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Press Release

June 24, 2021



City officials award graduating seniors with scholarships and laptops at seventh annual Future Leaders ceremony

NEW YORK—On Wednesday, June 23, the de Blasio Administration commemorated the achievements of more than 50 college-bound high school graduates experiencing homelessness and residing in shelter. Together with their families, the graduates joined Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Melanie Hartzog, Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Porter, Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter, and Department of Homeless Services leadership and staff, as well as Agency partners, and representatives of the Thompson Family Benevolent Fund for a ceremony and celebration of their achievements and awards. In keeping with COVID-19-related protocols the ceremony was held virtually.

For many years running, including this year, DHS has received a generous donation from the Thompson Family Benevolent Fund to establish and fund the annual Future Leaders Scholarship Program for college-bound high school seniors who are experiencing homelessness and demonstrate educational success, including a commitment to their school attendance. This year, six students were awarded one scholarship each at a value of $2,000. Additionally, all students participating in the Future Leaders program received DHS-funded laptops and "college move-in" duffel bags full of supplies, funded by anonymous donors and coordinated through NYC Service's corporate volunteer program, Be In-Kind.

The honorees have been accepted to colleges including, New York University, Bates College, Hunter College, York College, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the University of Rochester.

At the ceremony and celebration, two courageous scholarship recipients shared their experiences overcoming hardship and achieving success in their educational pursuits, underscoring the importance of access to opportunity for all – regardless of housing status. Future Leaders Honoree and scholarship recipient Amy Wright, who has been accepted to New York University and plans on majoring in biology, hopes to go on to pursue a career in medicine with a focus on addressing healthcare inequalities that impact low-income communities. Future Leaders Honoree and scholarship recipient Nakelm Nicholson, who has been accepted to Bates College and plans on studying chemistry and math, looks forward to pursuing his interest in the sciences.

“Congratulations to this year’s Future Leaders Scholarship recipients, a group of young scholars who have not only continued to excel academically in the face of housing insecurities, but also navigated the uncertainties and challenges of a global pandemic,” said Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Melanie Hartzog. “Thanks to this scholarship and their perseverance, these young New Yorkers are on their way to accomplish greatness.”

“The young New Yorkers who we serve are a constant source of inspiration in all that we do at DSS-DHS,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “Congratulations to these exceptional scholars who remain undeterred and continue to shine despite the unprecedented challenges they faced this past year. In the aftermath of a crisis that laid bare the long-standing inequities across communities, we look to these future leaders who, in their own way, will carry forward our vital mission of uplifting communities in need, as they continue to be role models wherever they go. As we work to turn the tide on homelessness, with our strategies headed in the right direction, it is important to recognize the significant progress made addressing housing insecurity and homelessness among families with children as we recommit ourselves to building on this progress. To that end, we remain committed to continuing to enhance educational supports for young New Yorkers through partnerships like this, and we thank the Thompson Family Benevolent Fund for their continued support. We look forward to building on the progress we’ve made as we continue to ensure that the children we serve have the same access to education as all other New York City children.”

“Each one of the Future Leaders scholars is an example of what determination in the face of obstacles beyond your control looks like,” said Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Porter. “I am proud to honor the achievements of this group of young people and I am looking forward to seeing how each one of them changes their community, city, and world.”

“At DSS-DHS, ensuring that the families and children we serve feel supported every step of the way and have access to every opportunity to succeed has always been a top priority,” said Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter. “As we reflect on the past year-plus of this crisis, during which our dedicated frontline staff and provider-partners did extraordinary work going above and beyond to serve and support these families as they get back on their feet, we are also reminded of the incredible determination and hard work of our graduating class in the face of great odds. We are so incredibly proud of each and every one of them -- these students truly represent the best and brightest that New York City has to offer, and I wish them great success as they embark on this new, exciting chapter of their lives. We are also ever-grateful for our ongoing partnership with the Thompson Family Benevolent Fund and other donors, who join us in supporting and celebrating these remarkable young New Yorkers!’

“A lot of people say that there isn’t much help out there for first generation students in temporary housing but I would say that this scholarship opportunity demonstrates that there is,” said Future Leaders Scholarship Honoree Amy Wright. “I will always have many people to thank for my accomplishments, and your generous sponsorship of the 2021 Future Leaders Scholarship. Receiving this scholarship means more than just receiving money, it tells me I am viewed as a person who has the potential to change the future of our society. My goal is to become a medical doctor who can help find ways to aid and prevent further healthcare inequalities within our communities. The 2021 Future Leaders scholarship will greatly assist me in doing so. This scholarship is a blessing for me and a representation of my hard work.”

“I would like to thank the Department of Homeless Services and the generous donors for giving me this scholarship. With the help of this scholarship I will be able to pursue my dream of becoming a mathematician and chemist,” said Future Leader Scholarship Honoree Nakelm Nicholson. “This scholarship will also help me achieve some financial stability while allowing me to pursue the best education that I could pursue.”


About the New York City Department of Homeless Services:

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) works to prevent homelessness before it occurs, address street homelessness and assist homeless New Yorkers in transitioning from shelter and the street to permanent housing. DHS collaborates with not-for-profit partners to provide temporary shelter and services that homeless New Yorkers need to achieve and maintain housing permanency. In April 2016, Mayor de Blasio announced a major restructuring of homeless services in New York City, followed by the release of a comprehensive plan in February 2017 to turn the tide on homelessness, neighborhood by neighborhood. The plan’s guiding principle is community and people first; giving homeless New Yorkers, who come from every community across the five boroughs, the opportunity to be sheltered closer to their support networks and anchors of life in the communities they called home in order to more quickly stabilize their lives. Learn more about how DHS is turning the tide on homelessness, neighborhood by neighborhood, at