four bright futures

Millbrook Scholars | Speaking of Springfield | Springfield, MA

four bright futures

Twenty-year-old Stephen practically bounds from room to room when giving a tour of the five-bedroom house where he lives with three roommates. The house is on a quiet street lined with ranch houses and small Capes.

Enter through the mudroom, where sneakers and shoes line shelves. Then, walk up to the two spacious living areas that have plush couches and wood floors. Go through the kitchen, which is, like the rest of the house, spotless thanks to the roommates who all pitch in to do the chores. Peek into a bedroom and then head downstairs to the “playroom,” where the four hang out.

The house, on Jonquil Drive in Sixteen Acres, is home to four community college students who had previously been without a home or otherwise living in difficult circumstances.

They were identified through a new non-profit called the Millbrook Scholars Program. Under the auspices of the Children’s Study Home, it provides support to students 18 and older who are enrolled in Springfield public schools or a local community college.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” Stephen said, settling onto a couch as classical music plays in the background.

According to board member York Mayo, “The idea is to take young men who want to be successful but who haven’t had the circumstances to bring out their greatness. These are young men who never had a safety net.” The current foursome is the first in the program.

Mayo began the program with Bob Perry, whom he knew from their work at Habitat for Humanity. He wanted to do something after hearing about the struggles of a local high school student.

Nicholas, now 20, was the first to move into the Jonquil Drive house. At the time he was a student at Roger L. Putnam Vocational High School. He confided in his guidance counselor that his living situation was very difficult and he needed a place to stay. Guidance counselor Mark Jackson contacted Mayo and the rest is history. Stephen moved in shortly thereafter followed by Derick, 19, and Brandon, 18.

A resident advisor also lives at the Sixteen Acres house. Each student has a mentor and tutor in English and math. Each must maintain a 2.5 grade average (which they’ve exceeded) and have a job. Study time is from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Plans call for the students to stay in the house through graduation from community college, which they attend on scholarships provided by the program. Three have their sights set on a four-year college.

Stephen wants to study advanced computer technology. Nicholas and Brandon plan to major in criminal justice with the goal of becoming state troopers. And Derick, who already has a job repairing cars, hopes to attend diesel mechanic school.

“I want to be an entrepreneur, so it’s been amazing to meet small business owners,” Stephen said.

Mayo and Perry take the students to cultural and sporting events in the city. For Stephen, with his interest in music, going to Symphony Hall was a highlight. So was attending a local performance of “The Messiah.”

With support coming through donations, fundraising and grants, the program involves giving tours of the house to local business owners and others interested in contributing.

Mayo said he and Perry, who meet with the students regularly, are like the grandfathers. And the roommates, Nicholas said, are like family.

“We take care of each other,” he said.

Pictured above (from left to right): Nick, Derick, Stephen, Brandon

Ronni Gordon | http://runnerwrites.blogspot.com/
Photo credit: Jim Langone | langonephoto.com