Rachael Merritt received the VSMF scholarship in 2015 from Bunnell High School. Rachael attends Central Connecticut State University and is entering her senior year. This summer we spoke to her to catch up on everything!
“I have been busy this summer working at Pumpkin Preschool with my wonderful coworkers and children. I am eager to start my senior year at Central Connecticut State University with a 3.84 GPA!
Last semester I completed field work in a middle school English classroom and it was so much fun! When I return to school, I will be completing the last of my field work hours in local middle and high schools as I gear up to begin student teaching. I am also so excited to go back to school and begin work as the Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society Vice President! Although it is always tough to go to school away from my family, I am eager to finish this next chapter in continuing Vicki’s legacy.”
We are so proud of Rachael for her outstanding academic achievements and wish her all the best this fall as she continues her field work hours and looks ahead to student teaching!
Kaitlyn Keegan just completed her freshman year at College of Charleston and wrote to us to share how her first year went. Kaitlyn, our 2017 Stratford High School VSMF Scholarship recipient, said: “With my freshman year of college being completed already, I finally understand why everybody tells me to enjoy each and every second. It truly does fly by so quickly!
College of Charleston has become my second home and I could not imagine going to school anywhere else. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to go to such an amazing school. Being in the city of Charleston has given me access to so many beautiful people, places and resources that have inspired me, motivated me and pushed me just enough, all while making sure that I stayed grounded and never take for granted the simplicity in the beauty that I am surrounded by every day in Charleston. I have been lucky enough to have met some outstanding future educators that I will be proud to be teaching with once I graduate from Charleston! It is amazing to see so many people so motivated to not only become educators, but to make a positive impact on the world.
This past school year, I decided to change my major from Elementary Education to Early Childhood Education due to the fact that I want to be able to work with children in the earliest years of their lives as students so that I can make sure that they are well rounded students with a strong foundation that are inspired by everything around them, that have a love and a passion for learning once they reach elementary school.
During the 2018 Spring Semester, I was chosen through College of Charleston’s Impact Program to be a Peer Academic Coach! I will begin my classes and my training this coming Fall Semester and will be in full swing starting as a Peer Academic Coach in the Spring of 2019! I am very thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait to help as many students as I can. On campus, I have been involved with College of Charleston’s branch of Save the Children Action Network and been involved with student activism. I love to volunteer with children and to make as big an impact as I possibly can. I am very excited to get back to school so that I can accomplish even more, make more amazing memories, and do what I love!”
It was so great hearing from Kaitlyn and all that she has been involved with her freshman year! We are so proud of her for all of her academic success and continued passion for being involved with so many wonderful programs in Charleston that support children. We wish her all the best as she gets ready for her sophomore year this fall!
Mike LaPia, our 2015 Stratford High School VSMF Scholarship recipient, graduated from Quinnipiac University this past May. Mike received his Bachelors in History (in 3 years) and is now pursuing a Masters in the Art of Teaching at Quinnipiac.
Mike said, “It feels like just yesterday I was given the honor of being presented with the Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship my senior year of high school, but it has already been three years! Time has truly flown as I graduated Quinnipiac University with a Bachelor’s degree in History. I have recently begun pursuing my master’s degree in the art of teaching at Quinnipiac and am looking forward to completing my student teaching experience at Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford, CT.
Though my undergrad experience has come to a close, I got to learn a lot about history among other things and look forward to developing my craft in the classroom this year during my internship. I would like to thank the Soto family for all their support over the course of this journey and I am eager to carry on Vicki’s legacy in my own classroom in the future!”
We are so proud of you Mike for all of your incredible accomplishments as an undergrad! We wish you all the best as you pursue your master’s degree and are so grateful for all the work you’ve done to support Vicki’s legacy. We cannot wait to hear from you when you are teaching in a classroom of your own! Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Catching Up With Olivia Mastroluca!
Olivia Mastroluca was one of the 2016 winners of the Victoria Soto Memorial Scholarship and this summer we caught up with Olivia to see how school life is going! Olivia said, “College is absolutely amazing and I love everything about it. I’m very excited for the coming school year to be able to move into an apartment with my best friends and hopefully study abroad in Florence for the Spring semester of 2019. I’ve loved every single second of being at Fairfield University and can’t imagine having gone to school anywhere else. It is such a fantastic school and I’m amazed how it became a second home to me so quickly. There is nothing I can complain about and being close to home is a plus!”
Olivia will be starting her Junior year at Fairfield University in September. She is majoring in English with a concentration in Teacher Education and a minor in Educational Studies. She is also on the 5-year BA/MA track, with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher once she graduates. She has been involved in several organizations on campus such as becoming a Tour Ambassador and being on the executive board of Play Like A Girl (PLAG). Also, she has been doing a lot of volunteer work, including being an usher at the on campus theater and reading and tutoring children in two Bridgeport schools, since she started at Fairfield.
As for what’s ahead this semester for Olivia, she said, “I’m really motivated to become more involved at school and really make the most of the next two years! I can’t believe I already have two years under my belt; I never believed people when they told me college would fly by, but they were so right. I can’t help but feel like there is still so much more for me to do, and I can’t wait to accomplish it all. I’m eager to see where this school year takes me and all of the various opportunities that it will bring with it. I’m looking forward to being able to get more exposure in the school and classroom setting and being able to get more hands on experience. I am beyond thrilled to see what my junior year has in store for me!”
We are so excited to see what’s in store for Olivia, too! We know she will continue to do great things and we look forward to catching up with her again soon!
This summer we’ve been catching up with all of the past Victoria Soto Memorial Scholarship winners to see how things are going. Next up we talked to Katelyn Root, one of the 2016 Bunnell High School scholarship recipients.
Katelyn has been busy this summer working three jobs: as a nanny, waitress, and desk attendant at the gym. Back at school (Eastern Connecticut State University), she has been working as a student leader at Eastern’ s Center for Community Engagement, where she coordinates volunteer programs, orientates volunteers and works closely with community partners.
Katelyn said, “This semester I will start my position as Secretary for the Education honor society, as well as continue to volunteer around Willimantic. Serving the community and working with children definitely assures me I have made the right career path, as I think of Vicki always and love what I do just like she did.”
We are so proud of Katelyn for keeping Vicki’s legacy close to her heart and perusing her dreams of becoming a teacher. We wish her all the best next semester!
Michael Rosati, the 2017 VSMF CT Scholarship winner, just completed his freshman year at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. We caught up with Michael to see how his first year there went and what he thinks of college life so far.
Michael said, “I love going to school at Salve. I enjoy the small campus environment where I can recognize almost all the faces I see. Additionally, living and going to school right on the water is the best. I love being in walking distance to the beach and having the ocean always in view! I have been making some amazing friends and having a lot of fun – so far, college life has been great.
I am still double majoring in elementary and special education and I have already taken several education classes. I finished my freshman year making Dean’s List! I also have begun my testing for my teaching certification. So far I have passed my special education, science, social studies, and english language arts praxis exams. I still have to take two more.
I have been getting heavily involved on campus. I have been involved in campus ministry, a leadership program, and my favorite, Salve’s chapter of Best Buddies. I was even elected treasurer for next year! I am excited to get more involved with the club. I love working with and befriending all the people who are often marginalized because of their disabilities (such as autism, down syndrome…etc.).
This summer I am working at Sterling House Day Camp in Stratford, CT. I am the gym director, so essentially the physical education teacher of camp. I facilitate games such as kickball, dodgeball…etc. for all the campers. I see about 175 campers a day in grades pre-k through 8th grade! I love working with kids all summer, I can’t imagine spending my summer any other way!”
What a great update from Michael! We are so proud of him for all of his tremendous accomplishments, making Dean’s List, passing praxis exams, completing his course work, and finding additional time to volunteer with Best Buddies. We are excited to see what is ahead for him in his Sophomore Year! Enjoy the rest of your summer Michael and tell Sterling House we say hello!
We caught up with Katie Harvey this summer to see how college is going and get an update on what’s new with her in the sunshine state of Florida. Katie, the 2017 National Scholarship recipient, just finished her freshman year at Flagler College. Katie wrote to tell us all about college life, her upcoming work as a Peer Mentor and tutor, duties as a co-maid of honor and her true love of coffee and pizza (although we aren’t sure which one ranks above the other as her true favorite)!
In reading through Katie’s update, we couldn’t help but notice her personality has such a striking resemblance to Vicki’s. Katie’s zest for life and passion for education shines right through! Katie faced some challenges adjusting to college life, as it is a big change for so many, but preserved and is feeling good going into her Sophomore year.
In her own words Katie said, “I can’t lie about this: I walked into Flagler College with picture-perfect expectations of what my freshman year was going to be like, which were all based on the stories that my sisters had told me of their college years. It wasn’t until I had finished my first semester, though, that I started to understand just how much these expectations were keeping me from developing a story that was all my own. And so, my freshman year was an adjustment period filled with so many mistakes, achievements, phone calls to my mother, moments of laughing until my stomach hurt, and times in which I asked my friends where exactly the time was going- but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Throughout my freshman year, I wrote so many papers that I think I may have indented my laptop’s keyboard. I was able to begin working at the Alumni House from the start of the school year and found a friend in my very stylish and sweet boss. I made it a goal to not procrastinate as much as I did in high school, but then I got busy doing other things. I kept my sassy sense of style with me at all times, and landed on the Dean’s List both semesters! And while I spent a lot of time working at the problems I was faced with both in and out of the classroom, I was also planning for the year that is now right around the corner. As a sophomore, I will be helping one of my favorite professors as a Peer Mentor for her freshman students, even though I still look like a freshman myself (and probably always will). But if I’m not mentoring new kids at Flagler or finally getting the chance to start doing practicum hours at the nearby elementary school, I can be found in the Learning Resource Center as a Writing Tutor! I am so excited to learn more about education, but even more excited for the teaching experiences that all of these positions will provide me with. This summer I am taking the time to help plan the wedding of the century as a Co-Maid of Honor, and being the best Dog Mom I can be. But Saint Augustine is always in the back of mind and in my heart, right next to my love for pizza.
One of the things I will remember most about my freshman year of college will definitely always be the education course I took in the second semester. I have never had an instructor like the one I did for this class, simply because of how much he knew about the field and the ways he went about teaching his wisdoms. In the essay I wrote a year ago for my application for this scholarship, I mentioned that the blinds in my classroom would always be open to let the light in. Because my spring education course was always a little stressful, I always opened the blinds to lighten the mood. My professor, without fail, would close them after coming in each day. And I, without fail, continued to open them in hopes that they would stay that way. Personally, I find this to be my biggest achievement: not losing my light-hearted spirit. I quickly discovered that among all the business of “discovering who you are,” some of my passions were simply permanent. My love of breaking out into song and dance stayed with me in college, even at the library. And even when I had a million and one assignments to complete, my teaching courses were where my heart felt most at ease, despite the three cups of coffee flowing through me. No matter how many blinds were going to remain closed, I still had every intention of being the light. So, that being said, college can change a lot about who you are, but it won’t ever change who I want to be. This I am most sure of.”
Never change Katie!! You are exceptional! We absolutely loved hearing from you! We wish you all the best as you begin work as a Peer Mentor, devote hours as a writing tutor and keep up with your course requirements. We are so proud of you for making Dean’s list both semesters and cannot wait to see what your Sophomore year has in store for you. Give your dog extra kisses from Team Vicki Soto! You are the light Katie! Keep shining!