stage at Central Connecticut State University last week to shake hands with dignitaries while hundreds of friends and relatives applauded. The graduation-style ceremony celebrated the New Haven Promise program and this year’s batch of scholars.

All will head to colleges around Connecticut and the country in coming weeks, but the majority are coming to UConn, thanks in part to UConn’s commitment in December to give an additional $5,000 to New Haven Promise scholars who enroll at the state’s flagship university. In all, most of these incoming Huskies will receive $15,000 between the Promise program, Pell grants, and the UConn commitment.

“This is huge,” said Rivera, 17, explaining that she has an older brother in college, too. “This is helping him and my parents. It took a weight off my parents’ shoulders.”

With the new commitment, UConn is paying a total of $300,000 for New Haven Promise scholarship funding this year alone. The University is in the midst of a major fundraising effort to raise $150 million for student scholarships through its Transform Lives Initiative.

To qualify for the New Haven Promise scholarship, New Haven students must maintain an average 3.0 GPA in high school, have a 90 percent attendance record, complete 40 hours of volunteer work during their high school career , live in New Haven for entire length of high school, and attend a New Haven public school.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students going to UConn,” said Brett Hoover, a digital strategist for New Haven Promise. “In 2011, 17 students went to UConn and now, in 2016, we have 64.”

About 70 percent of Promise scholars at UConn come from families earning less than $60,000 while half earn less than $30,000. Of the 64 freshmen, 42 are first generation students, Hoover said.

In January, UConn made a similar commitment to Hartford students through the Hartford Promise scholarship program. More than 40 Hartford Promise students head to UConn Monday as well.

Anynha Phelmetto, 18, of Achievement First Amistad High School in New Haven, says UConn’s contribution to the New Haven Promise program makes UConn a more affordable option than private schools she considered.

She says she plans to double major in political science and women and gender studies with a minor in Spanish. Her goal is to study abroad, attend law school, and use her law degree to advocate for women in other countries.

“I want to help women throughout the world,” she said.

Phelmetto, like many of the students in the New Haven Promise program, spent six weeks in UConn’s Student Support Services summer program taking classes and preparing for rigors of college.

Earl Bloodworth ’97 (CLAS) of New Haven was at the ceremony along with other New Haven-area UConn alums to welcome the new students. He said he and his wife, Sherene Mason ’97 (CLAS) ’05 MBA ’06 MD, are thrilled with the program, which covers 75 percent of the cost of their son, Isaac’s, tuition.

“New Haven Promise is awesome,” Bloodworth said. “It helps prepare them, and it helps get them on track and stay on track in college. It lets them do internships. It also helps move New Haven forward because it helps get them to college, get through college, and then come back to New Haven.”

Also during ceremony, UConn alum Fontaine Chambers ’16 (CLAS) was given the New Haven Promise Legacy Award for her commitment to her education as well as to fellow Promise scholars and the city of New Haven. While at UConn, Chambers was involved in a student group that worked with at-risk youths and was an influential tutor and role model. She is now interning with a criminal defense attorney while working full time and hopes to attend law school.