The Housing Authority awarded scholarships to 34 exceptional students at it’s July 23rd board meeting. From kindergarteners to undergrads, these special kids have earned the opportunity to receive quality educations that will serve them for a lifetime. The annual celebration this year was held at the Erie Art Museum for the first time in it’s history. The museum was a beautiful and engaging venue to over 125 guests.

The Louis J. Tullio Scholarship, established by the late Executive Director John E. Horan to honor Erie’s longest serving mayor, gives $1250 scholarships to college students who grew up in public housing. The scholarships, payable directly to the students, is often used for expensive textbooks and transportation costs associated with the college life.

Choosing which of the Authority’s shining stars to receive the award is the tough part. Of the 12 applicants, all were worthy, but only five could be chosen.

Fatimah Al-Dhumeen, 18, will be attending Penn State Behrend in the fall, majoring in Biology or Chemistry. She is a graduate of Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, where she graduated with a 4.15 GPA. Her journey with the Authority began in 2010, when her family moved onto Linwood Avenue as refugees from Iraq. Her goal is to become a pharmacist. She credits the guiding wisdom of her mother as her inspiration to help others.  

LeeAnn Reynolds, 18, will be attending Penn State Behrend in the fall, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. She attended Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, where she graduated summa cum laude. As a child, her mother consistently challenged her to seek the reason behind how things worked, which led to her to an interest in engineering. Her extra-curricular activities include the National Honor Society, the Women in Science and Engineering program at Penn State Behrend and a myriad (too many to list!) of community service projects that she regularly participates in.

Mwakana Mpunga, 17, will be attending Gannon University, majoring in pre-law. She is a graduate of Mercyhurst Preparatory School and has always wanted to be a lawyer. Her tenacious spirit was evident in her essay when she wrote, “I plan on using the education I will acquire from high school, college and society to be the best lawyer I can. …I will be the voice of those that are silenced.” 

Biletambe Malango, 18, will be attending Gannon University, majoring in International Studies and Political Science. She was born and raised in a refugee camp until her family was given the opportunity to come to the United States just nine years ago. Her experiences as a refugee inspired her to learn more about how international relations shape our world and the people within it. She plans on becoming a diplomatic service officer. She is the first among her family to attend college.

Saina Haideri, 21, is currently attending Penn State Behrend, where she is majoring in Biology, and has been listed on the dean’s list, and is a valued player on their tennis team. She plans on attending medical school after graduation, eventually becoming an ob/gyn. As well as being a well-loved intern in the Authority’s tenant selection office, she volunteers in the triage at St. Vincent Hospital. Her father, who was never given the opportunity to attend school, pushed her to excel in her studies and continues to be her motivation.

The late Ellen Curry, a longtime board member of the Housing Authority of the City of Erie, knew that education is a key component to becoming a productive and prosperous member of society. That wisdom led to her to will the bulk of her estate to the Housing Authority to establish a trust to fund the educational pursuits of the Authority’s children. The Ellen Curry Scholarship fund has expanded opportunities for children in public housing to attend private schools, allowing them the equal educational footing they deserve. Her generous gift, born of love and vision, continues to inspire local donations to the fund. Or perhaps, it is the wonderful children who make up the growing family of Ellen Curry Scholars.

 This year, that family grew larger by 28, thanks to members of the Ellen Curry Scholarship Committee voting to expand, the program to include new additions of second and third graders. This gives children older than kindergarten or first grade an opportunity to be accepted in the Ellen Curry Scholarship Program and attend a private school. In years past, only kindergarteners and first graders were eligible to apply for the scholarship. Once selected, the child continues to receive the scholarship through the eighth grade.

Initially funded by the capital bestowed by Ms. Curry, the Ellen Curry Foundation is completely funded by private donations. Many local businesses and individuals attend the Ellen Curry Golf Tournament, a fundraiser held annually. It is a relaxing day filled with food, drink, and healthy competition!

 At the event Ellen Curry Scholarship Committee Chairman Michael Fraley congratulates the scholarships recipients and their families who were in attendance. He reminded the children that education is the key to a lifetime full of opportunities and positive life choices.

Ellen Curry Scholarship recipients for 2018-2019 are:

Kindergarten: Brielle Higgins, Gianii Moyer, and Zadell Silva.
First Grade: Melquan Barnett, Kha’Mauri DeBoe, Ariyah Brown-House, MiJaun Euell, and Dai Henderson.
Second Grade: Laith Sami.
Third Grade: Quamir Gray, Awut Mangok, Del’Montigo Coleman-Pierce, Emmanuel Pur, and Selena Woodard.
Fourth Grade: Zion Clark, Gia Moyer, and Zaid Sami.
Fifth Grade: Melody Desuah, Haisalyn Coleman-Pierce, Derionna Price, Garang Rag, and Amarieona Sanders.
Sixth Grade: Jamarion Coleman, Reish-Ka Dunn, and Nabaa Abdelnabi.
Seventh Grade: Amillyonna Pierce.
Eight Grade: Armani Oosterkamp and Tayhariom Pierce.