Joseph Rella finally had the opportunity to meet and thank Stephen and Christine Schwarzman for his Catholic education at a celebration of high school graduation hosted by the couple May 17 in Dillon Hall at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.
Rella, a senior at Msgr. Farrell High School on Staten Island, was one of 90 graduating high school seniors present who received sponsored tuition assistance from the Schwarzmans through the Inner-City Scholarship Fund.
Since its founding by Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1971, the Inner-City Scholarship Fund has provided sponsored tuition assistance to more than 9,000 inner-city Catholic school children in the archdiocese.
“I just want to say thank you because they helped me throughout everything,” Rella told CNY.
Rella attended St. Charles School on Staten Island before receiving the scholarship funds to study at Msgr. Farrell.
“It helps you become a better man and be grown up,” he said of his Farrell experiences. “They gave me life lessons that don’t really go away. You’re always going to remember that.”
He added, “When I go to St. John’s (University), I want to study communications and Msgr. Farrell offers a communications class, so it got me ready for what I’m going to be doing in college and life after.”
Jadyn Brimm, a senior at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx, plans to study business administration at Mercy College in Westchester County this fall. He’s thankful for the chance presented to him by the Schwarzmans and the Inner-City Scholarship Fund.
“I’ve been at the Mount for seven years now, so I’m very close to my teachers, principal and everybody. It’s like a family, like a brotherhood,” he said.
“You’re interacting with different people and understand life is not always going to be easy, but you have to keep pushing and persevere.”
Susan George, executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, praised the high school seniors and highlighted Cardinal Spellman senior Arlyn Cespedes, who received Inner-City tuition assistance from the Schwarzmans for 13 years of Catholic school education.
“This is about you and celebrating your success in high school,” Ms. George said to the high school seniors. “I know you have great plans for college and beyond.”
Elijah Mike, a senior at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, spoke for Inner-City classmates sponsored by the Schwarzmans at the reception. He will attend the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education where he hopes to earn a doctorate in medicine.
“Being in Catholic school for the majority of my academic life has without a doubt shaped me into the person I am today,” he said. “I have learned values of integrity and service, amongst others. Through my Catholic education, I have learned the importance of faith as well as the importance of gratitude. That is why I make an effort to share my gratitude towards my school, community and, of course, the Schwarzmans.
“Growing as a Hayesman, I have learned so many valuable lessons and thrived often as a student, undoubtedly shaping my future for the better. Hayes has prepared me to go into a future career in medicine.”
At the reception, the Schwarzmans had a chance to meet and congratulate the students they’ve been corresponding with through letters. Stephen Schwarzman said great opportunities are ahead for the graduating seniors and distributed free copies of his New York Times best-selling book, “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” to all the students.
“What I would say to be successful in life, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the class—that’s very helpful but there’s usually just one of those, and then there’s the rest of us,” he told the students. “What I’ve learned is to do things I like to do. What you find in life is you’re much better doing things you like than things that somebody just told you to do because it’s a good thing.
“What I also learned is that you don’t always get it right the first time. It’s called learning.”