2016-2017 Scholarship Recipients
Gladis transferred from Capital Community College, and is currently in her first semester at the University of Saint Joseph. Aside from being recently divorced, adjusting to new living arrangements, and being a single mother to her son, Gladis suffered a severe ankle injury at work in 2015. This unforeseen event unchained countless medical and financial hardships in her life. She underwent unsuccessful treatments, two surgeries, and she is not allowed to return to work due to the injuries. Gladis took a leave of absence without pay. She does not receive child support, her unemployment benefits have stopped, and her SNAP benefits were reduced. Gladis explains that these challenges make it financially difficult to cover the expenses associated with attending a university. She expresses gratitude for her CONNTAC Counselor, Jay Holley, for suggesting other options to get aid to pay for college expenses. “Because of his assistance, I am now on a path to accomplish my dream of attending a four-year college.” Gladis shares that the scholarship will help to purchase books and a computer.
Usman is a Biology major at the University of Connecticut with ultimate dreams of becoming a cardiologist. At an early age, he sadly lost both of his parents. He explains that it affected him mentally, and he could not deal with anything. Usman decided not to give up, and he moved to the United States with his older sister. He thanks his CONNTAC Counselor, DeShayla Shelley, for giving very helpful answers to his questions along with many tips about college. Usman explains that the scholarship will help him continue his education and fulfill all of his goals.
Joseph received his Associate’s degree from Three Rivers Community College and is now in his first semester at the University of Connecticut. Prior to pursuing his college education, Joseph encountered numerous challenges, including, unemployment, alcoholism, and homelessness. Today, he serves on the Board of Directors for the WARM Center, where he once stayed when he was homeless. He also tutors adults at the Literacy Volunteers of Washington County, and he performs in a monthly musical event as an accompanist and performer to benefit the food pantry at Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich, CT. He credits his CONNTAC Counselor, Gloria Dover, for providing him with the information needed to see the opportunities that were available to him at Three Rivers Community College and beyond. “Gloria is always pleasant, kind, and courteous to all those she interacts with.” Joseph explains that the scholarship will help with fees associated with college tuition, medical costs, books, and transportation.
Alan is an English major who is interested in becoming a writer of fiction and a copywriter. He has encountered challenges in pursuit of achieving his dreams. He explains that he suffered from depression throughout his high school years that continued after graduation. He began self-medicating with prescription opiates, which evolved into an intravenous heroin addiction. Homelessness inevitably followed, and he found himself in a “self-destructive loop that was impossible to get out of.” Alan later joined the army to get away from drugs. However, while he was deployed at boot camp, the doctors discovered that he had contracted Hepatitis C. As a result, he was home. Within weeks of getting back, he was homeless and self-medicating again. He shares that it took 6 months in jail, years of therapy for bi-polar disorder and addiction, and an unshakeable support system to get his life on the right path. By Fall 2016, with 4 years clean, he re-enrolled in school at Gateway Community College. He thanks his CONNTAC Counselor, DeShayla Shelley, for giving him the confidence to apply for the scholarship. He explains that the scholarship will assist him with room and board.
Lap Hei Lam
Lap is a Chemical Engineering major at Princeton University who has a vision to help make the world more sustainable by improving batteries, finding new energy sources, and making clean water more economically feasible by coming up with new ways of purifying tainted water. He explains that he would never have thought that he would be able to study at such a prestigious institution because of his family’s situation. Lap’s family migrated from Hong Kong and runs a small Chinese res- taurant where he would help out up to 40 hours each week. Working so many hours made schoolwork hard to complete. He often wanted to quit and simply pursue the restaurant life. However, he realized that would defeat the whole purpose of his family moving to the United States in pursuit of a better life. He appreciates his CONNTAC Counselor, Daisy Aiken, for giving him fee waivers, helping him complete the FAFSA, and educating him about the types of loans and other financial aid options. Lap explains that the scholarship will reduce the amount of time that he has to work, so that he will have more time to focus on his studies.
Rachel is a recent graduate of Middlesex Community College (MxCC), and is currently in her first semester at Wesleyan University. She is a single mother of two children, and says that her journey to bettering herself began eight years ago when her son was born. When she started MxCC, she took the Accuplacer test and had to take two non-credit math classes prior to algebra due to her scores. With hard work and determination, she climbed her way up from pre-algebra through the highest level of math at MxCC. She commendably earned A’s in Pre-Calculus, Calculus 1, Calculus 2, and Differential Equations. Additionally, Rachel put her love of helping others to use as a math tutor, a volunteer at the Green Street Arts Center, and serving as the President of the MxCC Math Club this past semester. She expresses extreme gratitude for her CONNTAC Counselor, Daisy Aiken, for her helping her with her college transfer journey. “Daisy issued fee waivers to me for a variety of universities, and she pointed me in the right direction with resources and online tools for scholarships.” Rachel shares that the scholarship will help with travel and childcare expenses.
Coty is a recent graduate of Lincoln Culinary Institute, and he currently attends Western Colorado State University with dreams of opening his own restaurant franchise. Sadly, he explains that he had “no normal childhood” because it was filled with horror, abuse, and nothing but sadness. As a result of child abuse up to the age of 11, Coty was placed in state custody for the remainder of his years as a minor. Within that seven year span of time, he was moved around 26 times among foster families, group homes, and residential programs. Although his past was traumatizing, he is optimistic in saying that it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He further explains, “I learned to embrace my pain because it made me wiser and stronger.” Coty shares that things started to change in his life with the newfound freedom of turning 18. Throughout these years of freedom, he went to culinary school, he did an internship at Walt Disney World, and he worked for the state at UCONN, as a chef’s assistant. He thanks his CONNTAC Counselor, Michelle Jones, for being very kind and patient. Coty shares that the scholarship will assist him to gain capital to open a franchise.
Khushbu is a Biology major at Southern Connecticut State University with dreams of becoming a Pediatrician. She moved to the United States with her family in 2013 and quickly learned to speak English. However, with her parents still understanding very little English, Khushbu took on adult responsibilities by helping to manage bills and review paperwork requiring a response in English. She was named “Varsity Scholar” of her high school graduating class of 2017. She also engaged in community involvement through tutoring and volunteering at Wallingford Public Schools and Child Daycare Development Center. She thanks her CONNTAC Counselor, Daisy Aiken, for guiding her through completing the FAFSA, to receive financial aid. She explains that the scholarship will make her educational and career goals less challenging to obtain.
Jiwoo transferred from Norwalk Community College, and he is now in his first semester at Duke University pursuing a degree in Materials Engineering. He moved to America when he was six years old from South Korea. He couldn’t speak English, and he says that he immediately felt like an outsider. “Growing up, I was constantly forced to recognize that I was different from everyone else, when I simply wanted to blend in as a kid.” After high school, Jiwoo explains that his family could not afford to pay for college, so he spent several years working odd jobs at Wendy’s, FedEx, and a local farm. Having grown up in a predominately white community, he immediately noticed the diversity once he began his studies at Norwalk Community College. He explains that he was quickly accepted by his peers, and they had a blast hosting events and including other students in the community. He excelled in his classes and became a model for incoming students. He expresses extreme gratitude for his CONNTAC Counselor, Laura Blackwell, for helping him find and apply to 14 different colleges and encouraging him to apply for this scholarship. “Navigating the application process would have been much more difficult without Mrs. Blackwell and her staff.” Jiwoo shares that the scholarship will help cover the costs of living expenses to include car insurance and clothing.
Christine Torres Sutherland
Christine’s goal is to graduate from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology, transition to medical school, and then become a Pediatric Surgeon. She describes this goal as not always seeming attainable because she was a stay-at-home mother who struggled with severe mental health, learning and medical issues. She further explains that she spends time volunteering at a local soup kitchen once every month. Christine expresses gratitude for her CONNTAC Counselor, Shoshannah Henry, for being very helpful and encouraging. “Shoshannah empowers everyone that she meets and always makes herself available.” Christine shares that the scholarship will help out tremendously with paying for her college education.