RCSP 10th Anniversary

From left: David W. Patti, Thomas F. Flynn, Ph.D.; Justin Abreu-Castro ‘21, Glynis A. Fitzgerald, Ph.D.  

Reading Collegiate Scholars Program scholars, alumni and partners celebrate impact 

Alvernia University’s Reading Collegiate Scholars Program (RCSP) celebrates 10 years of assisting under-represented and first-generation students from the City of Reading and, more recently, Berks County with life-changing opportunities to attend and succeed in college through four-year, tuition scholarships and programming. 


“We are immensely proud of the success of the Reading Collegiate Scholars program and our scholars' accomplishments,” said Alvernia University President Glynis A. Fitzgerald, Ph.D. “This transformational program provides opportunities which lead to graduates working in needed jobs and making their lives right here in Berks County. Graduates who, were it not for the program, might have never been able to attend college.” 


Since RCSP was founded by President Emeritus Thomas F. Flynn in 2014, 142 scholars have been admitted into the program with 64 students currently in the program and 43 graduates yielding an 80 percent graduation rate and 85 percent retention rate. Seven additional scholars will also graduate in May. The scholars’ cumulative GPA is 3.5. Current scholars have provided nearly 1,800 hours of community service and are active in various student organizations, sports teams, clubs, internships and honor societies. 


“Having raised funds over two decades for buildings and other projects, I can say that funding 10 four-year scholarships annually was the easiest and most rewarding fundraising of my career,” said Flynn. “I fondly recall those initial supporters. Donors with other pledges still supported the RCSP. Alvernia family members like Carolyn and Jerry Holleran contributed without being asked. Neighboring businesses with no direct links to Alvernia became valued partners.” 


RCSP was designed to serve students from low income and first-generation backgrounds, providing the opportunity to attend a private university and a comprehensive support plan to assist in student success. The support plan includes the Bridge Program, which aids in the transition from high school to college by providing academic resources, the opportunity to meet various faculty and staff across campus and meet other scholars and form relationships before the semester starts. Operating in a cohort model, scholars participate in time management and study skill workshops, email etiquette training and tours to locate classes.  


“The RCSP Scholarship is probably one of the best things to happen to me because my goal was to attend and graduate college,” said RCSP Alum and Senior Auditor at Customer's Bank, Justin Abreu Castro ‘21. “I had no means to afford tuition at Alvernia, so financially it was a tremendous relief. This scholarship not only fulfilled that goal, but it also created opportunities to develop academically and professionally. 


Beyond scholarships, scholars interested in global study or service receive support from the recently established Jerry Greiner Endowment. RCSP also features a College Readiness Program, which utilizes Alvernia work-study students as mentors and tutors for high school students in Reading while introducing those students to the possibility of attending college. Alvernia supported nearly 750 Reading School District students in 2021-22. More than 1,200 students have been assisted through the College Readiness Program where the goal is for participants to go to any college, not only Alvernia. 

RCSP Scholar Melanie Sanchez Gonzales RCSP 10th Anniversary

Melanie Sanchez after sharing her RCSP success story with students, alums and partners at the 10th-anniversary celebration.

“I was born in Puerto Rico in the small town of Moca... My single mother, at 23 with three small children, moved to Reading, Pennsylvania for a better life,” said Senior Nursing Student Melanie Sanchez. “My mother spent countless days and money to ensure I was in every extracurricular activity in high school because she believed that the fruits of my labor would pay off. And it did. February 28th, 2019, I was offered the Reading Collegiate scholarship...As I embarked on this journey, I showed appreciation by giving back to the Reading Collegiate Scholars program as a tutor and a group leader at Reading High. I am blessed to say I will be opening a new chapter on July 28th, 2024, at the Reading Hospital as a new graduate nurse.”   


In addition to the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program, the Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement’s Reading Youth Initiative has offered innovative educational programs to over 1,600 elementary students in the Reading School District. In 2021, the program expanded to support educational enrichment activities and afterschool programs for students from kindergarten through graduation.  


In 2022, Alvernia expanded access to the RCSP to meet the needs of students throughout Berks County. While still primarily serving the Reading School District, students from Governor Mifflin, Muhlenberg, Berks Catholic, Wyomissing, Daniel Boone, Antietam, and Oley High Schools have also received additional grants to meet financial needs.