The five Scholarship Plus winners of the Class of 2012 brought to 17 the number of our scholarship recipients. These are the members of the class:
When Raquel entered Peace and Diversity Academy in the Bronx, she found plenty of diversity, but little peace. It's a place where getting to morning classes is a huge challenge for many — especially first-period classes. Raquel never missed them, and to some of her fellow students this was more a vice than a virtue. But Raquel clung to her goals. When she ran out of classes to take — in a school with no AP courses — she went to work 15 hours a week for a law firm downtown. And she helped start, and lead, a new National Honor Society chapter to encourage students like her to work for the honor of membership. She attends Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
Some of Itzel's earliest memories are of battles with the city's shelter system as her family had to move again and again. Finally came a move into public housing, and Itzel found her way to The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem. Itzel thrived. She worked hard at home, too, helping her little brother do his homework before doing her own, and teaching her mother, a Mexican immigrant, to read English. The school nominated her to Girls Up, a United Nations organization that promotes education for poor women. That led to tea with Michelle Obama at the White House, and to Itzel delivering a speech from the daunting podium of the United Nations. Her school counselor calls Itzel, "the most deserving student I have ever worked with." She is now a student at her dream college, Haverford.
As they waited in a long line one day to try to restore the family's food stamps, Eileen's mother, a Dominican immigrant with little education who was raising her alone, whispered to her in Spanish, "I never want to see you this line." Sometime during her first years at Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School, Eileen realized that she had to stop floating through school. Once the shift came, she turned her attention to her books with a passion — and to volunteer work in hospitals and schools, as well as part time work in the Bronx Botanical Garden, where she has been promoted repeatedly. Teachers applaud her sharp, independent thinking, her organizational skills and her very hard work. Her goal is to be an FBI agent, and she is attending SUNY Binghamton, her first-choice school.
Elira describes her life's challenges as walks over "wobbly bridges" — and well worth the outcome. The longest of those bridges took the Duro family from a rural town in Albania in the late 90s to New York, speaking no English and knowing not a soul. The family crammed into a one-bedroom apartment, where Elira slept in the kitchen. She soon learned that school was her friend, and she graduated as valedictorian from Brooklyn Studio Secondary School. A visit to Albania helped her rediscover her language and cultural heritage. Now she mentors young Albanians in New York, helping them make sense of their dual worlds. And she has raised money for victims of tragedies over there. Now she is taking a subway, not a wobbly bridge, to attend New York University.
Sino is good at science, public speaking, dancing, and singing. He's a voracious reader and fluid writer. He's a student leader who ran the gigantic international festival every year at his huge Staten Island high school, Susan E. Wagner. And he knows how mix up a batch of Dunkin Donuts. The youngest son of a poor immigrant family from Southern India whose language at home is Malayalam, Sino graduated 13th in a class of 700 at Wagner, where he was what one teacher called an inspirational, ubiquitous presence. His goal now: to become a psychologist, and help others who face difficult lives. He has started that quest at Vassar College.