Quincy Phillips, a freshman at SUNY Purchase College, is pursuing his bachelor’s degree debt-free thanks to a full-tuition four-year scholarship he received from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and Walmart.
Now in the second semester of his freshman year, Phillips said he loves the environment of SUNY Purchase, and the passion students demonstrate for the arts.
Prior to SUNY Purchase, Phillips attended Summit Academy Charter School in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where he was one of 41 students to receive a four-year scholarship to any college in New York state through DeGeneres’ show and Walmart.
Natasha Campbell, executive director and founder of Summit Academy, said the scholarships have changed her students’ lives.
Campbell first made DeGeneres aware of the students in Red Hook in November 2016.
“I had sent an email to the show talking about the extraordinary staff and children we had,” Campbell said. “[I talked] about how much we had done despite the challenges the kids face.”
According to the 2014 Existing Conditions and Brownfields Analysis, a document that helps community organizations plan revitalization projects, Red Hook has a poverty rate of more than 40 percent.
In the email, Campbell also mentioned how the students at Summit Academy exemplified what it meant to persevere.
“They were the complete opposite of what [you] think of when you hear about children in urban communities,” she said. “They were college bound, and that wasn’t the norm for this community.”
In February 2017, DeGeneres invited Cheryl Swift, principal at Summit Academy, and Campbell to come on the show, where DeGeneres and Walmart gifted the school a check for $25,000.
Campbell said the donation went towards supporting Summit Academy’s College & Career Readiness Program, a program that works to better prepare students for the future.
“It helped with all of the preparatory programs that would ensure that our seniors graduated and enrolled into college,” Campbell said.
Campbell said that the Summit Academy Class of 2016 had a 90 percent rate of college enrollment, and the Class of 2017 had 92 percent of students enrolled in college, with another 5 percent attending college in January.
Two weeks after Swift and Campbell’s appearance on DeGeneres’ show, the senior Class of 2017 at Summit Academy’s were flown out to Los Angeles to come on the show.
“I remember going on the show and one of the Ellen producers was like, ‘We really want you to be on stage for Ellen to interview you,’” Phillips said. “I was like, ‘No, this can’t be happening.’”
After being interviewed with a few other of his classmates, the students gathered for a group photo, where DeGeneres announced the scholarships.
“We’ve never done anything this big before, “DeGeneres said.
DeGeneres said she had reached out to Walmart, who agreed to partner with the show to give scholarships to the students. The gift totaled $1.6 million.
Campbell said this opportunity has made it so the students don’t have to carry the burden of financial debt.
According to studentloanhero.com, a website dedicated to helping students manage and repay their student loans, “the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt.”
Campbell said this gift also showed the students that people believe in their potential and are willing to invest in their futures.
While Phillips is studying for his degree in visual arts, he says that the scholarship has made him more appreciative of the things he has.
“I count my blessing and my opportunities, and I take advantage of them,” he said.