Mount Community “Sleeps Out” in Support of Homeless Youth
Riverdale, N.Y. – On any given night in America, tens of thousands of unaccompanied youth—young people living without the support of a parent or guardian—are searching for a safe place to sleep. In fact, some two million youth experience homelessness each year. They may be living in shelters or motels, riding the subway all night, or sleeping in cars or doorways. Every day brings concern for safety and survival.
Beyond basic questions of security, the uncertainty and instability these young people face disrupt their education. Equally concerning is the fact that these young people all too often develop diminished expectations for the future—and as a result, will forgo the opportunity to realize their potential through higher education. Those who do pursue postsecondary education face tremendous challenges. College financing can be nearly impossible and once these individuals reach the age of 18, they no longer qualify for most social services. Sadly, only about two percent of formerly fostered youth go on to earn college degrees, compared to 25 percent of the general population.
The College of Mount Saint Vincent established the Mott Street Scholarship Program to address this, identifying talented youth who have persevered through foster care or homelessness and who are educationally and emotionally ready for college. The Program covers tuition, room and board, fees, books, and insurance—and as with all students, the Mount provides supplementary academic and counseling resources, along with the fundamental tools needed for success, such as a laptop. Most of all, Mott Street Scholars receive year-round housing for all four years they are enrolled. At Mount Saint Vincent, they are finally home.
The response to the program has been exceptional and has grown from one student in Spring 2016 to 26 in the current academic year.
“These young people are among the finest and most committed students of any the Mount has ever seen in its long history,” said President Charles L. Flynn, Jr. “Many are active in Campus Ministry and several aspire to careers in teaching or social services. All are Leaders in Service, and we expect many will begin working with other homeless youth. Their success inspires tremendous hope of an alternative future, one that will benefit not just the students, but the world as well.”
To further this notion and its commitment to service, the College is collaborating with Covenant House New Jersey to host a Sleep Out in solidarity with homeless youth on April 12. Covenant House, a 40-year-old organization that provides safe shelter, services, and opportunities for homeless and trafficked youth, is one of the organizations the College works with to recruit Mott Street Scholars.
The Sleep Out is a powerful fundraising and awareness initiative developed by Covenant House in which participants commit to sleeping outside for one night. The aim is to call attention to the problem, while immersing participants in the experience of homelessness. The event will further demonstrate the stark contrast between the challenges that exist and the great opportunities that are available through the Mott Street Scholarship Program at the College.
“Our Sleep Out cannot allow us to fully grasp what it truly is like to be homeless, but it can help us raise the funds and awareness so others don’t have to be,ˮ said Lynne Bongiovanni, Dean of the College. “We are marking our solidarity with the members of our campus community who have experienced homelessness. We are drawing attention to the fact that less than 10 percent of foster youth in the U.S. graduate from college. And we are committing ourselves to the College’s mission through our understanding of our common humanity, our commitment to human dignity, and our obligations to one another. ˮ
The Mott Street Scholarship Program is a significant, mission essential commitment for Mount Saint Vincent. Alumnae/i, friends, and trustees continue to facilitate its growth with generous contributions—in the 2017-2018 year, cash gifts for the program exceeded $238,000, and more than $1,250,000 has been committed to a permanent endowment for the Program. To advance the Program’s exposure, the College will invite the entire community to support the Sleep Out, the first event exclusively benefiting the Mott Street Scholarship Program. All are invited to participate.
For more information and to participate, please visit: mountsaintvincent.edu/mottstreet
This story originally appeared in the College’s 2018 Annual Report.
About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.