Alumna's philanthropic contributions support the Scholar's Mentorship Program

When Michele Di Palo-Williams ’77 (Sociology) learned that SUNY New Paltz students would be working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the alumna immediately sought ways to help.

“I knew students would need access to technology and resources that might not be available to everyone,” said Di Palo-Williams. “This pandemic has put people in bad financial situations, and my husband and I thought about students whose parents might not be employed and those who are faced with the problem of ‘how do I connect to my learning?’ We wondered where that resource was going to come from.”

Inspired to make a difference, Di Palo-Williams and her husband Graeme Williams donated funds to support the acquisition of laptops dedicated to students in the College’s Scholar’s Mentorship Program (SMP) to use remotely.

“I didn’t want to see any New Paltz student be unable to graduate and succeed because of these extraordinary circumstances that have resulted from COVID-19,” said Di Palo-Williams. “This inspired us to make a larger donation than we normally would have.”

scholars mentorship program
In summer 2020 SUNY New Paltz completed a project to renovate Student Union Building rooms 035-043 and relocate the Scholar’s Mentorship Program (SMP) into a centralized, modern space for the many students it serves. The new SMP office – across from the campus bookstore, and right next door to the Educational Opportunity Program – includes a large lounge and reception area, a meeting center outfitted with state-of-the-art digital displays for interactive learning, a student computer center, dedicated offices for the program director and coordinator, new furniture and more.

Founded by the Department of Black Studies more than 30 years ago, SMP is among the most vital and beloved multicultural programs at SUNY New Paltz. It provides students from historically underrepresented groups with specialized courses, personalized academic advising and tutoring, job opportunities, cultural programs and events, and a compassionate network of friends, mentors and successful SMP alumni.

“As we learned more about SMP we realized it is a wonderful way to give students the support they need,” said Michele. “We love the idea of students being supported by other student mentors and alumni. It gives them a game plan for success based on shared experiences.”

As a first-generation college student, Di Palo-Williams used a combination of a NYS Regents Scholarship and various grants to help her earn her bachelor’s degree at SUNY New Paltz – a degree that prepared her for graduate school at Harvard University.

Students with laptops
The Scholar's Mentorship Program received a generous donation of laptops to help students succeed during our current era of remote teaching and learning.

“New Paltz was the place that I found the direction that I wanted to go in. I know that there’s a need at state schools that’s unlike the need at other private institutions. I believe that first-generation students need our support the most,” said Michele.

Philanthropy is a part of life for the Di Palo-Williams family, who seeks to support social programs that connect directly to those in need.

“We love the fact that the effort we put forward and money we donate has tangible results,” said Graeme. “A contribution like a computer allows us to feel like we played a part in a student’s life and that we’re providing first-generation students – like Michele – with  the resources they need to be successful at New Paltz.”

View more photos and read more about the summer 2020 renovations to the SMP space here. 

DiPalo-Williams and Graeme

Graeme Williams and Michele Di Palo-Williams ’77 (Sociology) donated funds to support the acquisition of 30 new laptops for students in the Scholar’s Mentorship Program (SMP) at New Paltz. Visit the Scholar’s Mentorship Program online to learn more about its history and how students can apply.