UMass Boston, BCLA/McCormack forge stronger partnership with new scholarship fund

Johanna Pena is shown with Dr. Tara Parker, UMass Boston dean of the College of Education and Human Development, during the BCLA/McCormack graduation on Tuesday evening at White Stadium. Pena is the first recipient of a generous scholarship exclusively for BCLA/McCormack students that wish to pursue an education degree and come back to Boston Public Schools to teach. The scholarship was funded by Robert and Ruth Starratt, and ensures that recipients graduate debt-free and ready to teach. Photo courtesy Boston Public Schools

A new collaboration between UMass Boston and the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA)/McCormack 7-12 School just got a lot sweeter for one graduating senior this year with a new scholarship fund at UMass Boston established exclusively for future teachers coming out of the Columbia Point school.
BCLA/McCormack (which will become Ruth Batson Academy next fall) senior Johanna Pena was the first student picked to receive the scholarship just before graduation on Tuesday – a scholarship funded by Robert and Ruth Starratt, life-long educators themselves.
For Pena, it was a game-changer as she prepares to pursue an education career at UMass Boston.
“I think this is going to make pursuing my college education really easy because I get to pursue an education degree that I want for free with this scholarship,” Pena told the Reporter. “I’m really grateful. I’ve always been worried about student debt.”
Principal Ondrea Johnston said the existing partnership with UMass Boston has only grown stronger with this scholarship commitment, which will serve as a pipeline from BCLA/McCormack to UMass Boston and then back to BPS as home-grown educators.
“This will be the first year of this and they want to do this for the next few years,” said Johnston. “It shows this is a true partnership between our school and the university. What we say is we are part of them, and they are part of us. Whenever you hear BCLA/McCormack, you will connect it with UMass Boston and when you hear UMass Boston, you’ll connect that with BCLA/McCormack. They are showing us that commitment every day.”
Pena, 17, of Roslindale, has attended BCLA/McCormack for four years and currently attends the Hyde Park campus – as the school is still divided between Dorchester and Hyde Park. Next fall, the school will have all grades on Columbia Point and will assume the name of Ruth Batson Academy. Sometime in the future, Pena said, maybe she’ll make her way back to the Dorchester campus as an educator.
“It’s always been between two things – a veterinarian or an educator – maybe at the third grade level,” she said. “But I enjoy working with kids and being around kids and am a camp counselor in the summer…A teacher asked me if I would go back across from UMass Boston to teach at Batson Academy. We’ll see. I might change from elementary.”
Mayor Michelle Wu, Boston Public Schools (BPS), and UMass Boston announced the inaugural scholarship Tuesday as part of graduation festivities and to highlight the strengthened bond between the university and the 7-12 public school that share adjacent spaces on the Point. This new scholarship – Robert and Ruth Starratt Endowed Scholarship – is UMass Boston’s largest endowed scholarship fund. It underscores the deep partnership among the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, and UMass Boston to build collaboration to foster college-level opportunities for high schoolers. A $1.9 million donation from the Starratts, both lifelong educators, went to the UMass Boston College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). The scholarship program is specifically for students from Ruth Batson Academy who plan to pursue a career in education in the Boston Public Schools. It is a scholarship that is renewable to recipients for up to four years.
“Robert and Ruth Starratt’s singular act of generosity has created a life-changing scholarship that will enable exceptional Batson Academy graduates to pursue an education degree at UMass Boston and give back powerfully to the Boston Public Schools,” said UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco. “Indeed, this scholarship is the perfect embodiment of UMass Boston’s commitment to community-engaged education, to holistic student success, and to the values we hold dear.”
Said Mayor Michelle Wu, “As a City, we continue to deliver on our commitment to opening doors to college and career-connected learning for every student,” said Wu. “I am grateful for our partnership with Boston Public Schools and UMass Boston, rooted in our collective mission to promote student success, and I am so proud of our students that will be the future leaders and educators of our City.”
The scholarship recipients will also receive mentoring and other support. It will provide a “last-dollar award” that will supplement other forms of student grant aid to ensure that the Starratt Scholar graduates debt-free and ready to work in BPS.
In January, the city signed an agreement between BPS and UMass Boston to create access to college coursework and resources, partner educators from both institutions, and create a seamless pathway into UMass Boston for graduates. As a University-Assisted Community Hub School, UMass will serve as a center for educational and community support services, fostering a holistic approach to student development.


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