Scholarship Support Helps Students Succeed Beyond Queens College

Reena AlterReena Alter’s road to Queens College was a long and winding one. Having matriculated at Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2009, Reena had to drop out due to financial issues. After working for seven years as an accounts payable clerk, Reena decided to enroll in QC part-time. “It made the most financial sense and was easiest to get to after work and on weekends.”

In May of 2020, Reena graduated from Queens College with a degree in English. Like all of Queens College students, Reena transitioned to remote learning in the spring. In a fitting conclusion to a semester when classes moved online, Queens College used virtual methods to mark Commencement on May 28—when it was originally scheduled. The College hopes to hold a Commencement ceremony in the future when health circumstances permit. For Reena, “it was such a huge thing I've been working towards for almost 11 years. Being the first in my immediate family to get a bachelor’s degree is a big deal, and my parents were really excited to have that day and that moment.” While she was disappointed not to be able to don her cap and gown and experience graduation on campus with her parents, Reena took pictures at home to commemorate the day and shared the English Department website celebrating all the graduates with her family.

Majoring in English was not her original plan. Having worked in the financial sector, Reena started QC as an accounting major. “When I first enrolled and started taking classes, I was working full-time (50 hours a week!) and taking weekend classes for my accounting degree. When I switched majors, I had to make the choice to cut hours at work (eventually even switching jobs for less pay) in order to be able to make it to two night classes during the week.”

When Reena was making her decision to switch her major to English, Professor Sian Silyn Roberts was a source of encouragement and support—telling Reena “I know this may feel very scary, but I promise you there are jobs out there for English majors.” Reena also credits Professors Ryan Black and Wayne Moreland, who taught her first classes in her new major, as the “absolute best.”

Reena described the relief she felt when she learned she was going to be a recipient of an academic scholarship from the Charles G. Weekes Scholarship Fund. “Money has always been the most stressful thing to navigate. Receiving this scholarship meant that I was (finally) able to finish my degree this year, when before this it would have taken me another two to three years at the pace I was going.”

As part of the scholarship, Reena served as an intern for The Belladonna* Series, a nonprofit lgtbq+ poetry collective, where she learned about publishing at a small press, organizing events and readings, and learning about the grant application process. The scholarship afforded her opportunities that she wouldn’t otherwise have had and has taken some of the financial burden off her shoulders “and for that,” Reena says, “I am forever thankful.” However, the pandemic impacted her internship as well. “The pandemic was a learning curve for everyone, and my internship was no exception,” Reena notes. “Unfortunately it ended up being cut short because most of the work I was doing was in a shared studio space, and there was no way to keep distance and get the work done with the amount of people involved. There also wasn't much that could be done remotely, so ultimately my time at Belladonna was cut in half. “

Reena’s plans for graduate school have been put on hold due to the pandemic. “I had originally decided to take a break from school to find a job and save up for graduate school. However the job market is not very kind right now and less so if you prefer to work from home during the pandemic. So graduate school is on hold indefinitely until I am able to find work and get back on my feet financially. In the meantime, I've been taking book recommendations from former professors and supplementing my education in that way.” Reena is currently working on a novel. No matter what career she decides on, she knows it will revolve around books and writing.

What would Reena say to someone considering making this kind of gift through a bequest in their will? “Do it! Don’t hesitate. There are students like me who are scraping by, who are packing lunches and studying in their cars and participating in classes and asking questions, and they need your support.” Establishing a scholarship through your will enables future Queens College students to “succeed beyond Queens College.”


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