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Veronica Wanzer

3135

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Finalist

Bio

When I was a child, I used to suffer from horrendous ear infections. annually. In my 20s, I was diagnosed with inoperable nerve damage, so I've been wearing hearing aids for over 15 years. Fast forward a few decades: at the age of 50, I dubbed myself the "seasoned student" and went back to school to receive my Bachelor's Degree in Marketing in May 2021. Currently, I am pursuing a Master's of Science in Disability Studies in Higher Education at CUNY School of Professional Studies. We've come a long way since the enactment of the ADA (American Disabilities Act) in 1990, but we have a long way to go; too many students still lack the support and/or the fundamentals that would allow them to succeed. Each experience - from my first ear infection to being in grad school - fostered within me a belief that I can - and need to - make a valuable contribution, to be an advocate for change. My goal is simple: to combine all my experiences to help change the college “landscape” for students with disabilities. Not just in the United States, but worldwide. I cook for a food pantry a few times a month, and I'm excited to start volunteering at an animal shelter this year. I've donated blood for years but challenged myself to donate 6x a year and share it on social media to encourage others to donate. Now, for the fun stuff! I enjoy feeding and watching birds, even those somewhat annoying New York pigeons. I'm an avid reader, lover of all things related to crafts, enjoy good food, long walks, learning new things, and yes, binge-watching Netflix... don't judge me!

Education

CUNY School of Professional Studies

Master's degree program
2022 - 2025
  • Majors:
    • Education, Other
  • GPA:
    4
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Government Relations

    • Dream career goals:

      Social Services; Education; Non-Profit

    • Personal assistant

      J. Kim
      2016 – 20204 years
    • Independent Contractor

      Primerica
      2013 – 20207 years
    • Accessory Buyer

      The LBA Buying Group
      2000 – 201010 years

    Sports

    Soccer

    Junior Varsity
    1980 – 19833 years

    Research

    • Marketing

      CUNY York College — Team Leader
      2020 – 2021

    Arts

    • N.Y.S.S.M.A.

      Music
      School Plays
      1982 – 1985

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      HOPE Worldwide — Project Coordinator
      2010 – Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Politics

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Eden Alaine Memorial Scholarship
    I stopped by my mom's before going to church service to drop off a few items. She looked frail, but no worse than how she looked when I saw her a few days ago. Knowing that a healthcare worker would be there later, I kissed her forehead and told her I would be back the next day. I had no way of knowing that would be the last time I would see her alive. I would love to say that my mom and I were extremely close, like best friends. But that's not the case. Between my mom and my dad, my mom was definitely the disciplinarian. Trouble always seemed to find me. I don't know if they still use the word "spanking" these days, but, back then, I got a lot of them, mostly from my mom. My mom did the motherly things like braid my hair, take me shopping, give me and my sister praise whenever we brought home an "A" from school, was my soap opera buddy whenever she was home during the day, taught me how to cook, and instilled in me a love of music. But the affection I sought was never shared. As I got older, time with my mom became more and more sparse. We never really had any deep conversations, primarily because I never felt, growing up, that I could express myself or even just ask questions. As a family, we did a lot of activities together, but we never really talked. As decades passed, I recognized and accepted that my mom would never be my BFF, but that was OK. Our conversations never got too deep, but we talked a lot more than we had in the past. My mom developed breast cancer when I went to college for the first time. I was away, so I wasn't there to witness all that my mother had experienced. I was young, naive about life, and no doubt selfish in that I just wanted to experience life without any pain or sorrow. Little did I know that life had a box of pain and sorrow with my name written on it, just waiting for the opportune time. Decades later, my mom spent years in and out of hospitals, nursing homes and rehab. She had been a smoker for over 50+ years and it finally caught up to her. It was both physically and mentally exhausting. While I was unemployed, I would often stay with her for a few days at a time to clean her apartment and buy her groceries. On her good days, we would catch a movie, go shopping, and sometimes, just go for long drives. Some of my best memories are of me sitting at her round table in her kitchen, looking outside the big window, and just listening to her stories about her childhood with her eleven brothers and sisters (yes, eleven!). As I look back, even though my mom and I were complete opposites, I know I got my love of reading from her. She also had a great respect for education. It wasn't until about two years after she passed that I decided to go back to school to complete my Bachelor's. I have no doubt that she was very much a part of that decision, and still is a part of my journey as I pursue my master's degree. I've made peace with what I saw as her lack of emotional connection. I believe, in all of my heart, that she loved me in her perfectly imperfect way. And that is more than enough.
    Essenmacher Memorial Scholarship
    Although I don’t have a complete memory of The Day, I do remember parts, primarily, when I was left in my new home. I was adopted at the age of five and a half; before my adoption, I lived in foster care. The memories I had as a child before I was adopted could be counted on one hand. I was told that on The Day, three adults had to pull me out of the car because I was kicking and screaming. And I remember banging on the door as I was left in my new home. It’s interesting because up until I started writing this essay, I never really stopped to think about what was going on in my mind that day. What were my fears? Was there any excitement? Anxiety? Sadness? The woman who gave birth to me - I was told - was just seventeen years old. This was a time when having a baby without being married was considered scandalous and women were sent away until after the baby had been born and usually sent to live with relatives or given up for adoption. I was told that she had an affair with a man over twice her age and apparently, he was married. So it seems I came from drama and scandal, which may explain a lot (lol). It’s really quite intense when I think about how being involved in the foster system impacted my life. I’ve read different articles that state that the first few years are the most impactful for childhood development. I think the general age given is five but I’ve seen it go as high as age eight. But if we were to agree on the age of five, that means that I lived with and interacted with different people who were not my family for over five years. People who may not have had a vested interest in my upbringing. I’m assuming that they received money to foster me. I wonder if that was their only concern or did they really had a desire to help those children in need. Being a woman of color, being born in the decade that I was, a lot could have gone wrong. A lot. When I was a teenager, I was told that many children who were a part of the adoption agency I was a part of, had gone missing. So much so that my parents pushed to expedite the adoption process. So, here you have an African American husband and wife, looking to adopt an African-American girl many decades before. I can't even imagine all that they had to endure. So, here I am! I do not doubt that there was some emotional trauma, but I survived! I was adopted by two loving parents and who already had a daughter, so I had an instant sister! Only the Lord knows where my life would be now if I hadn’t been given up for adoption. It could have been a bad situation or it could have been good. But I was fortunate to have landed on the good side. Being adopted and having been a part of the foster care system is a part of what makes me unique, but it doesn’t define me. There’s a passage of Scripture in the Book of Acts that states that GOD established the exact time and places for our lives. What may have seemed like an accident or a scandal to people was something divine in the eyes of GOD. I don’t know what could have been, but I can walk in gratitude each day.
    Phoebes in Philanthropy Scholarship
    Sometimes, those quiet dreams residing in the back of your heart, are the ones that can have the most powerful impact on your life and others. Although I attended college right after I graduated high school, after two years, I transferred and attended school in the evening while I working full time. Sadly, I lacked the discipline to do both; my education got pushed to the side until it was no longer in view. My dream of becoming a college graduate had almost disappeared … almost. So, here I was, 49, soon to be 50, attending my second freshman orientation. I have no doubt some mistook me for a parent. I remember going on the campus tour and being asked if my son or daughter was nearby. I felt neither shame nor frustration at the question, Instead, I proudly said that I was the student. As I made my way through the lobby, I came across Student Activities and started to chat with a woman who worked at that college. In that brief conversation, she shared her story: Years ago, as a cab driver; almost daily, she drove by that college and thought about becoming a student. Years passed, and she was accepted into that college, completed her undergrad, pursued her Master’s Degree and then her doctorate. Dr. Phelps is her name, and she is the Phoebe who has impacted my life. One of the things that impacted me during that 10-minute conversation was how Dr. Phelps inspired me to keep moving forward and encouraged me to pursue my Master’s degree! I didn't say it, but in my mind, I thought, “You’re crazy, lady!” I just wanted to get my bachelor’s, that’s it. Pursuing a master’s degree NEVER entered my mind. She never even asked me about my GPA! I believe that Dr. Phelps never questioned me about my previous educational experience because it wasn't relevant. What I did in the past led me to where I am now, but it wouldn't dictate my future unless I allowed it to. It’s been 5 years since that “chance” encounter with Dr. Phelps. Where am I now? Well, after an extremely stressful senior year due to COVID, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in marketing in 2021. To my surprise, I decided to go for my master’s and was accepted into a Master’s Degree Program, Disability Studies in Higher Education. As an individual who is hearing impaired and relies on hearing aids, disability studies are very personal to me. I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to speak to share my experiences at various forums and have been active in organizations and activities that revolve around advocacy in higher education for students with disabilities. My life has gone full circle: I went from being a student who received accommodations to one who works directly with students at a law school within the Office of Student Affairs, to ensure that they receive the appropriate accommodations to meet their specific needs. Receiving the Phoebes In Philanthropy Scholarship will not only help me meet my educational financial responsibilities, but it will also allow me to look for creative ways to pass it on, just as Dr. Phelps did for me. Even though Dr. Phelps may only be older than me by 10 years or less, I believe Dr, Phelps understood the importance of passing her knowledge and privilege. So often when people talk of leaving a legacy, they refer to the younger generation. But a legacy is not limited to age.
    Abu Omar Halal Scholarship
    Old, senior, or my personal favorite, more mature. These, along with other terms had become the norm as I re-entered college after being absent for several years (OK, decades). I decided to call myself the seasoned student - I believe the politically correct term is non-traditional student - because I was usually the oldest student in the class. But I didn’t care because I was focused on getting my Bachelor’s degree at CUNY (City University of New York) York College. I was finally pursuing my dream of becoming a college graduate! But I need to go back several years so you can get a better picture… Many years ago, I found myself home watching The Oprah Winfrey Show. Since I worked full-time, being able to watch Oprah was a rare treat. I don’t remember the topic for the day, but I do remember the man. He was a frail-looking person who almost seemed to disappear in the chair. At a glance, there was nothing about his appearance that would capture my attention, but his story is one that I will never forget. George Dawson was born in the late 1800s in Marshal, Texas during the height of segregation. But even while living the daily atrocities, George continued to hold onto his dream: to learn to read. And at the tender age of 98, he learned to read! Years later, a newspaper journalist met George, and later, would collaborate with him to write what would land on The New York Times Best Seller list, Life Is So Good (great book). I always thought I would graduate from college, but life took an unexpected turn. Even though I had attended college right after graduating high school, I was without direction or focus. I went from attending college to spending years alternating between being in and out of school. After several years of “playing school,” I stopped attending altogether and entered the workforce. My dream had been diluted for so many years, it had almost dissolved completely… almost. When I listened to George’s story, I was completely mesmerized, but it would still take me several years before I would take action. Once my dream was transformed, everything fell into place: I re-enrolled in college and was pleasantly surprised to find that my school would accept over 50 of my previous college credits! In addition to being a non-traditional student in my 50s, I am also hearing impaired and have to rely on hearing aids. That made things a lot more interesting. During my undergrad, while receiving accommodations as a student with disabilities, I became involved with various student activities, mainly, the Student Government, which allowed me to use that platform to advocate for students with disabilities. I continued with that crusade during my graduate studies, participating with CCSD (CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities). Self-sabotage and being unfocused had caused my dream to be delayed, deferred, and derailed over the years. But here’s what I believe to be true about dreams, I don’t think they ever fully dissolve. Sometimes, a dream just needs another “element” to help it transform. Ultimately, I would like to combine my personal experiences as an individual with a disability with what I am learning in grad school along with my involvement with different organizations advocating for students with disabilities in post-secondary institutions, whose voices may have been stifled or ignored. I truly believe education is vital to the growth of individuals and society.
    Priscilla Shireen Luke Scholarship
    I used to think that community was only defined by the geographic location of where someone lived, but I think the definition has broadened over the years to include so much more. When I first thought about how I would answer this essay, in all honesty, I didn’t even consider my Christian walk. I immediately thought about the organizations that I have been involved with over the years. But, becoming a Christian became the foundation for how I would serve others later in life. I acknowledge that many people serve others in remarkable ways who are neither Christians nor who may not even acknowledge the existence of God. I neither condone nor condemn them. This is just my journey. During my early years as a Christian, I volunteered as a tutor, and later, volunteered with Big Brother/Big Sister. Years would pass when I would act as a Project Coordinator, overseeing different community outreach volunteer efforts. I went back to college after a long hiatus to obtain my Bachelor’s degree. I called myself a seasoned student, but I would later hear the politically correct term, non-traditional student. Although I have been hard of hearing for most of my adult life, and have worn hearing aids for more than 15 years, I never sought out the disability community. It was during my Freshman Orientation that I heard one of the Disability Specialists speak; that 5-minute speech at Freshman Orientation changed the trajectory of my life. Aside from getting accommodations like a note-taker, I developed a desire to learn more. By my senior year, I joined the Student Government to advocate for students with disabilities (SWD) and would be asked to speak at different forums surrounding the topic of SWD in higher education. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Variations of this quote appear in books and movies and have been spoken by many coaches to inspire individuals and teams. Although I understood the meaning when I first heard it, it wasn’t until I started volunteering in community service that I experienced what Oprah Winfrey would call that Aha Moment! Over the years, I’ve served as a volunteer at food pantries and even went to Tennessee to help paint a community shelter after a flood. Years passed, and I became one of the Project Coordinators in the New York Metro Area, to develop and oversee community projects, partnering with organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House and the New York Blood Center. Once I went back to school, I stepped down from the leadership role, but I still serve in different capacities. Aside from HOPE Worldwide, I cook for a food pantry, Horn of Plenty, twice a month, that’s affiliated with another church. The way I give back has evolved over the years, I made a decision long before I graduated with my Bachelor’s from CUNY York College, that I would never disappear, I would always come back to serve in any way possible. I have had the privilege of helping during their yearly graduation ceremony for students with disabilities and acted as a guide during Freshman Orientation. Ultimately, I want to be a part of helping campuses to be more accessible and welcoming for all students across the nation. President George H.W. Bush said it best, “There could be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others.”
    Project Kennedy Fighting Cancers of All Colors Scholarship
    Cancer knocked on my family's door twice: first with my dad, then, years later, with my mom. Each scenario was different, but both had a tremendous impact on my life. My father was tall, dark and handsome; He wasn't as expressive as my mom, but he wasn't shy or a pushover. He worked at the post office, loved sports, mowed the lawn (most of the time), and adored me and my sister, giving me the first of many nicknames, Pumpkin. I don't remember the details of my dad's early stages of his cancer. What I do remember was this strong man slowly withering away before my eyes. Our family of four did a lot of things together, I remember Summer vacations, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays the most. But we didn't talk a lot. I mean, we talked about the day, and how my sister and I were doing in school, and now and then, some family drama (mainly from my mother's side) would creep into our conversations. But deep conversations never seemed to take place at the dinner table. Feelings? Nope. I had to push any emotions aside, and I was left to grapple with how to respond without anyone to help me navigate an often very strange terrain. So, when my father was struck with cancer, all I remember was silence. I don't even think my mother ever sat me down to explain what was happening. Granted, I was in my early twenties, but still, some things need to be discussed. My sister was away at school at the time, and my mother worked, so often, it was just me and my dad in the apartment. Sickness doesn't always mean the gap will disappear. In our case, the communication just lingered, creating this awkward silence. I was the one who received the call from the hospital telling me of my father's passing. Within an hour of that call, my mom came home and I had to tell her the news. I wouldn't wish that moment on my worst enemy. Years later, my mom had several bouts with her health and cancer, once again, decided to visit our family. It was weird, uncomfortable, and strange. But, by this time, I was much more comfortable in my skin. My mom and I had developed a relationship, far from a friendship (my mom was too old school for that), but one where we could express ourselves more openly. My mom beat the cancer and went on to live over 20 years before she passed at the age of 72. I never stopped to think about how my parents getting cancer impacted my education and career goals. But in retrospect, indirectly, it played a role, especially in my mom's experience. My mom was a nurse and thought highly of education. I did well in high school, but it took me time to find my grove while in college. As such, I left college and took a detour. I went back to school many years later, but neither of my parents was alive to see me graduate. It's something that I had to wrestle with for years, but I finally made peace with it. Some things are just beyond our control. The best you can do is roll with it and see what you can learn along the way. I currently have a career in the field that I'm studying for my Master's: disability studies in higher education. I was in a comfortable spot in my life; my parents' cancer gave me the push I needed to continue to pursue my dreams.
    Spider-Man Showdown Scholarship
    Andrew Garfool...Tom Hollow...I'm sorry...I mean no disrespect to the actors who played...excuse me... attempted to play Spider-Man. And yes, I say "play" instead of "portray" purposely. Spider-Man and Thor were my all-time favorite comic books as a child, so I have very strong feelings about them. Possibly in an unhealthy way, but whatever. Tobey Maguire was, to me, the full embodiment of Spider-Man. I'll be honest, if I ever saw Tobey Maguire in a movie prior to Spider-Man, I never noticed him. But when the movie came out, I knew I just had to see it (was it really 21 years ago?). This was long before it became the norm to see Marvel superheroes or villains on the big screen, so I was excited. Yes, the screen in the museum was predictable. Of course, they were looking at spiders. Of course, one miraculously escaped a glass tank to bite Peter. Silly and highly unlikely, but I didn't care. I had my box of Raisenettes and Goobers, and I was already transfixed. How Tobey Maguire showed the transformation from bewilderment, and astonishment, to acceptance was brilliant. Tobey has this boyish charm but you could also see that he was developing into a young man right before our very eyes. I loved how he didn't just arrive at being Spider-Man; he definitely went through his stage of wanting to get the most out of his newfound superpowers and use them for selfish gain. It wasn't about the greater good of serving mankind. Can't most of us relate to that? When something good comes our way, isn't our first thought, "How can I better my life?" Or, am I the last remaining selfish person on earth? Now, just be clear before you print out this essay and start throwing darts at it, I'm not saying I, or anyone, stays in that mode of thinking. It's just that preservation of self is important, just ask Maslow. But I digress... The first installment had to do with self-discovery; the second, fully accepting his responsibility, and the third, inward turmoil. Never once, as I watched Tobey Maguire, did I think, "They should have selected another actor." Never once. Whether he was being super sweet, nerdy, doubtful, or bordering on sinister, Tobey Maguire was believable. Now, about those other two actors. Andrew Garfield was OK. Yes, he had a quick humor, but it was almost like having a cupcake with icing, with M&M's on top. It may be delicious, but is it necessary? I was completely confused when they came out with The Amazing Spider-Man. I was like, What is this? It was weird. I'd venture to say downright disturbing. Yes, those are very strong words, but I did preface this essay by saying that I have very strong feelings about this. It was something that was, that should not have been. And there's Tom Holland. Ugh! I love his real-life British accent. But on screen, I wanted to take one of his webs and strangle him! His character was just so annoying! I htink his version of Spider-Man and the donkey from Shrek, would tie for first place for the most annoying characters. Sequels are always a bit weird for me. On one hand, I like the anticipation of how the character will transform. On the other hand, I fear that the sequel would be a huge disappointment and forever tarnish my attachment to the installment (which is why I still have yet to see Lion King 2). Tobey Maguire is now, and forevermore, Spider-Man. Nothing more needs to be said.
    Jillian Ellis Pathway Scholarship
    Being resilient, to me, is the ability to move forward, despite obstacles, uncertainty, doubts, and insecurities. It’s being intentional about pursuing your dreams, ignoring the voices telling you “no” or “it can’t be done”, even if that voice is your own. I had dubbed myself the seasoned student - I believe the politically correct term is non-traditional student - because I was usually the oldest student in the class. But I didn’t care because after several years of being absent from school (OK, decades) I had the honor and privilege of being able to re-enter college to obtain my Bachelor’s degree. I was finally pursuing my dream of becoming a college graduate! Five years ago, I just wanted to obtain my Bachelor’s degree. Now, I’m halfway through with completing my Master’s degree! In thinking of what makes me resilient, I would have to say my ability to reinvent myself. My dream of becoming a college graduate had been delayed, deferred, and derailed over the years. I don't think a dream that’s deeply embedded into your soul ever completely dissolves. It may be so diluted that it’s almost unrecognizable… almost. For me, even though I stopped speaking about my dream to others, there were still faint whispers that only I could hear. I remember hearing about a man who appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show; his name was George Dawson. After living the atrocities of segregation in the South, at the age of 98, he clung to his dream and learned to read! Years later, he would eventually collaborate with a newspaper writer, to write his memoir, Life Is So Good, that would land on The New York Times Best Sellers List! Talk about being resilient! I decided the time to move forward and change my speech, actions, and behaviors to reflect what I truly desired. Once that window of opportunity opened again for me to go back to school, I never looked back! In addition to being a non-traditional student in my 50s, I am also hearing impaired and have to rely on hearing aids. That made things a lot more interesting. But here’s where things took a twist: in my senior year, instead of continuing with my major in marketing, I decided to learn more about disability studies. Ultimately, I would like to combine my personal experiences as an individual with a disability with what I am learning in grad school along with my involvement with different organizations advocating for students with disabilities in post-secondary institutions, whose voices may have been stifled or ignored. I truly believe education is vital to the growth of individuals and society. As such, I made a conscious decision not to apply for any student loans; I am relying solely on scholarships to fund my education. Winning the Jillian Ellis Scholarship Foundation would ease my financial burden. In the not-too-distant future, I see creating a platform where I can help uplift others from underrepresented communities by sharing information about scholarships and helping them with their applications. On a deeper level, winning this scholarship would encourage others, by showing them that, no matter the obstacles, self-sabotage, or age, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. Furthering my education has exposed me to possibilities I never knew existed. I see education as the missing link to connect myself to others, share ideas, engage in conversations, and a way to embrace my personal assignment and contribution to society. Being resilient is not a one-time situation, but a life-long pursuit.
    Barbara J. DeVaney Memorial Scholarship Fund
    I usually place my “why” at the end of a scholarship essay, but I’m going to go rogue here and use this as my introduction. Applying for scholarships, especially at the graduate level, presents many challenges. However, as one who is determined not to fall into the trap of applying for student loans, I decided to rely solely on my contributions and scholarships to fund my college education. With that said, I would like to proceed with expressing my desire to be one of the recipients of the Barbara J. DeVaney Scholarship. I had dubbed myself the seasoned student - I believe the politically correct term is non-traditional student - because I was usually the oldest student in the class. But I didn’t care! Five years ago, I just wanted to obtain my Bachelor’s degree. Now, I’m in my third semester towards my Masters degree. But I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly share the road that led me here. As a child, I suffered from annual ear infections; by middle school, like magic, the condition disappeared. In my 20s, I learned that I had considerable nerve damage in my ears that was inoperable; I would have to wear hearing aids every day. I have been hearing impaired for half of my life. The word disability wasn’t a foreign word to me, but I neither embraced nor rejected it. It was just there. During undergrad, I discovered my new community or tribe, students with disabilities (SWD). I connected with the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) on campus to learn more about advocacy for SWD in higher education, which led me to join the Student Government. My mind expanded, my curiosity grew, and I became thoroughly fascinated about the plight of SWD, specifically, how they navigated college life. I attended more events that revolved around the disability community on campus and spoke at various events to share my experiences. I decided to continue with my education, but instead of continuing with marketing, I shifted gears and entered the CUNY of School Professional Studies, Masters of Science Program in Disability Studies and Higher Education. Currently, I work as the Disability Services Assistant within the Student Affairs Office (OSA) at a prestigious law school in New York City. This office handles the accommodations that law students request for classes and exams. I'm excited to be in an environment where I can combine my personal experiences with what I’m currently learning in grad school, to make a positive contribution to helping other SWDs on campus. I believe actual progress is taking your experiences, talents, and knowledge to enhance the community (or communities) you choose to engage in. I see creating a platform where I can help others to apply for scholarships. So, on a deeper level, winning this scholarship would encourage others, by showing them that, no matter the obstacles, self-sabotage, or age, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. For most of my life, I thought education was just about gaining more knowledge for myself to get that good-paying job. Now, I see education as the missing link to connect myself to others, share ideas, engage in conversations, and a way to embrace my assignment and contribution to society. Furthering my education has exposed me to possibilities I never knew existed. I see education as the missing link to connect myself to others, share ideas, engage in conversations, and a way to embrace my assignment and contribution to society.
    Henry Bynum, Jr. Memorial Scholarship
    Opposition, hostility, hardship, unfavorable, and misfortune. These are just a few of the words used to describe the word “adversity”. None of those words would be ones that I would gladly embrace into my life. None. But (yes, there’s always a “but”) as I have gotten older, I realize that some of the very things that I have avoided or have caused me embarrassment or shame were the very things that would propel me forward. When I think of the adversity I overcame, there are two situations that come to mind, which often overlapped, especially during the last few years: going back to school later in life, and being hard of hearing. Let’s start with the first… Going back to college after being absent for several years (OK, decades) has definitely been one of the obstacles I overcame. I believe this is what people call tenacity. I’ve never been one to get hung up on age; but as the years passed, my dream of becoming a college graduate had been delayed, deferred, and derailed. I don't think a dream ever completely disappears, but it can become so diluted that it’s almost unrecognizable… almost. I had dubbed myself the seasoned student - I believe the politically correct term is non-traditional student - because I was usually the oldest student in the class. But I didn’t care because after several years of being absent from school (OK, decades) I had the honor and privilege of being able to re-enter college to obtain my Bachelor’s degree at CUNY (City University of New York) York College. I was finally pursuing my dream of becoming a college graduate! Allowing years to pass before re-entering school was a self-imposed adversity; being hard of hearing was an adversity that was completely out of my control. As a child, I suffered from annual ear infections; by middle school, like magic, the condition stopped. In my 20s, I learned that I had considerable nerve damage in my ears that was inoperable. The only way to correct them will be by wearing hearing aids daily. Several years later at the urging of an employer, I would go through a lengthy process to receive my hearing aids. Being hard of hearing just makes up one of many aspects of who I am, but there have been quite a few challenges, especially as I returned to school. Because my disability isn’t visible, I often have to remind a few of my friends to speak more clearly or to slow down. Although I enjoy meeting new people, being in a room full of people can sometimes cause anxiety because I know I’ll miss a lot of the conversations. Ultimately, I would like to combine my personal experiences as an individual with a disability with what I am learning in grad school along with my involvement with different organizations to advocate for those whose voices may have been stifled or ignored. My focus is on college and university campuses, and how they can make changes to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable campus environment. Furthering my education has exposed me to possibilities I never knew existed. I truly believe education is vital to the growth of individuals and society. I see my education, combined with my adversity, as the missing links to connect myself to others, share ideas, engage in conversations, and a way to embrace my personal assignment and contribution to society.
    WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship
    I had dubbed myself the seasoned student - I believe the politically correct term is non-traditional student - because I was usually the oldest student in the class. But I didn’t care because after several years of being absent from school (OK, decades) I had the honor and privilege of being able to re-enter college to obtain my Bachelor’s degree at CUNY (City University of New York) York College. I was finally pursuing my dream of becoming a college graduate! Five years ago, I just wanted to obtain my Bachelor’s degree. Now, I’m looking forward to starting my fourth semester in the Fall towards my Master’s! It’s still unbelievable! Furthering my education has exposed me to possibilities I never knew existed. I see education as the missing link to connect myself to others, share ideas, engage in conversations, and a way to embrace my personal assignment and contribution to society. In thinking of what my greatest achievement has been, I would have to say going back to college after being absent for a few decades. I believe this is what people call tenacity. My dream of becoming a college graduate had been delayed, deferred, and derailed over the years. I don't think a dream that’s deeply embedded into your soul ever completely dissolves. It may be so diluted that it’s almost unrecognizable… almost. Once that window of opportunity opened again for me to go back to school, I never looked back! What this achievement taught me is that it’s never too late to start again. Or, in my case, starting again… again. It used to annoy me when I heard people say, “If I could do it, you can do it too!” Ugh! But that was then. Now, I’ll shout those same words from the rooftops! I learned that the only thing stopping me were my own limitations. As I sadly embraced the self-sabotage that I had become so accustomed to practicing, I never really took the time to reflect on the damage I was inflicting against my own dreams. Ultimately, I would like to combine my personal experiences as an individual with a disability with what I am learning in grad school along with my involvement with CCSD (CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities) to advocate for those whose voices may have been stifled or ignored. I truly believe education is vital to the growth of individuals and society; it’s disheartening to know that so many people have, after dedicating years to evolving academically, then have the added burden of having to pay off loans. As such, I made a conscious decision not to apply for any student loans; I am relying solely on scholarships to fund my education. Winning the WECJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship would definitely ease my financial burden. In the not-too-distant-future, I see creating a platform where I can help others to apply for scholarships. So, on a deeper level, winning this scholarship would encourage others, by showing them that, no matter the obstacles, self-sabotage, or age, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. Because, If I can do it, you can do it too!
    Jean Antoine Joas Scholarship
    After years of being absent from school, I had the honor of being able to go back to college to obtain my Bachelor's degree at The City University of New York (CUNY) at York College. I chose to major in marketing primarily because I thought it would be a beautiful marriage of my creativity with my love for business. But it was in my last semester that things took an interesting turn… Although I have been hearing a pair for most of my adult life, relying on the use of hearing aids for the last 15 years, I never considered myself part of the disability community. But as I pursued my Bachelor's degree, I became exposed to this “new” community. I joined Student Government to act as an advocate for those whose voices may have been overlooked or silenced. Every month, Student Government met with the president of York College to discuss different issues, but it became evident rather quickly that I was very ignorant of the policies that exist that pertain to students with disabilities. it was one of the professors at York College who made me aware of a master’s program in disability studies. I didn't have an idea of where this would lead me, but I felt compelled to pursue this particular area of study. So in my senior year, I applied to and was accepted into the CUNY School of Professional Studies Master of Science Program in Disability Studies in Higher Education. I feel as if I’m on a new adventure. So, now what? My goal is to use what I’ve learned through my business classes and Student Government, combined with what I’m learning in grad school along with my personal experiences as an individual with a disability, to be an advocate for other students with disabilities. I want to make efforts to ensure that colleges are more inviting and inclusive toward all students. In terms of thinking outside the box, I would like to speak before Congress. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disabilities; the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (2008) broadened the ADA’s definition of disability with a focus on students with disabilities entering postsecondary institutions but we are far removed from where we need to be. Even with campuses that have a dedicated office that’s supposed to provide support to students with disabilities, there are still too many gaps. How do I plan to make a positive impact on the world? Advocacy. I want to be on the front lines of change. I believe that we’re on the cusp of some major change, but it will take dedication and persistence to see long-lasting change. I’ll leave with the words of the late Disability Civil Rights Activist, Judy Heumann, “Change never happens at the pace we think it should. It happens over years of people joining together, strategizing, sharing, and pulling all the levers they possibly can. Gradually, excruciatingly slowly, things start to happen, and then suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, something will tip.”
    Share Your Poetry Scholarship
    SUNFLOWER I passed by you a million times before, but today, I just had to stop. There you stand, probably over 7ft tall, with your crisp green leaves and soft and pretty petals. So, as I stood before you captivated by your magnificence - while inwardly cursing the heat of the sun - my attention turned toward the bees. Some hovered nearby while others had the audacity to land to take your nectar and pollen. But there you stood, unwavering...you didn't even flinch. How do you withstand the many assaults against you: the sting from the bees, the merciless heat from the sun, along with the plucking from inquisitive children? But wait a minute...didn’t we just have a terrible storm a few days ago? How are you still standing? Shouldn't you be withered and broken by now? But I think you have kept a secret from us. You have deceived us, allowing us to believe that you are merely here for our enjoyment. But, there is more to you than what appears, so much more... Somehow, miraculously you have managed to gain strength from your many “assaults”, day after day after day. You figured out that those attacks are merely a temporary distraction to keep you from sharing your true self with the world. You've learned that although these attacks may be brutal at times, they will only destroy you if you allow them to. Yes, you have come to understand that you have to give them permission to destroy you simply because they cannot do that to you on their own. So, there you stand, beautiful, tall, and strong. And I, a mere mortal, was fortunate enough to stop one day and see the manifestation of God's glory through you. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
    Your Dream Music Scholarship
    I think I would be a zombie if it weren't for music. I would be a friendly zombie, pleasant, funny, caring, and well-dressed, but a zombie nevertheless. Music maintains my sanity. Choosing one song from the millions I heard in my lifetime was tough. Although my heart will always be in the 80s, I decided to turn to something deeper, so I chose a song, one that I sing during church services periodically: I Need Your Love. "Oh I need your love in this showed the place, I can't get enough of your sunlight on my face. When it's cold and dark, or I'm far from home, You are in my heart, and I'll never walk along... I sing this song to say, I need your love." I believe in a Higher Power: God, Lord Almighty, the Universe, the Higher Power, Allah, Yahweh... there are many names people use to describe this higher power. In these turbulent times, I know there isn't any way that I could function on my own strength. I love this song because it doesn't talk about a want but a need. People's desires could be a very powerful emotion - just ask the advertisers - we're constantly bombarded with images that would fulfill our deepest desires. But a need? It's something that you can't live without, and if you are not able to have it, there is a void that could never be filled. The writer makes it clear that living without the Lord is not something he could even fathom. I feel the same. Aside from being beautifully written, the song speaks to my spirit. It makes the world more beautiful, and less scary. It allows me to walk in confidence because I know I'm never walking alone.
    Dr. Jade Education Scholarship
    I'm on my private island, soaking in the sun by my pool, listening to inaudible conversations and hearty laughter from family and friends nearby. I'm about to cancel my private jet when... OK...what I described may seem a bit far-fetched, but there is a word that comes to mind when I soak in that fantasy: freedom. I'm not talking about a Peter Pan-like freedom without any responsibilities. But instead, a life where there are fewer self-imposed restrictions. It's interesting, I've been visiting my sister in San Francisco during the holidays; today we visited the San Francisco MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). The beauty of some of the works of art was beyond words. As I walked through the inhibit soaking up my surroundings, a thought crept into my mind: Are you doing what you love? Earlier that day, my sister and I were talking; she mentioned that even though she had earned a 6-figure income in the IT field, she always dreamed of living as a writer. In other words, she wanted to rely solely on her writing, instead of a 9 to 5, to support herself. It took years, but she is finally living as a writer. This made me think about what makes me passionate. I absolutely love studying Disability Studies in Higher Education in graduate school. Being an individual with a disability, this is not something that I'm just studying, it's personal. But how can I use what I'm learning with my personal experiences to serve students in higher education? But I digress... Let me go back to that word, freedom. When I think about living the life of my dreams, I think about financial security. This is less about hoarding material things and more about being able to have the time to do what I want, when I want, with whomever I want. I want to be able to travel the world to experience different cultures. But I don't want to do it as a sort of vacation, I want this to be a part of my life. Yes, I want to take in the beauty that different cultures have to offer. But it's not just about consuming, I want to contribute. There's no shortage of chaos, confusion, and calamities that exist throughout the world. We can look at the horrors of Ukraine, Haiti, and Afghanistan and feel hopeless. Just recently, I've been thinking more and more about people with disabilities that have to endure extreme hardships in other countries. But even in the United States, people suffer. But add a disability to an already intense situation, and it seems like a hopeless situation. When I think about living the life of my dreams, I think about service. I think about throwing off all my doubts, insecurities, and fears and allowing the world to experience my authentic self through creative acts of service. There are a million things I can think about on how I can have fun. Sitting at the poolside on my private island would be a great place to start. But in reality, I know that I was born to serve.
    Alicea Sperstad Rural Writer Scholarship
    They say that the eyes are the window to the soul; I believe that writing is the voice of the soul. Now, if we were to get philosophical for a minute, one could argue that since the soul is housed in the body that when people speak, they are speaking from their soul. Ahh… maybe. We speak what is on our minds on a conscious level. But can we speak from the unconscious level? Yes, if we're hypnotized, but what about in everyday interactions? Do we really speak what resides in our soul? Perhaps, during very emotional events like the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, or other times when inexpressible jog or sorrow consumes us. But writing is limitless. My sister was always known as the writer, I was the artist. I was very comfortable with that label. I had no desire to write other than for school. I was content with staying in my lane. Several years passed and I found myself joining an online community where we learned about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), continent creation, and the importance of keywords. I often felt clueless yet excited to learn something new. This wasn't just something fun to do, people were learning how to develop an online business. There were thousands of people from all over the world; every day, people would post, within the platform, what they learned from the training, and their thoughts, and would often provide valuable information. It was on this platform that the writer within started to emerge. What was interesting was that it seemed so effortless. What was surprising was that I had developed a particular style of writing: witty yet informative. But what was shocking was that people seemed to get me, they knew where I was coming from. I developed a small following (that last statement may not be completely accurate, but I’m exercising my artistic license). A few years passed and I re-enrolled in college. I no longer considered myself just an artist. I was a writer-ish. I didn’t have anything published other than a few small articles in the church newsletter, but it was enough to wet my appetite. In a few of my classes, I had an opportunity to explore and expand my writing chomps. Granted, I could sway too far from what my professors asked, and in some cases, there was no room for me to explore my creativity. But the desire to continue to expand my writing never left me. So here I am ready to write a book. Interestingly enough, my sister just finished a book tour! Although I was inspired by her, the idea I had for a book came many years before my sister’s project, I just never moved forward. But this goes back to what I stated in the beginning: writing is the voice of the soul. If I stifle that voice, what will be the repercussions? But, more importantly, why would I not share what my soul wants to speak?
    Endia Janel Visionary Women Scholarship
    Health & Wellness Scholarship
    Several years ago, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I had never heard of the term before, but now, it is a part of my everyday routine. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a person to stop and start breathing periodically throughout their sleep. In my case, I would stop breathing an average of 22=36x every hour. Aside from lifestyle changes like healthier eating and regular exercise, the treatment also includes an assistive breathing device such as a continuous positive airway passage pressure, commonly referred to as a CPAP machine. Developing sleep apnea has forced me to shift gears. I’ve always loved fruits and vegetables and have been a water lover for many years. But I also love the sugary and salty snacks. Unlike cancer due to smoking, it’s hard to pinpoint the actual cause of sleep apnea; it may have developed years before the diagnosis. We can make all the plans for the months and years to come, but without our health, how can we possibly fulfill those dreams or goals? My decision to live healthier is not just about me; my life also affects those around me. For example, I attended a memorial service for a friend who had died suddenly; I was overwhelmed by seeing all the people she had impacted. I believe each of us has a particular assignment to fulfill while on earth. Someone else can complete a task, but they won't do it the same way I can because each of us is unique. Therefore, I believe I have a responsibility not only to myself but to those around me to live a healthier lifestyle. The challenge comes in putting healthier habits into practice. Instead of attempting to change everything at once, I decided to create smaller steps. First, I had to address my sleep apnea condition. My doctor gave me a prescription for a CPAP machine, but it took years - yes, years - before I started using the CPAP machine. Second, I knew I had to get my body moving. I enjoy walking but needed to incorporate other activities like strength-building, yoga, and step workouts. I haven’t excelled in this area yet, but I’m taking steps to do different things. For example, I started a 30-day plank challenge; it’s not something I enjoy, but I know it’s important to stretch myself in different areas. The third step is the most challenging: making healthier food choices. I’m a meat-eater, but I love vegan and vegetarian dishes, so I’m experimenting more with new recipes. Fourth, I decided to resume writing in my Health Journal every day. I write what I’ve eaten for the day, exercise, and any thoughts. The last step to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is gratitude. I have a daily and monthly planner; the last page for every month is my Gratitude Page. The main challenge in developing a healthy lifestyle is respecting the process and embracing the journey. Whatever health challenges I have didn’t develop overnight, so I need to be patient with myself as I embark on this journey towards a healthy version of myself.
    Jae'Sean Tate BUILT Scholarship
    Greetings, from the Seasoned Student (we’ll come back to that title later)! Did you say “unconventional”? Well, have I got a story for you! This will take a few minutes, so get your snacks and get comfortable…no…not that chair… the other one…yeah…here we go! As a child, I used to suffer from annual ear infections that were horrendous! By middle school, like magic, the infections stopped. I joined the concert and marching band in junior high school and continued throughout high school participating in various competitions without incident. Little did I know that there was damage that would resurface many years later. In my 20s, I was told that I had considerable nerve damage in my ears that was inoperable. The only way to “correct” them would be by wearing hearing aids, daily - it’s been 15 years and counting. Although I attended college right after graduating from high school, I wasn't focused: after 2-years, I transferred schools and started working full-time, so school took a back seat… way back. Fast forward several years (OK, decades): I went back to school and the tender age of 50 and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing in May 2021. I dubbed myself the Seasoned Student because I was usually the oldest person in my classes - including my professors! But I didn’t care! I was living my dream! Being back in school was exciting, but it was not without its challenges, the main one being hard of hearing. I was fortunate to connect with the Center of Students with Disabilities on campus, so I had access to note-takers for my classes. Even so, people often mistakenly thought that hearing aids made me the Black version of The Bionic Woman. If only that were true… Even though I studied Marketing at York College, I decided to go in a different direction for grad school. But let me backtrack a bit. It wasn’t until the second month of my last semester during my senior year, that I decided to apply for grad school. Honestly, when I came back to school, my focus was only on obtaining my Bachelor’s. But fate decided to intervene: I met the Advisor of Student Affairs during Freshman Orientation. Within just 5-minutes, she encouraged me to continue with my Master’s! I’m thinking, “Dude! Classes didn't even start yet! Let me just get my Bachelor’s first!” But of course, I just smiled and nodded thinking she was crazy. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I learned her story: she had been a cab driver who used to drive by York College every night and thought to herself how she would like to go to that school. She eventually got her Bachelor’s, continued with her Master’s, and then received her doctorate! She was the one who planted that seed for me to strive for more. In my first year, I was just getting adjusted to being back in school; I had to shift gears from knowing the blackboard that my teachers used to write on to the Blackboard platform where all our assignments were posted and submitted. And for extra fun, a few professors opted to use other platforms where we would take our quizzes and tests! During my second year, I decided to think about how I can be more engaged. Through the Center for Students with Disabilities, I participated in different events and had even been asked to speak at a forum that was created to hear the experiences of students with disabilities; I also joined Student Government. Disabilities… I neither shunned nor was ashamed of the word. Ironically, the disability community that I had been a part of most of my life was one that I knew very little about. It was during this time that I started to hear words like inclusion, equity, and marginalized. I found myself wondering about the experiences of other disabled students as they navigated their way through college life. How are students with noticeable disabilities treated differently from those with invisible ones? So, during the last semester of my senior year, I decided to not only apply to graduate school but also made the shift from Marketing to majoring in Disability Studies in Higher Education. As I write this essay I have less than 3-weeks of my first semester in grad school - unbelievable! My journey to get me to where I am today is 20+ years in the making. There were years that I suffered from the shame of not finishing college. Sadly, when I look back, I can acknowledge that that shame was self-inflicted. But along the way, I learned a valuable lesson, one I hope to never forget: you can never win when you compare someone’s “best” efforts to what you consider your worst. A kitten trying to fight a lion is not going to end well. I’m applying for the Jae’Sean Tate Scholarship because simply put, school ain't free! But on a deeper level, I have a desire to share with other Seasoned Students to inspire them that even if, like me, their dreams had been delayed, deferred, and derailed, there’s still hope. As I continue on this journey of being a lifelong learner, I want to find creative ways to not only advocate for students with disabilities in higher education but also to help others to remove the roadblocks that hinder them from achieving their educational and personal goals. Thank you for reading about my journey and why I would like to be considered for the Jae’Sean Tate Scholarship. So, as you stretch your legs and brush the crumbs from your shirt, I’ll leave with the words of the well-known motivational author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson, “...as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give people permission to do the same.”
    Bold Self-Care Scholarship
    Ahhh… self-care… I haven’t mastered this yet, probably never will. But I do strive to present my more authentic version of myself to the world each day. Here’s how I practice SELF-CARE: Starting each day on a positive note. For me, that means getting my room organized while I listen to the Bible and then going for a walk. There’s nothing like seeing the beauty of nature to make life make sense. Eating foods that promote good health. I love junk food! A perfect world would be one where I can eat all the junk food I want without gaining an ounce of fat! Until such time, I have to be deliberate in buying foods that will nourish my body. Learning from others. I read books and speak with others who have overcome struggles with their health. Our journeys may differ, but there’s always something to learn that I can incorporate into my life. Finding out what works. This can be frustrating because it can take some time. One thing that not only works for me but something I also enjoy doing is keeping a health journal. This allows me to “keep it real” with myself. Considering doing things differently. I like trying new recipes and exercises and even considered joining an online support group. Acceptance is key. I can desire to look and feel different, but if I don't embrace where I am right now - with all those extra lumps, bumps, and jiggles - I may never be happy. Relaxing isn't being selfish! This means taking time to do things that I enjoy so I can feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Enjoy the journey! This comes down to gratitude. Whenever I find myself grumbling about my weight or my health in general, I take a moment to express gratitude.
    Bold Friendship Matters Scholarship
    I just got off a Facebook video call with a dear friend of mine; she recently became a certified fitness instructor, so we decided to have bi-monthly chats to help me to become a healthier version of myself. That 2-hour chat is what embodies friendship to me: someone taking the time to listen, empathize, give counsel, be willing to share their issues, and a key ingredient, laughter. To me, friendship is just as important as air, food, and water. Technically, you can survive without friendships. The question is, why would you want to? Why would anyone want to navigate this world without the anchor from a friend? I’ve heard it said that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. There were times in my past - in my ignorance - when I tried to “categorize” people: We don’t hang out but they have such wisdom; they’ll be my "reason” friendship; if they moved, they were my “season” friendship; and if we just clicked instantly, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were here for a lifetime. But life isn't always so neat and predictable. People have failed me just as I have failed people. Things that I thought were certain became mirky or grey. I’ve learned to embrace the beauty of each friendship and allow it to evolve naturally. The fact remains that I didn't bring these people into my life, so I can’t always control how long they stay. To me, friendship means living life more abundantly, with more purpose, and with greater love. I can only hope that I continue to grow to be a better friend to others, regardless of whether they are in my life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
    Bold Growth Mindset Scholarship
    In one week, two different people said the same thing about me: they saw me as a life-long learner. It was one of the best compliments I ever received! At the heart of having a growth mindset is the willingness to change. Often, I think people get caught up in the fear factor of not knowing what the future holds. To me, that’s exciting! Now, to be honest, I don't embrace every new situation with joy and excitement. Case in point: Accounting 101. Yeah, there was no joy or excitement there. But I digress… There is some change that I control, like deciding on whether I should have two Snicker bars or just one. But other situations are out of our control. Even in those uncontrollable situations, I can dictate my response. The key to having a growth mindset? Accept - Adjust - Act. First, I need to accept the situation. I’m not talking about having a “whatever” attitude. But accepting the situation for what it is, no excuses, no fluff, and no self-deceit. Second, I decide on what adjustments are needed. This is where I can either stretch myself or allow fear to hold me back. Finally, action is required. When I wanted to learn to dive, it required that I do two things: watch others diving and then act, which often meant me flopping into the water. But, eventually, I was able to dive, just like an Olympic diver… well, maybe Olympic-ish. But, most important, keeping a growth mindset means accepting my imperfections, quirks, insecurities, weirdness, boisterous laugh… all of it. Because growth without acceptance could lead to a never-ending never-attaining search for perfection. All I have to do is stick with the winning formula: Acceptance + Adjust + Act = Growth Mindset - Any questions?
    Bold Patience Matters Scholarship
    Everyone has a story… Every person comes with struggles, heartaches, disappointments, insecurities, doubts, and fears. It’s the invisible luggage that people carry with them every day. But guess what? So do I. Patience - in its perfect setting - should exhibit a give and take exchange. Being patient is important because the absence of it would create a world that's discouraging, damaging, and depressing. Let’s face it, we want to meet people at our best. We want to be able to present our most shiny, and sparkly selves. But often, people see our unfinished and unpolished version. We step out of our doors presenting the world with our imperfections but desire to be received with open arms. I think at the root of patience is acceptance. Being able to accept people where they are right now, not where we think they should be. Being patient means that we’re being present. What happened in the past is irrelevant because it can't be changed, and we can't dictate what will happen in the future, so we can only deal with the here and now. Hmm… this is an interesting concept that I never really thought about until I started writing this essay. So, how can I apply this practically? In any stressful situation, I can choose to ground myself and ask myself a simple question: Is this an avalanche or an acorn? Is the situation so big that it’s cause for alarm or is it something that minor? Simply put, being patient is important to me because, ultimately, it can lead to and instill hope.
    William M. DeSantis Sr. Scholarship
    It’s funny… sometimes the most important life lessons occur at a time when you least expect it, from an unusual place, or even from someone you never met, which was my experience. Many years ago, I was home from work during the week, and to my delight, I was able to catch The Oprah Winfrey Show. One of her main guests was an older frail-looking man; there wasn't anything captivating about his appearance, but his story is one I will remember for a lifetime. George Dawson shared about his time growing up in Marshall, Texas (1898) as the great-grandson of slaves. While he lived through the atrocities of segregation, George never lost sight nor gave up on his dream: to learn to read. George eventually learned to read at the age of 98. But as amazing as George Dawson’s story is, this is not a book report. This essay is about a lesson that had a profound impact on my life. But I can’t talk about that life lesson without mentioning George Dawson. To do so would be a disservice to Mr. Dawson, because it was that fateful day, hearing his story on The Oprah Winfrey Show, that changed the course of my life. I attended college right after graduating high school, but after 2-years of college, I transferred to another school but I was still without any direction or a degee. Years had passed, I felt stuck, and that lingering shame never seemed to disappear. After listening to George and later reading his memoir, Life Is So Good, I asked myself: If he can learn to read at 98, why can't you go back to school? A few years ago, I was able to go back to school with the intent of getting a degree. My senior year was one of the most challenging due to COVID, but interestingly enough, it was during that time that I landed on the Dean’s List for the first time! In May of 2021, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing - my dream had finally come true! There were a few lessons I learned along the way: the power of consistency, perseverance, and belong intentional about whatever I set out to do. But there was one lesson that took a little longer to learn. What was the one life lesson? It is as simple to do as it is powerful in its effectiveness. That life lesson was embracing my journey. For so many years, I compared myself to my friend’s accomplishments. Some had gone on to graduate studies, law school, or had thriving careers. Yet, I found myself asking the question that children are asked: What do you want to be when you grow up? Granted, I was a full-fledged adult, but that question kept lingering - unanswered - in my mind. So, I continued in my comparisons. I’ve heard it said that it’s harmful to compare yourself with others because you end up comparing their “best” with your “worst”. In the end, it will never be a fair match. Embracing my journey means that I don't have to make apologies, excuses, or justifications. I would love to say I’ve mastered this… I would love to say that. But, I have mastered the art of taking more time to embrace my journey, which is unique. Had I continued to make comparisons, I may not have become the woman I am today: a lifelong learner attending graduate school who embraces all the elements of my journey, big and small. Thanks, Geaorge!
    Bold Nature Matters Scholarship
    I love the best of both worlds: the city and the country. I grew up in Long Island, New York; granted, it was far from being country but it gave my sister and me the space to run around and discover. Catching frogs, fireflies, worms, ants, and making “cakes” out of mud, leaves, and buries were some of our favorite times. As I got older, my love of nature never left me. While people were trying to remember to stop and smell the roses, I was watching bees and delighting in the chirping of birds. And I’ve always had a love for animals. I do believe that animals were created to help humans. My current living situation prevents me from having a pet, so I decided to volunteer at an animal shelter. If I can't have my own to love, I can give love to those that are without. Last year, I noticed a cute little sparrow coming to my windowsill, so I decided to put a small plastic dish of birdseed on the windowsill. He was so happy, he told a few friends, and they told a few friends… Watching them gave me a sense of calm. After a few weeks, I noticed a different type of bird on the scene; I discovered that it was a mourning dove. After a few visits, Bebe invited a friend, Baba. After several visits, I noticed that Bebe and Baba were building a nest! Within a few days, two eggs appeared; 2-3 weeks later, the eggs hatched. I couldn't believe that I got to witness the beauty of nature, right there on my windowsill. And lucky me, Bebe and Baba have returned to start a brand new family.
    Bold Study Strategies Scholarship
    Call me a geek, a nerd, or just weird, but I love to study! Seriously! In one word, I can share the time-proven study strategies that help me to achieve academic success: S-T-U-D-Y! Set up my space. I like things neat and orderly because it’s difficult for me to focus when things are in disarray and cluttered. Because my living space is small, I have to find creative ways to utilize my work area. Sometimes something as simple as plastic sheet protectors will really make your day brighter. Time management is key. This is a cliche that will never get old. I’m all for using apps like Evernote and WhatsApp, Google Spreadsheet, Google Docs, and any other digital device that can help with time management. But for me, nothing beats writing things out the old-fashioned way. Yes…I’m talking about using a pen, markers, and paper. I'm not ashamed to say that I use a wall calendar. I also use a sketch pad that I’ve turned into a planner. I get really creative by using stickers, collages, and writing out my goals. Understand my assignments. This seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t have academic success if I don't know what I’m doing. If this means I have to read the syllabus 3x a week, so be it. Destroy any distractions. Sometimes I have light jazz music playing, an animal documentary on Netflix, or just silence. It really depends on my mood. But something to consider: a break is different from a distraction. Yoda knows best. I’m not into Star Wars, but I do like that weird-looking creature, Yoda. He said something in the first installment that I keep in mind: There is no such thing as try. There is only do or don't do.
    Bold Generosity Matters Scholarship
    What does generosity mean to me? So glad you asked! The best way for me to answer that is to break it down: G-E-N-E-R-O-S-I-Y. G is for Giver: Generosity starts with a willingness to give of yourself. E is for Engaged: This means being present. Whether spontaneous or an activity that requires some time, be present. Look someone in the eye, let that person know that they matter. N is for Noble: Yes… I think nobility is a part of being generous. I say that because, on the surface, it may look as if you’re being generous, but inwardly, your motives are impure. Just as animals can sense fear, people can sense insincerity. E is for Eager: If you’re giving grudgingly, it’s probably best not to give at all. R is for Respectful: Giving to others doesn't make them less-than. At any given time, the tables could turn and we could be the recipient of that generosity. O is for Organic: Several years ago, the word “organic” seemed to filter into just about every aspect of our lives - I found it extremely annoying! Years later, I had an “Aha” moment: I was doing something so effortlessly. It just happened… organically. Generosity should be natural not strained or forced. S is for Sensitivity: Some may believe that generosity shouldn't require any thought, just action. I would argue that, in some instances, sensitivity is needed. I is for Immediate: If you can practice generosity in the moment, go for it! T is for Thoughtful: Think about what you’re doing. Y is for Yield: Huh? Yes… yield. Sometimes, in our eagerness to give to others, we can overlook something. It’s OK to pull the breaks and see if there is a more opportune time.
    Bold Wise Words Scholarship
    “Your emergency is not my emergency.” These words came from a friend who shared with me about how she had been asked to do something last minute by people we both knew. Although it was a valid request, she felt that they should have given her more time to prepare. The comment wasn't directed at me, but I felt slightly offended. It almost seemed rude, but I just brushed it aside. It wasn't until years later that I would remember her words. I don’t even remember the incident, but a friend was in need and it was an urgent matter. I came to the rescue, but the words from my friend years earlier came to mind. Why is it that so many people wait until the last minute to seek help? Why can they take time to “weigh their options” but I’m not given the same luxury of time? Granted, certain situations arise that demand immediate attention. I get it. But what I’ve noticed, more often than not, is that many “urgent” matters”, had they been dealt with earlier, would not have become so urgent. Now, I ask questions: When did you know about this situation? Have you asked anyone else for help? What steps have you already taken to resolve the issue? I’ve learned that it’s OK for me to take time to assess the situation, pray through it, and seek counsel. If time can’t be given to me, then I may not be the best person to help them in that situation. It comes down to setting boundaries for myself and others. The best way to do this is, to be honest about my limitations and be comfortable even if everyone doesn’t understand.
    Bold Impact Matters Scholarship
    The one way I try to have a positive impact on the world is by presenting my authentic self. Every day, I decide to strive to present my authentic self to the world with all its flaws, imperfections, weirdness, insecurities, doubts … all of it! It serves no purpose for me to try to be anyone else. I can strive to improve the areas that need growth while making every effort to share my strengths with others. Part of presenting my authentic self with others is sharing what I’m learning to help those around me. As someone who is hearing impaired and relies on the use of hearing aids, I know that my experience can have a positive impact on other students with disabilities. It was during my undergrad that I received counsel and support from the Center for Students with Disabilities office on campus. I had such a positive experience, that I decided to further my knowledge of students with disabilities; currently, I’m attending grad school, studying Disability Studies in Higher Education. I read something once that stated that each person has a contribution to make in this world. It’s not enough to just gain knowledge. I don’t agree with the adage, Knowledge is power. I think that knowledge is only potential power. It’s what you do with that knowledge that will dictate its power. The way I try to have a positive impact on the world is by taking everything about me that makes me unique and combining it with my experiences and knowledge. I believe the world would be a better place if every person decided to present their true selves to others.
    Bold Encouraging Others Scholarship
    I love food! I think I have an equal love of “junk food” and healthy foods. I can enjoy a lovely salad then devour a bowl of ice cream right after - but that’s normal, right? One of my favorite ways to encourage others is through (drumroll) food. Growing up, my parents entertained but it was usually during the holidays. I was always intrigued when I would visit a friend’s house to see their family or friends just drop by for a visit. As an adult, I make it a habit to cook for friends throughout the year. But it’s not just cooking, I get into creating a comfortable atmosphere: candles are lit, jazz is playing, and lights are dimmed. It’s been tricky during the pandemic, but I haven't stopped having friends over. I’m just a lot more cautious and invite fewer people. It seems that with all that’s been going on in the world, people are relieved - but also, eager - to be able to come over and just relax. Just last week, my church had a virtual Women's Day Service, so I decided to host breakfast before service. There’s just something about food that makes people let down their guard and engage in stimulating conversation. And of course, there’s always laughter. For many years, I’ve hosted Post Thanksgiving Dinners: I would cook everything from the turkey to all the sides, guests were asked just to bring either a beverage or dessert. These particular events take days to prepare but it’s so worth the effort. I also enjoy having one-on-one time with a friend where I’ll prepare a meal and we sit for hours talking. In the moment, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But in actuality, I’m not just cooking for friends, I’m creating precious memories.
    Bold Hobbies Scholarship
    Several years ago, I decided to sell jewelry during Valentine’s Day; at the last minute, I decided to make greeting cards. I used to make cards for my parents when I was a child, but I hadn't made any in years. I bought some blank cards from a craft store; I got home and had all types of material spread out on the table to decorate the cards. It was as if I was in a trance - I couldn't stop! I went back the next day and bought a few more boxes of blank cards. I was so excited at how beautiful they looked, I decided to participate in a few local craft shows. I knew women would like my cards, but I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction I received from men of all ages! Years have passed since that Valentine’s Day sale in my living room. I've considered selling on Etsy, but I put that idea on hold when I went back to pursue my undergrad. I'm now studying for my Master's, but making cards is still something that gives me joy. I made a decision recently that I would set aside a few days a month to just make cards. I need something to calm me down in between writing papers (Netflix will only go but so far). Whenever a friend has a birthday or a special occasion, I make them a card, often the same day. I haven't bought a card in years! Even though I don't have an official greeting card business, I feel that giving someone a store-bought card would almost be like cheating! Why buy a card when I can make one from the heart. It’s funny to think how some things you once did as a child reappear in adulthood.
    I Am Third Scholarship
    Gandhi said it best, "Be the change you wish to see made in the world." When I was a child, I used to suffer from annual ear infections. They were horrendous! Once I entered middle school, it seemed as if someone just snapped their fingers, and, like magic, the infections stopped. Little did I know that there was damage that would resurface many years later. During my visit to an otolaryngologist in my 20s, I was told that I had considerable nerve damage that was inoperable. The only way to “correct” my hearing impairment would be through wearing hearing aids, daily. It would be several years later, at the urging of an employer, that I would go through a tedious and lengthy process of testing to receive my hearing aids, which I’ve been wearing for over 15 years. I went to college after graduating high school, but I didn't realize my “potential in the world”, so I drifted without any destination in sight. For years, I felt shame for not having finished college. Fast forward several years: at the age of 50, I attended the New Student Orientation at CUNY York College full of excitement. I dubbed myself the “seasoned student” because I was usually the oldest student in my classes, but I didn’t care. I was finally moving forward to achieving my dream of becoming a college graduate. I decided to major in Marketing primarily because I thought it beautifully combined two things I love: business and creativity. I connected with the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) my first semester, to learn about accommodations I was entitled to receive as a student with disabilities. During my senior year, I took a more active involvement with CSD to increase my knowledge and awareness, which led me to serve as a Senator in Student Government. Even though my involvement was strictly virtual due to COVID, it proved to be a very valuable and rewarding experience. Slowly, seeds were being planted and I developed an interest in what it really means to be an advocate. It was during the last semester that I seriously considered grad school, but instead of continuing with Marketing, I applied to and was accepted into the Masters of Science Program of Disability Studies in Higher Education at CUNY School of Professional Studies. My goal was simple: to combine what I’ve learned throughout my undergrad, volunteer work, and personal experiences to help change the college “landscape” for students with disabilities. We’ve come a long way since the enactment of the American Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), but we have a long way to go. There are still many things that are not accessible to every student, as it relates to students in higher education. Every experience that I had - from my first ear infection to deciding to major in Disability Studies - has gotten me to where I am today. But if I had to select one moment, one turning point, it was that forum, listening to my fellow students share their experiences that put me on my current path. It was this particular encounter that fostered a belief that I could make a valuable contribution. Currently, I’m part of the Disability Accessibility Coalition (DAC) on campus to increase my knowledge, share and hear other stories. It’s about combining honest and sincere dialogue with effective action. It's only when I accept the responsibility of being an active participant, not a mere bystander, that I can truly be an agent for change and an advocate for equity and diversity.
    Hobbies Matter
    I had converted my dining room table into a workstation, a necessity now that all my classes had switched to online learning due to COVID. I was studying when something caught my attention: a bird on the windowsill. Granted, this was nothing unusual, but in the over 10 years of living in this apartment, I never once saw a bird on that windowsill. I had started feeding the birds in front of courthouse buildings nearby, so after a few days of seeing my new visitor, I decided to put a small plastic container of bird food on the windowsill. My gift was well-received, so much so that my new friend bought a friend… and his friend bought a friend. Word got around that this was the spot to get some good grub, so I had to get a larger container. After a few weeks, I noticed a different type of bird on the scene; it looked like a cross between a pigeon and a dove. I asked my all-knowing Grandpa Google and discovered that it was a mourning dove. After a few visits, I called it Bebe. Soon after, Bebe invited a friend, Baba. They were just so beautiful. One day I noticed Baba bringing back small twigs. I didn't think anything of it at first, but soon realized that Bebe and Baba were building a nest! It made sense: it was a comfortable spot, rent was free, and they had a never-ending supply of food. If only I could be so lucky. They always left just before dusk, but one day, Bebe stayed the night. I was concerned. Was Bebe sick? Nope. My concern quickly turned to joy when I saw a little white ball in the nest - Bebe had laid an egg! One day later, there was another sibling! I couldn't believe I had a front-row seat to this miracle! I soon found that both Bebe and Baba were avid believers in co-parenting; they rotated in 12-hour shifts. It got a little tricky putting food out on the windowsill for them; both were very protective of the eggs so I had to slowly open the window just enough to make my daily food deposits. Although I didn’t get to see the chicks hatch, I did see them soon after. So adorable! It would be a few weeks before each chick was able to fly to the nearby tree then fly away for good. They would return periodically for food, but I missed seeing them in the nest daily. But that sadness didn't last long because Bebe returned, Baba built another nest, and Bebe laid two more eggs! So, if you haven't guessed by now, one of my favorite hobbies is feeding birds. There’s something just so calming about watching them peck at the bird food. I received all kinds of visitors: cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, my beloved mourning doves, and once in a while, a pigeon or two would stop by to check out the menu.
    Bold Future of Education Scholarship
    7 million… that’s a huge number! You would think that if someone knew about or was able to see 7 million in anything, they would take notice. But, not necessarily; in some cases, if you try hard enough, you can overlook or ignore that number… When I think about the one change that I believe would make education better for future generations, I think about that number, because it represents the number of students in the United States who are disabled - that’s approximately 1.5 million less than the population of New York City! In thinking about how to make education better for future generations, we have to look past the textbooks and desktop monitors and look at the people. The students. How are we creating an environment that’s inclusive, respectful, and fosters learning? How do we ensure that all students, regardless of their mental or physical abilities, receive a quality education from instructors and professors that fully embrace the diversity of their students? First, we need to open the doors to discussion. Truthful and honest dialogue. One where accountability is expected not dodged or avoided. One of the oldest arguments to change is that it’s too expensive or that it’s too time-consuming. How much is too much time when discussing education for future generations? Engaging in authentic conversation means that the door would be open to everyone who is directly and/or indirectly impacted: students, parents, teachers, administrators… everyone. The second step would be to embrace the process. We’re not talking about a quick fix here. Democracy can often be a slow and tedious process, but when applied correctly, it works. 7 million includes students from grade school through college level. Even if we were to focus on one specific sector, say, 7th graders, you would have to take into account the city and state of each student. The third step, but not the final step, would be to increase understanding of the different disabilities. A student who relies on hearing aids to hear differs drastically from someone who is completely deaf. What equipment would be needed to ensure that both students can participate equally in their learning? What kind of training is needed for the instructors and administrators? I just started grad school, studying Disability Studies in Higher Education. Even though I am hearing impaired and rely on the use of hearing aids, I’m discovering there’s so much that I was unaware of as it relates to students with disabilities in higher education. We've come a long way from the passage of the 1990 ADA (American Disabilities Act) but we’re far removed from where we should be. If we wish to strive to level the playing field for all students, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, brew some extra cups of coffee, sharpen those pencils, charge our laptops, and get ready for a long but exciting journey.
    Bold Equality Scholarship
    It's interesting... you never know the pain you suffer when you're younger will end up being a catalyst for something greater. I used to suffer from excruciating earaches when I was a child; in my 20s, I was told that the nerve damage I had was inoperable, and my hearing would deteriorate over time. Decades later, I must wear hearing aids, every day. Ironically, I was part of the disability community for at least half of my life without even being knowing it. When I returned to school many years later to complete my undergrad, I became more exposed to disabilities as it relates to higher education. I not only received accommodations through the Center of Students with Disabilities (CSD), I also started attending meetings, and had been asked to speak to share my story a few times. Although I majored in Marketing, I decided to go in a different direction... I am now in my first semester at CUNY School of Professional Studies, pursuing my Master's in Disability Studies in Higher Education. I believe that supporting equity and diversity starts with educating oneself, but also, being transparent. One without the other could result in feelings of hopelessness or unproductive anger. I joined the Disability Accessibility Coalition (DAC) on campus to increase my knowledge. But more importantly, this gives me a place to share and hear other stories. It's only when I accept the responsibility of being an active participant, not a mere bystander, that I can truly be an agent for change and support equity and diversity. Even though I have a disability, it doesn't mean I'm exempt from extending my own biases or preconceived notions onto others or situations. Supporting equity and diversity starts by letting others know that they matter, that their voice and experiences have meaning.