The People in Your Neighborhood

AIC Creates Scholarship Program for Springfield Homeowners
Ernestine Johnson

Ernestine Johnson, president of the Bay Area Neighborhood Council,addresses the audience at AIC’s announceent.

In a move that Springfield Mayor Charlie Ryan called “revolutionary,” American International College (AIC) has announced plans to offer annual $10,000 scholarships to its closest neighbors. The college unveiled its ‘Community Engagement Initiative’ on Oct. 31, which will award four-year renewable scholarships to homeowners and their children residing in the Bay Area neighborhood and who meet AIC’s general admission requirements.

The section of the city includes portions of the State Street corridor, Mason Square, Tapley Street, and Roosevelt Ave., and is home to just over 4,000 of the city’s 152,000 residents.

According to AIC president Vincent Maniaci, the program was designed to not only boost AIC’s enrollment numbers, but to also spur revitalization in the Bay Area.

“We hope this will attract people to the area and have a positive impact on property values,” he said, noting that if the program proves successful over the next year, the Bay Area will represent the first of several Springfield neighborhoods to benefit from the scholarship program, which essentially covers half of AIC’s annual tuition and does not preclude students from securing other loans, including federal loans.

“We’re going to approach this one neighborhood at a time,” he said. “But we hope to gradually build the program, and connect the dots from one neighborhood to the next, in order to bring them together.”

Ryan expressed the same hope, and also called upon Springfield’s remaining colleges to follow AIC’s lead.

“All of the colleges play a strong role in the city,” he said. “AIC has just gone beyond what anyone would have contemplated, creating a program we didn’t even know was in the cards. Thousands of people could theoretically qualify … I hope that the other colleges will see fit to replicate this.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal also praised the program, calling it a “bold, assertive move.”

“Over the past few weeks, several key people within the city of Springfield have been given an opportunity to say what they think would best help this city, and the colleges and their roles in our future come up again and again,” he said. “AIC is the first college in the city to do anything about it.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the establishment of a dual admissions agreement between AIC, Springfield Technical Community College, and Holyoke Community College, which allows students applying to one of the two-year schools to simultaneously apply at AIC, and take advantage of significant scholarship opportunities. Maniaci said the programs are similar in that they were both designed to open up the four-year college experience to as many people as possible.

“We are looking to incorporate a number of other partnerships and programs in the future,” he noted, declining to offer specifics until the initiatives are firmly in place. “There are two or three things that are definitely in the works right now, each designed to make us an integral part of the Springfield community. If it’s not good for Springfield, we shouldn’t be doing it, and we’re not going to.”

Ernestine Johnson, president of the Bay Area Neighborhood Council, said she and her fellow Bay Area residents are pleased to enter into a new collaboration with the school.

“Over the years, we have all watched AIC grow and change. Now, we’re thrilled to be part of something new and exciting … all we can say is ‘thank you.’”