Catching Up With Kaitlyn Keegan!

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!


Catching Up With Mike LaPia!

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!

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!

Olivia Mastroluca (768x1024)

Catching Up With Katelyn Root!

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!

Katelyn Root

Catching Up With Michael Rosati!

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!

Michael Rosati Catching Up 2018

Catching Up With Katie Harvey!

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!

Painting for Peace in Ferguson

Please join us as Carol Klein will read from her book Painting for Peace in Ferguson, with activities for children through grade 6.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 2 pm • Lovell Room   

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2018 VSMF National Scholarship Winner, Emily Sedlak!

We would like to introduce you to our 2018 VSMF National Scholarship recipient, Emily Sedlak. Emily is a graduate from Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania. She plans on attending Messiah College in Pennsylvania majoring in Early Elementary Education and Special Education. Emily was chosen out of over 50 applications from all over the country. In speaking to Emily, we felt she embodies the spirit of Vicki!

She said, “It means the world to me that out of countless applicants, I was chosen as the Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship National recipient. I feel incredibly blessed that Miss Soto’s family and friends believed in me so much that they have chosen me to carry on Vicki’s legacy. Vicki was such an incredible woman, and to know that her family and friends see the same light she had in me means everything. When I first received the call I was so honored and speechless. I was in such a state of gratitude and shock that I was at a loss for words. Throughout the phone call all I could think about was honoring Vicki’s memory and making the Soto’s and my new scholarship family proud, which I hope I will be able to do. All I could say was an endless amount of “thank you’s” and hope that it would at least partially express my overwhelming gratitude.”

We are so excited and honored to have Emily as part of our Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship family. Emily has been spending most of her summer teaching in her church’s children’s ministry program. Emily said, “Getting to work with kids at Sunday school, as well as participating in vacation bible school has been such a treat and a highlight of my summer. I love getting to serve my community in any way I can, and it has been a blast getting hands on experience teaching and doing what I love.”

Emily sent us pictures of her from this summer. She said, “The first picture is of me during one of my church’s summer youth group nights where I now serve as a middle school youth group leader! The other two pictures are from the youth group’s meal packing night! Through an organization called “Change For Change”, we packaged 10,000 meals for families  in Zambia- an exciting beginning to our work with the organization as we are planning to pack 60,000 meals by the end of the school year!”

We are so proud of Emily and all her hard work working with her church and children this year. We wish her all the best this fall!

2018 VSMF Bunnell High School Scholarship Winner, Elizabeth Larsen!

We are excited to introduce you to Elizabeth Larsen, the 2018 Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship recipient from Bunnell High School. Elizabeth will be attending Housatonic Community College in the Fall for Early Childhood Education. After winning the scholarship, she said, “When I heard my name called as the winner of the Victoria Soto Memorial Fund Scholarship I started shaking from excitement…it was all I could do to walk across the stage. Winning this scholarship means a great deal to me. I truly believe Miss Soto was a superhero. I hope to have the same love and respect from my students someday that she had and be the kind of teacher that she was.”

Elizabeth is such an enthusiastic, warm, kind and wonderful senior who is ready to pursue her passion of becoming an educator. She has already attended college orientation and when we spoke to her this summer she said that she was very much looking forward to starting her college career!

In addition, Elizabeth told us, “This June, after graduation, I participated in the Barnum Festival Road Show for the second season as a “Barnumette” dancer.  The Barnumettes are a group my brother and I started when he was Barnum Festival King last year. We asked several of our friends from KICKS Dance Center to be in the Road Show with us, and it was such fun, everyone did it again.  We even added three new younger girls to prime the group for next year since the senior class will retire. We visited nineteen convalescent, retirement homes and special needs facilities over three days  around the Bridgeport area. We were on the front page of the Connecticut Post and had a float in the Great Street Parade. As part of the Barnumettes, I also danced and modeled in a charity fashion show for the Angel Fund, which helps families who have lost a baby.”

We are so honored to welcome Elizabeth to the VSMF family! We wish Elizabeth all the best at school and in her journey to become a teacher.

Pictured from right to left Katelyn Root recipient in 2016, Mathew Soto, Elizabeth Larsen, and Jessica Tailercio recipient in 2017.

Pictured from right to left Katelyn Root recipient in 2016, Mathew Soto, Elizabeth Larsen, and Jessica Tailercio recipient in 2017.



2018 VSMF Stratford High School Scholarship Winners, Molly Hines & Taylor Brady!

*During the interview process it was very clear that applicants, Molly Hines and Taylor Brady both of Stratford High School, were equally qualified, passionate and dedication to education. For this reason, the committee awarded both of them with scholarships.*

Molly Hines is a graduating senior from Stratford High School. When Molly received the scholarship she said, “I was extremely shocked to hear my name called and I still can’t believe it! It’s still just all a blur. I truly can’t describe how much this means to me and how much I appreciate it. I truly hope to continue Vicki Soto’s legacy and what she stands for. I am going to Iona College this fall and am majoring in Education. This summer I’ve been preparing for college but also relaxing because I’ve heard it’s a lot of work!”

Taylor Brady is a graduating senior from Stratford High School. She will be attending Coastal Carolina University majoring in Elementary Education this upcoming fall. To prepare for college, Taylor said, “I have been working all summer to help pay for tuition as well as getting cute dorm stuff and making last memories with my friends. When they called my name as the recipient for the Vicki Soto Memorial Scholarship I was shocked, honored, blessed and ecstatic! It means so much to me that I was awarded such an amazing scholarship. As I start my college career, I am going to do my best to follow in Vicki’s footsteps everyday.”

We wish both Molly and Taylor all the best in their freshman year!

Vicki's brother Mathew and sister Carlee joined by Molly Hines (in maroon) and Taylor Brady (in yellow).

Vicki’s brother Mathew and sister Carlee joined by Molly Hines (in maroon) and Taylor Brady (in yellow).

Taylor joined by Vicki’s siblings and Kaitlyn Keegan 2017 recipient and Olivia Mastroluca 2016 recipient.

Taylor Brady joined by Vicki’s siblings and 2017 scholarship recipient Kaitlyn Keegan and 2016 recipient Olivia Mastroluca.

Molly Hines joined by Vicki’s siblings and 2017 scholarship recipient Kaitlyn Keegan and 2016 recipient Olivia Mastroluca.

Molly Hines joined by Vicki’s siblings and 2017 scholarship recipient Kaitlyn Keegan and 2016 recipient Olivia Mastroluca.

Molly Hines (in maroon) and Taylor Brady (in yellow), welcome to the VSMF scholarship family!

Molly Hines (in maroon) and Taylor Brady (in yellow), welcome to the VSMF scholarship family!