By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — Catherine Hernandez, a freshman at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, had just taken out two student loans to pay for her studies when she got the call.
She, along with four other high-achieving freshmen who attended high school in Harlem, had been selected to receive a scholarship that would pay for her time at City College in full.
"I had just taken out two college loans when I got the call," said Hernandez wo graduated from the High School for Math, Science and Engineering on City College's campus. "I had to decline the loans."
The President's Community Scholarship was initiated by City College's new president Lisa Staiano-Coico who began her tenure in August.
"We draw great strength from our presence in Harlem, and what better way to build upon that strength and, at the same time, say thank you to Harlem by supporting the community's most promising students when they come here," Staiano Coico, formerly the provost at Temple University, said in a statement.
The recipients were chosen based on academic merit. They will receive $5,000 per year in support that is renewable for up to five years. The students will have to perform community service and remain in good academic standing as a condition of their scholarship.
"If not for this scholarship it would have been very difficult for me to attend college," said Daoud Nsangou, an imigrant whose family is originally from Cameroon. A graduate of Frederick Douglass Academy, Nsangou speaks four languages.
"This is one of several planned presidential initiatives to bring City College closer to Harlem and other surrounding communities," said Karen Mackey Witherspoon, vice president, Government and Community Affairs at City College. "A critical part of our mission is to inspire young people in our neighborhood with the promise a college education offers and to show them that it is within their grasp."
The three other recipients are Oscar Camacho, 18, a graduate of the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in East Harlem. Liz Marie Peralta, 18, a graduate of Frederick Douglass Academy and Mohammad Sabha, also a graduate of the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.
Camacho worked through high school to help support his family and still found the time to volunteer at a community day care center. He is the first person in his family to attend college. Peralta will major in the sciences at City and Sabha participated in the Summer Scholars Academy at City College.