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40 CPS students will get full rides from UC, thanks to new Marian Spencer scholarship

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:01 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - For the next four years, 10 Cincinnati Public Schools students will be inducted annually into the Marian Spencer Scholars Program, a new scholarship that will award students full tuition, room and board and an all-expenses-paid study abroad experience from the University of Cincinnati, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

By the program’s second year, in 2023, the university says it hopes scholars are representative of students from all 18 CPS high schools: Aiken, Cincinnati Digital Academy, Clark Montessori, Gilbert A. Dater, Hughes STEM, James N. Gamble Montessori, Lighthouse School, Oyler School, Riverview East Academy, Robert A. Taft Information Technology, School for Creative and Performing Arts, Shroder, Spencer Center for Gifted and Exceptional Students, Virtual High, Walnut Hills, Western Hills University, Withrow University and Woodward Career Technical.

Marian Spencer Scholars Program Director Cindy Jones told The Enquirer she is a first-generation college graduate – her father dropped out of school in the sixth grade – and knows how it feels to not have money for books or tuition.

“It was a tremendous worry. And it really created angst in me, imposter syndrome in me when I could not buy my books,” Jones said of her own university experience. “So for these students to be able to come with their passion and not to have to worry about the cost of tuition, the cost of books– it is going to remove tremendous barriers and it will allow these students to just focus solely on their academics. It’s a game changer.”

The program was made possible through a donation from UC alumnus and venture capitalist Jim Goetz and matching university funds totaling $6 million. Jones said the scholars program is the premiere initiative through CPS Strong, a partnership between the university and the city’s public school district to support readiness in high school students, create access to higher education and foster success for CPS graduates.

Jack Miner, vice provost for enrollment management at the university, said Goetz wanted to put his gift towards a program that engaged the greater Cincinnati community and increased the success of underrepresented students at UC. The story of Marian Spencer “resonated” with Goetz, Miner said. The program leaders hope to find students who will “grow into somebody that represents that spirit and that legacy of (Marian Spencer),” including a strong commitment to service and experiential learning.

Spencer, a 1942 UC alumna, was a civil rights leader instrumental in desegregating Cincinnati’s Coney Island and CPS. She was the first Black American woman elected to Cincinnati City Council in 1983, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“As a public university, we must prepare a way for an exciting and equitable future for all,” UC President Neville Pinto said in a news release. “That means opening our doors wide and allowing more people to be educated in the tradition of excellence for which UC is known. Increasing our diversity strengthens the quality of the experience on our campus for all.

“We must be a place where every member of our community can work, learn, grow and thrive in a safe and supportive environment.”

Marian Spencer Scholars will live together in a living-learning community in Marian Spencer Hall, officials said. The residence hall opened in 2018 on Scioto Lane. When Spencer was a student at UC in the late 1930s and early 1940s, she and other Black students were not allowed to live on campus.

Students selected for the scholars’ program will receive an all-inclusive scholarship to UC, mentoring and career coaching, participation in a CPS service project and an all-expenses-paid service project in Tanzania at the end of their first year. The international service trip will take place through Village Life Outreach Project, a nonprofit organization founded in Cincinnati in 2004.

“One of the nice things about this program is it’s giving the students an opportunity to have so many incredible experiences outside of the classroom and regardless of what their academic nature is. So it really is inspiring that spirit across a whole series of disciplines,” Miner said.

Applications to UC are due by Dec. 1, officials said. Students in the top 10% of their CPS high school will be considered for the Marian Spencer Scholars Program if they fill out an interest form about the scholarship. Students should reach out to their school counselor if interested in the program.

The university will announce which students are selected for the inaugural year of the Marian Spencer Scholars Program in early February, Jones said.

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