Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos Provide College Scholarships to 20 Homeless Students in N.Y.C.
"Starting college is a pivotal moment for so many and being a part of this time is really special for our family," Kelly Ripa says
Twenty college-bound homeless students will receive laptops and nearly $2,000 each from the first-ever Win Scholarship Fund, established with a donation from the couple, the organization announced Tuesday.
The funding and laptops will be critical to helping students overcome the barriers created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as students experiencing homelessness face heightened obstacles to accessing technology, books, transportation, and other essentials that often aren't covered by financial aid.
Despite the challenges, Win students have made remarkable achievements: 60 percent of graduating high school seniors at Win are beginning this fall at colleges nationwide, including Syracuse University, Clark Atlanta University, and Portland State University.
"Mark and I are so excited to help these students in whatever small way we can," says Ripa, 49. "Starting college is a pivotal moment for so many and being a part of this time is really special for our family. We know each of these scholarship recipients has a bright future ahead and we can't wait to see what amazing things they accomplish!"
Mikayla Garay is a student attending SUNY Morrisville. She currently lives on campus, but her family still lives at a Win shelter in the Bronx.
"As a student at SUNY Morrisville studying equine science to one day become a vet, I take classes off-campus at nearby stables," she says. "I'll use this money to buy books and to save up for a car to get to and from my classes off-campus."
Michael Jones is a student in Win supportive housing in the Bronx headed to Portland State University this fall.
"Despite the fires that are currently ripping through the West Coast, I am still determined to attend Portland State University and major in Creative Writing there," he says. "The scholarship from Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos is a major help to my college career and will help me purchase books, dorm essentials and other necessities, which will put me in a strong position toward success in my freshman year."
Christine C. Quinn, Win's president and CEO, says the organization is "so grateful" to Ripa and Consuelos for supporting their students through their freshman year and "helping to make their college dreams a reality."
"Thanks to their generous donation, these students no longer have to worry about buying books or paying for a ride home, and can focus on what's the most important: succeeding in their studies," she adds.
Last spring, the couple donated $500,000 to Win to purchase iPads, laptops, and headphones for hundreds of students — essential tools for remote learning — in addition to designating money for the Win Scholarship Fund.
Win is the largest provider of shelter and supportive housing for homeless women and children in N.Y.C.. It operates 11 family shelters and three supportive housing facilities across the city.
Speaking to PEOPLE last month for the Family Issue while sheltering in place at their Long Island, N.Y. home, the couple opened up about their work with Win.
"We were watching our kids, with all of their technology, and Mark and I said, 'Learning remotely is so difficult ... how are they possibly doing this at Win?'" Ripa recalled. "Sure enough, they didn't have the Wi-Fi, tablets or other things they needed."
The Live with Kelly and Ryan host, who called Win's impact "awe-inspiring," encouraged others to donate if they have the means to do so.
"We hope other people who have luckier circumstances like we do will help people living below the poverty line," she said. "It makes a difference forever."
Courtesy Kaitlin Olson