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BU Awards Scholarships to Boston Public High School Grads

New Menino and Community Service scholars honored at reception

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For many high school seniors, college is a chance to set out far from home. But Melissa Alvarado chose to stay in her hometown and attend BU, in large part because the University enabled her to be the first in her family to attend college, courtesy of a Community Service Award.

Under the decade-old program, BU grants four-year support to Boston public school graduates matriculating at the University, covering all their financial need without their having to resort to loans.

“BU was just a better choice for me” financially and academically, says Alvarado (CGS’20), a graduate of Boston Latin Academy. “And then you get to help out the community after your first semester,” she says, referring to the program’s obligation of 25 hours per semester of community service.

“My mom’s excited for me to stay in Boston,” adds Alvarado, a Dorchester resident and one of six siblings, who will enter the College of General Studies this fall. After that she plans to attend Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences.

She was among 38 Community Service Award Scholars and 29 Thomas M. Menino Scholars at the Questrom School of Business for last Wednesday’s annual reception welcoming them to BU. The Menino Scholars program also grants support over four years to the city’s public school graduates matriculating at BU.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, addressing the scholars in Questrom’s auditorium, said that the global study programs and other opportunities that BU provides are something “many people don’t experience…in a lifetime.” He recalled his own decision to drop out of Suffolk University after a semester—“It was a mistake,” he said, although “I am the mayor of Boston, so something went right.”—before studying nights and graduating from Boston College.

“You made a lot of right decisions to get here,” Walsh told his audience.

He noted that roughly a quarter of the incoming scholars are immigrants, like his own Irish parents. “I’m not giving a political speech, but what’s happening in the world today, and what’s happening in the United States, in my opinion is sad.…We are incredibly proud of who you are and what you stand for.”

One of those immigrants, Menino scholar Helen Leung (CAS’22), moved to Boston with her family from Hong Kong two years ago. The BU scholarship, the Charlestown High graduate says, is “a big acknowledgement of my high school life and career.

“I did apply to schools that are out of state,” she says, “but BU stands out to me because of its really big community.…And I also want to stay close to my family.”

Provost Jean Morrison told the scholars that “your being here is a reflection of your commitment, not only to academic excellence, but to all of your efforts in your classrooms, your churches, and your communities. And of course, it’s also a terrific reflection on your families and your loved ones.

“Take advantage of our global opportunities,” she advised, while also urging the scholars to make more immediate connections: “You will find that some of your closest friends that you’ll keep for the rest of your life are likely sitting with you in these first few rows.”

More than a third of the incoming Menino and Community Service scholars are the first in their family to attend college, and almost half of those students hail from abroad, including China, Canada, Hong Kong, Albania, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Pakistan.

The merit-based Menino Scholarships, awarded annually since 1973, cover full tuition. BU will spend $6 million for this year’s coterie over their four years here. Nominated by their high schools, Menino Scholars also get a weeklong orientation to college learning and ongoing support afterward.

Community Service Awards cover recipients’ calculated financial need while assigning them mentors to help with college life. BU will spend $6.5 million on this year’s students over the next four years. Besides community service, they must maintain a 2.0 cumulative grade point average and complete 12 credits each semester.

BU opened the Community Service Awards for the first time to transfer students last year. This fall, in addition to the program’s 38 straight-to-BU freshmen, 25 transfer students (who weren’t at the reception) will attend the University with support from the awards.

Over its 45 years, the Menino Scholars program has provided almost $170 million to 1,946 students. The program was renamed in 2013 for Thomas Menino (Hon.’01), the late Boston mayor and founding director of BU’s Initiative on Cities. The Community Service Awards have totaled $59 million to 466 students since that program began.

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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