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January 2020

A Winter Reunion

A frigid wind was blowing on West 88th Street on the evening of this year’s Winter Gathering, but inside the brownstone that has been central to Scholarship Plus from the beginning, the warmth, whether measured in degrees or by the decibel level of happy greetings and laughter, was welcoming.  Scholars, graduates, members of the Associate Board, donors and staff members eddied through the rooms in a happy swirl of conversations, introductions and updates. 

After a table that included several kinds of empanadas had refueled the crowd of 45, Executive Director Kate Fenneman Stokes welcomed everybody, noting with special pleasure the number of Associate Board members who were present.  One of them, Keith Crumpler, the board’s vice chair, spoke about the importance of balance in life. He himself had been an athlete in college, he said, but in the years since has found both yoga and meditation to be valuable. Then Kate asked the scholars in the room to introduce themselves and talk briefly about something that they were proud of from last semester or looking forward to in the next. 

The answers were fascinating, and reflected very personal arcs of discovery.  First-year students talked of the challenges of college courses, and of being part of worlds very different than the ones they were familiar with in the city.  Other students spoke of other explorations: Roselkis, a junior at SUNY Oneonta talked about her forthcoming study in Spain, while Anijah, a sophomore in a University of Southern California dance program, spoke about her excitement about going to Berlin to work with a dance company later this semester. 

For Shuofei, a senior at Binghamton University, it has been a year of applications for Ph.D. programs in Biology, to be combined with medical school – with his first interview, at Mount Sinai Hospital, coming up the next day.  Fabien, a Brooklyn College graduate now in the Physician Assistant degree program at Downstate Medical Center, spoke of suddenly realizing that he had taken 42 exams this semester, saying with his usual smile, “I never knew I could study so hard.”  And showing that the hard work doesn’t end with graduation, Raquel, a member of the third Scholarship Plus class who graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, spoke about the challenges and satisfactions of teaching first-graders in Brooklyn.

As the evening went on the crowd thinned out slowly, facing the wintry weather with an interior warmth.

Photographs by Michael J. Leahy


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