They called it the Socialize-Empower-Engage-Network, S.E.E.N. for short. Loosely organized a couple of years ago by a group of MEC graduates, they went looking for a way to give back.
Their work has borne fruit in the form of the first Marvin Calvin Scholarship this year. Named after a MEC alumnus, the award is for a MEC Social Work degree graduate pursuing a Masterâ€™s Degree in Social Work. The first recipient is Roberta SaintLouis, 23, who graduated from MEC in spring, 2016. She will begin working in August toward her Masterâ€™s Degree in Social Work at Stony Brook University, SUNY (in an advanced standing program), using her $500 scholarship toward tuition.
â€œWhen I received the email that I was the first recipient of the Marvin Calvin Scholarship I was ecstatic,â€ said Ms. SaintLouis, the first person in her family to finish high school. â€œI felt accomplished. I felt so grateful. There were times I didnâ€™t have $5 to go to school.â€
Ms. SaintLouis, who lives in Ft. Greene with her family (parents, four brothers, and a fat cat named Nimbus) said she is especially grateful because her high school years were challenging. She was always fighting, she said, and was so behind academically that one teacher declared that she would never graduate. But she turned things around and now sees social work as the perfect avenue to help others. She envisions working in a hospital as a Medical Social Worker.
Her eligibility for the scholarship included writing a 500-word essay on civic responsibility, and a grade point average of 3.19 (a 3.0 or higher is required). She had heard good things about Mr. Calvin before getting the scholarship.
Marvin Calvin graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work in 2013. Active in community and student affairs, he was the recipient of several Deanâ€™s and Presidentâ€™s awards. He was working toward his Master Degree in Social Work at Yeshiva University when he suffered a fatal heart-attack at age 57. Mr. Calvin, a husband and a father, took classes full time while also working full-time as a manager at Housing Works.
Money for the scholarship, issued through MEC, was raised through parties, raffle tickets, and the like, said Waleek Boone, the president of S.E.E.N. The hope is to make it an annual scholarship, and to increase the amount and to award other disciplines, he said.
â€œItâ€™s all about giving back â€“ I came from a disenfranchised community and I have not forgotten where I came from,â€ said Mr. Boone, a 2012 MEC graduate who received his Masterâ€™s Degree in 2013 through an advanced standing program at Hunter College. He now works as a counselor in the MEC Admissions Office. â€œIâ€™ve been a champion of Medgar Evers since I got here,â€ he said. â€œIt made me feel at homeâ€”people believed in me, encouraged me, made me feel I could do it. S.E.E.N started with the thought of: what could we do as alumni?â€
Franzeska Sampson, the vice-president of S.E.E.N. (a 2014 MEC graduate with a B.S. in Social Work) noted, â€œOne of our main goals is promoting higher education. Our second goal is to promote mentorships and workshops. Our youth need guidance and it takes a village.â€ Ms. Sampson currently works with youths in foster care in her position at JCCA, a social services agency.
Next on the S.E.E.N. agenda: the second annual fundraiser on July 23 at Cafe Omar in Brooklyn. A $30 ticket to â€œall white partyâ€ with a â€œdressy casualâ€ dress code gets you through the door. Just email Comeandbeseen@gmail.com for tickets.