NYCHA-CUNY Scholar: Ayana Chung

NYCHA-CUNY Scholar: Ayana Chung

Ayana Chung lives by the motto, “You do not fail until you quit.” These words helped her through some difficult times, including aging out of foster care and working multiple jobs and pursuing higher education while at-risk of becoming homeless.

Today, she is a Queensbridge South Houses resident who is thriving as a student at Kingsborough Community College. She was recently recognized for her perseverance, commitment to education, and advocacy skills by being awarded a 2018 NYCHA-CUNY Scholarship, along with 22 other residents. She received the Regina Figueroa Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 award given to NYCHA residents with disabilities who attend a City University of New York college.

“This scholarship money came at the right time and will be going towards the classes I have left,” Ms. Chung said. “I won’t have any loans and I can complete my classes guilt-free, not worrying about how I’m going to pay money back.”

Ms. Chung also received an additional $500 as one of the winners of the Queensbridge/Ravenswood Scholarship, established by former residents of the developments.

Ms. Chung, 24, studies mental health and human services and aims to become a social worker in the juvenile justice division of the NYC Administration for Children’s Services. As a former foster youth, she believes she is the perfect advocate for young people, since she had to learn to advocate for herself: securing internships, jobs, housing, and grants to help fund her education and furnish her apartment.

But Ms. Chung also doesn’t want to wait until after graduation to help young people. She created Jumpstart Your Future Today, a website that provides resources and helpful tips for young people aging out of foster care and other at-risk youth. She wants to prepare young people for navigating adulthood, helping them learn how they can secure housing, pursue education, and find jobs. She shares her personal story of how she became a NYCHA resident, including a video of her apartment to show young people that what she has is attainable.

Ms. Chung moved into Queensbridge in 2016, and having her first solo apartment was a big step for her, as she had previously lived in group homes and supportive housing for youth.

“Once I got to NYCHA, having a roof over my head and feeling the community togetherness, I was able to thrive. When I was worried about being evicted and homeless, I wasn’t doing well in school. I was able to flourish when I didn’t have to focus on my basic needs. I’m so grateful to have NYCHA and I’m happy they provide these resources to New Yorkers that need them.”

Another resource that benefited Ms. Chung is Food Business Pathways, a free training program that helps NYCHA public housing residents and Section 8 voucher holders achieve their dreams of starting or growing their own food businesses. Through the program, Ms. Chung started “Cooking with Yan,” a soul food catering company with a mission.

“Through the food I’ve been able to break down barriers,” she said. “There’s a stigma associated with people of color seeking out mental health resources, so with my food business I want to infuse the healing properties of food and conversation, while using my social worker skills and helping to distribute mental health resources and referrals to people.”

Whether it’s through her soul food, her life-skills website, or future social work career, Ms. Chung is set to share her story and her resources to inspire her generation and the next.

To learn more about the NYCHA-CUNY Resident Scholarship, click here.

To see the full list of 2018 NYCHA-CUNY Scholars, click here.


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