Thomas Breen – Contributor
As a new lab and office tower continues to rise at 101 College St., Career High School senior Laila Mohammed has her sights set on growing science-career prospects of her own — thanks to a new $200,000 scholarship fund for public school students like her who live near the development and who pursue a higher-ed degree in bioscience or STEM.
Mohammed detailed those academic and professional hopes during a Tuesday afternoon press conference about the launch of the Together We Grow / 101 College Street Scholarship Fund.
More than two dozen city officials and local public-education leaders gathered in the library of Career High School at 140 Legion Ave. to celebrate the new fund, which will be seeded with $200,000 of the $500,000 that city government got Massachusetts-based developer Carter Winstanley to commit as part of a community benefits agreement related to the 101 College St. project nearby.
City Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli said on Tuesday that the fund will provide up to $3,000 per year for up to two years for students from the Hill, Dwight, and downtown neighborhoods who enroll in bioscience and STEM-related programs at Gateway Community College. The fund will also provide up to $5,000 per year for up to four years for students from those same three neighborhoods if they enroll in the Biopath program at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).
Piscitelli said that the new fund, which is partnering with the New Haven Scholarship Fund, should start accepting applications by February, with the goal of distributing money to its first student recipients by the start of the Fall 2023 academic year.
This fund — supported by the 101 College St. development — focuses on “the neighborhoods right around another big, shining building” as a part of the same infrastructure-building effort to reconnect parts of the city previously severed by a highway to nowhere.
There are 25,000 bioscience jobs in Connecticut, Piscitelli said, and hundreds of thousands of square feet of under-construction lab space soon to be available at 101 College St. alone.
This building will be home to companies developing “new therapies, cutting edge treatments,” and students from the surrounding neighborhoods can and should be able to participate in that growing part of the city’s economy.
“This industry has got incredible momentum today,” said Winstanley, whose company built the 100 College St. Alexion tower and is currently developing the 10-story, 500,000 square-foot building across the street at 101 College.
During his more than two decades of working in New Haven’s bioscience sector, Winstanley said, he’s seen companies like Arvinas, Alexion, Biohaven, and Halda grow and grow. “All of these companies have chosen New Haven to be their home,” he said. “We have a job as a city to make sure we’re ready for them.”
And, as New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) Supt. Iline Tracey, the city and the school district also have a responsibility to keep opening doors of academic and professional opportunity for science-interested students like Mohammed.
Mohammed, a 17-year-old senior at Career, spoke up at the press conference about how she hopes to major in exercise science when she goes to college next year, ideally at Southern.
Ultimately, she said, she’d like to get a doctorate while en route to becoming a physical therapist.
This fund, Gateway Community College CEO William Brown said at Tuesday’s presser, marks an important construction project of a different kind for students like Mohammed. It allows for “the demolition of significant financial barriers” for eligible students from surrounding neighborhoods as well as “the building of pathways and opportunities” for those same students to step into high-demand parts of the economy.
Hill Alder Ron Hurt, one of the lead negotiators from the Board of Alders on the 101 College St. deal, said that the biosciences industry “has become a core part of our city’s economics” over the past three decades. “Still, there is a significant potential for more growth.” We as a city cannot be satisfied, he said, with the economic success of bioscience companies and developers if young people from nearby neighborhoods remain all-too-often stuck in cycles of violence, disinvestment, and lack of opportunity.
Such a fund “changes the geographical mistakes of urban renewal,” Hurt said. “We still have a ways to go. But we have come a long way.”
Scholarship applications will be posted in February to the New Haven Scholarship Fund’s website here.
After the presser, Winstanley told the Independent that the core and shell of the new 101 College St. building should be finished by early fall of this year, and the first tenant spaces should be open for business by early 2024.