Two Scholarships Awarded

By Judy Murphy

Not to miss a beat during the pandemic, the Scholarship Committee has announced that scholarships have been awarded to Cassandra Furciniti of Bennington and Morgan A. Williams of West Pawlet.

This will be the fourth AAUW scholarship awarded to  Cassandra Furciniti. The Community College of Vermont (CCV) student will receive $650 to pursue an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. Her goal is to open a childcare center. This fall she will be enrolled in English Comp. 1 and Computer Applications. 

The mother of two children, two and three and a half years old, Ms. Furciniti, 31, works full-time as staffing coordinator at J.J. Young. In a letter of recommendation, Meghan Dunnells, Director of Sales at J.J. Young, described Ms. Furciniti as “a confident, self-sufficient professional who has the ability to handle any situations thrown at her…Cassandra is always willing to go the extra mile, when it comes to helping team members out, whether it means driving to assist in one of our four offices in NY or jumping on a project in short notice.”

This trait was also noted by her history instructor at CCV, Kathryn Merriam, describing how Cassie coped during the coronavirus. “She began the term strong. She is sincere and works hard. The stress of the virus situation caused her to miss a few weekly assignments. She communicated well with me about that. My understanding is that she found herself home-schooling her children while trying to work and also go to school. That’s a lot! 

“Even with this crazy time, Cassie kept moving towards her goal. She prioritized when necessary and finished the term with an A-. I found Cassie to be genuinely interested in the course topic, which was Native Americans,” she concluded.

Ms. Furciniti wrote in her application letter, “After taking Native American History and Culture, I would love to go and see some of the Pow Wows. I am part Choctaw Indian and I have never been on the reservation. I would love to be able to go home and visit it. I want to be able to teach some of the dances, or even some of the stories to children at my daycare center when I open one up. This is a culture that fascinates me, not only because I am Choctaw, but because they have so many interesting beliefs and rituals. There is still so much that I could learn from them.”

In a letter addressed to the Branch, Ms. Furciniti wrote: “I would like to thank the Bennington Branch for the AAUW Scholarship I was rewarded. I would also like to thank Jennifer Kern for all the help she has given me. This is a group of amazing women and I am thankful for all the help you give to all women that are trying to better their lives.”

This is the first AAUW scholarship for Morgan Williams, 29, who also plans to open her own daycare center. She will be awarded $750. She has two children, ages six and 12, and works full-time as  assistant director and lead infant teacher at Little Angels Preschool and Nursery in Danby.

Ms. Williams earned an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education at CCV, graduating in 2018. During the fall semester she will take two courses:  Human Resource Management , and Legal and Financial Issues in Early Childhood and After-School Programs. Her plan is to be able to apply the credits toward a bachelor’s degree at a university when she is financially able. 

Jeannie Jenkins, former coordinator of academic services at CCV, was Morgan’s academic advisor beginning in spring of 2016. In a letter of recommendation she wrote, “I am so pleased that she is again able to pursue her education as she is a strong and talented student. Her GPA of 4.0 at CCV speaks to her focus and dedication to learning…Morgan is an asset to the early childhood field and exemplifies the characteristics AAUW looks for in those they honor with scholarships.” 

“Morgan Williams has been employed here as an infant toddler teacher since June 2, 2014,” wrote Danielle Wilder, owner/director of Little Angels Nursery and Preschool, “She has been diligent and committed to the children in her care. Morgan is an ongoing learner and strives to continue learning more in regards to matters and changes of early education. She is a very nurturing and understanding teacher…Morgan is also the assistant director at our early educational program, a role she has held since 2016.. She is very hands on with her work and always adaptable to changes that occur in our program. She is committed to excellence in the early childhood field.”

In an essay that accompanied her application, Morgan wrote, “The other side of me is being a volunteer firefighter. I have been a volunteer firefighter for 14 years. I started when I was 14. My dad has been a firefighter since I was born and he was always my hero and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. When I was 17 I took the FireFighter One course that the State of Vermont offers and I am currently the youngest to take and complete the 202-hour course, while going to high school and working part time. Since then I have held officers positions such as lieutenant and secretary. Being able to serve my community and help protect them is what drives me to do this job.

“One thing I love doing is fire prevention at our local elementary school every October. I love interacting with the kids and making sure they know how to be safe, and I also love hearing ‘wow there is a girl firefighter’. I always make sure to tell the girls they can be firefighters too, and to never let anyone tell them otherwise. Being a firefighter has always been an important part of who I am and a side that people who don’t know me wouldn’t think I am,” she concluded. 

In a letter addressed to Dear Bennington Branch Members, Morgan wrote: “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the scholarship. This money will go a long way in helping me this semester and furthering my education. It means so much to me to know that I was awarded this. Thank you again! Thank you.”

Special thanks to Lucy Robinson, Financial Aid Counselor at CCV and the liaison to the Scholarship Committee. She has been instrumental in identifying students who qualify for the scholarship and encouraging them to apply. She provides us with student’s financial needs, as well as informing us about the courses they plan to take and the cost. Over the years she has helped us to craft the application to better match the needs of the students. 

“We appreciate her work and dedication to our mission,” said Jennifer Kern, Scholarship Committee Chair, “She spends time coming up with ideas on how to let more students know about our scholarship via computer blasts and letters. Thank you, Lucy.”

To date the Bennington Branch has awarded 99 one-semester AAUW Scholarships to 46 different women taking classes at CCV in Bennington. All have been non-traditional female students who had interrupted their education after graduating from high school. The women may reapply for successive one semester scholarships for continued study and preference is given to women who are 25 or older. The total awarded since the beginning of the program in 2007 is $49,814.

The Scholarship Committee is chaired by Jennifer Kern. Other committee members are Gudrun Hutchins and Judy Murphy.