From Neighborhood House kid to committee chair
Constance Currie was the executive director and face of Neighborhood House from 1918-1957, and to this day, her determination and leadership still have a positive and lasting effect on the West Side community. Two years after her tenure ended in 1959, the Constance Currie Education Fund was established to award scholarships to members of the community to further their post-secondary education. Carlo Franco, a West Side native, received the scholarship and now heads up the selection committee.
Carlo Franco said he was a “Neighborhood House” kid who was in youth programming or at Neighborhood House since he was in elementary school. “I remember spending a lot of time there and it was a place of community,” Franco said. “There was always something going on there and it was a place where everything was community-driven and community-centered.”
Growing up at Neighborhood House, Franko said he was familiar with the Constance Currie scholarship, and applied for it upon his graduation from West Side’s Humboldt High School. He is a three time recipient said, “I was so grateful to have the scholarship money—it was huge! It helped with books, transportation and one year I was able to buy my own laptop,” he said. “To have some money while in school really mattered—it’s really expensive to even just have enough money for groceries.” Franco said the scholarship was instrumental in helping him to earn his BA from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 2016.
“After third year of receiving the scholarships, I wrote a letter to the committee, letting them know I was appreciative of the awards, and wanted to continue to participate in any capacity—in the award ceremony, reading applications—however I could help,” he said. “The following year, I was asked to be on the committee that reviews scholarship applications!”
During his three-year tenure on the committee, Franco said he proudly participated in the application review process. He reviewed applications and scored them, checked transcripts and read letters of recommendations and attended meetings where the committee has robust conversations to select award recipients.
The selection process is completed with great care and a sense of objectivity, he said. The committee reviews applications from a holistic point of view; keeping in mind who could benefit from the funding the most, who fits the criteria well, and a variety of other things can factor in, like their personal stories. “Every single year I’m amazed by the way people show such willingness to share their authentic stories—it’s amazing. It takes a lot of courage to share such private details with complete strangers.”
This year, Franco is the chair of the committee. His biggest goal is to encourage new ideas, re-evaluate how the committee reviews the applications. “I love the new ideas, how we think of ways of how we can change scoring criteria,” he said. “We really want to meet people where they are—so for example, in the past we’ve asked people to submit their high school transcripts to show that they graduated. We’ve found that we have a lot of immigrants that don’t have those documents, so now we make allowances for that sort of thing.”
The best part about the scholarship, Franco said, is that they get to reward and empower 16 people with money for tuition, books, or just some extra money to survive on while they’re in school. “And, the students who receive the scholarship always come and give back to the West Side community in some way. They give me a more optimistic look at the world,” he said. “As for me, I’m ‘in’ until they tell me otherwise!”
To apply for the 2019 Constance Currie scholarship, go to www.neighb.org/constance-currie.
The deadline to apply is April 8, 2019.