Four Stockton University students’ commitment to Atlantic City will help them pay for their education.
The Engelberg Leadership Scholarship encourages college students from the area to take leadership roles in revitalizing the city and in exchange gives them a chance at high-level opportunities.
“For me, being chosen really means more than just being a scholarship recipient,” said Amna Haider, a Stockton freshman who grew up in Ventnor, Atlantic City and Brigantine. “It’s moreso an opportunity given to us, that pushes us to be the best we can be, to not only benefit the community, but to help us grow ourselves.”
Haider’s connection to the University began before she became a student. Her construction worker father helped build the Atlantic City campus.
She is hoping to bring a Dolly Parton Imagination Library to the city.
“If I want to better my surroundings, I need to implement a change, and that’s what I hope to do,” Haider said.
Ivett Carrasco admits to feeling nervous and unprepared for college.
But the Atlantic City resident saw her confidence and self-sufficiency grow during her freshman year.
“I am so excited to gain the experience and knowledge this scholarship has in store, in hopes to one day pay it forward,” she said.
Linh Tran, an economics major, said she has always wanted to give back to Atlantic City, and the scholarship is an opportunity to do that while completing her own education.
“I’m super excited to finish the rest of my college education with the scholarship’s guidance through its internships, connections, and leadership opportunities.” she said. “And most importantly, being the next leader in my dearest hometown, Atlantic City.”
Yamirah Williams overcame several personal obstacles to complete a successful first year at Stockton.
“To be chosen as an Engelberg Scholar is not only a reflection of hard work and dedication to being a well-rounded student,” she said. “It is also a reflection of my commitment to my community here in Atlantic City.”
The program is described as a unique leadership development series that allows the scholars to meet and learn from community leaders dedicated to the future of Atlantic City.
During last year’s inaugural program, the four recipients got to meet with Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner, Atlantic Cape Community President Dr. Barbara Gaba and Michael Epps, executive director of the office of Atlantic City Initiatives for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
The program is funded by a $1 million commitment from Alfred and Gail Engelberg.
Engelbert graduated Atlantic City High School in 1956, and was able to attend college because of an Avoda scholarship.
He became a successful intellectual property lawyer and created the scholarship and leadership program to encourage young people from the Atlantic City area to take leadership roles in revitalizing the city and provide them with high level opportunities they might not otherwise experience.
Each student recipient receives a full scholarship that funds all costs, including tuition, fees, room, board, books and any other program expenses.
Last year’s recipients, who will now help mentor this new class, said the financial help freed them to further their accomplishments.
Loukaia Taylor, of Atlantic City, said last year’s award helped her “put more of my efforts and energy into my studies and extracurricular activities.”
She now serves as the social media and marketing coordinator for the campus group TogetHER.
“Without the scholarship, I would have not been able to meet so many wonderful people, each with their own unique stories, and be as successful as I am right now,” said Bao Pham, who is from the city.
Steven Rubio, of Ventnor, said he was able to accomplish more thanks to the financial burden being lifted.
“This was the first time I could start using resources to develop myself rather than my bank account,” said Steven Rubio, of Ventnor. “I seized the opportunity and began working on creating a message on campus. I became more involved with clubs and decided to get into sports. Over the next year, I would attend conferences in other universities, host workshops in conventions, and advocate for a better, compassionate world.”
His involvement in the Stockton community earned him this year’s Student Development Engagement Award.
Students in the first cohort said they can’t wait to begin a new year and work with the new cohort.
“As the months have passed, I have felt myself grow personally and professionally into an intelligent and confident young adult,” said Elena Gonzalez of Atlantic City. “(The scholarship program) has meant a lot to me and my family. Because of (it), I have been able to alleviate a financial burden off my parents, live at the beautiful Atlantic City campus, meet community partners and immerse myself into a true Stockton family. There is a lot that I have done and a lot that I cannot wait to do with our new cohort.”