Monica McIntyre: The talented cellist

Monica McIntyre does not know why she was chosen to thank Abe Pollin and Melvin Cohen on that May afternoon in 1988 when they promised college scholarships to her fifth-grade class at Seat Pleasant Elementary.

But she remembers all the television cameras and the kiss Pollin planted on her right cheek, a kiss that was displayed on the front page of The Washington Post the following day.

Monica was a smart, talkative kid who learned the cello as a youngster and plays professionally as an adult. Her mother, Lorna, had immigrated from Jamaica, and, coincidentally, had worked as a cook for the Pollin family years before her daughter ended up on a stage with Abe.

Her father, Paris, was a teletype operator at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and, with his wife, had great aspirations for his two daughters. The offer of the scholarship represented a chance to make those aspirations come true.

Monica attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School and then Drexel University in Philadelphia. However, she and her parents say they grew disillusioned with the fine print of the scholarship offer. At first, the family believed that the businessmen were offering to pay full college tuition at any public or private college. Later, they learned that Pollin and Cohen were willing to match the cost of in-state tuition at the University of Maryland.

The McIntyres say they did not get the Dreamer money they needed to pay Monica’s tuition at Drexel, leaving her with more than $10,000 in debt. Tracy Proctor, who was hired by Pollin and Cohen as the Dreamers’ mentor, said the businessmen fulfilled their obligation by paying more than $14,000 to Drexel on Monica’s behalf.

Monica did not graduate from Drexel, coming within a handful of credits before getting a job at an interior design firm. She now lives in New Orleans, where she plays the cello and is learning carpentry.

Paul Schwartzman specializes in political profiles and narratives about life, death and everything in between.
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