Fighting city hall for scholarship winners

Seven On Your Side
January 12, 2009 3:19:24 PM PST
The two high school seniors were thrilled when they each won a $500 scholarship in an essay writing contest. But more than 6 months went by, they started college and the money was still no where to be seen. Matt Newsome and Maria Rodriguez were classmates at Newton High School last year. Both are good students and both are headed to college. And last June, both won an essay writing contest in English class.

"I was like, Oh, that's really great!" told award winning student Maria Rodriguez to 7 On Your Side's Tappy Phillips.

There was an awards ceremony a few weeks later when the prizes were to be awarded.

"At the end they gave us this envelope and inside it just said that due to some problems, we weren't going to be receiving our scholarship that night. But we would be receiving it within the next couple of weeks," said Maria.

But then weeks went by, then months, six of them to be exact. "We contacted them and they said it would be a while longer and eventually we never heard from them," said award winning student, Matt Newsome. "I was actually going to buy some books because my school is pretty expensive," said Maria.

Their mothers contacted the police precinct that offered the prize, the council member, Helen Sears, who sponsored it, but got nowhere. Until they got 7 on their side.

"Finally, they sent it," said a relieved Maria.

Just days after our calls, two checks, each for five hundred dollars finally arrived. The Town of Maspeth, that was middleman for the payment, advanced the payments, before they were paid by the New York City. And not only did Maria and Matt get paid, all 8 students finally got their awards, $4000 in all.

Matt's mother says this is a valuable lesson for the students.

"As long as they do what they're supposed to do and they persevere, whatever they have that will come to them will pass." said Matt's mom, Brenda Newsome.

And the kids say the money will be well-spent.

"Thank you, thank you," said the scholarship winners.

The council member who gave out the awards said the delay was caused by the city and their new payment process - started last year. She says the new process was designed to stop fraud. But unfortunately, she says, that also means painfully slow payments. She hopes it will run smoother now.


Story by: Tappy Phillips

Produced by: Steve Livingstone