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On May 17, 2021, Merrimack was awarded an annual grant of $50,000 for 10 years through the Cummings $25 Million Grant Program. The Program supports up to 140 Massachusetts nonprofits and local institutions each year, all of which meet the needs of communities in Middlesex, Essex and Suffolk counties.
“The Pioneer Scholarship and Early College programs are an important part of achieving Merrimack’s mission to work alongside local communities and enrich the lives of all deserving students,” said President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D. “The Cummings Foundation grant will help ensure the longevity of these groundbreaking, innovative programs and further advance the impact of the partnership between community partners and Merrimack College.”
Funding from the Cummings Foundation will go towards hiring a director for the Early College and Pioneer Scholarship Programs who will lead and grow programming for both matriculated Pioneer Scholars as well as students in Merrimack’s Early College Program (ECP). With the addition of this role, Merrimack will build the capacity to exponentially increase student enrollment and student access to key networks of support.
“We aim to help meet the needs of people in all segments of our local community,” said Cummings Foundation Executive Director Joel Swets. “It is the incredible organizations we fund, however, that do the actual daily work to empower our neighbors, educate our children, fight for equity and so much more.”
As of 2019, only 10% of Lawrence adults hold bachelor’s degrees. The ECP works closely with Lawrence High School and the Abbott Lawrence Academy to offer valuable exposure to college for students who may not get the opportunity otherwise. Participating students must complete the program application, maintain a GPA of 3.3 or higher, take a menu of rigorous courses at Merrimack and receive the endorsement of their Lawrence High School principal. Currently, there are 150 students enrolled in the ECP (75 juniors and 75 seniors), all of whom are eligible to receive one of 10 Pioneer Scholarships awarded each year.
From the Lawrence High School Class of 2019, 94% of ECP students have matriculated at college within 6 months of graduating high school versus only 47% of their peers. Students who completed the program have been accepted at colleges including Merrimack, Harvard, Brown, UMass Amherst, UMass Lowell, Northeastern and elsewhere.
The new director will ensure these numbers continue to grow by investing in community partnerships, working closely with Merrimack Admission, the Winston School of Education and Social Policy and the O’Brien Center for Career Development to expand professional development opportunities for students and developing a long-term strategic plan. The director will lead collaboratively at Merrimack and in the broader community to continually increase access to higher education and provide the guidance, academic rigor and life skills students in Lawrence need to succeed.
The Cummings Foundation grant will support the College’s Pioneer Scholarship Program, which awards full scholarships to ten students from the Abbott Lawrence Academy each year.
Grant recipients will be celebrated virtually on Thursday, June 10, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. The grant will officially be awarded on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.