BRISTOL – As they celebrate years of hard work this month, some local graduates are moving on with seed money to jump start the next chapter of their lives.
The Bristol Rotary Club awarded 12 scholarships totaling $270,000 to graduating seniors this past week. The awards were officially presented over a formal banquet dinner at Chippanee Country Club Sunday night.
Club President Dave McAllister called the group of awardees “absolutely amazing” – pointing out that each teen not only had high marks in school, but extensive backgrounds in community service.
“What stood out to me is that everyone single one of them has forged a path to do something positive for their community,” McAllister said. “They saw something and they went after it.”
Each of the 2019 Karl J. Schwartz Scholarships is valued at $7,500 each year for the next four years, totaling $30,000 per student. They were presented to nine students: St. Paul Catholic High School graduate Natalie Diaz, who plans on attending Trinity College this fall, Bristol Central High School student David Gao, heading to Boston University, his classmates Ronald Maule, Hannah Shapland and Kiara Suazo, all attending the University of Connecticut, Craig McPheson from Southington High School, heading to the University of South Carolina, and two Bristol Eastern grads: Megan Yates, going to Ithaca College, and Julia Michaud, the University of St. Joseph.
Suazo, a first-generation American citizen, said her parents inspired her to work hard in school. She hopes her upcoming studies at UConn in biology will eventually lead to a successful career as an optometrist.
“Education has always been a big motivator for success in my family,” Suazo said. “My parents taught me, start from the bottom and make your way slowly up to the top.”
Her mother is a Guatemalan immigrant and her father is from Honduras.
“This money is going to help me lower my college tuition by a lot,” she pointed out. “It’s a great blessing for us.”
Michaud plans on studying psychology and eventually hopes to work in special education. She is currently a volunteer with unified sports and at The Possibility Theater, for children with special needs.
“I hope by receiving this scholarship I can inspire others to join the program, because it doesn’t get a lot of help,” Michaud said. “It’s something I really enjoy doing and I want to raise awareness about it.”
The Reiche Family Award, valued at $2,000, was presented to Stanley Cardono Toledo, a Bristol Central student enrolled in Trinity College this coming year.
Toledo was seated beside Frank Reiche, the son of original benefactor and late Bristol Schools Superintendent Carl Reiche.
“I’m very excited to be here,” said Toledo, joined by his guardian Kimberly Carmelich.
“I’m so proud of him,” Carmelich said. “He’s worked very hard to get here. It’s a blessing to have this extra money to support his education.”
Toledo plans on studying economics at Trinity. He established a “Souper Sunday” program for homeless children in Bristol.
Bristol Central’s Interact Club honored two of its members with $1,000 awards: Julia Nelson and Isabella Tedesco.
These are typically chosen by Rotarians on the scholarship committee, while the other awards are selected by Scholarship America, a national organization.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.