2007 Scholarship Recipients
Being the eldest of five siblings, Sania Beckford enters college this year as the very first in her family to pursue higher education. After witnessing an unfortunate family situation, Sania decided to pursue a career as a physician and help “save the life of a child.” She says, “With the help of my CONNTAC Educational Counselor, Lisa Slade, I was able to narrow my college search by considering the size of the campus, the classes, and the traveling distance.” In addition, she thanks Lisa for assisting her with financial aid and giving her insight on numerous scholarships that were available to her. In a few years, Beckford expects to be a graduate in high demand and plans to return to her community and fund the construction of a local clinic/ hospital or an organization dedicated to financing the medical needs of handicapped children. Outside of the classroom, Beckford spends a great deal of time volunteering, playing volleyball, and creating ceramics. In addition, she serves as an assistant choir director, a junior trustee, and secretary of the usher board at her church. She is also a member of the National Honor Roll Society and Delta Gems. Her hobbies include writing poetry, reading, and dancing.
Darline Bonilla is the first in her family to graduate from high school and attend college. She has the desire to become a teacher because she wants to make a difference in the lives of children. “I want to work at a job that I can say I love,” she says. She thanks former CONNTAC Educational Counselor Ivelisse Antonetty for talking with her and helping her complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Bonilla states, “Ivelisse put me at ease with everything, and that’s why I strongly believe that even though I can’t afford many things, I am able to get an education and there is help out there for people like me.” Over the past years, Ms. Bonilla has dedicated most of her free time to volunteering at the Salvation Army as well as the Willimantic Public Library.
Sara Doerner will complete her Associate’s degree in Human Services at the end of this school year. Subsequently, she plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at Southern Connecticut State University while working at a job in her field. Despite, growing up with a father who struggled with substance abuse, a painful divorce between her parents, and battling an addiction herself, Ms. Doerner was able to stop her life from “spiraling out of control.” She made the decision to overcome these obstacles instead of letting them get the best of her. She has maintained a commendable 3.78 GPA at Gateway Community College while simultaneously holding down a part-time job. In Nate Gilmore’s absence, Ms. Doerner contacted the central office for educational assistance. Marisol Castillo, Program Assistant Coordinator was “very helpful, supportive, and answered all of my questions.” She thanks Marisol and the CONNTAC-EOC program for assisting with her academic endeavors. Doerner explains that the CONNTAC scholarship will help her with transportation and other financial expenses incurred during the school year.
Jasmine Lancaster plans to become a Special Needs teacher and a positive role model for diverse communities. After moving to North Carolina with her family in 2006, Lancaster made “one of the hardest decisions of her life” and moved back to Connecticut to live with her grandmother and graduate from a high school that was familiar to her. As the eldest sibling, she strives to be an outstanding role model for her brother and sister. In addition, she desires to encourage all of today’s youth to obtain a degree in higher education. Lancaster thanks her CONNTAC Educational Counselor Gloria Dover for assisting her with applying to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and for offering her fee waivers for the applications. She is extremely grateful to Gloria for assisting her with filling out the financial aid application and following up with the Student Aid Report. She says, “Without the help of my mother, grandmother, and Ms. Dover, I would not know where to turn.” Lancaster explains that the CONNTAC scholarship will help her pay for books and activities she plans to become involved with during her first year of college.
Shawn Lukaszewicz earned his Associate’s degree from Manchester Community College in May 2007. During his time there, he served as a full time student and a part time work study student in the office of the Dean of Student Affairs. Though Lukaszewicz has largely been on his own since the age of 15, his strength and perseverance have allowed him to further his education and pursue a Bachelor’s degree at Eastern Connecticut State University. He explains, “Having little to no relation with either of my parents, my college career has provided me with a sense of belonging and direction.” He strives to set a positive example for his little brother in hopes that he will become a college graduate as well. Lukaszewicz expresses great appreciation to his CONNTAC Educational Counselor Claire Gagner for assisting him with applying for financial aid and the scholarship application process. He explains that the CONNTAC scholarship will help with his scholastic necessities, such as, transportation costs, class materials, food, and books.
Ashley McNeil aspires to become a registered nurse. Being raised by a single parent of five children, she understands that there are not enough means available to send each child to college. McNeil says that she appreciates CONNTAC-EOC for “deeply caring and having concern for students like me.” She also thanks CONNTAC-EOC for providing supportive staff like Ms. Arlette Taylor. “Ms. Taylor personally took the time to help me and encourage me not to give up.” The CONNTAC scholarship will assist McNeil with educational costs, including, tuition, books, and other tools necessary for her “path to educational success.” She says, “Thanks to programs like CONNTAC-EOC, many doors of opportunity will be opened and many steep stairs will be easier to climb.”
Crystal Perez is pursuing her Associate’s degree in Human Services, and she plans to work with Veterans and the mentally ill. She was raised by her father, who is in the military. Perez explains that her “world came crashing down” 18 months ago when she learned that her father was being deployed to Iraq. In the midst of her terrible thoughts and fears for her father’s safety, Perez met CONNTAC Educational Counselor, Lisa Slade. “Ms. Slade did more than help with financial aid, she also went beyond her call of duty,” she says. “She was there for me when I found out that my father had been seriously wounded when they bombed his barracks. Eventually, I found out that his injuries were so severe that he may never walk again. This was devastating news because I was faced with the fact that I would soon have to take care of the man who had taken care of me my entire life.” Throughout this ordeal, Ms. Slade was “my rock.” She offered encouraging words and “because of her, I did not feel alone. She has been my counselor and my support system.” Perez’ goal is to one day help someone “the way that Ms. Slade has helped me.”
Dorothy Rowland migrated with her one-year old son from Jamaica to the United States with dreams of pursuing a higher education. She worked for a while, but did not earn enough to pay for a college education. Today, Ms. Rowland is proud to say, &dlquo;With the help of financial aid, I am now a graduate of Capital Community College with an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice.” After reviewing the Urban Community Studies curriculum at UCONN, Rowland decided to pursue her Bachelor’s degree there. She says, “I would like my major to enable me to have my own business in the community where I can give back and help others.” Ms. Rowland sends her gratitude to former CONNTAC Educational Counselor Santo Rhodes for being kind to her and assisting her with obtaining financial aid. Rowland enjoys volunteering at The Hartford Catholic Worker and Alexandra Nursing Home. She also participates in “Hartford Day” at her church, where they feed the less fortunate and provide them with bags of various necessities.
Wendy Tordonato is pursuing her Associate’s degree in DARC with the goal of becoming a substance abuse counselor. She explains that she chose this field because she is a recovering addict herself and feels there is a serious need for determined and dedicated people in the field. Ms. Tordonato says, &dlquo;I would like to contribute and help make a difference in the lives of addicts by encouraging them and letting them know that recovery is possible for them as well.” Tordonato thanks her CONNTAC Educational Counselor, Erica Coleman for helping her with her financial aid forms and making her aware of various options available to her. &dlquo;Erica is great. She encouraged me to pursue my goals when I had reservations about returning to school after almost twenty years. If not for Erica being there, I would not know where else to turn for the help I need,” she says. Ms. Tordonato has maintained a commendable 3.75 GPA. In addition, she serves as President of the DARC club, and volunteers at the New Britain Opportunities Industrialization Center and New Horizons. Furthermore, Tordonato has taken on the role as a mentor for several young adult students on and off campus.
Stalin Vera migrated from Ecuador six years ago with dreams of attending college and entering the music industry as a recording studio designer, producer, and performer. Vera faced numerous obstacles including, a language barrier, high costs of college, and his mother being in a coma. Although his situation was “not the best”, his willpower would not let him give up on his aspirations of going to college and studying engineering and music. Vera explains that once he was referred to former CONNTAC Educational Counselor Rene Moreno, he was filled with a huge breath of relief. He remembers Rene saying to him, “I am going to help you, and you’ll be good.” These kind words made him feel reassured. He says, “Rene explained the FAFSA to me, and explained how it could provide me with free money, loans, and work study. He filled out the FAFSA with me, and one month later, I received a letter from the University of Hartford stating that I was awarded full tuition aid for the following academic year. I was incredibly happy.” Today, Vera is proud to say that he has transferred from Middlesex Community College and is currently in his third year at the University of Hartford. He is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the Acoustical Society of America.
Tanesha Wilkinson is a second year student at Tunxis Community College who shares that her college experience has been “wonderful, inspiring, motivating, and so much more.” As a single mother of two small children, her last classroom experience was in 1999. She entered college with many apprehensions and was uncertain as to how she would manage a full-time course load, maintain a household, and still do everything necessary to maximize her community college experience. “The answer became clear to me after spending my first few weeks in the classroom: ‘Just do it!’,” she says. Upon receiving her Associate&rquo;s degree, she plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Education with a concentration in Sociology and minor in Community Relations at Trinity College. Wilkinson explains the CONNTAC scholarship will help her pay for some of her living expenses. She is extremely grateful to her CONNTAC Educational Counselor, Erica Coleman for helping her with the scholarship application process. “Erica is wonderful. I will definitely continue to seek assistance from her in my current and future academic endeavors.” Wilkinson is involved with the school newspaper, the multicultural club, the student government, tutoring in the Academic Support Center, and various other extracurricular and volunteer activities.