Planting seeds of hope

Planting seeds of hope

By Nastasia Boulos

Planting seeds of hope

By Nastasia Boulos
Through the ’Canes Community Scholarship Program, established in 2018, alumni provide life-changing opportunities for students in their communities.

Kayla Abramowitz has big dreams. She wants to get the full college experience, become an advocate for people with chronic illnesses, and continue to grow Kayla Cares 4 Kids, the nonprofit she founded when she was 11 to provide entertainment items to children’s hospitals.

But the financial strain her own chronic illnesses placed on her family threatened to dampen these hopes for the future. Even with a scholarship covering her tuition, Abramowitz, who has been in and out of the hospital most of her life, worried about the additional costs of attending college.

Now, thanks to a community of alumni rallying behind her, Abramowitz, a rising sophomore majoring in communications with a public advocacy track, can focus on working confidently towards her goals (and even trying new things like marching band, taking a graphic design class, and joining student organizations), without the financial worry weighing her down.

She is one of 17 high-achieving students from the Class of 2024 who received a scholarship this year as part of the ’Canes Communities Scholarship Program.

The program, established in 2018, allows alumni from ’Canes Communities across the country to raise funds for scholarships supporting first-year University of Miami students from their area. For some students, it’s the difference between attending college and not.

“I am so thankful,” Abramowitz said. “Instead of focusing on how I can afford the cost of education, I am able to be confident in putting myself out there at the University. This scholarship is a window to my future that gives me an outlet to explore different avenues of learning and personal growth.”

In addition to much-needed financial support, the ’Canes Community Scholarship Program connects students with a community of alumni early on in their academic careers, opening the door to mentorship and networking opportunities.

“These scholarship funds demonstrate to our students that their University of Miami alumni community supports them even before they become alumni,” said Desiree Rodriguez, assistant vice president of engagement at the University of Miami.

To Abramowitz, who received the Palm Beach County ’Canes Community scholarship, knowing that her own community is behind her makes it all the more meaningful. “It really adds a personal connection,” she said. “It’s so special to me.”

For Chara Maurice, the scholarship means she can attend her dream school with her sister, a Hammond Scholar and rising senior at the University. Maurice grew up in an impoverished household and was at times homeless, and a four-year college often seemed out of her reach.

She is now majoring in education with a minor in creative writing and plans to teach elementary and middle school aged kids how to express themselves through music and writing. “Scholarships are more than just a donation,” she said. “They are planting seeds of hope in every student who receives them.”

“It really is life-changing,” she added. “No matter how much I would have wanted to, I wouldn't have been able to come to the University of Miami and have access to this level of education if I didn't have this group of people who took a chance on me. It’s just incredible that communities are so generous.”

All ’Canes Communities, which are led by local University of Miami volunteers and supported by the alumni association, now participate in the fundraising efforts. Students are selected within each community based on academic achievement and financial need. So far, 26 scholarships have been awarded and over $68,000 has been raised to support students.

Other recipients of this year’s ’Canes Community scholarships include Kira Johnson, a sociology major who hopes to use her degree to tackle the issue of homelessness; Bianca Banato, an oceanography major who plans to contribute to the field of conservation; William Goldstein, a marketing major with an interest in both business and psychology; and Vanessa Bellanton, whose lifelong passion for science led her to study biology.

Alumni have long played a crucial role in supporting the University and paving the way for future generations of students, and the ’Canes Community scholarships are no exception.

For some, like Atlanta ’Canes Community President Joshua Grey, B.S.E.E. ’12, it’s about paying it forward. Grey, who attended the U on a scholarship, knows firsthand the difference it can make in the life of a student. “There are so many talented students who cannot afford the experience without scholarships,” he said. “It’s up to alumni to support them, and to counter the hardships they face.”

Eric Milton, B.S.C.P.E. ’17, a Miami native and current vice president for programming of the Miami ’Canes Community, believes the University of Miami shaped him and provided friendships that have lasted way beyond graduation. “It gives me great pride to hear about the great achievements, academic and otherwise, accomplished by fellow students,” he said. “I give back so that the U can continue providing those impactful educational opportunities to all its students.”

To learn more about the University of Miami ’Canes Community Scholarship Programs, please visit canefunder.miami.edu/pages/canes-communities.