Two graduating seniors win SHA Farris Mitchell Scholarships
Springfield Housing Authority has awarded Farris Mitchell scholarships to two local high school graduates who are headed to college in September.
Nayeli Balestier, a recent graduate of Holyoke Community College’s Gateway to College program, and Jadas Snipes, who just graduated from the High School of Commerce, are the latest recipients of the Farris Mitchell Scholarship.
The Farris Mitchell Scholarship is funded and run by the Springfield Housing Authority. It was established 25 years ago by the Mitchell family shortly after the 1994 death of their father Farris, a long-time SHA resident who with his wife Julia raised 10 children, all who finished high school and went on to college.
The scholarship is available to graduating seniors who are SHA residents or who live in SHA rental assistance housing, and who are headed to college.
SHA Executive Director Denise R. Jordan said the agency is happy to help young people aiming to improve their lives through education.
“This scholarship is a truly wonderful way to help our young people get a good start to their lives,” Jordan said. “It is a boost like this that can make all the difference as a college student starts out with higher education. We congratulate our two recipients.”
SHA Board of Commissioners President Thomas LaBonte agreed, adding that higher education is a solid step towards building a successful life.
“This is one of the best things we do here at SHA, each year. Our Farris Mitchell Scholarship winners are proof that if you work hard, you can achieve anything,” LaBonte said. “It also shows other youth at SHA, if they see someone else can achieve this, so can they. On behalf of the SHA Board of Commissioners, congratulations to Ms. Balestier and Mr. Snipes.”
Balestier and Snipes, both residents of SHA housing, will each receive $1,000 to help offset expenses as they begin their higher education years. Both struggled in their early high school years and were given a needed boost in schools that proved a good fit for them.
For Balestier, who is 18, moving from school to school began in her middle school years, leaving her frustrated and ready to quit. Her mother, Lourdes Balestier, never gave up, and early last year helped her enroll in HCC’s Gateway to College program, where she flourished thanks to attentive teachers and guidance counselors.
“At first I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay, but they kept pushing me and pushing me, and I started to understand and do better in the classes,” Balestier said.
“My grades went from failing to mostly As. I’d come to school early every day to get my homework done and visit with the counselors. I worked really hard, and everyone there helped me a lot,” said Balestier, who lives at Pendleton Avenue Apartments.
Balestier has her sights on HCC as a start, and then on to a four-year college and a bachelor’s degree. Inspired by a movie she watched years ago about a deaf girl, she wants to learn American Sign Language and major in either Criminal Justice, Education, or Nursing.
As far as she’s concerned her future is wide open. Already fluent in English and Spanish, she is learning Portuguese and aims to add ASL to her language lineup.
“I’m really excited about college,” she said. “I’m very thankful to the Springfield Housing Authority for this scholarship. I know it’s going to help me as I start out in school in the fall.”
Jadas Snipes, 18, has lived at Robinson Gardens Apartments his whole life. Joining the Youth Group there was what changed his attitude about school, and life.
The Youth Group is run by SHA Outreach Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell, who helps to oversee the scholarship named after his late father.
“Mr. Mitchell made such a difference for me. He made me realize how important it is to stay on track and stay in school,” said Snipes.
Snipes attended one other city school before Mitchell helped him transfer to the High School of Commerce, where he was captain of the football team, earning top grades and earning acceptance to Westfield State University starting this fall. He will major in movement science and hopes to teach physical education at a Springfield high school.
“I’ve always wanted to go to college,” Snipes said. “I know that without college, and without a degree, you’re not going to have a career. And I want to do something that helps other young people. I think I can help kids do their best.”
Snipes said he is thankful for the scholarship, and for the help he received along the way both at Commerce, and at the Robinson Gardens Youth Group. He will put the money towards school, he said.
Mitchell, now a retired dean at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, where he had Snipes’ mother, Nakita Jones, as a student two decades ago.