Hollis scholarships send a dozen students to college

By Juan Soto

Jeff Oyo is enjoying his last vacation days.

For the past four years, Oyo was one of the Hollis Local Development Corp. Annual Scholarships recipients, a program that awards scholarships to 12 students every year.

On Aug. 1, he embarks on an academic adventure that will take him, he hopes, to a Ph.D. in economics from Ohio State University.

He just graduated from SUNY Buffalo State and plans to do his doctoral research on labor economics and its effects on minority groups.

But before he lands on the Midwest campus, Oyo, a 23 year-old from Cambria Heights, will be a guest speaker at the Hollis Local Development Corp. Annual Scholarships Awards Brunch that will take place Saturday at Thomasina’s Catering Hall, in St. Albans.

“The scholarship and the program were just tremendous,” said the Cambria Heights resident. “The program was of great help to me and not just financially.”

Oyo, who graduated from the Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship High School at the Magnet Campus Complex, will tell this year’s scholarship recipients to “not just go to college for the degree, but to seek out all sorts of opportunities.”

He will advise the nine recent high school graduates and the three continuing college students to be “open-minded to opportunities and act like CEOs, looking always for improvements.”

One of them is Sekayi Curtis, who will major in civil engineering at Howard University, in Washington, D.C.

“This money is crucial,” said Angela Curtis, her mother. “This scholarship program is godsent –parents need help.”

After learning about the Hollis scholarship program, Curtis became a volunteer in the organization.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “But it’s a worthy cause.”

This year the fifth annual Scholarship Awards will distribute among the 12 students a total of $36,000. Every year the merit-based recipients will have to re-apply for the scholarship.

Students need a B average, and must be from Hollis, Queens Village, Cambria Heights or St. Albans. The scholarships are named after the past president of the Hollis Local Development Corp., Bruce Brown, who helped develop the scholarship program prior to his sudden death in 2011.

The first scholarships were awarded in 2010. Around 60 students have benefited from the program so far. Tickets for the brunch are available at Thomassina’s doors for $35 for adults and $15 for children under 12.

“Kids are so happy when they get the scholarship,” said Charlotte Thornton, chairwoman of the Scholarship Committee.

As a scholarship recipient, Oyo was a mentor for three college students, two from his SUNY Buffalo State alma mater and one from the University of Buffalo.

“We had lunch a few times, came together, discuss our problems and tried to find a solution for them,” added Oyo.

And being a speaker at a ceremony he used to attend as a scholarship recipient is unimaginable.

“This is a great honor,” he said. “I did not expect this at all.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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