Farris Mitchell Scholarship
Two Springfield students win SHA’s Farris Mitchell Scholarships
Springfield Housing Authority’s Farris Mitchell Scholarships have been awarded to two high school seniors, one with dreams of being an orthodontist and the other of owning a dance studio for urban children.
Lizaundra Rodriguez, a senior at the Springfield Renaissance School, and Zyaire Cottle, a senior at the Springfield Conservatory of the Arts, each won a $1,000 scholarship to help fund their first year of college.
The scholarship is given annually to two graduating seniors at Springfield high schools who either live in Springfield Housing Authority public housing, or who have rental subsidies administered by the authority. This year, both awardees live in public housing.
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan said the authority is excited to be giving the scholarships to these two outstanding students, both with specific plans for their futures as they move into their young adult years.
“We’re so pleased with these awardees, and that we are able to help them get a good start in their lives,” Jordan said. “We look forward to watching their continued success as they head to college and beyond.”
Named after the late Farris Mitchell, the scholarship is in its 24th year of providing funds to young men and women in public housing or rental assistance apartments. Neither Mitchell nor his wife Julia completed high school, but they raised 10 children in an SHA development, where they instilled in their children a focus on education. The eldest of the children is Jimmie Mitchell, a retired dean from the Putnam Vocational Technical Academy and now a Youth Engagement Coordinator at SHA.
The scholarship began in 1996 as a family endeavor shortly after Farris Mitchell died of cancer, as a way to remember the man and honor his steadfast commitment to youth and education. The SHA began providing funding and resources in 2011.
Rodriguez said she is grateful and happy to be a recipient of the scholarship, and will use the money to help pay for books and other expenses as she enters her freshman year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in September.
“I feel so thrilled to have this. It’s so exciting for me,” said Rodriguez, who plans to major in Health Students and then move on to a graduate program where she will study to be an orthodontist.
Rodriguez has an amazing 4.45 grade point average, with the high score being a 4. She earned extra points by excelling in the many honors courses she has taken at Renaissance.
She credits her academic success to a passion for reading – she loves novel series such as The Hunger Games – and a commitment to doing her homework.
“Always, as soon as I get home I get right to studying,” she said. “I know how important that is.”
She is the oldest of four children and the daughter of Taisha Rodriguez and Felix Lopez. She lives at Sullivan Apartments with her mother and siblings.
Zyaire Cottle chose to attend the city’s only arts-based school because of his love of song and dance, and he found he flourished at the Franklin Street facility. He has focused on dance – especially ballet, his favorite – but has also taken other arts courses including painting, drawing, sculpture, singing, and more.
He furthers his craft as a student at the Stadium of Dance, located in Springfield.
Cottle said he will use part of the scholarship to pay the deposit needed to enter his freshman year at Westfield State University.
“I’m so excited and grateful about this,” Cottle said. “To be acknowledged is great, and to have this help that I need is perfect.”
Cottle’s plan is to major in Business Management at Westfield, and then launch a dance studio/education center that will reach out to urban youth like himself.
“I always knew I wanted to dance, but I didn’t know anything about it until I came to school here,” he said of the Conservatory. “I want to help other young have a chance to do what I am doing here.”
Cottle credits his academic success to his willingness to put in the hard work, and to his mother, Samora Cottle, who has always encouraged him to do his very best in all his endeavors.
“I love my mom,” he said with a broad smile. “She’s made me who I am.”
He lives with his mother at Duggan Park Apartments. His father is Donnell Skeen.
Conservatory Assistant Principal William Soto has been working with Cottle since he was a sixth-grader at Kennedy Middle School, and doesn’t doubt for an instant his ability to live his dream.
“He’s very talented, and a hard worker. I know he’s going to be a successful person,” Soto said.
Jimmie Mitchell, who helps oversee the scholarship at SHA, said he is most pleased with this year’s recipients. He also expressed gratitude for his family that the scholarship lives on to help students every year who are much like he and his siblings were years ago.
“This scholarship came about through my family so that people like us can get some help when it’s time for college,” Mitchell said. “When we were young, there was nothing like this. But our father always told us that we should stay in school, and go to college.”
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