This past week, UConn’s Neag School of Education held its annual Scholarship Celebration to commemorate the students who have benefitted, financially and personally, from the generosity of numerous donors. Students highlighted their personal experiences and gave thanks to the individuals who helped them turn their educational dreams into reality.
The virtual ceremony was hosted by Jason G. Irizarry, the Neag School of Education dean, who began the celebration by shedding light on how impactful these scholarships are to students and the entire Neag School community.
“We are here to congratulate this year’s deserving student scholarship recipients — tomorrow’s education researchers, sport management professionals, teachers, and school leaders,” he said. “At the same time, this event would not take place without our generous donors; they are the individuals who help make our students’ educational journeys here at the Neag School possible.”
This past year alone, the Neag School distributed more than $267,000 in scholarship aid to deserving students.
Brianna Chance, an undergraduate pursuing an Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s degree in music education, is one of this year’s student scholarship recipients. Through a difficult upbringing, Chance turned to music to distract her from what was happening in her personal life; however, this distraction quickly turned into a passion. Nonetheless, Chance says she had always felt college was a distant dream until she arrived at UConn and found her place.
“When I began attending UConn, I discovered the importance of a chosen family,” she said. “My professors, advisors, and classmates emulated this supportive familial structure I was not privy to.”
Not only has her scholarship helped her financially, but it has also allowed her to allot less time to work and more time to endeavors that truly interest her.
“As I embark on my third year at the University of Connecticut, my heart is overwhelmed with the amount of love I have received thus far,” said Chance. “Three years ago, I could not have predicted that I would be conducting activism on campus, running a volunteer organization to support independent students, serving as a mentor for my fellow UConn Huskies, and excelling in my studies.”
Paying It Forward
Carmen Effron ’81 MBA, a benefactor and dedicated member of the Neag School Dean’s Board of Advocates, was able to join the Scholarship Celebration and share her personal story on why helping students is so important to her and her family.
Her father, an Italian immigrant, had to return to the first grade upon arriving in America to learn English. He later received his BA and MA degree from Boston College in education and eventually became a teacher. Unfortunately, he passed away when Effron was 18 years old.
“The one thing that was incredibly unexpected and a terrific way of honoring my dad was that the faculty at Woodbury High, which is where he spent the last 17 years of his career, put together a memorial scholarship for myself and my four sisters,” she said. “It made me feel special and pleased and happy that someone was taking the time to look out for us.”
Effron started out studying education at UConn but switched to business. She went on to create CF Effron Company and now honors the memory of her father by contributing financially to students in need. This year one of the recipients of her scholarship fund is Angela Chen, a senior pursuing a secondary education degree with a concentration in social studies.
Chen says she never imagined she would be able to attend college; financial burdens were harsh, but through the help of scholarships, she has immersed herself as a student and grown as an individual.
“On behalf of all the scholarship recipients this year, I promise that we will not let you down, I promise that we will serve the next generation of students and believe in them the way that you believed in us.”
– Angela Chen ’23 (ED), ’24 MA
“Even though I am just one student and one life that has been changed, I want you to know that you do make a difference in the lives of all students that you decide to support,” she said. “On behalf of all the scholarship recipients this year, I promise that we will not let you down, I promise that we will serve the next generation of students and believe in them the way that you believed in us, and I promise that we will try to make the world a better place one student at a time.”
As another student pointed out during her remarks, financial contributions helping Neag School students also indirectly impact the lives of future schoolchildren.
Mhret Wondmagegne, a junior studying elementary education, arrived in America from Ethiopia with little knowledge of the English language, similar to Effron’s father. However, her English language learner teacher not only helped her learn English but, she says, also allowed her to grow as an individual in an unfamiliar setting.
“She went above and beyond… she showed me that she cared about me as a person,” said Wondmagegne. “She believed in me so much that I started to believe in myself, and I hope someday to do it for a lot of my kids.”
Wondmagegne is committed to using the Degnan Family Scholarship she received to aid her in her future studies and help her become the best teacher she can be.
“I am excited to teach, to have my own classroom and kids that I will care for, teach, grow with and learn from,” she said. “However, just as excited as I am, I also know the reality of the difficulties in teaching and the struggles that can come up, which is why I am committed to preparing the best I can.”