Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI) provides support, advocacy training, and essential information to Hunter College/CUNY undergraduates receiving public assistance. Despite severe financial setbacks, these bright, determined students are striving to get an education and build better futures.

They have big dreams. They yearn for a life of value and civic contribution that is free from shame, and far from poverty.

Today we proudly celebrate the accomplishments of Hirah Mir, a beloved WRI alum and Hunter graduate who is making quite a name for herself in academic circles. 

Last week, Hirah was recognized with two honors from the University of Albany, where she currently is a doctoral student and adjunct professor. Her commitment to excellence and leadership is inspiring! Click here to read more about Hirah’s special honors.  

When Hirah first came to WRI at age 18, her family was struggling after a divorce changed their economic situation. She feared her dreams of becoming the first in her family to pursue higher education were slipping away. Hirahbecame frantic right before her first semester at Hunter, when the authorities told her she would have to forego college and participate in a mandatory workfare program instead. The HRA caseworkers were adamant…her family would lose benefits if she didn’t comply.  

Actually, what they told Hirah was wrong. At the time, she didn’t know she had the right to attend college even though her mother was receiving public assistance (cash, food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid). Hundreds of CUNY students find themselves in this same situation every year. Others enroll in college, but drop out unable to manage both their studies and the city’s confusing, time-consuming process for maintaining welfare eligibility. From job center appointments and legal hearings, to class schedules and homework time, it’s easy to see why students need extra support and guidance to stay in school and graduate.

WRI knows and understands the welfare rules. We advocate for policies and laws that protect poor and low-income students. In collaboration with our outstanding partners, we assist people like Hirah by providing legal advocacy, leadership training, and navigational support that keeps students on track to earn their degrees. Hirah’s journey is a wonderful reminder of why we remain dedicated to our mission of increasing access to educational opportunities for all. 

Thank you for your commitment to our students and to the cause!

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