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Jinette Acevedo

Lehman College

Jinette, a single mother from New York, has always envisioned herself as someone who would be successful in life while serving her community. From humble beginnings, Jinette remained persistent in the goal to achieve an education, not just for herself, but to also be a role model to her 13-year-old son. Juggling motherhood, her personal education and a job working as a paraprofessional for the Department of Education, Jinette still develops inventive ways for her and her son to study together. Jinette’s goal is to continue to work for the New York City Board of Education but to use her new degree to become a bilingual speech-language pathologist with children from pre-k up to 6th grade. “I want to be able to make a positive change and impact on children within my community. I yearn to be a form of representation for the children who look like me. For them to be able to dream big and see themselves in me and hopefully be inspired by my work.”

Jinette, a single mother from New York, has always envisioned herself as someone who would be successful in life while serving her community. From humble beginnings, Jinette remained persistent in the goal to achieve an education, not just for herself, but to also be a role model to her 13-year-old son. Juggling motherhood, her personal education and a job working as a paraprofessional for the Department of Education, Jinette still develops inventive ways for her and her son to study together. Jinette’s goal is to continue to work for the New York City Board of Education but to use her new degree to become a bilingual speech-language pathologist with children from pre-k up to 6th grade. “I want to be able to make a positive change and impact on children within my community. I yearn to be a form of representation for the children who look like me. For them to be able to dream big and see themselves in me and hopefully be inspired by my work.”

Ama Afful

Bronx Community College

Temitope Ariyo

Bronx Community College

After giving birth to her third daughter in 2016, Temitope began to feel the cultural pressures that many women in Nigeria feel concerning their bodies. Temitope’s husband and his family began to pressure Temitope to have this controversial cultural practice performed on her daughters, leading her to emigrate to the US in 2017. Working past her fears of starting a new life, Temitope returned to school in the fall of 2019 to pursue a degree in nursing, beginning with earning an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Although her path in education has come with severe financial hardships, with the assistance from the Education Fund award, Temitope will be able to achieve her goal; becoming a practicing field nurse and returning to Nigeria to establish programs that educate people about the physical and psychological dangers of female genital mutilation. “I will create opportunities that support women who are parents of female children facing such pressure, providing resources to empower and allow them to do what is right for their daughters.”

After giving birth to her third daughter in 2016, Temitope began to feel the cultural pressures that many women in Nigeria feel concerning their bodies. Temitope’s husband and his family began to pressure Temitope to have this controversial cultural practice performed on her daughters, leading her to emigrate to the US in 2017. Working past her fears of starting a new life, Temitope returned to school in the fall of 2019 to pursue a degree in nursing, beginning with earning an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Although her path in education has come with severe financial hardships, with the assistance from the Education Fund award, Temitope will be able to achieve her goal; becoming a practicing field nurse and returning to Nigeria to establish programs that educate people about the physical and psychological dangers of female genital mutilation. “I will create opportunities that support women who are parents of female children facing such pressure, providing resources to empower and allow them to do what is right for their daughters.”

Mina Asserrare

Kingsborough Community College

In 1998, Mina emigrated to the United States from Morroco. Cultural traditions discouraged her from pursuing college after graduating from high school in 1992. Instead, Mina got married and her priority became taking care of her husband and children. Having a career or pursuing college was not an option. In 2013, she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Despite being ill, Mina was inspired to change her life. She landed a position as a teaching assistant. Employed, Mina started saving to fund her education. Mina enrolled at Kingsborough Community College to pursue a nursing degree. “Getting accepted to Kingsborough Community College was a dream come true for me. It gave me confidence, hope and strength to aim for a better life for me and my daughters.”

In 1998, Mina emigrated to the United States from Morroco. Cultural traditions discouraged her from pursuing college after graduating from high school in 1992. Instead, Mina got married and her priority became taking care of her husband and children. Having a career or pursuing college was not an option. In 2013, she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Despite being ill, Mina was inspired to change her life. She landed a position as a teaching assistant. Employed, Mina started saving to fund her education. Mina enrolled at Kingsborough Community College to pursue a nursing degree. “Getting accepted to Kingsborough Community College was a dream come true for me. It gave me confidence, hope and strength to aim for a better life for me and my daughters.”

Maria Teresa Aymerich

Columbia University

Oumou Bah

Bronx Community College

In 1994, Oumou emigrated to the United States from Guinea. As the eldest child, she was forced to forego attending school and work to support her family. Three years later, she opened her own African hair braiding salon and began pursuing her education. After completing the ELS courses, she enrolled in the International Academy of Design and Technology for Fashion Design in Chicago. Unfortunately, the school wasn't accredited. The experience left her broken, without a degree and in debt. In 2011, to start anew, Oumou returned to Guinea. There she co-founded a school. Currently, the school has 650 students enrolled and has one of the highest graduation rates in the capital of Guinea. Oomou enrolled at Bronx Community College to pursue a degree in Political Science. “My career goal is to create and participate in opportunities that support women empowerment in many areas, especially politics. I hope to provide resources and training to women who wish to run for political positions.”

In 1994, Oumou emigrated to the United States from Guinea. As the eldest child, she was forced to forego attending school and work to support her family. Three years later, she opened her own African hair braiding salon and began pursuing her education. After completing the ELS courses, she enrolled in the International Academy of Design and Technology for Fashion Design in Chicago. Unfortunately, the school wasn't accredited. The experience left her broken, without a degree and in debt. In 2011, to start anew, Oumou returned to Guinea. There she co-founded a school. Currently, the school has 650 students enrolled and has one of the highest graduation rates in the capital of Guinea. Oomou enrolled at Bronx Community College to pursue a degree in Political Science. “My career goal is to create and participate in opportunities that support women empowerment in many areas, especially politics. I hope to provide resources and training to women who wish to run for political positions.”

Kereen Brown

City College of New York

In high school, Kereen's abusive household landed her in foster care. Despite her circumstances, she excelled in school, but during her senior year in high school, Kereen became pregnant. Determined to continue her education, Kereen still planned to attend college. She went to Hunter College for two years but attending school and being a first-time mother became too difficult. To make matters worse, she aged out the foster care system and was facing homelessness. Kereen was forced to drop out of school and enter the workforce. After a ten-year hiatus, she returned to school. Kareen enrolled at The City College of New York to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education. "I hope to create a better life for my children as well as set an example for them and other young women that it is never too late to get an education, even in the face of challenges."

In high school, Kereen's abusive household landed her in foster care. Despite her circumstances, she excelled in school, but during her senior year in high school, Kereen became pregnant. Determined to continue her education, Kereen still planned to attend college. She went to Hunter College for two years but attending school and being a first-time mother became too difficult. To make matters worse, she aged out the foster care system and was facing homelessness. Kereen was forced to drop out of school and enter the workforce. After a ten-year hiatus, she returned to school. Kareen enrolled at The City College of New York to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education. "I hope to create a better life for my children as well as set an example for them and other young women that it is never too late to get an education, even in the face of challenges."

Bree Brown-Rosa

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Erika Caballero

Kingsborough Community College

Michelle Caines

City College of New York - Center for Worker Education

Michelle is a mother of 3, youth community organizer, member of Harlem’s local Community Board 9, business partner of UptownBirdies.com and children’s mental health advocate. Clearly, she is a beacon of hope in her community. In becoming aware of her PTSD stemming from childhood traumas, Michelle became motivated to change the narrative of her past and, in 2007, enrolled in Berkeley College for a fresh start. Since then, Michelle has continued her drive to help children, teaching in small daycares in Harlem and Brooklyn with a focus on those with special needs. In an attempt to become her own daycare director, Michelle discovered she did not have the qualifications and would need a B.S. in early childhood education. The Education Fund Award will aid Michelle in achieving her dreams of being a staple in Harlem, healing and bringing knowledge to children and her community. “My passion is to combine nature, mindfulness, and art in a storefront daycare, teaching these qualities to the young minds of Harlem. My background and passion will help fight against the rise of anxiety and depression while promoting solidity.”

Michelle is a mother of 3, youth community organizer, member of Harlem’s local Community Board 9, business partner of UptownBirdies.com and children’s mental health advocate. Clearly, she is a beacon of hope in her community. In becoming aware of her PTSD stemming from childhood traumas, Michelle became motivated to change the narrative of her past and, in 2007, enrolled in Berkeley College for a fresh start. Since then, Michelle has continued her drive to help children, teaching in small daycares in Harlem and Brooklyn with a focus on those with special needs. In an attempt to become her own daycare director, Michelle discovered she did not have the qualifications and would need a B.S. in early childhood education. The Education Fund Award will aid Michelle in achieving her dreams of being a staple in Harlem, healing and bringing knowledge to children and her community. “My passion is to combine nature, mindfulness, and art in a storefront daycare, teaching these qualities to the young minds of Harlem. My background and passion will help fight against the rise of anxiety and depression while promoting solidity.”

Sheila Castillo

City College of New York

Sheila’s educational drive and path in life developed from her very intimate and challenging experience in raising her son Kaleb, a special needs child. After receiving her son’s abrupt diagnosis, Sheila became driven to educate herself so that she can be an integral part of the network of professionals and doctors involved in her son’s intervention. With career goals to obtain a bachelor’s degree in disabilities studies, become a special education teacher in the early childhood field and to ultimately acquire a Master’s of Science in Education to become a child psychologist, the Women’s Forum Education Fund Award will bring Sheila closer to meeting her big goals. Working first-hand with her son has taught Sheila greater empathy for children with disabilities. In order to advocate for special needs children, Sheila believes the most effective tool to accomplish this, is education. “I intend to be as proactive as possible in my son's betterment by pursuing my own through education. The 2020 Women’s Forum Education Award will provide me with the opportunity to complete the studies to acquire the knowledge and skills to help children with disabilities.”

Sheila’s educational drive and path in life developed from her very intimate and challenging experience in raising her son Kaleb, a special needs child. After receiving her son’s abrupt diagnosis, Sheila became driven to educate herself so that she can be an integral part of the network of professionals and doctors involved in her son’s intervention. With career goals to obtain a bachelor’s degree in disabilities studies, become a special education teacher in the early childhood field and to ultimately acquire a Master’s of Science in Education to become a child psychologist, the Women’s Forum Education Fund Award will bring Sheila closer to meeting her big goals. Working first-hand with her son has taught Sheila greater empathy for children with disabilities. In order to advocate for special needs children, Sheila believes the most effective tool to accomplish this, is education. “I intend to be as proactive as possible in my son's betterment by pursuing my own through education. The 2020 Women’s Forum Education Award will provide me with the opportunity to complete the studies to acquire the knowledge and skills to help children with disabilities.”

Popy Chowdhury

LaGuardia Community College

Founder and president of the South Asian Creative Women Organization, Popy has centered her path in bringing awareness to the oppression that many South Asian women experience. After witnessing and experiencing first-hand sorrows, struggles, disrespect, and inequalities placed upon South Asian women by their families, religion or communities, Popy was moved to action.  She has attended seminars, published books and a quarterly magazine and provided free computer training through her organization. As a new media technology student, Popy believes in the importance of helping other women like herself gain the creative and technical skills to empower themselves. “The Women’s Forum Education Fund Award could help me make my dream come true. It will help me achieve my goals in continuing my studies and successfully achieving a PhD in Women and Gender Culture.”

Founder and president of the South Asian Creative Women Organization, Popy has centered her path in bringing awareness to the oppression that many South Asian women experience. After witnessing and experiencing first-hand sorrows, struggles, disrespect, and inequalities placed upon South Asian women by their families, religion or communities, Popy was moved to action.  She has attended seminars, published books and a quarterly magazine and provided free computer training through her organization. As a new media technology student, Popy believes in the importance of helping other women like herself gain the creative and technical skills to empower themselves. “The Women’s Forum Education Fund Award could help me make my dream come true. It will help me achieve my goals in continuing my studies and successfully achieving a PhD in Women and Gender Culture.”

Charlotte Coats

Columbia University

Janette Correa

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Through her passion for painting and drawing while in school, Janette learned how art could inspire and generate joy in individuals from all walks of life. Janette soon realized she had another passion- understanding people and learning about what makes each person tick, leading her to focus her studies in forensic psychology. Being a frequent visitor in the Family Court system gave Janette special insight to the many injustices children and families face on a daily basis and gave her the push to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology and to eventually earn her PhD. “Passion manifests from the heart and is guided by practice and will. As a child and adult I have always had a propensity to help others and have gravitated towards individuals in need, whether professionally or as a human being.”

Through her passion for painting and drawing while in school, Janette learned how art could inspire and generate joy in individuals from all walks of life. Janette soon realized she had another passion- understanding people and learning about what makes each person tick, leading her to focus her studies in forensic psychology. Being a frequent visitor in the Family Court system gave Janette special insight to the many injustices children and families face on a daily basis and gave her the push to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology and to eventually earn her PhD. “Passion manifests from the heart and is guided by practice and will. As a child and adult I have always had a propensity to help others and have gravitated towards individuals in need, whether professionally or as a human being.”

Doris Cruz

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Born to Dominican immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, Doris began to realize her strength as a Latin American woman from an underrepresented part of Brooklyn. From a young age, Doris’s parents instilled the importance of education in her and her siblings. With a passion for correcting the injustices existing in our society happening to children, Doris knows that it will take the completion of her degree if she hopes to bring about substantive changes in the criminal justice and child welfare systems. “I am going to pursue my dream of working in public administration and start implementing changes in the way we deal with abused children and the people who break laws concerning children.”

Born to Dominican immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, Doris began to realize her strength as a Latin American woman from an underrepresented part of Brooklyn. From a young age, Doris’s parents instilled the importance of education in her and her siblings. With a passion for correcting the injustices existing in our society happening to children, Doris knows that it will take the completion of her degree if she hopes to bring about substantive changes in the criminal justice and child welfare systems. “I am going to pursue my dream of working in public administration and start implementing changes in the way we deal with abused children and the people who break laws concerning children.”

Rose-Marie Crystal

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Growing up, Rose-Marie lived in an abusive household. Without a stable foundation, pursuing college seemed like an unrealistic goal; however, she did attend college at the age of 18. Unfortunately, Rose-Marie suffered from PTSD, and ended up dropping out of school. Over the next few years, Rose-Marie floundered through life and she ended up being in an abusive marriage. The frequent bouts of domestic violence left Rose-Marie emotionally broken with damages to her spine and nerves. Unable to work, she sought therapy to help reassess her life. Rose-Marie enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Toxicology. “Attending college has taught me that I have the dedication and determination to complete any goal I set for myself. I look forward to having a career in the sciences to helping others.”

Growing up, Rose-Marie lived in an abusive household. Without a stable foundation, pursuing college seemed like an unrealistic goal; however, she did attend college at the age of 18. Unfortunately, Rose-Marie suffered from PTSD, and ended up dropping out of school. Over the next few years, Rose-Marie floundered through life and she ended up being in an abusive marriage. The frequent bouts of domestic violence left Rose-Marie emotionally broken with damages to her spine and nerves. Unable to work, she sought therapy to help reassess her life. Rose-Marie enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Toxicology. “Attending college has taught me that I have the dedication and determination to complete any goal I set for myself. I look forward to having a career in the sciences to helping others.”

Aimee Debenigno

Bronx Community College

Aimee endured years of struggling with substance abuse, but in doing so, met several amazing people in the numerous health care facilities she visited. Inspired by their selfless nature and desire to heal others’ suffering, Aimee began volunteering in an outpatient substance abuse facility where she was receiving treatment. She also spent a year volunteering in the emergency room at New York Presbyterian, a role that really ignited the fire inside her to heal. From these experiences, Aimee has chosen to pursue a career as a nuclear medicine technologist and aims to complete her studies at Bronx Community College. “I want to continue the long overdue trend of encouraging younger women to pursue careers in STEM fields. If I still believed the story I told myself for 30 years that I was not good at math or science, I would have closed myself off to a whole world of opportunities. That is my ambition for the future.”

Aimee endured years of struggling with substance abuse, but in doing so, met several amazing people in the numerous health care facilities she visited. Inspired by their selfless nature and desire to heal others’ suffering, Aimee began volunteering in an outpatient substance abuse facility where she was receiving treatment. She also spent a year volunteering in the emergency room at New York Presbyterian, a role that really ignited the fire inside her to heal. From these experiences, Aimee has chosen to pursue a career as a nuclear medicine technologist and aims to complete her studies at Bronx Community College. “I want to continue the long overdue trend of encouraging younger women to pursue careers in STEM fields. If I still believed the story I told myself for 30 years that I was not good at math or science, I would have closed myself off to a whole world of opportunities. That is my ambition for the future.”

Kristi Lyn Eaton

Columbia University

Chanel Elliot

Baruch College

El Shaymaa Farrag

Hunter College

El Shaymaa, currently a community service leader in her region, desires to play a key role in assisting people who are encompassed in a variety of social problems. With her desire to become a social worker, El Shaymaa wishes to focus her aid to immigrants and refugee families as well as couples with the aim of shaping them for the desired behavioral change. Having spent most of her time in transforming society by helping members of the community, El Shaymaa has been able to identify important issues that will play a critical role in assisting in poverty eradication, disease elimination as well as ensuring that communities have been empowered in terms of educational programs and finances. “Women Education Fund will play a very critical role in enabling me to complete my studies, which are almost over. Later, I will be able to get a more secure job, which will allow me to meet the fundamental obligations of the family.”

El Shaymaa, currently a community service leader in her region, desires to play a key role in assisting people who are encompassed in a variety of social problems. With her desire to become a social worker, El Shaymaa wishes to focus her aid to immigrants and refugee families as well as couples with the aim of shaping them for the desired behavioral change. Having spent most of her time in transforming society by helping members of the community, El Shaymaa has been able to identify important issues that will play a critical role in assisting in poverty eradication, disease elimination as well as ensuring that communities have been empowered in terms of educational programs and finances. “Women Education Fund will play a very critical role in enabling me to complete my studies, which are almost over. Later, I will be able to get a more secure job, which will allow me to meet the fundamental obligations of the family.”

Jennifer Flores

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

In 2001, Jennifer enrolled in John Jay College of Criminal Justice as a forensic science major. Excited about being the first in her family to attend college, her experience was cut short due to other financial obligations. Coming from a low-income family, Jennifer lacked financial support and had to withdraw from school. She returned to school in 2009, but the cost of sustaining herself was still impossible to manage. In the interim, she pursued her passion by joining the Justice League of NYC to learn more about mass incarceration. Inspired by their work, she returned to school. Jennifer enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Forensic Psychology. "My mission is to reform our justice system so that it encourages rehabilitation, ensures fairness, and strengthens communities. I plan to work with an organization that is committed to ending mass incarceration with a specific focus on incarcerated women."

In 2001, Jennifer enrolled in John Jay College of Criminal Justice as a forensic science major. Excited about being the first in her family to attend college, her experience was cut short due to other financial obligations. Coming from a low-income family, Jennifer lacked financial support and had to withdraw from school. She returned to school in 2009, but the cost of sustaining herself was still impossible to manage. In the interim, she pursued her passion by joining the Justice League of NYC to learn more about mass incarceration. Inspired by their work, she returned to school. Jennifer enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Forensic Psychology. "My mission is to reform our justice system so that it encourages rehabilitation, ensures fairness, and strengthens communities. I plan to work with an organization that is committed to ending mass incarceration with a specific focus on incarcerated women."

Hannah Gehrels

Columbia University

From childhood into adulthood, Hannah has been the victim of sexual and domestic abuse but she refuses to be labeled as a “victim”. As a survivor, she is keen on arming those who leave desperate domestic situations with the right mentality and mechanisms to identify as “survivors”. Born in the United States and raised in Jamaica, Hannah's life has taken her around the globe. She settled in NYC after leaving her abusive husband in the Netherlands. As a single mother of three, she had to live in a shelter temporarily while battling an international divorce. Driven to create a better life for her and her children, she returned to school. Hannah enrolled at Columbia University to pursue a degree in Anthropology. "Transformation has been a recurring theme in my journey. I am proud of who I am, and my strength is renewed when I see the impact I make in the lives of others."

From childhood into adulthood, Hannah has been the victim of sexual and domestic abuse but she refuses to be labeled as a “victim”. As a survivor, she is keen on arming those who leave desperate domestic situations with the right mentality and mechanisms to identify as “survivors”. Born in the United States and raised in Jamaica, Hannah's life has taken her around the globe. She settled in NYC after leaving her abusive husband in the Netherlands. As a single mother of three, she had to live in a shelter temporarily while battling an international divorce. Driven to create a better life for her and her children, she returned to school. Hannah enrolled at Columbia University to pursue a degree in Anthropology. "Transformation has been a recurring theme in my journey. I am proud of who I am, and my strength is renewed when I see the impact I make in the lives of others."

Jessica Gonzalez

Queens College

Daughter of a single mother, Guatemalan Immigrant, Jessica witnessed how hard her mother worked to provide a better future for her. Jessica’s mother has been a major inspiration in her desire to obtain a college degree and pursue a profession where she can be of service to others in need. At thirty-six, Jessica returned to school to pursue a career in speech language pathology with a desire to help persons with disabilities reclaim their voices and to communicate. Jessica also aims to work as a bilingual speech language pathologist within the underserved community of Spanish-speakers, who make up a significant sector of our society. Jessica’s hope is to help women suffering from language disorders to regain their ability to communicate, with a special interest in working with stroke victims and patients who have suffered from brain trauma. “Receiving an award from the 2021 Education Fund would help me financially to complete my undergraduate degree and apply for graduate school, which is a necessary step to become a licensed speech pathologist.” - Jessica Gonzalez

Daughter of a single mother, Guatemalan Immigrant, Jessica witnessed how hard her mother worked to provide a better future for her. Jessica’s mother has been a major inspiration in her desire to obtain a college degree and pursue a profession where she can be of service to others in need. At thirty-six, Jessica returned to school to pursue a career in speech language pathology with a desire to help persons with disabilities reclaim their voices and to communicate. Jessica also aims to work as a bilingual speech language pathologist within the underserved community of Spanish-speakers, who make up a significant sector of our society. Jessica’s hope is to help women suffering from language disorders to regain their ability to communicate, with a special interest in working with stroke victims and patients who have suffered from brain trauma. “Receiving an award from the 2021 Education Fund would help me financially to complete my undergraduate degree and apply for graduate school, which is a necessary step to become a licensed speech pathologist.” - Jessica Gonzalez

Annastassiya Gousseva

Kingborough Community College

Anastassiya’s personal journey was born out of a difficult and tumultuous time in her life. After escaping an abusive relationship, she took her three-year-old son and decided to start her life over from scratch. In an attempt to make a better life for her and her son, Anastassiya decided to sttend college. While in school, Anastassiya juggled parenting and work life all while maintaining phenomenal grades. With over 8 years of experience working as a nanny, Anastassiya decided that she wants to devote her life to working with children and those children on the Autism spectrum. “I do believe I can benefit and even improve the lives of many children.”

Anastassiya’s personal journey was born out of a difficult and tumultuous time in her life. After escaping an abusive relationship, she took her three-year-old son and decided to start her life over from scratch. In an attempt to make a better life for her and her son, Anastassiya decided to sttend college. While in school, Anastassiya juggled parenting and work life all while maintaining phenomenal grades. With over 8 years of experience working as a nanny, Anastassiya decided that she wants to devote her life to working with children and those children on the Autism spectrum. “I do believe I can benefit and even improve the lives of many children.”

Nancy Graham

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

In 2012, Nancy and her family fell on hard times. Displaced, they became homeless and had to move into a shelter temporarily. It was an eye-opening experience and it gave Nancy insight into the flaws of New York City’s Homeless Services. During meetings with her caseworker, Nancy noticed the resources extended to her were outdated and out of touch with the needs of a recently displaced family. In most cases, she didn’t meet the income requirements, education level or family composition to qualify for anything that could improve her situation. Inspired to help others like herself and provide for her family, Nancy decided to return to school. Nancy enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Public Administration. "I would love to work in the nonprofit sector to help individuals who need assistance accessing and gaining the essential tools and resources that they need to become employed and self-sufficient."

In 2012, Nancy and her family fell on hard times. Displaced, they became homeless and had to move into a shelter temporarily. It was an eye-opening experience and it gave Nancy insight into the flaws of New York City’s Homeless Services. During meetings with her caseworker, Nancy noticed the resources extended to her were outdated and out of touch with the needs of a recently displaced family. In most cases, she didn’t meet the income requirements, education level or family composition to qualify for anything that could improve her situation. Inspired to help others like herself and provide for her family, Nancy decided to return to school. Nancy enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Public Administration. "I would love to work in the nonprofit sector to help individuals who need assistance accessing and gaining the essential tools and resources that they need to become employed and self-sufficient."

Olesia Hlyzova

LaGuardia Community College

In 1993, Olesia was sent to the U.S. by her mother to escape political turmoil in the Soviet Union. Filled with the hope of creating a new life for herself, she held several odd jobs and focused on learning English. She was adjusting reasonably well to her new life up until she started experiencing complications while pregnant with twins. Her daughters were born with an autoimmune disorder and she was forced to become a stay-at-home mother. Olesia’s children’s ailment along with her husband’s pending deportation took a toll on the family’s spirit and finances. Determined to make a better life for her family, she decided to return to school. Olesia enrolled at LaGuardia Community College to pursue a degree in Global Public Health. "I hope to use my future studies to encourage allergy-awareness, and to highlight the importance of dietary needs as well a how to prevent cross-contamination to create a safe environment."

In 1993, Olesia was sent to the U.S. by her mother to escape political turmoil in the Soviet Union. Filled with the hope of creating a new life for herself, she held several odd jobs and focused on learning English. She was adjusting reasonably well to her new life up until she started experiencing complications while pregnant with twins. Her daughters were born with an autoimmune disorder and she was forced to become a stay-at-home mother. Olesia’s children’s ailment along with her husband’s pending deportation took a toll on the family’s spirit and finances. Determined to make a better life for her family, she decided to return to school. Olesia enrolled at LaGuardia Community College to pursue a degree in Global Public Health. "I hope to use my future studies to encourage allergy-awareness, and to highlight the importance of dietary needs as well a how to prevent cross-contamination to create a safe environment."

Jennifer Ibbotson

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

A current attendee of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Jennifer has career goals of achieving her bachelor’s in social work and eventually a Master’s, a field that Jennifer is passionate about. Jennifer wants to help those that are vulnerable and assist them in overcoming their challenges. Jennifer wishes to enhance individual’s well-being and help them meet both their basic and complex needs, focusing on those who need the help the most, such as the homeless, drug-dependent, and children/young adults in the foster care system. While interning at Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York, she worked closely with social workers and caseworkers whose job was to advocate for foster children and find the resources necessary to achieve family unification. At 40 years old, after 17 years of working in banking, Jennifer decided it was time to return to school and pursue the degree needed to working the field she is most passionate about. “I am eager to start working with other people that are going through some of the things my family and I have been and are still going through. I can relate and I am very empathetic. Nothing would give me more joy than to know I have made a difference and an impact in someone else's life.”

A current attendee of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Jennifer has career goals of achieving her bachelor’s in social work and eventually a Master’s, a field that Jennifer is passionate about. Jennifer wants to help those that are vulnerable and assist them in overcoming their challenges. Jennifer wishes to enhance individual’s well-being and help them meet both their basic and complex needs, focusing on those who need the help the most, such as the homeless, drug-dependent, and children/young adults in the foster care system. While interning at Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York, she worked closely with social workers and caseworkers whose job was to advocate for foster children and find the resources necessary to achieve family unification. At 40 years old, after 17 years of working in banking, Jennifer decided it was time to return to school and pursue the degree needed to working the field she is most passionate about. “I am eager to start working with other people that are going through some of the things my family and I have been and are still going through. I can relate and I am very empathetic. Nothing would give me more joy than to know I have made a difference and an impact in someone else's life.”

Chevonne Johnson

Hunter College

With goals to finish her bachelor degree in social work and to pursue her Master’s Degree in Business, Chevonne would like to use her education to help young adults in her community. She hopes to do this by creating a facility that offers resume writing, job interview training, GED program referrals with College ready resources. Chevonne also wants to offer substance abuse and mental health assistance as well as referrals for financial needs and medical expenses. It is her belief that this can bring about positive changes in her community. “The horrors of substance abuse, domestic violence, and mentally illnesses ranging from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia I witnessed and experienced at the hands of the clients I encountered left a imprint on my heart to live my life in a posture of service to others.”

With goals to finish her bachelor degree in social work and to pursue her Master’s Degree in Business, Chevonne would like to use her education to help young adults in her community. She hopes to do this by creating a facility that offers resume writing, job interview training, GED program referrals with College ready resources. Chevonne also wants to offer substance abuse and mental health assistance as well as referrals for financial needs and medical expenses. It is her belief that this can bring about positive changes in her community. “The horrors of substance abuse, domestic violence, and mentally illnesses ranging from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia I witnessed and experienced at the hands of the clients I encountered left a imprint on my heart to live my life in a posture of service to others.”

Neosha Joynes

CUNY School of Professional Studies

From a young age, Neosha experienced the pains of growing up in the foster care system and numerous group homes. Living through physical and sexual abuse, Neosha felt compelled to take her experiences and help others in need. Neosha enrolled in school and switched gears from wanting to be an Early Child Educator to working with families and victims in need as a sociology major. Neosha has also teamed up with her brother who was in the child welfare system, to also make a change in the outcomes of those who are often forgotten children in the system. Neosha and her brother plan to organize a program in providing meals, toilettes, clothing, and programs for youth in the foster and group home system. Neosha’s past experiences in helping other young women leave toxic environments brings her tremendous joy, and upon graduation, she plans on getting her program up and running. “My drive has always been in helping people in need and giving my all in situations that could change someone’s life.” - Neosha Joynes

From a young age, Neosha experienced the pains of growing up in the foster care system and numerous group homes. Living through physical and sexual abuse, Neosha felt compelled to take her experiences and help others in need. Neosha enrolled in school and switched gears from wanting to be an Early Child Educator to working with families and victims in need as a sociology major. Neosha has also teamed up with her brother who was in the child welfare system, to also make a change in the outcomes of those who are often forgotten children in the system. Neosha and her brother plan to organize a program in providing meals, toilettes, clothing, and programs for youth in the foster and group home system. Neosha’s past experiences in helping other young women leave toxic environments brings her tremendous joy, and upon graduation, she plans on getting her program up and running. “My drive has always been in helping people in need and giving my all in situations that could change someone’s life.” - Neosha Joynes

Mariia Kaftanova

Kingsborough Community College

Mariia escaped a civil war in Ukraine and emigrated to the United States to create a better life for herself and her son. She enrolled in Kingsborough College, pursued a nursing degree at night, and worked as a dialysis technician during the day. Life in the U.S. was shaping up as expected until Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on her home, forcing her into debt to fix her flooded apartment. In 2014, the family was struck with another devastating blow when Maria’s pregnancy ended in miscarriage after five months. The heartbreak of the miscarriage was followed by another miscarriage shortly after. During her third pregnancy, her daughter was born prematurely and spent three months N.I.C.U. Visiting the hospital daily to visit her baby, Mariia became more inspired to help other new mothers. Mariia enrolled at Kingsborough Community College to pursue a degree in Nursing. “Nursing is a calling; it's a passion deep within your soul. To nurse is to heal your community, mind, body, and soul.”

Mariia escaped a civil war in Ukraine and emigrated to the United States to create a better life for herself and her son. She enrolled in Kingsborough College, pursued a nursing degree at night, and worked as a dialysis technician during the day. Life in the U.S. was shaping up as expected until Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on her home, forcing her into debt to fix her flooded apartment. In 2014, the family was struck with another devastating blow when Maria’s pregnancy ended in miscarriage after five months. The heartbreak of the miscarriage was followed by another miscarriage shortly after. During her third pregnancy, her daughter was born prematurely and spent three months N.I.C.U. Visiting the hospital daily to visit her baby, Mariia became more inspired to help other new mothers. Mariia enrolled at Kingsborough Community College to pursue a degree in Nursing. “Nursing is a calling; it's a passion deep within your soul. To nurse is to heal your community, mind, body, and soul.”

Yanfang Liang

Queensborough Community College

As a single mother overcoming domestic violence in 2021, Yanfang has experienced her share of pressures, trying to balance work, life, school and motherhood.  After becoming unemployed during the pandemic and getting COVID, Yanfang fell into a depression that almost swayed her to drop out of school completely. Luckily, with the help of the Education Fund, Yanfang can continue her educational studies as an Architectural major without the pressure of worrying about financial aid.  “I aspire to get my bachelor’s degree and become a certified architect. My passion for architectural design assists me in pursuing my career goal.” - Yanfang Liang

As a single mother overcoming domestic violence in 2021, Yanfang has experienced her share of pressures, trying to balance work, life, school and motherhood.  After becoming unemployed during the pandemic and getting COVID, Yanfang fell into a depression that almost swayed her to drop out of school completely. Luckily, with the help of the Education Fund, Yanfang can continue her educational studies as an Architectural major without the pressure of worrying about financial aid.  “I aspire to get my bachelor’s degree and become a certified architect. My passion for architectural design assists me in pursuing my career goal.” - Yanfang Liang

Genevieve Lieske

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Although growing up in what many would consider bleak circumstances, Genevieve held onto the strength that her mother instilled in her. After having her first child, Genevieve overcame many battles and decided to go back to school to achieve a better life for her children in the spring of 2018. Being back in a classroom pushed Genevieve to pursue excellence in a way she hadn’t before, maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA. Through education, Genevieve has found her greater calling as a member of the global community. Being a nurse is not only her career, but her passion. She feels strongly that the healthcare system is in need of empathetic and knowledgeable nurses. Upon completion of her education, Genevieve desires to be of service to others. “Since returning to college I have come to see the monumental impact of investing in women and I believe they will return in dividends beyond measure. I believe an investment in my future as a nurse will change mine and my family’s lives, but also improve the lives of the patients I will see and the community I live in.”

Although growing up in what many would consider bleak circumstances, Genevieve held onto the strength that her mother instilled in her. After having her first child, Genevieve overcame many battles and decided to go back to school to achieve a better life for her children in the spring of 2018. Being back in a classroom pushed Genevieve to pursue excellence in a way she hadn’t before, maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA. Through education, Genevieve has found her greater calling as a member of the global community. Being a nurse is not only her career, but her passion. She feels strongly that the healthcare system is in need of empathetic and knowledgeable nurses. Upon completion of her education, Genevieve desires to be of service to others. “Since returning to college I have come to see the monumental impact of investing in women and I believe they will return in dividends beyond measure. I believe an investment in my future as a nurse will change mine and my family’s lives, but also improve the lives of the patients I will see and the community I live in.”

Anna Longo

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Anna, a student studying Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics with the goal of becoming a forensic accountant, wishes to take her knowledge and expertise to organizations like Her Justice. Her Justice provides free legal help to women living in poverty in NYC and aided Anna and her children when she had sought safety from her past partner who was both verbally and financially abusive. As head of her household, the Education Fund Award will support Anna as she completes an internship with UN Women. “Although it has been my goal to work in Fraud examination for many years it is especially exciting to me that this is a valuable service that I can provide to the women seeking help from ‘Her Justice’. I will be able to use my learning to provide something of value to an organization that gave me a fresh start when I was in such desperate need.”

Anna, a student studying Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics with the goal of becoming a forensic accountant, wishes to take her knowledge and expertise to organizations like Her Justice. Her Justice provides free legal help to women living in poverty in NYC and aided Anna and her children when she had sought safety from her past partner who was both verbally and financially abusive. As head of her household, the Education Fund Award will support Anna as she completes an internship with UN Women. “Although it has been my goal to work in Fraud examination for many years it is especially exciting to me that this is a valuable service that I can provide to the women seeking help from ‘Her Justice’. I will be able to use my learning to provide something of value to an organization that gave me a fresh start when I was in such desperate need.”

Sonetha Lopez

Hunter College

Sonetha emigrated to the United States with the intention of enrolling in college. But due to being unemployed and undocumented, she was unable to apply for college. Instead, she worked for minimum wage at a beauty salon. However, when she became pregnant with her first child, she was inspired to pursue higher education again. She enrolled in BMCC and later transferred to Baruch College. Unfortunately, her daughter had chronic asthma, which forced Sonetha to drop out of school to care for her. The hiatus lasted sixteen years, but Sonetha returned to college with a new outlook. Not only did she want to obtain a degree, but she wanted a career where she could make a difference. Sonetha enrolled at Hunter College to pursue a degree in Nursing. "As I took a closer look at my present self, I see patience, I see compassion, and I see purpose."

Sonetha emigrated to the United States with the intention of enrolling in college. But due to being unemployed and undocumented, she was unable to apply for college. Instead, she worked for minimum wage at a beauty salon. However, when she became pregnant with her first child, she was inspired to pursue higher education again. She enrolled in BMCC and later transferred to Baruch College. Unfortunately, her daughter had chronic asthma, which forced Sonetha to drop out of school to care for her. The hiatus lasted sixteen years, but Sonetha returned to college with a new outlook. Not only did she want to obtain a degree, but she wanted a career where she could make a difference. Sonetha enrolled at Hunter College to pursue a degree in Nursing. "As I took a closer look at my present self, I see patience, I see compassion, and I see purpose."

Anna Loschiavo

Hunter College

Anna's life was filled with turmoil early on following a fire that displaced her family as a child. The relocation to a dangerous neighborhood took a toll on her family. Her unstable household led to Anna running away at thirteen and choosing to live on the streets instead. At the age of sixteen, she was pregnant and didn't have a GED. She was forced to get a minimum wage job to support herself and her child. Motivated by her experience of being homeless, Anna was determined to get an education. She enrolled in Hostos Community College and graduated with an Associates' degree in Liberal Arts. Anna hopes to become a social worker to help others battling addictions. Anna enrolled at Hunter College to pursue a degree in Sociology. "I am even more motivated now than before. I am passionate about my education and I will continue to excel with the support of my family, school, and my community."

Anna's life was filled with turmoil early on following a fire that displaced her family as a child. The relocation to a dangerous neighborhood took a toll on her family. Her unstable household led to Anna running away at thirteen and choosing to live on the streets instead. At the age of sixteen, she was pregnant and didn't have a GED. She was forced to get a minimum wage job to support herself and her child. Motivated by her experience of being homeless, Anna was determined to get an education. She enrolled in Hostos Community College and graduated with an Associates' degree in Liberal Arts. Anna hopes to become a social worker to help others battling addictions. Anna enrolled at Hunter College to pursue a degree in Sociology. "I am even more motivated now than before. I am passionate about my education and I will continue to excel with the support of my family, school, and my community."

Turquois Martin

Hunter College

Having experienced parents who faced substance abuse and incarceration, Turquoise’s upbringing placed her in the foster care system. At 16, Turquoise was diagnosed with depression and dropped out of high school. For next 12 years, Turquoise remained entrenched in sex work through trafficking and during this time became a mother. Turquoise has had to overcome depression, trafficking, grief, homelessness, and addiction. Motivated to change her circumstances, Turquoise embarked on a journey of self-discovery, education, advocacy, and healing. Determined to create a brighter future for herself, Turquoise put sex work behind her, entered a rehabilitation center, regained custody of her son and set her sights on achieving higher education. Turquoise decided on a CUNY community college and majored in Human Services. Becoming a full-time student afforded Turquoise the ability to be active on campus. Turquoise was elected Treasurer of the Sisterhood Society Club, then Club President the following semester. Turquoise also had the pleasure of being a student instructor for the African-American Studies course: Black Men in Contemporary Society, which opened her eyes to social issues and empowered Turquoise in her leadership abilities. After obtaining her degree in Human Services, Turquoise moved on to Hunter College to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. Turquoise looks forward to utilizing her experiences and wisdom to create healing spaces, in communities and human vessels. “With the Women’s Forum Education Award, I plan to begin my journey as a small business owner opening a local bookstore and community resource that would provide holistic healing, educational workshops, and resources to my community in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. This would provide not only a steady income for my family and myself but also a pot of soil to build community.” - Turquoise Martin

Having experienced parents who faced substance abuse and incarceration, Turquoise’s upbringing placed her in the foster care system. At 16, Turquoise was diagnosed with depression and dropped out of high school. For next 12 years, Turquoise remained entrenched in sex work through trafficking and during this time became a mother. Turquoise has had to overcome depression, trafficking, grief, homelessness, and addiction. Motivated to change her circumstances, Turquoise embarked on a journey of self-discovery, education, advocacy, and healing. Determined to create a brighter future for herself, Turquoise put sex work behind her, entered a rehabilitation center, regained custody of her son and set her sights on achieving higher education. Turquoise decided on a CUNY community college and majored in Human Services. Becoming a full-time student afforded Turquoise the ability to be active on campus. Turquoise was elected Treasurer of the Sisterhood Society Club, then Club President the following semester. Turquoise also had the pleasure of being a student instructor for the African-American Studies course: Black Men in Contemporary Society, which opened her eyes to social issues and empowered Turquoise in her leadership abilities. After obtaining her degree in Human Services, Turquoise moved on to Hunter College to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. Turquoise looks forward to utilizing her experiences and wisdom to create healing spaces, in communities and human vessels. “With the Women’s Forum Education Award, I plan to begin my journey as a small business owner opening a local bookstore and community resource that would provide holistic healing, educational workshops, and resources to my community in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. This would provide not only a steady income for my family and myself but also a pot of soil to build community.” - Turquoise Martin

Yarrow Maurer

Brooklyn College

Raised in a rural community outside of Reading, PA.  Yarrow grew up impoverished. Raised by parents battling drug addiction and mental illness, she was often verbally abused. She felt unworthy and tried to commit suicide at the age of eighteen. Her life pivoted when her father died nearly ten years later and she decided to venture to New York. The change in locale altered her perception. Despite not having a degree, Yarrow went from waiting tables to being an Admin and is currently a conservation lobbyist. Yarrow’s goal is to bridge the gap between science and policy to create solutions that will benefit the ecosystem. Yarrow enrolled at Brooklyn College to pursue a degree in Urban Sustainability. "Despite where I came from, I determine where I go from here. I'm confident in my capabilities and optimistic about my future."

Raised in a rural community outside of Reading, PA.  Yarrow grew up impoverished. Raised by parents battling drug addiction and mental illness, she was often verbally abused. She felt unworthy and tried to commit suicide at the age of eighteen. Her life pivoted when her father died nearly ten years later and she decided to venture to New York. The change in locale altered her perception. Despite not having a degree, Yarrow went from waiting tables to being an Admin and is currently a conservation lobbyist. Yarrow’s goal is to bridge the gap between science and policy to create solutions that will benefit the ecosystem. Yarrow enrolled at Brooklyn College to pursue a degree in Urban Sustainability. "Despite where I came from, I determine where I go from here. I'm confident in my capabilities and optimistic about my future."

Leslie Mendez

St. Francis College

Leslie is a student of Nursing at St. Francis College who first gained her love for midwifery while giving birth to her third child, who was delivered in a birthing center by midwives. Her goal to become a mother and have a career in this field was ignited. In 2010, after surviving an abusive marriage, medical problems and raising six children, Leslie began her journey of recovery and now longs to make a difference in her society. Leslie wishes to work with women, and their families during moments of difficult transitions or change, and assist in the process. Currently, Leslie is also in the process of creating a club for Nontraditional students as they are a large part of today's college students. “People tell me I am too old to become a registered nurse, that it will be too difficult for me to find work as a “new” nurse at my age, but I tell them that I have faced many challenges in my life and I have survived – not only survived, but came through with a smile on my face and an inner peace.”

Leslie is a student of Nursing at St. Francis College who first gained her love for midwifery while giving birth to her third child, who was delivered in a birthing center by midwives. Her goal to become a mother and have a career in this field was ignited. In 2010, after surviving an abusive marriage, medical problems and raising six children, Leslie began her journey of recovery and now longs to make a difference in her society. Leslie wishes to work with women, and their families during moments of difficult transitions or change, and assist in the process. Currently, Leslie is also in the process of creating a club for Nontraditional students as they are a large part of today's college students. “People tell me I am too old to become a registered nurse, that it will be too difficult for me to find work as a “new” nurse at my age, but I tell them that I have faced many challenges in my life and I have survived – not only survived, but came through with a smile on my face and an inner peace.”

Minyuan Meng

Brooklyn College

Minyuan came to this country as a new immigrant five years ago, confused about what her future would look like. At 40, Minyuan faced some difficult questions, but had full faith that she would pull herself out of this predicament and began to make plans for her future. Minyuan is now transferring from Kingsborough Community College to Brooklyn College to obtain her first Bachelor’s Degree. Making the decision to continue her education has helped Minyuan find her self-worth. However, this new venture in her life is not without its struggles. Balancing a job, education and family life as a mother of two children, has led to many late nights for Minyuan. Overcoming the challenging obstacle of learning English, today, Minyuan maintains a GPA of 3.955 proving to her children that as long as you have a dream and work hard enough, you can achieve your wish. With the Education Fund, Minyuan will now be able to achieve her educational dreams and balance the expenses of family life with ease.  “Because applying what you have learned is the most practical way to master knowledge and reflect self-worth. After graduation, I want to find a job with a professional accounting area. And at the same time earn the CPA certificate. I believe this certificate will make me more successful in my career. I hope to print the title CPA on my business card in the next 5 years. I know I can.” - Minyuan Meng

Minyuan came to this country as a new immigrant five years ago, confused about what her future would look like. At 40, Minyuan faced some difficult questions, but had full faith that she would pull herself out of this predicament and began to make plans for her future. Minyuan is now transferring from Kingsborough Community College to Brooklyn College to obtain her first Bachelor’s Degree. Making the decision to continue her education has helped Minyuan find her self-worth. However, this new venture in her life is not without its struggles. Balancing a job, education and family life as a mother of two children, has led to many late nights for Minyuan. Overcoming the challenging obstacle of learning English, today, Minyuan maintains a GPA of 3.955 proving to her children that as long as you have a dream and work hard enough, you can achieve your wish. With the Education Fund, Minyuan will now be able to achieve her educational dreams and balance the expenses of family life with ease.  “Because applying what you have learned is the most practical way to master knowledge and reflect self-worth. After graduation, I want to find a job with a professional accounting area. And at the same time earn the CPA certificate. I believe this certificate will make me more successful in my career. I hope to print the title CPA on my business card in the next 5 years. I know I can.” - Minyuan Meng

Frances Miro

Baruch College

Discouraged by the lack of support within her home, becoming an orphaned young adult and teen mom, Frances set the bar low for herself because she felt there were no examples of successful stories. Refusing to be a statistical victim of circumstance sparked a personal rebellion against self-oppression for Frances. After gaining the experience of working at a corporate resellers firm for 16 years, Frances desired to learn the business savvy communication skills necessary for earning respect within positions of power, which prompted Frances to seek higher education. In the Fall of 2017, Frances was a forty-year-old freshman and a full-time student, employee, and mom. On the Dean’s list four consecutive semesters, Frances was accepted into BMCC’s prestigious “Out in Two” program and in Spring of 2019, she graduated BMCC with honors. Transferring to Baruch College immediately after her BMCC graduation, Frances has maintained uninterrupted excellence in all courses even through changing learning platforms due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Frances’s struggle in finding her way professionally and academically inspires her to help others find theirs. With the help of the Education Fund, will allow Frances to gain the knowledge and skills she needs to direct potential students towards the path of educational enlightenment. “My career goal is to create safe spaces that offer help with academic and professional enhancement. I want to help creatives construct business plans and goals that lead them to success.”

Discouraged by the lack of support within her home, becoming an orphaned young adult and teen mom, Frances set the bar low for herself because she felt there were no examples of successful stories. Refusing to be a statistical victim of circumstance sparked a personal rebellion against self-oppression for Frances. After gaining the experience of working at a corporate resellers firm for 16 years, Frances desired to learn the business savvy communication skills necessary for earning respect within positions of power, which prompted Frances to seek higher education. In the Fall of 2017, Frances was a forty-year-old freshman and a full-time student, employee, and mom. On the Dean’s list four consecutive semesters, Frances was accepted into BMCC’s prestigious “Out in Two” program and in Spring of 2019, she graduated BMCC with honors. Transferring to Baruch College immediately after her BMCC graduation, Frances has maintained uninterrupted excellence in all courses even through changing learning platforms due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Frances’s struggle in finding her way professionally and academically inspires her to help others find theirs. With the help of the Education Fund, will allow Frances to gain the knowledge and skills she needs to direct potential students towards the path of educational enlightenment. “My career goal is to create safe spaces that offer help with academic and professional enhancement. I want to help creatives construct business plans and goals that lead them to success.”

Belinda Ortiz

Long Island University - Brooklyn

At the age of nineteen, Belinda was a pregnant college student. Her daughter was born with special needs and often hospitalized due to a rare heart condition. As young parents, Belinda and her daughter’s father’s relationship became strained and took a turn for the worse when she became the victim of domestic abuse. As the sole provider, he walked out on his family, leaving her to fend for herself and her newborn. Although she did her best to stay afloat, minimum wage jobs didn’t pay her enough to afford her rent. She was forced to move into a homeless shelter until she found affordable housing. After a fifteen-year hiatus, Belinda returned to college. Belinda enrolled at Long Island University to pursue a degree in Nursing. "I've started college again and my journey is bittersweet but I'm a firm believer that education transforms lives."

At the age of nineteen, Belinda was a pregnant college student. Her daughter was born with special needs and often hospitalized due to a rare heart condition. As young parents, Belinda and her daughter’s father’s relationship became strained and took a turn for the worse when she became the victim of domestic abuse. As the sole provider, he walked out on his family, leaving her to fend for herself and her newborn. Although she did her best to stay afloat, minimum wage jobs didn’t pay her enough to afford her rent. She was forced to move into a homeless shelter until she found affordable housing. After a fifteen-year hiatus, Belinda returned to college. Belinda enrolled at Long Island University to pursue a degree in Nursing. "I've started college again and my journey is bittersweet but I'm a firm believer that education transforms lives."

Gabriela Palaez

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Gabriela emigrated to the United States at the age of seven from Mexico. At ten years old, she would spend her summer vacations accompanying her mother to work to earn money cleaning homes. Education wasn’t a priority for her family, but Gabriela enjoyed going to school. As an undocumented student, she learned that seeking higher education after high school would be difficult if she wasn’t a citizen. Unable to receive financial assistance, Gabriela was still determined to attend college. She enrolled in Bronx Community College and paid tuition out-of-pocket. It took Gabriela ten years to complete an associates degree while earning minimum wage. In 2016, she received permanent residence status. Gabriela enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree International Criminal Justice. "My motto is, as long as there is life, there is will. No one and nothing can limit one but thyself."

Gabriela emigrated to the United States at the age of seven from Mexico. At ten years old, she would spend her summer vacations accompanying her mother to work to earn money cleaning homes. Education wasn’t a priority for her family, but Gabriela enjoyed going to school. As an undocumented student, she learned that seeking higher education after high school would be difficult if she wasn’t a citizen. Unable to receive financial assistance, Gabriela was still determined to attend college. She enrolled in Bronx Community College and paid tuition out-of-pocket. It took Gabriela ten years to complete an associates degree while earning minimum wage. In 2016, she received permanent residence status. Gabriela enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree International Criminal Justice. "My motto is, as long as there is life, there is will. No one and nothing can limit one but thyself."

Keila Palencia

Columbia University

Keila has wanted to make an impact in the lives of families, especially those with children, since her son was diagnosed with Autism fifteen years ago. Because of the struggles she faced as a young mother (being 26 at the time of her son’s diagnosis and already having a five year old daughter) Keila saw the gaps in the support for women and families who were trying to help their children with this pervasive disorder. Keila knew then that she would need to obtain her degree in order to be able to provide for her son’s financial security in the future. Dealing with the pressures of managing child care, a part-time job, and going through a turbulent divorce resulting in Keila obtaining an order of protection, Keila never lost hope. In 2018, Keila was a divorced mother of two and working for a non profit organization specializing in domestic violence. Keila took a chance and enrolled in Borough of Manhattan Community College, earning a 3.8 GPA there and was subsequently accepted to Columbia University. Keila now has a 4.0 GPA at Columbia and with the aid of the Education Fund is working diligently on completing her degree in the hopes of being able to properly provide for her children.   “I would like to be a part of an organization that caters to the needs of those with disabilities and whose focus is not just the children themselves but by supporting parents in obtaining higher education or vocational skills to better provide for their families, as this is the key to ensuring these children find themselves financially cared for as adults.” - Keila Palencia

Keila has wanted to make an impact in the lives of families, especially those with children, since her son was diagnosed with Autism fifteen years ago. Because of the struggles she faced as a young mother (being 26 at the time of her son’s diagnosis and already having a five year old daughter) Keila saw the gaps in the support for women and families who were trying to help their children with this pervasive disorder. Keila knew then that she would need to obtain her degree in order to be able to provide for her son’s financial security in the future. Dealing with the pressures of managing child care, a part-time job, and going through a turbulent divorce resulting in Keila obtaining an order of protection, Keila never lost hope. In 2018, Keila was a divorced mother of two and working for a non profit organization specializing in domestic violence. Keila took a chance and enrolled in Borough of Manhattan Community College, earning a 3.8 GPA there and was subsequently accepted to Columbia University. Keila now has a 4.0 GPA at Columbia and with the aid of the Education Fund is working diligently on completing her degree in the hopes of being able to properly provide for her children.   “I would like to be a part of an organization that caters to the needs of those with disabilities and whose focus is not just the children themselves but by supporting parents in obtaining higher education or vocational skills to better provide for their families, as this is the key to ensuring these children find themselves financially cared for as adults.” - Keila Palencia

Denise Penizzotto

Hunter College

With her artistic background, Denise aims to incorporate art as a tool to communicate and educate in her cultural studies both in the U.S. and abroad. Denise has successfully led after-school art programs at the Jackie Robinson Foundation, created an 8-week art program through the Rikers Island Department of Corrections for incarcerated youth ages 16-21, and spent time with the NYC Park and Recreation program at the Hegemon Center in East New York creating artwork with the young women, ages 16-21, as a way to communicate and encourage confidence building. These efforts have continued Denise’s drive to use art as a way to engage and heal in her community and beyond. “I found my area of concentration in the religion and art history department, leading me to meaningful direction and goals within these programs. I believe I am a woman who, with the aid and guidance of a college degree, will make a difference in the humanities and education sectors in the world.”

With her artistic background, Denise aims to incorporate art as a tool to communicate and educate in her cultural studies both in the U.S. and abroad. Denise has successfully led after-school art programs at the Jackie Robinson Foundation, created an 8-week art program through the Rikers Island Department of Corrections for incarcerated youth ages 16-21, and spent time with the NYC Park and Recreation program at the Hegemon Center in East New York creating artwork with the young women, ages 16-21, as a way to communicate and encourage confidence building. These efforts have continued Denise’s drive to use art as a way to engage and heal in her community and beyond. “I found my area of concentration in the religion and art history department, leading me to meaningful direction and goals within these programs. I believe I am a woman who, with the aid and guidance of a college degree, will make a difference in the humanities and education sectors in the world.”

Valerie Pires

LaGuardia Community College

Growing up in a dysfunctional family dynamic, Valerie’s passion to embark upon higher education was stifled and stripped from her. After being diagnosed with a life-threatening spinal cord tumor, Valerie had no option but to face major high-risk surgery. Thankfully, Valerie’s surgery was a success, but the recovery was long and brutal. After spending one month in inpatient rehab and two years working through neurological deficits, relearning how to walk, use her hands, and retraining her brain to adapt to her new normal, education remained her passion.  While recovering, Valerie knew she could not immediately return to work, and looked into going back to school. In 2020, Valerie enrolled back into school, but after living one week of the freshman college experience, the campus shut down due to the COVID pandemic. Dealing with the financial strains of the COVID pandemic and trying to recover from the expensive and lengthy spinal cord surgery in 2017, the past ten months have been enormously challenging. With the help of the Education Fund, Valerie intends to focus solely on her studies and her first year at a senior college. The Fund would also allow Valerie to set up a proper study space in her apartment and start to build a new home again after a fire that took away all of her belongings. “My career plans focus on developing investigative multimedia social documentary storytelling, using various media to generate social impact. I use the written word, still, and moving images to tell meaningful stories. Besides exploring the human condition, I am interested in women and human rights, stories of trauma, fighting corruption and abuse of power, social justice, culture, and the arts.” - Valerie Pires

Growing up in a dysfunctional family dynamic, Valerie’s passion to embark upon higher education was stifled and stripped from her. After being diagnosed with a life-threatening spinal cord tumor, Valerie had no option but to face major high-risk surgery. Thankfully, Valerie’s surgery was a success, but the recovery was long and brutal. After spending one month in inpatient rehab and two years working through neurological deficits, relearning how to walk, use her hands, and retraining her brain to adapt to her new normal, education remained her passion.  While recovering, Valerie knew she could not immediately return to work, and looked into going back to school. In 2020, Valerie enrolled back into school, but after living one week of the freshman college experience, the campus shut down due to the COVID pandemic. Dealing with the financial strains of the COVID pandemic and trying to recover from the expensive and lengthy spinal cord surgery in 2017, the past ten months have been enormously challenging. With the help of the Education Fund, Valerie intends to focus solely on her studies and her first year at a senior college. The Fund would also allow Valerie to set up a proper study space in her apartment and start to build a new home again after a fire that took away all of her belongings. “My career plans focus on developing investigative multimedia social documentary storytelling, using various media to generate social impact. I use the written word, still, and moving images to tell meaningful stories. Besides exploring the human condition, I am interested in women and human rights, stories of trauma, fighting corruption and abuse of power, social justice, culture, and the arts.” - Valerie Pires

Sophia Protopapas

Queens College

At the age of 18, Sophia’s life took a turn for the worse when her father died. Enrolled in college, she was forced to leave school to care for her family. Pursuing a degree was no longer a priority for Sophia, and as the years went by she started a family of her own. Family life was perfect. Sophia purchased a house and was the owner of a thriving business. Sadly, her happy home was torn apart when she discovered her daughter’s father had a substance addiction. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and forced to move back home with her elderly mother. She then underwent a double mastectomy. Defeating cancer encouraged her to change her life and complete her degree. Sophia enrolled at Queens College to pursue a degree in Accounting. "I want to set an example for my daughter and show her that an education determines your outcome in life."

At the age of 18, Sophia’s life took a turn for the worse when her father died. Enrolled in college, she was forced to leave school to care for her family. Pursuing a degree was no longer a priority for Sophia, and as the years went by she started a family of her own. Family life was perfect. Sophia purchased a house and was the owner of a thriving business. Sadly, her happy home was torn apart when she discovered her daughter’s father had a substance addiction. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and forced to move back home with her elderly mother. She then underwent a double mastectomy. Defeating cancer encouraged her to change her life and complete her degree. Sophia enrolled at Queens College to pursue a degree in Accounting. "I want to set an example for my daughter and show her that an education determines your outcome in life."

Diane Quince

College of Staten Island

After 25 years of facing extreme and challenging conditions such as homelessness and drug addiction, Diane has demonstrated that strength by turning her life around and returning to school at the College of Staten Island. At sixty-one, Diane has found her purpose in life through education and wishes to complete her bachelor’s degree to become of service to those who are among the invisible of our society- the homeless. “My goal is to help women overcome their situations and find the confidence to work toward building skills to obtain employment so that they can become productive members of society. I wish to pull them out of their terrible living conditions and help them to see that there is hope. To do this, I plan to work with nonprofit organizations that provide resources, job training and addiction treatment for homeless women."

After 25 years of facing extreme and challenging conditions such as homelessness and drug addiction, Diane has demonstrated that strength by turning her life around and returning to school at the College of Staten Island. At sixty-one, Diane has found her purpose in life through education and wishes to complete her bachelor’s degree to become of service to those who are among the invisible of our society- the homeless. “My goal is to help women overcome their situations and find the confidence to work toward building skills to obtain employment so that they can become productive members of society. I wish to pull them out of their terrible living conditions and help them to see that there is hope. To do this, I plan to work with nonprofit organizations that provide resources, job training and addiction treatment for homeless women."

Biljana Radojicic

Baruch College

While growing up in Serbia, Biljana witnessed two wars and experienced its after effects. Many people suffered from mental illnesses due to post-traumatic stress disorder and these experiences encouraged her to study Industrial Organizational Psychology. After graduating from Kosova in Serbia, Biljana saw an opportunity to work and study in America. Biljana came to New York City in 2011 and in 2015 was accepted at LaGuardia Community College as a Business Administration major. During her studies, Biljana was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer and underwent two life-saving surgeries followed by conventional chemotherapy, all-the-while remaining dedicated to her educational studies - often times bringing her textbooks with her during her chemotherapy sessions. Now that Biljana has recovered, she’s been able to enroll at Baruch College where she was accepted at the Zicklin School of Business studying her combined interests: Industrial and Organizational Psychology. With the help of the Education Fund, Biljana can continue on her mission to help adults manage stress better and lead healthier lives.   “After I finish my studies, I plan to work full-time in psychology to focus on mental health issues, primarily post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. One of my long-term goals is to work for United Nations to help others with the necessary aid to resolve conflict worldwide to maintain international peace and security.” - Biljana Radojicic

While growing up in Serbia, Biljana witnessed two wars and experienced its after effects. Many people suffered from mental illnesses due to post-traumatic stress disorder and these experiences encouraged her to study Industrial Organizational Psychology. After graduating from Kosova in Serbia, Biljana saw an opportunity to work and study in America. Biljana came to New York City in 2011 and in 2015 was accepted at LaGuardia Community College as a Business Administration major. During her studies, Biljana was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer and underwent two life-saving surgeries followed by conventional chemotherapy, all-the-while remaining dedicated to her educational studies - often times bringing her textbooks with her during her chemotherapy sessions. Now that Biljana has recovered, she’s been able to enroll at Baruch College where she was accepted at the Zicklin School of Business studying her combined interests: Industrial and Organizational Psychology. With the help of the Education Fund, Biljana can continue on her mission to help adults manage stress better and lead healthier lives.   “After I finish my studies, I plan to work full-time in psychology to focus on mental health issues, primarily post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. One of my long-term goals is to work for United Nations to help others with the necessary aid to resolve conflict worldwide to maintain international peace and security.” - Biljana Radojicic

Donnamarie Recco

Kingsborough Community College

At the mature age of forty-eight, DonnaMarie is expected to be the first in her family to earn a college degree. After leaving an abusive relationship, DonnaMarie’s hardships spiraled out of control. She struggled with addiction but was able to overcome it with the help of a support group. She turned her life around and has since become active in helping other women achieve sobriety. Left to raise her nine-year-old son on her own, she moved into her elderly parents’ home. In addition to being the secretary of her support group, DonnaMarie is also a volunteer at a local hospice. DonnaMarie enrolled at Kingsborough Community College to pursue a degree in Nursing. “I am so grateful to receive the Ed Fund award, I've been praying for a way to continue to pay for books, child-care, and transportation while in school.”

At the mature age of forty-eight, DonnaMarie is expected to be the first in her family to earn a college degree. After leaving an abusive relationship, DonnaMarie’s hardships spiraled out of control. She struggled with addiction but was able to overcome it with the help of a support group. She turned her life around and has since become active in helping other women achieve sobriety. Left to raise her nine-year-old son on her own, she moved into her elderly parents’ home. In addition to being the secretary of her support group, DonnaMarie is also a volunteer at a local hospice. DonnaMarie enrolled at Kingsborough Community College to pursue a degree in Nursing. “I am so grateful to receive the Ed Fund award, I've been praying for a way to continue to pay for books, child-care, and transportation while in school.”

Patricia Risano

CUNY School of Professional Studies

Patricia was 25 years old, with a two-year-old child, when she unexpectedly lost her mother. only three months after her mother died and when she was newly diagnosed with endometriosis, Patricia’s husband left her. Shortly after, she learned her father was suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease. Following the passing of her father five years later, Patricia was in and out of a series of abusive relationships that ruined her self-esteem. Her life was in shambles.  After spending several weeks hospitalized, Patricia was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. After recovering, she knew she needed to make some positive changes. She began kickboxing to lose weight and enrolled in college. Patricia enrolled at CUNY School of Professional Studies to pursue a degree in Health Information Management. "Each class I take, I gain more confidence in myself that I can do this."

Patricia was 25 years old, with a two-year-old child, when she unexpectedly lost her mother. only three months after her mother died and when she was newly diagnosed with endometriosis, Patricia’s husband left her. Shortly after, she learned her father was suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease. Following the passing of her father five years later, Patricia was in and out of a series of abusive relationships that ruined her self-esteem. Her life was in shambles.  After spending several weeks hospitalized, Patricia was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. After recovering, she knew she needed to make some positive changes. She began kickboxing to lose weight and enrolled in college. Patricia enrolled at CUNY School of Professional Studies to pursue a degree in Health Information Management. "Each class I take, I gain more confidence in myself that I can do this."

Katie Salas

New York City Technical College

Growing up in a family of humble means, Katie's Mexican-born father and mother worked multiple jobs and her family lived hand to mouth. Katie spent the last 22 years in and out of college. After the death of her father in 1998, Katie started her first year of college; twenty years later, after supporting her mother who fell ill to Lyme disease and tragically passed away, Helen attempted to achieve her goal of completing her education. Determined to build a career that could help my family escape poverty, Katie moved to New York City in 2010 for a fresh start. Upon enrolling in an Algebra class after her mother's death, Katie found solace in math that she could never have believed possible. Katie is now a straight-A Honors student, enrolled full time and in the Peer Leaders Program. Katie is still working to put herself through college, and volunteering with her local Mutual Aid Society. Since returning to college, Katie has mastered the mathematics behind computing that once eluded her, and with the aid of our Education Fund vows to one day be able to complete her dream of earning a college degree, pursuing a career in Mathematics. "My future lies in exposing those inequalities and evaluating them ethically and passionately, through facts and figures." - Katie Salas

Growing up in a family of humble means, Katie's Mexican-born father and mother worked multiple jobs and her family lived hand to mouth. Katie spent the last 22 years in and out of college. After the death of her father in 1998, Katie started her first year of college; twenty years later, after supporting her mother who fell ill to Lyme disease and tragically passed away, Helen attempted to achieve her goal of completing her education. Determined to build a career that could help my family escape poverty, Katie moved to New York City in 2010 for a fresh start. Upon enrolling in an Algebra class after her mother's death, Katie found solace in math that she could never have believed possible. Katie is now a straight-A Honors student, enrolled full time and in the Peer Leaders Program. Katie is still working to put herself through college, and volunteering with her local Mutual Aid Society. Since returning to college, Katie has mastered the mathematics behind computing that once eluded her, and with the aid of our Education Fund vows to one day be able to complete her dream of earning a college degree, pursuing a career in Mathematics. "My future lies in exposing those inequalities and evaluating them ethically and passionately, through facts and figures." - Katie Salas

Hope Sanders

Lehman College

As a pre-teen growing up in the ’80s and 90s, Hope witnessed the devastation that crack, heroin, and HIV/AIDS left on the communities she lived in. At 16 years of age, a bad decision caused Hope to be incarcerated for 18 years. During that time her curiosity on the ways to improve the communities she came from never waned. When Hope was released, she worked as a peer-educator/outreach specialist at Harlem United. Fueling her drive to help those like herself, Hope wishes to continue her education at CUNY Lehman majoring in social work and minoring in Law and Government. Hope’s career goal is to become a Social Worker who is helping reform the criminal justice system and mental health policies, focusing on preparing those who are to be released, reintegrate into society. “My motivation comes from the women I encountered with mental health illnesses, who were incarcerated instead of hospitalized.”

As a pre-teen growing up in the ’80s and 90s, Hope witnessed the devastation that crack, heroin, and HIV/AIDS left on the communities she lived in. At 16 years of age, a bad decision caused Hope to be incarcerated for 18 years. During that time her curiosity on the ways to improve the communities she came from never waned. When Hope was released, she worked as a peer-educator/outreach specialist at Harlem United. Fueling her drive to help those like herself, Hope wishes to continue her education at CUNY Lehman majoring in social work and minoring in Law and Government. Hope’s career goal is to become a Social Worker who is helping reform the criminal justice system and mental health policies, focusing on preparing those who are to be released, reintegrate into society. “My motivation comes from the women I encountered with mental health illnesses, who were incarcerated instead of hospitalized.”

Joanne Santiago

Lehman College

Joanne dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her life path changed when she got married early and was pregnant with her first child by nineteen. After her baby was born prematurely, Joanne decided to be a stay-at-home mother to care for her child. To provide for his family, her husband enlisted in the military. During her husband's fourteen-year tenure, they had two more children. Both her second and third pregnancies were difficult and both babies were born prematurely. After her husband completed his service, their family relocated to New York, where Joanne supported her husband's dream to become a firefighter. After her husband achieved his goal, Joanne committed to pursuing her dream. Joanne enrolled at Lehman College to pursue a degree in Nursing. "I am honing the necessary traits needed to be an excellent nurse such as leadership, compassion, and knowledge. My greatest goal is to help others in any way I can."

Joanne dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her life path changed when she got married early and was pregnant with her first child by nineteen. After her baby was born prematurely, Joanne decided to be a stay-at-home mother to care for her child. To provide for his family, her husband enlisted in the military. During her husband's fourteen-year tenure, they had two more children. Both her second and third pregnancies were difficult and both babies were born prematurely. After her husband completed his service, their family relocated to New York, where Joanne supported her husband's dream to become a firefighter. After her husband achieved his goal, Joanne committed to pursuing her dream. Joanne enrolled at Lehman College to pursue a degree in Nursing. "I am honing the necessary traits needed to be an excellent nurse such as leadership, compassion, and knowledge. My greatest goal is to help others in any way I can."

Humanchia Serieux

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Humanchia emigrated to the United States to attend college. However, Humanchia’s dream of attending college was deferred. A single parent of two children, she decided perseverance was a must and chose not to allow her circumstances to dictate her future. After the implementation of new legislation, Humanchia was able to attend a GED program. She completed the course and enrolled in an accelerated course to obtain an Associate’s Degree. Working during the day and going to school in the evening, she would often get home well after midnight. The hours were grueling, but Humanchia is persistent. Humanchia enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Anthropology. "Although the road continues to meander, I will continue to give back to my community and inspire women who are taking the long and difficult journey to self-improvement."

Humanchia emigrated to the United States to attend college. However, Humanchia’s dream of attending college was deferred. A single parent of two children, she decided perseverance was a must and chose not to allow her circumstances to dictate her future. After the implementation of new legislation, Humanchia was able to attend a GED program. She completed the course and enrolled in an accelerated course to obtain an Associate’s Degree. Working during the day and going to school in the evening, she would often get home well after midnight. The hours were grueling, but Humanchia is persistent. Humanchia enrolled at John Jay College to pursue a degree in Anthropology. "Although the road continues to meander, I will continue to give back to my community and inspire women who are taking the long and difficult journey to self-improvement."

Sandra Serrano

City College of New York

For Sandra, her son has been her constant motivation to better herself and her family. A college education means prosperity for Sandra. With long-term goals to obtain a master's degree in public administration and acquire a leadership role with the Center for Excellence in Youth Education at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), Sandra is committed to taking an active role in helping students who may lack the resources and mentorship that others have had to aid in their success. “Education means a great deal to me because it has transformed my life. I have developed the skills and qualifications needed to build a better life for myself and be a provider to my son.”

For Sandra, her son has been her constant motivation to better herself and her family. A college education means prosperity for Sandra. With long-term goals to obtain a master's degree in public administration and acquire a leadership role with the Center for Excellence in Youth Education at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), Sandra is committed to taking an active role in helping students who may lack the resources and mentorship that others have had to aid in their success. “Education means a great deal to me because it has transformed my life. I have developed the skills and qualifications needed to build a better life for myself and be a provider to my son.”

Helen Skipper

St. Francis College

Growing up in Queens Village, Helen, was a part of a family that uplifted knowledge and education. Helen’s mother, a schoolteacher, encouraged Helen and her siblings to enroll in higher education. Upon entering college, Helen fell victim to many of the pressures young adults face on campus - being introduced to drugs, Helen rarely attended classes, falling deeper into drug abuse. Helen lost jobs – sold drugs to support her habit, and caught her first crime at 18. A life of recidivism, homeless shelters, drug programs, and losing her children to the foster system ensued - until her early 40's. At 41, Helen found recovery and began to repair her life. In 2019, Helen realized that to be heard, validated, and affect change – she needed higher education. Helen completed the John Jay College Navigator Certification and afterwards, entered St. Francis College through the Post-Prison program, and she hasn’t looked back! Helen has maintained being on the Dean's List every semester, her GPA remaining between 3.875 to 4.0. Helen is the first Post-Prison student to be invited to the Honors class. Helen is also a Justice-in-Education Scholar at Columbia University, attending both schools and is on track for her doctorate in Criminology concentrating on convict criminology. With the aid of our Education Fund, Helen intends to sub-specialize in the traumatization of Women and girls and pursue her goals in prison reform, examining punitive vs. rehabilitative correctional systems and, hopefully, to research international systems such as the Norwegian and Swedish, where such rehabilitative methodologies have been implemented. “My career goal is to affect change, to inform and reform criminal justice policies and practices. I will not stop my educational journey until I have ascended to that elevation.” - Helen Skipper

Growing up in Queens Village, Helen, was a part of a family that uplifted knowledge and education. Helen’s mother, a schoolteacher, encouraged Helen and her siblings to enroll in higher education. Upon entering college, Helen fell victim to many of the pressures young adults face on campus - being introduced to drugs, Helen rarely attended classes, falling deeper into drug abuse. Helen lost jobs – sold drugs to support her habit, and caught her first crime at 18. A life of recidivism, homeless shelters, drug programs, and losing her children to the foster system ensued - until her early 40's. At 41, Helen found recovery and began to repair her life. In 2019, Helen realized that to be heard, validated, and affect change – she needed higher education. Helen completed the John Jay College Navigator Certification and afterwards, entered St. Francis College through the Post-Prison program, and she hasn’t looked back! Helen has maintained being on the Dean's List every semester, her GPA remaining between 3.875 to 4.0. Helen is the first Post-Prison student to be invited to the Honors class. Helen is also a Justice-in-Education Scholar at Columbia University, attending both schools and is on track for her doctorate in Criminology concentrating on convict criminology. With the aid of our Education Fund, Helen intends to sub-specialize in the traumatization of Women and girls and pursue her goals in prison reform, examining punitive vs. rehabilitative correctional systems and, hopefully, to research international systems such as the Norwegian and Swedish, where such rehabilitative methodologies have been implemented. “My career goal is to affect change, to inform and reform criminal justice policies and practices. I will not stop my educational journey until I have ascended to that elevation.” - Helen Skipper

Patriece Spann

CUNY Center for Worker Education

Patriece grew up the oldest of 4 children and the first in her family to pursue higher education, her mother doing her best to financially support Patriece’s dreams of graduating college, but, as a single parent among the working class, there wasn’t enough income to continuously pay tuition and take care of her siblings. In 2004 Patriece headed off to college filled with excitement and high expectations. Unfortunately, the financial burden of tuition forced Patriece to end her college career in 2006, facing a large amount of college debt. Although this came as a huge disappointment to Patriece, she knew she would never give up on her dream of becoming a successful college graduate. After working past her college debt from Fordham University, Patriece was able to enroll in City College of New York. In 2010 Patriece began working in early childhood education, primarily serving African American and Latin students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. As an educator, Patriece witnessed the inequalities these children face, the institutional racism that exists within our educational system and the biases educators and administrators have towards these children. These injustices have influenced Patriece’s career goals and motivated her to end the miseducation of children of color. Becoming an educator and providing students with access to a quality education, are at the core of Patriece’s goals. With the help of the Education Fund, Patriece will continue to grow and expand her skills as an educator by pursuing her masters degree in educational leadership, without facing the financial burdens that arise in higher education. "Taking on a leadership position within the educational system will allow me to be a part of creating a more equal and equitable educational system for whom the system was not designed, namely black and brown students.” - Patriece Spann

Patriece grew up the oldest of 4 children and the first in her family to pursue higher education, her mother doing her best to financially support Patriece’s dreams of graduating college, but, as a single parent among the working class, there wasn’t enough income to continuously pay tuition and take care of her siblings. In 2004 Patriece headed off to college filled with excitement and high expectations. Unfortunately, the financial burden of tuition forced Patriece to end her college career in 2006, facing a large amount of college debt. Although this came as a huge disappointment to Patriece, she knew she would never give up on her dream of becoming a successful college graduate. After working past her college debt from Fordham University, Patriece was able to enroll in City College of New York. In 2010 Patriece began working in early childhood education, primarily serving African American and Latin students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. As an educator, Patriece witnessed the inequalities these children face, the institutional racism that exists within our educational system and the biases educators and administrators have towards these children. These injustices have influenced Patriece’s career goals and motivated her to end the miseducation of children of color. Becoming an educator and providing students with access to a quality education, are at the core of Patriece’s goals. With the help of the Education Fund, Patriece will continue to grow and expand her skills as an educator by pursuing her masters degree in educational leadership, without facing the financial burdens that arise in higher education. "Taking on a leadership position within the educational system will allow me to be a part of creating a more equal and equitable educational system for whom the system was not designed, namely black and brown students.” - Patriece Spann

Carmel Waterman

Brooklyn College

For as long as Carmel could remember, she has always wanted to work with children, especially under-privileged children and those with special needs. Growing up as a member of a minority group and in an area with few community resources, Carmel experienced and witnessed discrimination first-hand. This experience has served as motivation for Carmel to go back to school and pursue a career as a psychologist. Having survived a toxic and abusive relationship, Carmel is driven to be a role model to her son and daughter. She hopes to continue her studies and one day attend Columbia University to work toward a Doctorate in Psychology. “My motivation for seeking this award of $10,000 from The Women's Forum is to gain some financial security which will make pursuing my education a lot less stressful and will allow me to concentrate on my studies without the constant worry of how my bills are going to get paid.”

For as long as Carmel could remember, she has always wanted to work with children, especially under-privileged children and those with special needs. Growing up as a member of a minority group and in an area with few community resources, Carmel experienced and witnessed discrimination first-hand. This experience has served as motivation for Carmel to go back to school and pursue a career as a psychologist. Having survived a toxic and abusive relationship, Carmel is driven to be a role model to her son and daughter. She hopes to continue her studies and one day attend Columbia University to work toward a Doctorate in Psychology. “My motivation for seeking this award of $10,000 from The Women's Forum is to gain some financial security which will make pursuing my education a lot less stressful and will allow me to concentrate on my studies without the constant worry of how my bills are going to get paid.”

Doaa Yahia

Kingsborough Community College

Throughout her whole life, Doaa has always dreamt of making a difference in the world through a large medical platform. Doaa's dream of making a large impact through medical means started for her when she was a toddler seeing her father go through pain because of his medical conditions. Doaa made it a mission to become a doctor, so she can help people like her father return to good health. Before the death of her father, Doaa experienced a life-changing event that caused her to change her aspirations and goals. After becoming very ill and having a positive experience with a caring and attentive nurse, Doaa became highly interested in the nursing profession. After completing her high school degree, Doaa got married to her husband and after a few years she moved with him to America with their 2 children. Although she was focused on raising her children, Doaa's dream of becoming a nurse remained her passion. Once Doaa's oldest child became 12, she decided that it was time to finally accomplish her dream, leading her to Kingsborough Community College. Once Doaa completes her associate’s degree in nursing she will become a Registered Nurse. With the help of the Education Fund, Doaa intends on continuing her education, becoming a Registered Nurse and obtaining a master's degree. "I want to become an excellent and caring nurse and be the leader of all of the nurses in my hospital. After I reach my ultimate goal of being a Nurse practitioner, I will use my platform to share all of my experiences and morals to my peers, so I can try to make as many responsible and caring nurses as possible." Doaa Yahia

Throughout her whole life, Doaa has always dreamt of making a difference in the world through a large medical platform. Doaa's dream of making a large impact through medical means started for her when she was a toddler seeing her father go through pain because of his medical conditions. Doaa made it a mission to become a doctor, so she can help people like her father return to good health. Before the death of her father, Doaa experienced a life-changing event that caused her to change her aspirations and goals. After becoming very ill and having a positive experience with a caring and attentive nurse, Doaa became highly interested in the nursing profession. After completing her high school degree, Doaa got married to her husband and after a few years she moved with him to America with their 2 children. Although she was focused on raising her children, Doaa's dream of becoming a nurse remained her passion. Once Doaa's oldest child became 12, she decided that it was time to finally accomplish her dream, leading her to Kingsborough Community College. Once Doaa completes her associate’s degree in nursing she will become a Registered Nurse. With the help of the Education Fund, Doaa intends on continuing her education, becoming a Registered Nurse and obtaining a master's degree. "I want to become an excellent and caring nurse and be the leader of all of the nurses in my hospital. After I reach my ultimate goal of being a Nurse practitioner, I will use my platform to share all of my experiences and morals to my peers, so I can try to make as many responsible and caring nurses as possible." Doaa Yahia

Amaris Zambrana

LaGuardia Community College

Education wasn't a priority in Amaris' household. At the age of seventeen, her abusive parents kicked her out of their home, forcing Amaris to enter the workforce to survive. It quickly became evident to her that she wouldn't be able to support herself without a GED. She earned her GED and enrolled at LaGuardia Community College to pursue a Bachelor's in Nutrition and Psychology. While attending college, Amaris's financial situation put a strain on her emotional and mental health, yet she managed to maintain a high GPA and remain on the Dean's List. Amaris aspires to own a practice where she can help people with their mental, nutritional and physical health. Amaris enrolled at LaGuardia Community College to pursue a degree in Nutrition. "I hope to one day assist in breaking stigmas associated with mental illness by creating a safe place to have open discussions about difficult topics."

Education wasn't a priority in Amaris' household. At the age of seventeen, her abusive parents kicked her out of their home, forcing Amaris to enter the workforce to survive. It quickly became evident to her that she wouldn't be able to support herself without a GED. She earned her GED and enrolled at LaGuardia Community College to pursue a Bachelor's in Nutrition and Psychology. While attending college, Amaris's financial situation put a strain on her emotional and mental health, yet she managed to maintain a high GPA and remain on the Dean's List. Amaris aspires to own a practice where she can help people with their mental, nutritional and physical health. Amaris enrolled at LaGuardia Community College to pursue a degree in Nutrition. "I hope to one day assist in breaking stigmas associated with mental illness by creating a safe place to have open discussions about difficult topics."