Scholarships Help Students Living in Public Housing Realize Their College Dreams

The Los Angeles Community Development Foundation and Edison International partner to provide scholarships so low-income students can attend college.

August 22, 2014 | By Maricela Carlos

Sharon Zhu, 21, may not have had a lot of material luxuries growing up, but she always knew attending college was in her future. She just needed some help getting there. 

As the daughter of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants, Zhu is the first generation in her family to attend college in the United States. And now, thanks to a scholarship from the Los Angeles Community Development Foundation, the senior is that much closer to obtaining her mechanical engineering degree from Cal Poly Pomona.

Funded in part by a $25,000 grant from Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison (SCE), Zhu was one of 16 scholars who received a scholarship from the Los Angeles Community Development Foundation at its recent Reality Check Conference.

“This scholarship means a lot to me,” said Zhu. “I see this scholarship as encouragement from Edison and the Community Development Foundation for me to continue to work hard and do well in school. It will also help me subsidize the cost of textbooks and school expenses.”

The Los Angeles Community Development Foundation is a nonprofit working to improve the quality of life for low-income Section 8 and Public Housing residents throughout Los Angeles County. The foundation has administered the HARS (Housing Authority Residents Scholarships) since 1997 in support of its mission to end generational poverty in low-income housing. 

To date, 225 residents have been awarded scholarships to attend four-year colleges and universities, community colleges and vocational schools. The foundation’s college access programs include the Reality Check Workshops that focus on career, life skills and mentoring and has helped hundreds of Housing Authority residents.

“We recognize that education can be an equalizer in the fight against poverty,” said Jennifer Blackwell-Trotter, executive director of the Community Development Foundation. “So we formed the Project Scholars Initiative, which provides a comprehensive set of programs designed to create higher education pathways for student-residents.”

To continue to provide its scholarships and programs to Housing Authority residents, the Community Development Foundation relies on funding from corporations like Edison International. To date, Edison has contributed $45,500 to the foundation since 2009.

Edison International supports local nonprofits that work to increase the number of youth entering the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, with the ultimate goal of creating the future workforce pipeline. 

“At Edison International, we are proud to help outstanding students like Sharon pursue higher education in the STEM fields," said Tammy Tumbling, director of Philanthropy and Community Investment at SCE. "As an energy company, we recognize the skills needed for our future workforce and the country. By partnering with organizations like the Community Development Foundation, we are helping to provide the underserved opportunities to attend college where they may not have had the chance to do so."

In June, Zhu joined the Edison team as a summer intern in SCE’s Apparatus & Standards in Material Coordination & Vendor Drawings group. She hopes to be able to put her future degree in mechanical engineering to good use one day as an SCE apparatus engineer.

“My internship at Edison has been great,” she said. “Edison is a company where I always wanted to work. I enjoy being part of the Edison team and I appreciate how helpful and encouraging company engineers and staff have been.” 

It was Zhu’s cousin who first inspired her to pursue engineering. At Cal Poly Pomona, she has received support from the school’s Women in Engineering group. She has also learned a great deal from the SCE engineers she has worked with during her internship with the utility. 

“Thank you Edison for your support and opportunity to intern for such a great company,” said Zhu. “Everything I learned will carry me forward to becoming a successful engineer.”

Topics: People