Student Found in East River to Be Honored With Memorial Scholarship

By Paul DeBenedetto on July 10, 2014 1:50pm 

 Steven Middleton went missing during a swim in the East River and was later found dead in Newtown Creek. Friends and family started a scholarship in his name.
Steven Middleton went missing during a swim in the East River and was later found dead in Newtown Creek. Friends and family started a scholarship in his name.
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Composite with Twitter/@amblerthomas and Instagram/@reverendfashion

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A college student and community activist who was swept away by an East River current last month and later found dead in Newtown Creek is being remembered with a scholarship.

The Steven Middleton Memorial Scholarship Fund will be awarded to a student who reflects Middleton's "commitment to academic study and community service," organizers said.

The award will be presented at Medgar Evers College's 2015 commencement ceremony, where Middleton was set to graduate, organizers said.

Middleton was found dead in Newtown Creek on June 30, days after he went swimming in the East River in Williamsburg, near Kent Avenue and North 1st Street about 6 a.m. June 26.

He had been celebrating a friend's graduation when he was overcome by the current, police and witnesses said. He was 21.

Barnabas Uba Shakur, Middleton's mentor at Project Re-Generation, a youth organization in Bed-Stuy that advocates for clean, safe streets, helped organize the scholarship.

He remembered Middleton as an active, engaged member of Project Re-Generation starting when he was 16, helping to beautify the streets of Bed-Stuy.

When he aged out of the program, Middleton began volunteering for the group and helping other teens while also working with Bed-Stuy nonprofit Children of PromiseShakur said.

He was also politically engaged, volunteering with John Liu's mayoral campaign in 2013, Shakur said.

Middleton, who turned 21 just days before his death, liked hip-hop and loved to rhyme with his friends, with whom he planned to launch a fashion company.

"He always stayed involved," Shakur said. "He was super funny, super intelligent, always active."

Medgar Evers College, where Middleton was a student studying math, mourned Middleton's passing last week.

"Steven’s indomitable spirit will be remembered and cherished by his loved ones and by his Medgar Evers family," a statement from the college said.

The college is expected to publicly announce the scholarship on Saturday.

To help pay for Middleton's memorial, organizers set up a crowdfunding site and are selling T-shirts emblazoned with the hashtag, "#ForeverStevenMiddleton" and the phrase "Live 24/7," which Shakur said embodied his positive attitude.

Shakur said he hoped the memorial and scholarship will help Middleton's family.

"I hope if I was ever in the God-forbidden position the parents are in, that someone would take over for me, because you wouldn't want to go through this," Shakur said. 

"It's hard on the family and I'm glad we can be here and help them."

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