It’s time we make a stronger commitment to support local students

Victor M. Hunt

Mar 2, 2022

The impact of financial support on the academic journey of Michellet Rojas-Brand, a 2021 recipient of the Sprout and S.T.E.M. Academic Scholarship.

In the spring of 2021, Michellet Rojas-Brand graduated from The Met School in Providence, and while doing so, left a lasting impression on her school and peers by delivering the ceremony's closing remarks.

She acknowledged the sacrifices that were made by her teachers and administrators in a year that was limited to virtual learning. Then, she brought the entire student section to laughter by narrating several jovial anecdotes involving her and her classmates.

Fifteen minutes beforehand, Michellet and I had shared the stage as I awarded her the Sprout and S.T.E.M. Academic Scholarship. Her selection was based on her commitment to academic excellence—having taken several college courses in her senior year through Brown University—and her community involvement as a member of the Providence Student Union, New Urban Art, and Sunrise PVD.

She was polite and appreciative as I handed her the check-enclosed envelope, and after returning to my seat to rejoin my fellow board members, Michellet reclaimed the stage to deliver the final speech of the afternoon. We watched and listened as she stirred the crowd to roaring applause, and in these moments, it became ever more clear that Michellet was destined for success.

Michellet Rojas-Brand (left) and Sprout and S.T.E.M. Executive Director Victor M. Hunt (second from right) on stage at The Met School's 2021 Graduation Ceremony.

Recently, I spoke with Michellet to highlight her progress since graduation. Currently a freshman at the Community College of Rhode Island, she intends to transfer to Wheaton College and reclassify her major from forensic science to psychology–a decision that suits her conscientiousness and ability to engage others.

"Wheaton reminds me so much of my high school," she stated, "a progressive approach to education with a tight-knit community." When asked what most excites her about a career in psychology, she replied, "I realized how much I love connecting with others and how I cared for their well-being. I imagine my professional career to be bright."

Michellet mentioned how our scholarship had supported her along her academic journey, saying that it "definitely helped fund my higher education." For students in similar situations, earning prerequisites at a community college is a cost-effective financial strategy, and by covering a portion of her expenses, Sprout and S.T.E.M. ensured that Michellet was one step closer to receiving her bachelor's degree.

"With increasing costs and students of color being the most disadvantaged, this scholarship should continue," she stated. "It'll help students achieve their goals."

Sprout and S.T.E.M. Vice President Weston de Lomba (left) and Michellet Rojas-Brand.

Ensuring the professional development of students should be a community-wide effort. Yet sadly, many talented students lack the necessary resources to advance their education and reach their full potential; needless to say, this is a systematic failure with repercussions across numerous dimensions and should be mitigated as much as possible.

The promotion of hardworking students has obvious benefits that range from personal to societal, such as self-actualization, socioeconomic advancement, and the improved vibrancy of our local communities. For these reasons, Sprout and S.T.E.M. commends the students who are diligently manifesting their aspirations and the supporters who help make these dreams a reality. It truly takes a village.