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Erica Daniel, Tharptown

Studies have shown us that when low-income families get the chance to live in affordable housing, their children spend more time studying and their academic performance improves.

It’s not hard to imagine that children living in households that struggle to pay the rent each month internalize stress and perform worse in school. It can be hard to concentrate on your schoolwork when you don’t have the security of home, or when your mom has to work the late shift and no one can explain the directions on your homework assignment. Or when your belly is grumbling, and there’s no money for more food.

Erica Valdez Daniel of Tharptown grew up living in affordable housing with her property manager mother. A first-generation college student, Daniel received scholarships, available to residents of affordable housing, from the Alabama Affordable Housing Assocation (AAHA) and the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing (CARH). 

"To be from a small town, opportunities are not there as much as they should be," said Daniel. "It was a big deal for me. And, it was a big deal to know that people believed enough to give me money." 

The scholarship funds helped set her on a path from community college to the University of Alabama for her bachelor's degree and the University of West Alabama for her master's degree. She entered the working world in the nonprofit sector, serving as a liaison between families and services as well as a certified housing counselor.

"Every child that I served, I saw myself in," said Daniel. "You put a lot more passion into it when you've been there."

Daniel is now back at the community college where she got her start education-wise and advises first-generation, low-income, disabled students. 

"I get to help people like me. I've been very fortunate, and I'm very thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me," said Daniel. "I get to believe in others now."

Every year, Daniel returns to AAHA's annual conference to support the scholarship program and mentor new scholarship recipients. "I want this organization to know that their donations are changing lives," she said "It's giving students that little bit of confidence. That's what I carried with me the whole way through."

AAHA's scholarship program is open to eligible tenants and resident family members living at an AAHA-member apartment complex and to property/divisional management staff of AAHA-member companies and their children. Applicants must be accepted or enrolled in an accredited vocational or technical school, college or university; have at least a "B" average or 3.0 GPA; and meet all other application criteria. Since 2000, AAHA has awarded $1 million in scholarships and provided assistance to more than 100 college graduates.

For more information about the resident scholarship program, please contact Arrice Faught, AAHA’s executive director, at [email protected] or 205.758.1158.

The Alabama Housing Finance Authority (AHFA) administers multifamily programs to create affordable rental housing by providing funding and tax incentives that help developers build or rehabilitate properties for Alabama’s low-income families. Since 1980, AHFA has provided funding for more than 58,000 rental housing units, like the one Erica lived in with her family. 

Recognizing that affordable housing continues to be an investment in the future, AHFA has long sponsored AAHA's scholarship program.