A couple weeks ago, an interesting email came into my inbox. Cydni Burton, a BGCB alumna who traveled to India with the Yawkey Club of Roxbury in 2014, was starting a scholarship with her friend. We immediately reached out to her to learn more about this new venture. Cydni, who currently lives in North Carolina, was kind enough to connect and tell us more.
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I want to hear more about The Chapel Scholarship but first tell me what you have been up to since we last saw you at BGCB.
I attended Spelman College from 2014 until 2018. After that, I have been working at College Advising Corps. I am grateful I was able to graduate in 4 years because so many college students take longer these days.
Was Spelman a good fit for you?
Going to Spelman was one of the best choices in my life because I received more than a college degree. I experienced a lot of personal development. The formal training I received is very marketable but more importantly it was a wonderful environment for growth.
Tell me more about your experience there.
Spelman operates with black women in mind and is well suited to meet the needs of the black community. I was exposed to talented black women from a diverse range of professions from education to business. I learned about pathways to success that I did not know existed and I learned how to be an impactful black woman in this world. I felt supported the entire time.
What was your degree?
I was an Education major.
Did you think about being a teacher?
I was never really interested in that specific career. I did not want to be in the classroom and I wanted everyday to be different. I also knew I wanted to have a job that worked to address the disparities and inequalities in education.
When did you become interested in education and equity issues?
I was a METCO student and had access to a high-quality educational experience. Living in Boston and going to school in a suburb helped me see different educational opportunities. Then in college, I did an internship with the UNCF Career Pathways Initiative. I learned more about college access and career readiness.
Sounds like you have started to identify some career goals.
I want to make sure every student has access to their dream college, can be successful during college and be prepared for the workforce after college.
Now you are working as an eAdvisor for College Advising Corps. What exactly do you do?
I am based in Durham, North Carolina and serve as a virtual college counselor. I have a caseload of around 180 students in states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York. Most of my caseload are low-income, first-generation college students. I work with them to figure out the best college fit as well as going over their financial options to pay for college.
So your experience at Spelman and your work in college access inspired you to create The Chapel Scholarship?
One of the things I learned at Spelman was that I need to impact another person that looks like me. I was helped and now it is my turn to help others. Creating this scholarship was my way to try to inspire other HBCU graduates to stop waiting to give back. If HBCU’s are going to survive, we need to do our part. It just takes you and a small group of friends and you can impact another person today.
How did you choose the name of the scholarship?
Right now The Chapel Scholarship is for Spelman students but our goal is for it to apply to the entire Atlanta University Center Consortium, which is composed of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College. All the campuses have a Chapel. That is something all of the colleges have in common. We are starting small but hope to grow this into something bigger.
Tell us more about the scholarship.
We want to provide financial support to a specific type of Spelman College student. We want to help working students with below a 3.0 GPA who are experiencing financial hardship. We envision a campus where committed and tenacious students can be free to navigate resources to impactfully leverage their college career for academic and professional success.
I am impressed and I will definitely go make a contribution to support your work. How can others support your work?
People can check out our website at https://thechapelscholarship.org/. You can also donate online at https://thechapelscholarship.org/donate. In the designations box, specify ‘The Chapel Scholarship.’
I would love to take a step back in time and talk about your India experience at BGCB. Six years after your trip, how has the program affected you?
Doing things like India, stepping out of my comfort zone, getting exposure to new places and new ideas, it has made anything seem possible and manageable to do.
Do you remember anything specific about your group?
I traveled with a great group of people. I cannot say I have stayed in touch with all of them but if it were not for India, I never would have gotten to know most of them. When that program started, I did not talk to most of the people in my group. However, going to meetings every week and traveling across the world together, we grew closer. That experience taught me about the importance of having a supportive network.
Does any particular memory from being in India remain with you today?
I think that experience gave me more drive to impact the world to help people TODAY and not waiting for the future to do something.
I also remember being in the foothills of the Himalayas during a thunderstorm. We did not have cell service. We were doing yoga and practicing mindfulness. I felt like during that time I really got to center myself. One day I was sitting outside with another teen from that trip. We were just sitting in silence. I realized how important it was in life to just take time to pause and reflect.
Wow! Thanks for reliving those powerful memories with me and congratulations on starting The Chapel Scholarship. If you are back in Boston this summer, I hope you can attend the Alumni Summer Social on July 16. We want to connect and strengthen BGCB’s alumni network.
Definitely. I might be back in Boston this summer. I did not know about the network and I am interested.
If you would like to contribute to The Chapel Scholarship, to assist current Spelman College students, please check out the following link: https://thechapelscholarship.org/