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New Haven Promise will administer Yale's newly-created Pennington Fellowship for city students to attend HBCUs

New Haven Promise will administer Yale
Posted By: Reginald Culpepper on December 12, 2022

New Haven Promise has been selected by Yale University to manage the Pennington Scholarship and organize the selection of the Pennington Scholars through a committee process.

Yale has created the new scholarship program to support New Haven public school students who choose to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The participating colleges are: Hampton University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University and Spelman College. More colleges will be added at a later date.

The Pennington Fellowship will support 10 to 12 students in each college-bound cohort for four years, with each student receiving up to $20,000 toward tuition and fees per year. When fully implemented, 40 to 50 students will receive Pennington scholarships at any given time.

“This scholarship addresses, in part, historical disparities in educational opportunities for Black citizens,” Yale President Peter Salovey said Monday in an announcement to the Yale community. “It will be funded by Yale and administered by the New Haven Promise program, which the university co-founded in 2010 to put the dream of a college education within reach for young people in our home city who otherwise could not afford it.”

“Our responsibility to discover light and truth compels us to reckon with our past,” Salovey said in Monday’s message.

The new Pennington Fellowship is part of the reckoning process.

“The strength of institutions can be measured, in part, by their willingness to confront their past openly — and act meaningfully on what they find,” Salovey said. “The initiatives I have described here are important steps in response to Yale’s historical role and associations with slavery. They complement and will be reinforced by work planned across the university, and additional programs and projects will be announced in the coming months.”

The scholarship program is separate from and incremental to the New Haven Promise scholarship program, which remains unchanged. For more than a decade, New Haven Promise has provided scholarships for public school students in the city to attend college in Connecticut. Now, with this new program, additional New Haven high school graduates will receive support to attend participating HBCUs around the country.

"Before the establishment of the Pennington Scholarship, Yale was the only university in the country funding a Promise program for city students to attend a multitude of in-state colleges,” said New Haven Promise President Patricia Melton ’83. “The demand and interest in HBCU options has remained high, as nearly 500 Promise applicants in the last 10 years have listed an HBCU among their top three final choices.



“This merit-based opportunity will be well received by our city’s public school students, who are nearly 90% students of color,” Melton said. “This can ensure that up to 12 hard-working students who are selected each year to receive up to $20,000 towards tuition can fulfill their dreams while mitigating the amount of debt they take on.”

More than 80% of the $29 million spent for the New Haven Promise scholarship to date has directly funded bachelor’s degrees or undergraduates still pursuing one. New Haven Promise also provides support to ensure academic, financial, and career entry success.

The new scholarship will bear the name of Reverend James W. C. Pennington, the first Black student to attend Yale. Born enslaved on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he lived for 24 years as a fugitive before securing his freedom. Pennington was prevented from formally enrolling at Yale because of his skin color, but he audited classes at Yale Divinity School before continuing a noteworthy career as a minister, antislavery organizer, scholar, and speaker.

Despite living at a time when Black citizens were denied equality, Pennington pursued education for himself and others throughout a life lived with extraordinary courage. From 1828 to 1834, he hired teachers to tutor him in Greek and Latin and attended night school, all while working as a coachman in Brooklyn Heights and gaining prominence as a delegate at the first Colored Convention in Philadelphia.

Pennington’s legacy is bolstered by his work to write the first African American history textbook. The Pennington Fellowship that now bears his name is established with HBCUs Hampton University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, and Spelman College. Yale will add to the number of eligible institutions as more partnerships are established.

The fellowship builds on existing collaborations between Yale and HBCUs, including faculty-led research and teaching initiatives.

Yale is also broadening the pipeline of prospective students through its affiliation with the Leadership Alliance, a group of U.S. universities and private companies that support the development of students from historically Black and minority-serving institutions. Students from 10 HBCUs presently participate in these programs at Yale.

Applicants for the scholarships must be seniors at a New Haven public high school, submit an essay, provide a letter of recommendation, and have participated in at least forty hours of community service. Fellowship applications are currently being accepted; the first group of Pennington Fellows will begin college in the fall of 2023.

For more information about the Pennington Scholarship, see the FAQs.
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