Scholars List

Past Scholars List

Education Fund Scholars
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Ama Afful

Bronx Community College

Growing up in Ghana, Ama enjoyed learning and her father made sure to instill the importance of education in Ama and all her sisters. Due to pressures to conform to specific gender roles, after the death of her father (her only true advocate for education), Ama dropped out of high school. Ama's second chance at education came in 2016, upon immigrating to the United States. In 2018, Ama achieved her GED and began her journey in higher education. Since then, Ama managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA at Bronx Community College. During the pandemic, Ama experienced the difficulties that many students globally faced, but as a mother, she was faced with a unique set of obstacles. With the help of the Education Fund, Ama will be able to achieve her goals. Since Ama's young adult years, she always knew she wanted to be a nurse, but it wasn't until the birth of her first child that she became certain of the career that would make her life most meaningful. Ama began to pursue an Associate degree in Dietetics and Nutrition at Bronx Community College with the goal of becoming a nurse-midwife and then moved on to pursue her bachelor’s degree at New York University – Meyers School of Nursing in the Fall of 2021. Ama's long-term and career goal is to earn her master’s degree in nurse-midwifery by 2026. After her post-graduate degree, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in nursing practice to support special needs patients. As a nurse-midwife, Ama's life goal is to continually advocate for safe and supportive healthcare for women during pre-conception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Growing up in Ghana, Ama enjoyed learning and her father made sure to instill the importance of education in Ama and all her sisters. Due to pressures to conform to specific gender roles, after the death of her father (her only true advocate for education), Ama dropped out of high school. Ama's second chance at education came in 2016, upon immigrating to the United States. In 2018, Ama achieved her GED and began her journey in higher education. Since then, Ama managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA at Bronx Community College. During the pandemic, Ama experienced the difficulties that many students globally faced, but as a mother, she was faced with a unique set of obstacles. With the help of the Education Fund, Ama will be able to achieve her goals. Since Ama's young adult years, she always knew she wanted to be a nurse, but it wasn't until the birth of her first child that she became certain of the career that would make her life most meaningful. Ama began to pursue an Associate degree in Dietetics and Nutrition at Bronx Community College with the goal of becoming a nurse-midwife and then moved on to pursue her bachelor’s degree at New York University – Meyers School of Nursing in the Fall of 2021. Ama's long-term and career goal is to earn her master’s degree in nurse-midwifery by 2026. After her post-graduate degree, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in nursing practice to support special needs patients. As a nurse-midwife, Ama's life goal is to continually advocate for safe and supportive healthcare for women during pre-conception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Maria Teresa Aymerich

Columbia University

Maria was 20 years old when she left Cuba and moved to Florida with her family. Maria's educational path came with many twists and turns. To help her family, Maria secured a full-time job and enrolled at Florida International University to study Business Administration. Three years later, Maria dropped out as she was struggling to understand her classes, and subjects like Macroeconomics and Statistics were proving to be difficult. Maria chose instead to work until she could re-enroll in the future. By 2004, Maria started leaning into her passions, looking further into politics, and after working in several political campaigns, she decided she wanted to do more. Maria decided to return to school and complete her education. While raising her son, Maria worked full-time and continued to volunteer for political campaigns, obtaining an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies and Associate of Arts in Pre-Law with Honors. Maria is currently a member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK), of Lambda Epsilon Chi National Honor Society (LEX) and MDC - Honors Day Award recipient for academic achievement in the field of Paralegal Studies. Maria is  attending Columbia University to finish her Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights. After graduating, Maria's goal and dream is to become a Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department. Money from the Women's Forum Education Fund will help Maria alleviate some of her current financial burdens as she cares for her elderly mother and son.

Maria was 20 years old when she left Cuba and moved to Florida with her family. Maria's educational path came with many twists and turns. To help her family, Maria secured a full-time job and enrolled at Florida International University to study Business Administration. Three years later, Maria dropped out as she was struggling to understand her classes, and subjects like Macroeconomics and Statistics were proving to be difficult. Maria chose instead to work until she could re-enroll in the future. By 2004, Maria started leaning into her passions, looking further into politics, and after working in several political campaigns, she decided she wanted to do more. Maria decided to return to school and complete her education. While raising her son, Maria worked full-time and continued to volunteer for political campaigns, obtaining an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies and Associate of Arts in Pre-Law with Honors. Maria is currently a member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK), of Lambda Epsilon Chi National Honor Society (LEX) and MDC - Honors Day Award recipient for academic achievement in the field of Paralegal Studies. Maria is  attending Columbia University to finish her Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights. After graduating, Maria's goal and dream is to become a Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department. Money from the Women's Forum Education Fund will help Maria alleviate some of her current financial burdens as she cares for her elderly mother and son.

Bree Brown-Rosa

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

After surviving a deep depression, Bree made the hard but rewarding choice to never give up on herself. After a decade practicing the culinary arts, Bree enrolled in paramedic school, graduating Valedictorian. Currently, Bree is studying Global History and Cell and Molecular Biology, maintaining 3.5 GPA and the praise of her instructors. Prior to Bree's entrance into the field of pre-hospital emergency care, she worked as a professionally trained chef. After attending culinary school, Bree opened her own business, Baking by Bree. The business eventually became successful but experienced the challenges typical of a small enterprise. Bree is determined to become Dr. Bree Brown-Rosa. "I have made many detours on the road to becoming a physician and was nearly thwarted by my own hand. But, I survived and will continue to do so. That’s the stuff that leaders are made of."  

After surviving a deep depression, Bree made the hard but rewarding choice to never give up on herself. After a decade practicing the culinary arts, Bree enrolled in paramedic school, graduating Valedictorian. Currently, Bree is studying Global History and Cell and Molecular Biology, maintaining 3.5 GPA and the praise of her instructors. Prior to Bree's entrance into the field of pre-hospital emergency care, she worked as a professionally trained chef. After attending culinary school, Bree opened her own business, Baking by Bree. The business eventually became successful but experienced the challenges typical of a small enterprise. Bree is determined to become Dr. Bree Brown-Rosa. "I have made many detours on the road to becoming a physician and was nearly thwarted by my own hand. But, I survived and will continue to do so. That’s the stuff that leaders are made of."  

Erika Caballero

Kingsborough Community College

Erika Caballero grew up in Peru with a passion for learning about the human body, leading her towards a career in nursing. After personal circumstances caused Erika to put her nursing career on hold, she eventually found her way to software engineering. Motivated by the impact technology has on society and a desire to make an impact, Erika's goal is to become a software engineer and build new applications that will help people. Erika's other reason for wanting to continue her education is to learn a new language. When she first came to the U.S., Erika knew that learning English was the key to her career success. Without it, she felt she could not work or express her thoughts. Similarly, Erika sees coding as a similar skill - a new universal language that she can learn and master to help achieve her goals. After graduating, Erika plans to combine her love for language and helping people and wishes to create bilingual applications for people who do not speak English. With the help of the Education Fund, Erika will be closer to achieving her goals. “It has always been important to me to give back to my community. After graduating, I plan to combine my love for language and helping people.” - Erika Caballero

Erika Caballero grew up in Peru with a passion for learning about the human body, leading her towards a career in nursing. After personal circumstances caused Erika to put her nursing career on hold, she eventually found her way to software engineering. Motivated by the impact technology has on society and a desire to make an impact, Erika's goal is to become a software engineer and build new applications that will help people. Erika's other reason for wanting to continue her education is to learn a new language. When she first came to the U.S., Erika knew that learning English was the key to her career success. Without it, she felt she could not work or express her thoughts. Similarly, Erika sees coding as a similar skill - a new universal language that she can learn and master to help achieve her goals. After graduating, Erika plans to combine her love for language and helping people and wishes to create bilingual applications for people who do not speak English. With the help of the Education Fund, Erika will be closer to achieving her goals. “It has always been important to me to give back to my community. After graduating, I plan to combine my love for language and helping people.” - Erika Caballero

Charlotte Coats

Columbia University

Depression was a recurring obstacle to Charlotte's life when trying to complete her goals. At the age of 19, Charlotte moved to Italy where she worked in an art gallery and began teaching English. Eventually, Charlotte's journey led her to wanting to pursue higher education. After years of working as a nanny, Charlotte developed the desire to become a teacher. Since March, Covid has transformed Charlotte's role as a nanny to that of a tutor, teaching the children under her care remotely for five months. Finding the experience both stimulating and fulfilling, Charlotte knew that teaching was her calling. Inspired by the positive effect she had on the children and having personally seen the inequalities in the local public school which they attend, Charlotte discovered the Common Denominator charity, a non-profit, whose mission is to help in-need middle school students learn to love math and to provide free one-to-one tutoring and mentorship to ensure that they are able to achieve their potential. "I want to be a high school math teacher for all the students for whom math and other STEM subjects are intimidating. It is vital to encourage those who may previously have had no inspiration or encouragement to study these." - Charlotte Coats

Depression was a recurring obstacle to Charlotte's life when trying to complete her goals. At the age of 19, Charlotte moved to Italy where she worked in an art gallery and began teaching English. Eventually, Charlotte's journey led her to wanting to pursue higher education. After years of working as a nanny, Charlotte developed the desire to become a teacher. Since March, Covid has transformed Charlotte's role as a nanny to that of a tutor, teaching the children under her care remotely for five months. Finding the experience both stimulating and fulfilling, Charlotte knew that teaching was her calling. Inspired by the positive effect she had on the children and having personally seen the inequalities in the local public school which they attend, Charlotte discovered the Common Denominator charity, a non-profit, whose mission is to help in-need middle school students learn to love math and to provide free one-to-one tutoring and mentorship to ensure that they are able to achieve their potential. "I want to be a high school math teacher for all the students for whom math and other STEM subjects are intimidating. It is vital to encourage those who may previously have had no inspiration or encouragement to study these." - Charlotte Coats

Kristi Lyn Eaton

Columbia University

Upon reaching her 30s, Kristi had the desire to alter her lifestyle to create a more sustainable living for her family, leading her to pursue an education in computer programming. As Kristi is finishing up her fourth semester as a part-time computer science student at Columbia University, she has never felt more enthusiastic and certain about her career path. Inspired by Joshua, her autistic nephew, Kristi desires a future where assistive robotics greatly improves the lives of those with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, MD, autism, and most importantly, is available to those who need them. After being accepted to Columbia’s School of General Studies, Kristi explored her aptitude for computer science and started the process of joining teams researching those technologies. Her passion for helping those with disabilities extended to her community and, since 2016, she has led weekly sports programs for KEEN, a non-profit that provides free recreational activities to children with disabilities. Although she lost her job last year to the pandemic, Kristi saw this obstacle as a catalyst to propel her towards new heights and further propel her in her studies. With the help of the Education Fund, Kristi can achieve her goal of achieving her degree, which will be crucial as one day she wishes to lead a team of researchers, engineers, and programmers, "so that we may all transcend our limits in assistive robotics innovation." "Pursuing a higher education is the best, most meaningful path to secure the livelihood of myself and my loved ones, but also to spread higher love across the future that awaits." - Kristi Lyn Eaton

Upon reaching her 30s, Kristi had the desire to alter her lifestyle to create a more sustainable living for her family, leading her to pursue an education in computer programming. As Kristi is finishing up her fourth semester as a part-time computer science student at Columbia University, she has never felt more enthusiastic and certain about her career path. Inspired by Joshua, her autistic nephew, Kristi desires a future where assistive robotics greatly improves the lives of those with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, MD, autism, and most importantly, is available to those who need them. After being accepted to Columbia’s School of General Studies, Kristi explored her aptitude for computer science and started the process of joining teams researching those technologies. Her passion for helping those with disabilities extended to her community and, since 2016, she has led weekly sports programs for KEEN, a non-profit that provides free recreational activities to children with disabilities. Although she lost her job last year to the pandemic, Kristi saw this obstacle as a catalyst to propel her towards new heights and further propel her in her studies. With the help of the Education Fund, Kristi can achieve her goal of achieving her degree, which will be crucial as one day she wishes to lead a team of researchers, engineers, and programmers, "so that we may all transcend our limits in assistive robotics innovation." "Pursuing a higher education is the best, most meaningful path to secure the livelihood of myself and my loved ones, but also to spread higher love across the future that awaits." - Kristi Lyn Eaton

Chanel Elliot

Baruch College

Chanel first embarked on her college career at 17, but due to severe anxiety and her mental health being crippled, Chanel had to take time to address many questions about her life and future. Raising a daughter who has been diagnosed with ADHD further encouraged Chanel - having learned to manage her own anxiety, Chanel understood the necessary patience that is required to help her daughter excel in her education. Although supporting a child with ADHD has slowed down her academic progress, Chanel is proud of her journey. Inspired from her experience as an Uber driver and the conversations she often found herself in, Chanel's ultimate goal is to own a full service media company to support the needs of her community. She wishes to provide opportunities for people in her community to have exposure to different forms and aspects of media. Returning to school during the pandemic has been exceptionally difficult for Chanel an receiving this award would allow Chanel the opportunity to complete her degree without causing a financial stress on herself or for her children. Chanel currently serves as a parent member at the Department of Education where she supports parents in the process to receive services for their children with disabilities. Chanel also writes for the Daily News and Village Voice to get the word out about the policies affecting parents with children who have disabilities.

Chanel first embarked on her college career at 17, but due to severe anxiety and her mental health being crippled, Chanel had to take time to address many questions about her life and future. Raising a daughter who has been diagnosed with ADHD further encouraged Chanel - having learned to manage her own anxiety, Chanel understood the necessary patience that is required to help her daughter excel in her education. Although supporting a child with ADHD has slowed down her academic progress, Chanel is proud of her journey. Inspired from her experience as an Uber driver and the conversations she often found herself in, Chanel's ultimate goal is to own a full service media company to support the needs of her community. She wishes to provide opportunities for people in her community to have exposure to different forms and aspects of media. Returning to school during the pandemic has been exceptionally difficult for Chanel an receiving this award would allow Chanel the opportunity to complete her degree without causing a financial stress on herself or for her children. Chanel currently serves as a parent member at the Department of Education where she supports parents in the process to receive services for their children with disabilities. Chanel also writes for the Daily News and Village Voice to get the word out about the policies affecting parents with children who have disabilities.

Jessica Gonzalez

Queens College

As the daughter of a single mother, who was a 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

As the daughter of a single mother, who was a 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

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. Having suffered 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 to make a change to the lives of children who are often forgotten in the foster care system. Neosha and her brother plan to organize a program to provide meals, toiletries, clothing, and programs for youth in the foster and group home system. Neosha’s work in helping other young women leave toxic environments brings her tremendous joy and upon graduation she plans on getting her proposed 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. Having suffered 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 to make a change to the lives of children who are often forgotten in the foster care system. Neosha and her brother plan to organize a program to provide meals, toiletries, clothing, and programs for youth in the foster and group home system. Neosha’s work in helping other young women leave toxic environments brings her tremendous joy and upon graduation she plans on getting her proposed 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

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

Turquoise Martin

Hunter College

Having parents who faced substance abuse and incarceration, Turquoise was placed in the foster care system. At 16, Turquoise was diagnosed with depression and dropped out of high school. For the next 12 years, Turquoise was involved 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 gave Turquoise confidence 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 gained wisdom to create healing spaces in communities. “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 East Side 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 parents who faced substance abuse and incarceration, Turquoise was placed in the foster care system. At 16, Turquoise was diagnosed with depression and dropped out of high school. For the next 12 years, Turquoise was involved 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 gave Turquoise confidence 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 gained wisdom to create healing spaces in communities. “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 East Side 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

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 if 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 cover the expenses of family life. “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 if 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 cover the expenses of family life. “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.”

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

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

Biljana Radojicic

Baruch College

While growing up in Serbia, Biljana witnessed two wars and experienced their aftereffects. Many people around her suffered from mental illnesses due to post-traumatic stress disorder and these experiences encouraged her to study Industrial Organizational Psychology. After graduating from school in Kosovo, 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 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 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 the 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 their aftereffects. Many people around her suffered from mental illnesses due to post-traumatic stress disorder and these experiences encouraged her to study Industrial Organizational Psychology. After graduating from school in Kosovo, 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 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 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 the United Nations to help others with the necessary aid to resolve conflict worldwide to maintain international peace and security.” - Biljana Radojicic

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

Helen Skipper

St. Francis College

Growing up in Queens Village, Helen was a part of a family that valued 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. After being introduced to drugs, Helen rarely attended classes, falling deeper into drug abuse. Helen lost jobs, sold drugs to support her habit, and fell into crime at 18. A life of recidivism, homeless shelters, drug programs, and losing her children to the foster system ensued - until her early 40s. 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 entered St. Francis College through the Post-Prison program, and she hasn’t looked back! Helen has remained 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. She hopes to research international systems such as the Norwegian and Swedish systems, where 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 valued 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. After being introduced to drugs, Helen rarely attended classes, falling deeper into drug abuse. Helen lost jobs, sold drugs to support her habit, and fell into crime at 18. A life of recidivism, homeless shelters, drug programs, and losing her children to the foster system ensued - until her early 40s. 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 entered St. Francis College through the Post-Prison program, and she hasn’t looked back! Helen has remained 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. She hopes to research international systems such as the Norwegian and Swedish systems, where 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

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