Building Buffalo through ‘Prosperity’ scholarship

Students earn $25,000 for their leadership qualities


Juweria Dahir, a senior sociology major, moved from Mogadishu to Britain in 2002 to escape the sectarian violence in Somalia.

Dahir now promises to serve the refugee women in Buffalo and continue empowering women.

The Prentice Family Foundation created the Western New York Prosperity Scholarship Program for “entrepreneurial civic-minded students” like Dahir, according to a 2013 UB Graduate School news and events article. This scholarship assists undergraduate and graduate students who are actively preparing for careers that further economic development and growth in the Western New York region.

There are currently 28 members in the program. The scholarship is up to $25,000 including an internship and students receive the funds based on their financial needs.

“Through my years of education in Britain I noticed a compelling glimpse of a society under a different strain to that of Somalia,” Dahir said. “This strain divided families into social classes and played a substantial role in determining life chances for them.”

Hadar Borden, administrative director of Undergraduate Academies, explained that the idea of the WNY Prosperity Scholars Program is to “identify the leaders of tomorrow.” The program helps students in their development to become those leaders.

Students get into this scholarship program by demonstrating leadership potential and showing that they are committed to the Western New York region.

Dahir studied two years of her sociology bachelor’s in the United Kingdom until she decided to transfer to UB.

She was awarded the scholarship because she demonstrated a commitment to the Western New York community and has been faithful to this promise she made.

Dahir worked in public and private sectors of law when she was a Sutton Trust Scholar at Oxford University and she interned in Legal & Democratic Services in Birmingham, United Kingdom and at the City of Buffalo Division of Citizen Services.

Dahir also initiated a not-for-profit program - Women Empowerment of Buffalo - where she motivates refugee women “with the courage to break free from the chains of limiting belief patterns and societal or religious conditioning that have traditionally kept women suppressed and unable to see their true capability,” she said.

“It is important that students have developed an entrepreneurial mindset and are working towards a solution to a problem that they have identified in order to be accepted into this program,” said Matthew Austin, a graduate student of urban planning and a winner of the scholarship.

Austin said this program exposes students to the WNY region by inviting them to a wide range of events and presentations that help them build their networks.

“Volunteering at the WNY Land Conservancy helped me gain valuable work experience and develop a professional relationship with the development director that ultimately led me to enroll in the Urban Planning program here at UB,” Austin said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but it helped me build a competitive resumé for the WNY Prosperity Scholarship.”

Austin has assisted middle school students who are participating in National Engineers Week and the Future Cities Competition. He has also been an instructor for the UB Center for Urban Studies and has volunteered at the Western New York Land Conservancy.

The WNY Prosperity Scholarship application process consists of filling out an application online where you answer questions about experience and career ambitions along with submitting your FAFSA.

After submitting all the materials, candidates are invited to an interview with the selection committee.

Undergraduates need to be at least junior-level at the commencement of the scholarship and hold at least a 3.0 GPA. Students also participate in a credit-bearing summer internship at an institution of their choice.

“Through the program I have found many entrepreneurial solutions to innovate Buffalo,” Dahir said. “I also learned how skills can be pooled in order to make projects much more successful especially when interacting with civic-minded students.”

One of the events the program holds each month is Innovate 'N’ Caffeinate. It’s an opportunity for scholars to continue to network informally with business leaders in the community.

“In this program you have to make the effort to make your life as fulfilling, meaningful and filled with as many opportunities as possible,” Dahir said.

This past winter, scholars were introduced to various local leaders who are working on some of the region’s key issues such as diversity and immigration, innovation, the environment, public education and health, Austin said.

Scholars have to take a winter session class where they spend one week learning about opportunities and challenges facing the region.

The type of service should showcase your potential as an entrepreneurial leader and your ability to analyze, synthesize, propose solutions and work independently to develop them, Austin said.

“My visioning statement for the leader I hope to be upon graduation is: think,” Dahir said. “Think progress. Think ahead. Think positive.”