2015-2016 Scholarship Recipients

Yeisha AriesYeisha Anes-Gonzalez
Attending Gateway Community College or Capital Community College
Field of Interest: Nursing
CONNTAC Representative: Margarita (Daisy) Aiken

Yeisha is pursuing a Nursing degree at Gateway Community College. Upon earning her Associate’s degree, she plans to transfer to Southern Connecticut State University to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Yeisha says that she dreams of becoming a Pediatric Nurse because she loves to work with people and kids. She explains having to become an adult before her time due to life’s hardships, including domestic violence and having an incarcerated father. Although she had many sleepless nights while in high school, she always worked hard to make sure that her grades were where they needed to be. She thanks her CONNTAC Counselor, Daisy Aiken, for guiding her through the financial aid process and assisting her with scholarships. “Daisy met with me numerous times to make sure that everything was ready and sent out. She has been really helpful.” Yeisha explains that the scholarship will help her with expenses associated with college, including purchasing a new laptop to replace her broken one.

James BeginJames Begin
Attending Post University
Field of Interest: Criminal Justice
CONNTAC Representative: Arlette Taylor

James is a Criminal Justice major at Post University who is dedicated to improving the correctional facilities to eliminate criminal behavior at the grass root level. To contribute to society, he volunteers to promote alternative incarceration and rehabilitation programs, orchestrate recovery meetings, and seek speakers from Alcoholics Anonymous to volunteer to speak to assist people facing similar issues. In pursuit of his education, James has faced various difficulties. His mother is 90 years of age with deteriorating health, and adequate finances remain a hurdle. In order to stay with her to care for her, he has opted for an online education. He shares that he has often felt a lack of confidence and determination while striving to reach his goals, but he thanks his CONNTAC Counselor, Arlette Taylor, for boosting his confidence. “Ms. Arlette helped greatly during my secondary education by procuring admission fees for several colleges. She suggested the online degree as an effective alternative to attending college far from home, and this has enabled me to care for my mother and continue my education simultaneously.” James shares that the scholarship will help with purchasing course materials and alleviate some college loan expenses.

Betty BrownBetty Brown
Attending Manchester Community College
Field of Interest: Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counseling
CONNTAC Representative: Shoshannah Henry

Betty is a first-generation college student attending Manchester Community College. Her ultimate goal is to become a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor. Her journey leading up to making the decision to further her education has not been an easy one to say the least. She is a survivor of unthinkable mistreatment and a recovering addict who has abstained from unhealthy substances for 9 years. Throughout the 25 years prior to her recovery, Betty had been consumed with an overwhelming amount of pain and sorrow due to active addiction and trauma. Today, she is a Recovery Specialist in a life changing fellowship. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, playing Scrabble, and writing poetry. She expresses extreme gratitude for her CONNTAC Counselor, Shoshannah Henry, for assisting her with completing the FAFSA, scholarship searches, and financial literacy planning. “Shoshannah was extremely informative and quite perceptive. I thank her for her encouragement as well as her insight.” Betty says that the scholarship will help her purchase a laptop and other supplies needed for college.

Shayla FarrowShayla Farrow
Attending Howard University
Field of Interest: Broadcast Journalism
CONNTAC Representative: Laura Blackwell

Shayla is currently attending her dream school Howard University in Washington, DC majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in Business. She describes her journey towards Howard University as being far from easy. More specifically, one of her biggest obstacles was dealing with the temporary absence of her father as society had labeled him a felon. Shayla started to get involved in various community activities which provided her with a sense of purpose. She participated in over 200 hours of community service, which included, cleaning up Mill River, painting murals at the Yerwood Center, hosting movie night at the local New Neighborhood homes, going to the shelter and cooking dinner for the residents, reading to and mentoring children, and assisting in Bingo Nights for ARI in Stamford. She credits her CONNTAC Counselor, Laura Blackwell, for helping her dream become a reality. “I was relieved to have someone by my side that was well experienced, showing me step by step what I needed to do in order to get financial aid from my college.” Shayla says that the scholarship will reduce the financial strain on her mother and will allow her to attend the college that best suits her career path.

Christina MarounChristina Maroun
Attending Ohio State University
Field of Interest: Neuroscience
CONNTAC Representative: Erica Coleman

Christina is a Neuroscience major at Ohio State University with ultimate dreams of going to medical school and becoming an Emergency Room Physician. To cultivate this dream, she has actively and passionately been a member and treasurer of HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) throughout her high school years. As a first-generation college student, she describes the entire college application process as being very challenging. The cost of affording a college education has been another obstacle, as her parents’ annual salary is approximately the same amount as the college’s estimated cost of attendance. In addition, her parents aren’t able to take out a Parent PLUS Loan due to filing bankruptcy a few years ago. As a result of these setbacks combined with Christina’s perseverance, she has diligently applied for scholarships in order to make her dream of a college education possible. She expresses extreme appreciation for her CONNTAC Counselor, Erica Coleman, for assisting her with the college enrollment and financial aid processes. “Erica has helped me with filling out the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and with the process of accepting student loans. She is patient and answers all of my questions.” Christina shares that the scholarship will help make college financially possible for her.

Cindy PenaCindy Pena
Attending Central Connecticut State University
Field of Interest: Political Science/ Public Administration
CONNTAC Representative: Erica Coleman

Cindy is a Political Science major with a concentration in Public Administration at Central Connecticut State University. She has ultimate goals of becoming a U.S. Foreign Affairs Officer who secures the interests of the United States nationally and internationally by advocating peace to protect American citizens. Cindy’s passion for public service has been demonstrated in her extracurricular activities and will continue into her career path. Although she is extremely ambitious and determined, financial hardships make it difficult for her to attend college. This year, she and her younger sister are both attending college, so tuition costs are doubled for her family. In addition, her father was a first responder in the 9/11 attacks which caused medical issues which has limited his ability to work. She credits her CONNTAC Counselor, Erica Coleman, for stressing the importance of higher education and finding ways to make it possible. “Erica also paired my interests, values, and skills to college majors and careers that interest me. Her motivation and positive attitude makes me feel confident that I will succeed in my career.” Cindy explains that the scholarship is a huge stepping stone to her success. It will help her overcome financial hardship and aid in her becoming an influential member of society.

Wakil RashidWakil Rashid
Attending Gateway Community College
Field of Interest: Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counseling
CONNTAC Representative: DeShayla Shelley

Wakil is a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counseling major whose long-term goal is to establish an institution that would allow drug-related criminals to have an alternative other than prison for their crimes. He has encountered numerous challenges while attending school, including, homelessness, a badly burnt foot, deaths of family members, a suicide attempt, and walking with a cane because of needing a hip replacement. Despite these unfortunate obstacles, Wakil has remained passionate about his pursuit of earning his degree and achieving his career goals. Additionally, he has participated in educating others about mental illness sponsored by the D.A.R.C. program, and he has served as a volunteer feeding the homeless. He explains that seeing and hearing the gratitude expressed as a result of him giving back brings him great joy. Similarly, he expresses extreme gratitude for his CONNTAC Counselor, DeShayla Shelley, for informing him of available scholarships and directing him to various financial resources. “DeShayla has been a great source of guidance for me and a tremendous support.” Wakil shares that the scholarship will help him with the continuation of his education because his finances are of dire straits.

Ana RodriguezAna Rodriguez
Attending Central Connecticut State University
Field of Interest: Criminal Justice
CONNTAC Representative: Margarita (Daisy) Aikeny

Ana transferred from Middlesex Community College, and she is now in her first semester at Central Connecticut State University pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Ana has demonstrated an abundance of persistence and determination in her pursuit of a better future. For three years, she took the GED test needed to pursue post-secondary education over and over and missed by 2 points, until one day she passed. She further explains that she had to work 50 hours a week in order to take care of her disabled mother and her son, as the majority of her family resides in Boston, Massachusetts where she is originally from. Ana manages to balance all of these responsibilities while taking 4-5 classes each semester and averaging a commendable 3.2-3.3 GPA. She expresses gratitude for her CONNTAC Counselor, Daisy Aiken, for assisting her with the transfer process and helping her manage her goals. “Daisy gave the best advice, and she was so happy for me once I was accepted into CCSU.” Ana shares that the scholarship will help her be more financially stable and make furthering her studies possible.

Brianna RoseBrianna Rose
Attending Central Connecticut State University
Field of Interest: Social Work
CONNTAC Representative: Arlette Taylor

Brianna is a recent graduate of Naugatuck Valley Community College, and she is currently in her first semester at Central Connecticut State University. While at NVCC, she held several leadership positions and worked as an intern for a program called Youth and Family Emergency Services. As an intern, she gave support to youth in crisis, many of whom were considered homeless. While providing this support to the youth in the program, Brianna found that she faced many of the same challenges that they did. For instance, due to her parents’ addictions, she was homeless up until her second year of college. Despite these obstacles, Brianna remarkably graduated from NVCC Magna Cum Laude with a 3.8 GPA in May 2016. She expresses appreciation for her CONNTAC Counselor, Arlette Taylor, for helping her overcome stress and financial difficulty by waiving her application fees. Brianna says that the scholarship will give her the opportunity to continue to focus on her educational, professional, and personal ambitions without worrying about the overwhelming costs of education.

Kaeshia VegaKaeshla Vega
Attending Eastern Connecticut State University
Field of Interest: Social Work
CONNTAC Representative: Gloria Dover

Kaeshla is a recent graduate of Three Rivers Community College, and she currently attends Eastern Connecticut State University. At a young age, she maturely took on the role of primary caregiver to her family. While simultaneously dealing with her family’s mental health and caring for her nieces, Kaeshla has been resilient in her determination to obtain an education. Despite the hardships, Kaeshla maintained a 3.06 GPA. She was also a lead College Student Ambassador for the Welcome Center where she trained new student workers and conducted tours. In that role, she enjoyed sharing her story of how she transitioned into the college setting having little to no knowledge of how to navigate through the environment with new students. Additionally, she had the opportunity to work in the CONNTAC-EOC office under the direction of Gloria Dover for her service learning project in Intro to Human Services. Through CONNTAC-EOC, she became passionate about educating non-traditional students. She thanks her CONNTAC Counselor, Gloria Dover, for being a mentor, teaching her the ropes, and encouraging her to apply for the scholarship. “Gloria takes her students through the entire college process, she gives great advice, and she inspires each of us every day.” Kaeshla explains that the scholarship will help alleviate her college expenses.

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