Fifteen years ago the Bennington Branch of AAUW established a Scholarship Fund to help nontraditional female students attain their educational goals. The Fund seeks to help women to overcome barriers that stand in the way of attending college—usually the students we support are entering college after a number of years away from school, may be raising a family, perhaps holding down a full-time job, have self doubts about being able to do the work, and are struggling financially.
Jennifer Kern, Chair of the Scholarship Committee, works with the Community College of Vermont staff to enlist applicants and to determine the amount of financial aid each applicant will receive from Federal Pell Grants and Vermont State Aid. She also works with students to answer questions and to complete their applications.
Jennifer then meets with Committee members Gudrun Hutchins and Judy Murphy, to review the financial obligations of each applicant and attempt to allot funds needed to keep the student in college, mainly tuition and books. After that goal is met, the committee reviews the applications to see what other ways the money could help. This is where the “nontraditional” comes in. The student may need money to pay for internet access, a printer, transportation, or daycare for young children. Obviously the funds cannot pay for all of these expenses but the money does help defray those costs.
To date the Fund has helped 53 students, and given out $$56,954. In January, six more women were notified that they will receive scholarships—women who have set new goals for themselves and returned to college to achieve their goals. One of them, Kelsey Colvin, expresses what the scholarship means to her: “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making the AAUW Scholarship possible. I was beyond thrilled and appreciative to learn of my selection for this honor, thank you for your support in my continued education. Going back to college with three young boys and working full-time was not something I thought was possible, and with all the help and support of people in my life and generous donors like you have made this path much easier. Receiving my Bachelor’s Degree and advancing in my career with Early Intervention will be a dream come true.”
List of Scholarships Awarded for the Spring Term at CCV
Sara Webster will receive her third scholarship, a full-time Senior Sales Associate at Rablogan Castle of Scotland and the mother of two children,15 and 13 years old, she is pursuing a Nursing Degree. She hopes to graduate in the spring of 2023 and will apply to Vermont Technical College to enter their Practical Nursing Program. Sara, 37, lives with her husband, a certified chimney technician, and their children in Bennington. Sara will receive a scholarship of $450, $200 of this for books.
She received glowing recommendations. Amy D. Moore, Faculty Co-Chair Technology Curriculum Committee at CCV, had Sara in her Flex Spreadsheets course. She explained that this on-line course “takes an individual dedicated to their education and a commitment to learn to complete these courses within the semester. “Sara’s work was excellent. She paced herself well, making her own schedule and sticking to it.”
Eileen Rice, RN, PhD, who had Sara in her Introduction to Phlebotomy class, describes her as “a very hard worker and very kind and helpful to her classmates.” Damien Webster, a classmate of Sara’s at Mt. Anthony High School 20 years ago who has remained her friend, wrote, “She is a very strong and determined young woman. She can do anything she puts her mind to.”
In an essay she wrote applying for the scholarship, Sara wrote,
“ I have taken college courses before as I was interested in originally become a psychiatrist. After my first semester I changed majors and started studying Computer Information. I attended 2 years at College of St. Josephs before I found out I was pregnant with my son. I thought that I could take a short break from school and go back when he was a year old. Life has a funny way of working out though. It has taken me 14 years to finally be in a place in life to continue my education. And to figure out that with working with children and the public that becoming a nurse in my calling.”
After receiving news of the scholarship Sara wrote:
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the scholarship. It really means the world to me and helps get me one step closer to my dream career of becoming a nurse. Thank you so much for your help and guidance as well, Jennifer.”
Cassie Furciniti, 33, of Bennington, will be awarded her seventh scholarship. She will receive $350 to pursue an Associate Degree in Business Management. She is the General Manager at Best Western Bennington. Cassie has two children, ages 3 and 5. She anticipates she will graduate in 2023. Even with all of these responsibilities, Cassie volunteers for the Bennington Fire Department and is on call 24 hours a day.
Leora Dowling, CCV Communications Faculty, had Cassie in her on-line class in Effective Workplace Communication this past semester.
“She did an excellent job under the circumstances that we’ve all been dealing with—as well as the challenges in her own life. While we were all grappling with the changes that COVID wrought, Cassie and her partner bought a house and moved into it. She is raising four children ages 3 to 16, too. Plus, during the semester Cassie’s mother was ill and she had to leave the state to tend to her. She holds down a full-time job…plus she is a volunteer foreperson in her community…Cassie is diligent, thoughtful and writes well…Cassie created a persuasive presentation urging others to join their local fire departments. She also worked to implement the concepts and suggestions we were covering in class into her own life and work, then wrote about the successful outcomes she experienced…Her approach to learning and broadening her knowledge base makes her the perfect candidate for an AAUW scholarship.”
Another recommendation came from Harley (Holly) Wicks, who describes Cassie as “a .hard-working and determined single mother of two amazing children. Cassie has been working hard to show her children that no matter what happens in life you can make anything happen.”
Cassie is enthusiastic about her job and writes,
“When I started here [nine months ago] I knew nothing about being a general manager, but I did know how to staff. With new management, the employees were hesitant about what was going to happen to them. With my guidance, the employees have been getting better reviews and turning the hotel into a better experience for guests.”
Cassie has changed work schedules so that employees arrive earlier and rooms are cleaned easily by check in time. She also changed the way reservations are made.
“Rather than transfer all the reservation calls to a customer agent, now, I have all my front desk make reservations instead of transferring the call. This gives the guests a more personable experience and they are usually happier when checking in. I am still making changes to better the hotel, and I am learning new parts of the job every day.”
“I would like to thank the Bennington Branch members of the AAUW committee for the scholarship I was given,” Cassie wrote, “I would also like to specially thank Jennifer Kern for reminding me of due dates, always checking in to make sure I have everything needed for the scholarship application, and for being a genuinely wonderful person. She is a great asset to the committee and to the community.”
Ellisa Mattison, 33, received her third scholarship. The $350 will help to pay for internet access. Ellisa lives in Pownal with her husband and two children ages 7 and 9. She is an Associate Teacher at Oak Hill Children’s Center and her career goal is to get an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. She will graduate in the spring of 2023.
In as essay submitted with the application, Elissa wrote,
“When this pandemic hit the world, I did not know that my family would struggle with two children in school. Covid has put a financial struggle for my family on our shoulders…my husband has just gone back to work full-time to help us stay afloat…we are struggling but I will be able to keep going to school and living towards my dream. Five years down the road I hope I can look back and see how much change I have done for little minds that are growing.”
Richard Isenberg, Ed.D., taught Ellissa in a humanities class titled World of Comedy and Humor. He wrote in a recommendation,
“As part of this class, we communicated regularly through discussion forums and throughout the process in preparation of her research and performance projects. While the class did not meet in person, I felt that I got to know Ellisa quite well through her comments in our discussions. Ellisa is a conscientious and talented student. She completed all assigned tasks well and on time. Her responses to readings and comments in our discussions were always thoughtful and well supported. She demonstrated an eagerness to engage in instruction and to continue her education…Ellisa is an excellent student and I have no doubt that she will be successful in whatever academic field she chooses to pursue. She has demonstrated a thoughtful and caring personality, commitment to her academic and professional goals as well as her family.”
Ellisa’s supervisor at Oak Hill Children’s Center, Executive Director Beth Traver Adolphus praised Ellisa’s work there. She wrote,
“Ellisa possesses a variety of unique qualities and skills and is a true asset to our program. Ellisa has worked with all age groups for the past 7 years as an early childhood educator in regulated child care settings in addition too her previous experience as a home provider.”
Through her work in the Ones Room at our center, Ellisa develops and implements developmentally appropriate curriculum based on Vermont Early Learning Standards. She has a clear understanding of child development and uses her knowledge of the children to create group lesson plans as well as individualized planning. She is able to adapt plans to ensure inclusion of every child. Ellisa establishes strong bonds with the children in her care. Ellisa is well versed in observation techniques, child assessments and screening tools…and frequently solicits families’ input when conducting assessments. An essential component is health and safety. Ellisa is certified in pediatric and adult First Aid/CPR/AEI and is trained in medication administration and mandated reporting. She regularly conducts health checks on children, safety checks of indoor and outdoor learning environments and participates in monthly fire drills”
She noted that Ellisa has training in child abuse and neglect prevention and has taken on an active role in the Farm to Early Childhood program, which promotes long-term health and wellbeing of children and families. “It is clear that Ellisa is passionate about her work and dedicated to the children and families served by Oak Hill.”
In a note of thanks, Ellisa wrote,
“Dear Bennington Branch Members, Thank you so much for helping with some money for college to keep going with my dream. It means a lot to not only myself but to my family. Without the help of the money from all of you I would not be able to keep going with my dream.”
Kelsey Colvin, 33, of Hoosick Falls, NY, was awarded her first AAUW Scholarship of $500. She is an Early Intervention Associate at Children’s Integrated Services at Southwest Vermont Medical Center. She is studying for an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education at CCV and plans to transfer to study for a Bachelors Degree. She lives with her husband and three sons, ages 9, 7 and 3. Kelsey will graduate from CCV in the Fall of 2022.
“My path through college after high school was not straight, I transferred schools and changed my major multiple times. My entire life I thought I wanted to be a teacher, every job I had revolved around children. I met my now husband in 2010 and the next year at the age of 22 I was pregnant with my first child. I did not re-enroll in college in 2011 and got a job at a daycare, The Learning Tree at SVMC. I worked there for 3 years until I came back from maternity leave from having my second child and the payments of having two kids in separate daycare was not feasible. I started my own home daycare which I ran for six years until it was time to go back to college. Setting a good example for my three children is my ultimate goal. I never want them to think it’s too late or too hard. I want them to reach their full potential in life. I am currently working for Children’s Integrated Services Early Intervention Vermont as an Early Intervention Associate. When I receive my Bachelor’s Degree I will then become a Developmental Educator with a caseload of children of my own. My job has graciously given me the time to receive my degree, but without it I cannot more forward in this career.
Jennie Moon, MBA, HR Certificate, Program Coordinator for Children’s Integrated Services Early Intervention for Bennington County Early Intervention, strongly recommended Kelsey.
“We work with children with special needs and carry very large caseloads on a regular basis. Kelsey has embraced this position and devoted herself to working with high risk families. Currently Kelsey’s title is Early intervention Associate. We are encouraging her to continue her education in order for her to grow in the department. In her current position she is providing Developmental Therapy to 20+ children weekly with the oversight of a Developmental Educator providing guidance on specific developmental activities to work on during her home visits. In order for Kelsey to become a developmental Educator, she will need to attain a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field such as Early Childhood Education. Kelsey has a valued work ethic. She will go above and beyond for the families we work with. She ensures each child on her caseload receives the services they are entitled to in a timely manner. Kelsey works well independently as well as prospers in a team environment. Kelsey is dedicated to her profession as well as furthering her education to improve her skill set. In order for Kelsey to grow in this field, achieving higher education is a must.”
Kelsey’s professor, Ruth A. Farmer, who taught Kelsey in her Fall 2021 English Composition Class, stated in her recommendation,
“Kelsey was very active on discussion forums, often asking probing questions or offering alternative perspectives informed by personal and professional experiences. Essays and posts demonstrated solid reading, writing, critical thinking and research skills…Kelsey wrote a well-researched paper on the benefits of frenotomies to treat lip and tongue ties. The choice of topic demonstrates a commitment to the well-being of young people. Kelsey and I met to discuss the paper. I was impressed by the depth of knowledge about the problems caused by ties, as well as the willingness to learn more. Doing the project meant more than completing a required assignment. Kelsey really wanted to convey the importance of finding ways to help children with these conditions, By granting Kelsey a scholarship, AAUW would invest in a student who is committed to teaching and learning.”
Jennifer Mroczko, Ed.D., had Kelsey as an online student in her Computer Applications course. She wrote in a reference,
“Kelsey has a number of strengths. She takes her studies seriously, and strikes me as intelligent and inquisitive…Kelsey is mindful of deadlines and is always timely on submitting assignments. Ik would rate Kelsey’s assignments as superior, as they are well-researched and of high quality. In fact, her overall course grade was near perfect. I believe her performance in my class is an indication of the excellence she will strive for as she continues her program of studies and later, in her career.”
Emily Bryant, 31, lives with her husband and their two children, ages 2 and 6. Emily received her first scholarship, a $150 Marge Carter book grant and a $300 scholarship. She is pursuing an Associate Degree in Behavioral Sciences.
In an essay accompanying her application, Emily wrote,
“I’m hoping to graduate in 2023 so I can move into getting my bachelors’ degree, in hopes of eventually becoming a therapist. As a young woman who has struggled with mental health from a very young age, this is a field in which is extremely important to me…I’ve been involved in a local artist collective called CommonFolk..That’s where I sold my artwork, and hosted group-led community group events. I also believe that our society needs more visibility in terms of disabled social workers. We can be some of the best advocates for our community due to lived experience. Much like everyone else, we have our strengths and weaknesses, and we are multi-dimensional people who are hoping to help bring change in our communities, in hopes of bringing more awareness, advocacy, and inclusion.”
Alec Julien had Emily in his online Introduction of Ethics course at CCV and in a reference stated,
“Emily always went above and beyond on her assignments, partly because she is naturally curious about these topics, and partly because she obviously cares about ethics on a civic, not just an intellectual level. She cares about the state of the world, and is actively trying to find her ethical place in it. ..She is a self-motivated, smart and curious student—the kind of student we all hope will fill our classes every semester. Emily was also a valuable contributor in the online discussions for the course and regularly brought interesting insights to bear therein.
Susan Cross, MS, Clinical Supervisor at Keenan House North was one of Emily’s references. She wrote,
“Emily and I first met at a Paint and Sip of Tea event, held at the Common Folk Collective in North Adams. I recall having had a delightful conversation with Emily about how wonderful it was to gather with an eclectic group of folks in an environment in which an alcoholic beverage was not a cornerstone of the event. I was struct by her words of encouragement to others in the class (I cannot draw a straight line with a ruler), and her own freedom of expression with paint and canvas. She expresses her strong beliefs and opinions with compassion and candor. Emily is not fearful of letting others know her thoughts, whether she in in agreement or otherwise. She has a strong sense of community, defined in a multitude of contexts, and works diligently to foster connections between many members of a community, as well as different communities themselves…She thinks quickly, offers a myriad of suggestions, and uses her creativity to ‘think outside of the box.’ Working on an education, raising a family, and taking care of oneself is daunting, yet finding the balance to do those three simultaneously has now swayed Emily in her determination to complete her education. She has a strong character, solid moral fiber, and a core belief system that will serve her well in the role of counselor. I wish Emily great success as she continues to learn, grow, and spread her wings. She has the ability to not only succeed but soar.”
Shelley Adriance, Coordinator of Student Advising at CCV, first met Emily when she was her academic advisor at the time Emily enrolled as a new student.
”Emily is mature and able to present herself in a professional manner. She has clearly articulated goals to earn her associates in Behavior Health Sciences then move to a bachelors program an onward become a licensed therapist. She has a great interest in working with children in our community. Her coursework this semester has been exemplary (4.00) for all three courses. She is a committed student and has met deadlines consistently. She is well-organized and her instructors noted that she excelled in personal responsibility, professional etiquette, and academic planning. She was also supportive of her classmates in all discussions. She has expressed great enthusiasm for her courses in the program often finding there to be more courses of interest within her program of study than there is time. She has been a dedicated student and has demonstrated a capacity to engage fully in her coursework while also maintaining her personal responsibilities.”
“Dear Bennington Branch Members, Your monetary gift will help me immensely. Between being a stay-at-home mom and being a student, i simply am unable t work. The lack of extra income can bring about uncertainty in already uncertain times for us all. Your gift will not only help me to offset some of the debts that have accrued due to school expenses, but also will help me to purchase a new printer (which is much needed)! Again, thank you do much got your help and for choosing me for the scholarship!”
LINDSEY LA BONTE
Lindsey La Bonte is another new scholarship winner. Lindsey, 37, of Bennington won a scholarship of $350. She is the mother of three teenagers, ages 19, 15 and 13, and is an early childhood educator at Oak Hill Children’s Center in Pownal..The scholarship will help Lindsey reach her goal — an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Development at CCV. She plans to go on to obtain a masters degree in early childhood.
This has been a difficult time for the LaBontes. Lindsey’s husband has been out of work, recovering from injuries he suffered in a car accident in November of 2020. He is waiting for a release to return to work. Since that time Lindsey has been the sole wage-earner in the family.
In an essay, Lindsey wrote,
“My passion is helping small minds learn and to watch them grow. I find my job extremely rewarding and I look forward to going to work every day…I find this [the scholarship program] to be a wonderful resource for women going to school to better their life and education.”
She emphasized that her family is top priority, and added:
I also have a lot of hobbies that I fit in for my down time. I find that if you work hard you should have time to do something you love. Right now I am working on the knitting machine and I love it! Other hobbies of mine are reading, writing and swimming. I also love to be outside a lot with my animals. I have four dogs who need to be walked and like to play. I believe that anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and ask the questions that you need to find the answers or ways to do it.”
Rebecca Majoya, a faculty member at CCV, wrote a glowing reference for Lindsey,
“Lindsey LaBonte is an outstanding student. She achieved an A+ in the course she took with me; Supporting Young Children with Diverse Abilities. In her class participation within our discussion forums Lindsey’s posts were engaging and meaningful, and her comments on peers’ posts were well supported. All of her assignments were completed thoroughly and on time. Her writing is clear and articulate, demonstrating understanding of structure with very few grammatical errors. She shows critical thinking skill which was reflected in her assignments and research paper. It is without hesitation that I recommend Lindsey for an AAUW scholarship.”
Beth Trever Adolphus , Executive Director at Oak Hill Children’s Center, praised Lindsey’s work in a letter of reference, writing:
“Lindsey is an early childhood educator in our Ones Room at Oak Hill Children’s Center. I have worked closely with Lindsey and supervised her work here since October, 2020. Lindsey possesses a variety of unique qualities and skills and is a true asset to the program.
Her work here includes not only teaching and caring for the one year olds in her classroom but also working closely with each child’s family. Lindsey is trained in the Strengthening of Families Framework and resilience building. We provide advanced specialized care for children, and Oak Hill is also an Early Head Start Partner. She is able to communicate with all of the families in a way that is clear, respectful and supportive. She brings a high level of compassion and care to each family. Understanding the importance of lifelong health, Lindsey has also volunteered for our Farm to Early Childhood committee. She was instrumental in the success of a recent Farm to Early Childhood family event, assisting families as they learned to make butter, quick pickles and felt balls and played a plant parts matching game. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Lindsey gains significant knowledge and insight with each new college course or training. She will often come to my office to share something that she has taken away from a class or workshop. She seeks continuously to improve her teaching practice,Her growth in the areas of communication, emergent curriculum and her understanding of techniques for working with children who have special needs is particularly noteworthy. Lindsey is passionate about her work with children, has demonstrated a commitment to the field of Early Childhood Education and has worked carefully and attentively on her CDA credential. I highly recommend that Lindsey receive the AAUW Scholarship. Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to Lindsey LaBonte’s pursuit of her college degree and for offering this scholarship for women.”
In an email Lindsey wrote,
“I would like to say a quick thank you to the Bennington Branch members for making this scholarship possible for women like me! This is going to help with my upcoming education and this means so much to me. Things are tougher than ever before and it truly means a lot to be able to have this scholarship to help with school needs. Such as internet and materials for school. Also, a big thank you to Jennifer Kern for helping with questions and concerns along the way!”
How Scholarship Funds are Raised
Scholarship funds are raised by donations from members to the Silent Angels Fund (please contact Mary Feidner if you wish to donate), sales of publications by the AAUW Scribble Sisters, from Oldcastle Theatre or Dorset Theatre performances where members pay more than the ticket price to attend, from donations from AAUW Book Club members, as well as memorial gifts and other donations. All donations are tax-deductible.