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Aubriana Mency is one of ten students chosen from hundreds of applicants to receive a $10,000 scholarship from GoFundMe
Aubriana Mency searched hard for a college to call home for four years, because she wanted to limit major disruptions to her life after a childhood in and out of Boston homeless shelters, as she and her mom were uprooted even into her high school years.
Through it all she kept a promise to her mom and dad, who died of cancer when she was in second grade, resulting in overwhelming medical bills: She promised to do well in school. Mency excelled at Fenway High School and was accepted into seven colleges including Hampshire and its prestigious James Baldwin Scholars program, offering a full scholarship for her first year of college. Her top priority was to find the right fit. providing stability for the next four years. So as a senior she visited Hampshire for the Baldwin program’s recruiting event called HOME, for Hampshire's Overnight Multicultural Event. There she spent time with other students of color, and listened to their experiences. Afterwards, she says, “I couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” and she enrolled.
But coming from a low-income family and being the first in her family to go to college, she’d need more financial aid or scholarships to fund four years of college. She earned a scholarship for first-generation college students from the Tiger Woods Foundation, and, like thousands of other students, she started a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign, asking humbly, “Although I will receive financial support for the first year of college, I will need extra financial support the following years. Anything you are willing to give is going to college expenses. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.” (link https://www.gofundme.com/23chwyk) She also applied to GoFundMe for the company’s first scholarship program.
She had raised $869 through individual donors to her campaign toward her $2,000 goal when she was surprised by an email invitation from a GoFundMe employee for a Google hangout video interview. At the end of the interview, she was even more shocked to learn that out of 600 applicants, she was one of ten students chosen to receive a $10,000 scholarship.
“I was so surprised, I couldn’t believe it, I ran around my room at Hampshire jumping and screaming. The first thing I did was call my mom. She started screaming, and she cried.”
Mency said she knew there were others students who needed the support as much as she did. She enjoyed reading the stories of the nine other people around the US who also received the award, and recognized they were just as determined to overcome obstacles and succeed in school.
[Note Hampshire publishes links to some reputable search engines to help students identify scholarships that they have a higher likelihood of earning: https://www.hampshire.edu/financial-aid/scholarship-searches]
Now in her first semester, Mency says she already feels at home, for the same reasons she chose to attend Hampshire. “At the HOME event, I saw that Hampshire took time to pair me with a mentor and introduce me to other Baldwin scholars and students of color. I knew I’d have a support system. And I fell in love with the scenery.”
Mency says one of the most important aspects of the Baldwin program is being part of a community of students, staff, and alumni supporting each other, adding “We want to see each other succeed.” In addition to the full first-year scholarship, Baldwin Scholars receive close academic support and intense advising in their first year, to support their transition to college. After year one, most continue their studies at Hampshire and continue to receive generous financial support from the College.
The program is named for the preeminent African American writer and scholar James Baldwin, who taught at Hampshire, and it serves not only African American students but also other students from under-represented and under-served backgrounds and communities. For this school year, a private donor enabled Hampshire to increase the number of first-year students in the program from eight to nine.
Mency says she also appreciates Hampshire’s student-driven curriculum and lack of grades. “It’s a huge difference from high school where I was doing work for a grade. Now when I do my homework I put a lot more thought and energy into it, not to get an A, but because it’s what I want my life to be. I’ve always taken pride in my education, but here I take more pride and make more of an effort, not for a grade, for myself.”
She says she’s planning to focus her studies on theatre and sociology. She performed in theatre in middle school and has been a fan of watching theatre since she was a child.
One of the courses she’s especially enjoying this semester is the tutorial “From Dramatic Play to Creative Drama” taught by Associate Professor of Theatre Natalie Sowell. In the first weeks of the course, Mency and her classmates have been exploring theories and practices of child’s play, and studying the natural tendencies of children to engage in dramatic play. Building on that, they are thinking critically about creative drama from many perspectives: as an art form; as a process for developing language and communication skills, social awareness, and problem-solving skills; and as a tool for teaching including such core curricula as math and science. Their studies span a variety of forms including movement, puppetry, improvisation, and story dramatization.
Mency is interested in directing theatre and also dreams one day of opening a nonprofit arts program for underserved communities and children. “When I was a kid, I did so well academically, people tried to convince me to be a doctor or a lawyer. I always found theatre to be an important part of my education. For me, theatre is about healing, about discovering who I am.”
Read more about Aubriana’s journey in this Boston.com feature: https://www.boston.com/news/education/2016/06/16/homeless-boston-teen-earned-full-ride-first-year-college.
Learn more about the James Baldwin Scholars program: https://www.hampshire.edu/james-baldwin-scholars/james-baldwin-scholars-program.