Eighteen-year-old Valley Streamer Solomon Richards had to grow up fast.
Since second-grade, he has lived in a single-parent household, caring for his younger brother, he said, while his mother, Deborah Phillips, worked to support them.
“I had to maintain my grades, but also my responsibilities,” he said. “My mom depended on me.”
Now, Richards is two weeks into his first semester at the University of Buffalo studying computer science, and is looking forward to possibly pursuing a career in coding. It was his sometimes-challenging upbringing, he said, that helped him get to this point.
“I feel it made me better as an individual,” he said. “It made me more capable, able to handle many tasks without struggling.”
He also had some help through a $7,500 scholarship awarded to him by Northwell Health, where his mother works as a blood bank supervisor for the network’s Southside Hospital in Bayshore.
The scholarship program, which is geared toward dependents of Northwell Health employees who have shown an interest in the fields of science and technology, launched this year, and was reportedly the brainchild of Michael Dowling, Northwell’s president and chief executive officer.
“Part of what we talk about at Northwell is how to invest in our team members and their families as well,” said Joseph Moscola, senior vice president and chief people officer at Northwell who worked with Dowling to establish the program. “Scholarships are one way to do that.”
Richards said his mother had brought the opportunity to his attention, and wanting to help her defray the costs of his college tuition, pursued it. To qualify, he was required to produce a resume of his high school activities. He also had to write an essay in which he was tasked with recounting a hardship he had to overcome, so, he told his story.
“I had to kind of step up as the big male figure in the household,” Richards said of his childhood. “ … It made me the person who I am today.”
Computer programming, he said, has captured his imagination with its various coding languages and techniques allowing for near infinite possibilities, if one applies themselves to the task.
“You can literally make anything you put your mind to it,” he said.
Moscola acknowledged that while $7,500 is not a huge amount of money considering the skyrocketing costs of tuition, he hopes it goes some ways to helping the financial well being for a Northwell team member, and by extension their total wellbeing.
“It’s an investment,” he said. “We’re happy to make.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Solomon Richard's first name.