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The Riverton Tenants Association Essay Competition was created to provide financial support to currently enrolled full-time & part-time, college, career technical education (CTE) / trade, and graduate students who are Riverton residents. 

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The Essay Competition

The Riverton Essay Competition

The Riverton Tenants Association (RTA) is sponsoring an Essay Competition to provide financial support to currently enrolled full-time and part-time students who are Riverton residents. Prizes will be awarded for two student categories as follows:

Category A includes Riverton residents who are currently enrolled in a:

  • 4-year college or university

  • 2-year junior or community college

  • Career technical education (CTE) / trade school program or

  • High school seniors entering a postsecondary program

Category B includes currently enrolled graduate school students.

Essays are graded on a scale of 1-4, with the highest score being a 4.0. Contestants who score at least a 3.0 will be eligible for prizes, with the top three scores in each category earning prizes. If no contestants score at least a 3.0 out of 4.0, non-monetary forms of academic support will be provided in lieu of monetary prizes.

Prizes in each category will be distributed as follows:

1st place: $2000         2nd place: $1200          3rd place: $800

While the education committee would like for all winners to be recognized in person, we know that is not always feasible for students. As such, winners who are not able to be recognized in person at tenant meetings / events such as the June meeting or Family Day may be asked to provide a statement and/or a video or photo to be shared with the Riverton community for recognition and to increase awareness of the contest.

Applicants Must Meet All of the following Criteria

  1. Applicants must be able to provide proof of current Riverton residency (see Submission and Format Requirements for more information)

  2. Eligibility is limited to applicants who are currently enrolled (full-time or part-time) in a degree or certificate program in one of the following: 4-year college or university; 2-year community or junior college; post-secondary career technical education (CTE) or trade school; graduate school; high school seniors entering a postsecondary program.

  3. All applicants must present proof of a minimum 2.5 GPA

  4. Anybody who won prize money in the previous year's essay contest (i.e., last year's essay contest) is not eligible to participate this year. This is because we want to provide opportunities for different sets of potential winners each year. For example, if someone won prize money in 2022, they are not eligible to participate in 2024. However, this person would become eligible again in 2025.



Review Process and Awards

  1. Essays will be scored on a 4-point scale with 4.0 being the top score.

  2. Only scores of 3.0 or higher will be eligible for a financial award.

  3. The Riverton Tenants Association (RTA) Awards will be disbursed to the top three, highest scoring applicants who score 3.0 or higher as follows:

– 1st place: $2000    2nd place: $1200    3rd place: $800

  1. If no essays receive 3.0 or higher, funds will be repurposed for academic support.

  2. All documents will be kept confidential and will not be shared outside of the purpose of reviewing for the essay competition.

  3. Independent judges skilled in writing will review each essay and assign scores based on a rubric.

  4. The Education Committee will review the top scoring essays, per the recommendations and scores of the independent judges. The Education Committee will only involve itself in judging if there are unusual discrepancies between judges scores, or if there is a need to break a tie.

Important Dates

  • March 30, 2024: Submissions open

  • April 30, 11:59pm: Deadline to submit

  • June: Winners will be notified and announced by June 6, 2024.


Required Documents

  1. Proof of Riverton residency: must contain your Riverton mailing address (this can include an IDNYC card, driver’s license, NYS non-driver ID card, rent invoice, cable or utility bill, passport, or official school-issued document)

  2. Proof of enrollment in 4- or 2-year college, trade or technical school, or graduate school (official school document with school letterhead, transcript)

  3. Two (2) letters of recommendation, not from relatives or friends. One recommendation should focus on character and may come from a mentor, coach, neighbor, family friend, clergy member, organization leader, etc. The other recommendation should focus on academic performance and potential and should come from an academic professional who is aware of your academic performance and potential.

  4. Academic performance documentation:

  • First-semester college students, university students, and technical/trade students (Category A) must submit a copy of their final report card

  • All other students in Category A and Graduate students (Category B) must submit a copy of their most recent transcript


Essay Templates

Please review the following essay templates as guidance for how to write a structured, coherent, and persuasive essay.

Essay Template

Basic Outline of a Paper

Extra Writing Tips

  • Review the essay writing templates provided to better understand how to write a convincing, structured, and stronger essay.

  • Proofread your essay before submitting it.

  • Use “Spell-check” or “Editor” to check for mistakes.

  • Often, it is helpful to read what you have written aloud to yourself. If something sounds awkward when reading it aloud, it will probably be awkward to the reader. Consider rewriting that section to improve it.

  • Read as often as possible. The more you read, the better your writing will become. This includes essays, fiction, poetry, nonfiction, newspaper articles, and more.


Grading Rubric

  • Reviewers will apply this grading rubric to essay submissions. You can review your submission and other essays you write using this rubric.  You can download the Rubric here.

2024 Essay Theme and Questions 

Riverton’s unique history links housing, race, and urban development. It was developed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife) for Black residents, with priority given to Black veterans returning from World War II. While these veterans and their families were granted priority in their applications to Riverton, they were barred from living in MetLife’s other, much larger properties, including Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village (StuyTown) and Parkchester. These properties only accepted White tenants, granting priority to White veterans.

Nevertheless, Riverton soon became the beacon of Black upward mobility, and was at the forefront of an emerging Black professional class in Harlem. By the late 1960s, two decades after Riverton first opened its doors, upper Harlem was populated with middle-income enclaves such as The Clayton, Riverbend, Lenox Terrace, Esplanade Gardens, and more. In 1970, Riverton’s resident manager, Doris Haywood, told The New York Times that “we began the metamorphosis of the area.” Today, Riverton’s legacy of notable tenants includes Keith L.T. Wright (current Leader of the New York County Democrats), Samuel R. Pierce Jr. (former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development), jazz pianist Billy Taylor, former Mayor David N. Dinkins, Judge Fritz W. Alexander, Suzanne de Passe (former vice president of Motown Records), and Clifford L. Alexander Jr. (the first Black secretary of the Army).



Riverton Square. NYC Housing Partnership.


(for undergraduates and CTE students): Your Riverton Past, Present, and Future

What does Riverton mean to you, based on what you’ve read and your experiences here at Riverton? As Riverton and the broader Harlem community continue to evolve, what positive impact do you want to have on the future of Riverton and/or Harlem more broadly?


(for graduate students): Leveraging Your Expertise In Service of Harlem or Other Underserved Communities

Please explain why you are pursuing an advanced degree in your chosen field. What problem are you trying to solve in your career, and how does it impact Harlem and/or other underserved communities? After you finish your graduate studies, how might you leverage your credentials and expertise to address and solve the problem? 

In your response, please cite sources that describe the problem and how it impacts Harlem and/or other underserved communities. Please also cite sources that support your proposed solution and course of action.

Submissions Requirements

  1. Only one entry per applicant is allowed.

  2. Students in Category A must answer the essay question for that category only. Likewise, students in Category B must answer the essay question for that category only.

  3. Essays that do not respond to the question or topic in the appropriate category based on school enrollment will be disqualified.

  4. Plagiarism is NOT allowed. Plagiarism is grounds for disqualification. Applicants must use their own words and cite sources consistently. If you use a source or quote from a source, make that clear by citing the source. We will use all available methods to detect plagiarism.




Essay Format Requirements and Guidelines

  1. The essay must include your name, the date, and an essay title.

  2. The body of the essay cannot exceed 500 words (your name, the date, and the title are not included in the word count). Essays that exceed 500 words will be disqualified.

  3. Applicants should label and upload the any materials they submit as follows:


 Category A Upload Format:  

Last Name_First Name_Essay Contest Category A_Fall 2024

For example: "Courtney Smith" would name the file "Smith_Courtney_Essay Contest Category A_Fall 2023



Category B Upload Format:

Last Name_First Name_Essay Contest Category B_Fall 2024

For example: "Courtney Smith" would name the file "Smith_Courtney_Essay Contest Category B_Fall 2024

Please let us know in advance if you have familial, friendly, or collegial relationships with the RTA Board (listed here) or members of the Education Committee. Failure to disclose may result in disqualification. Members of the Education Committee include:

  • Dawn Simmons-Atta

  • Jackie Spellen

  • Jackye Stephenson

  • Lucia Winston

  • Shawn Chin-Chance

  • Stephanie Foster

  • Trevor Thompson


Submit Your Essay and Documents!

Submit your essay here!

Eligibility Criteria
Review Process and Awards
Submission Requirements 
Important Dates and Deadlines
Sample Essay Templates
Extra Writing Tips
Grading Rubric
Required Documents
2024 Essay Theme and Questions
Essay Format Requirements and Guidelines
Submit Your Essay
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