Heather Courtney Sweeps Two of the Most Prestigious Citywide Awards

March 10, 2003 | College of Staten Island

Out of seventeen undergraduate institutions and more than 200,000 students in The City University of New York, Heather Courtney, a junior at the College of Staten Island, was selected for both the prestigious Belle Zeller and Melani Scholarships. Citywide, only 10 students were awarded the Belle Zeller and merely 5 garnered the Melani.

Heather Courtney, with a 3.817 grade point average and a love for her double major of Bioinformatics and English, finds it difficult to confine her interests to only these two subjects. Among her many talents are painting, the study of foreign languages, music and politics. During the summer of 2002, she put her Spanish skills to the test in a special study grant she won in Ecuador.

Although serious academic scholarship has been her priority, Ms. Courtney possesses the high octane energy to take on a leadership role both at CSI and in the community. She has spearheaded the organization of trips for our student body to cultural, educational and entertainment destinations, worked for CSI’s Emerging Leaders Program. She has lent her administrative skills as President of Unique Individuals, a club that assists disabled students in every aspect of college life, and has served as a long-time volunteer in the Ophthalmology Department of Bayley-Seaton Hospital, as well as in office and patient support roles.

Even before winning the Belle Zeller and Melani competitions, Ms. Courtney has been the recipient of scholarships from the Business and Professional Womens’ Association, the American Associations of University Women, the Art Lab Studio’s art program and is a member of CSI’s Dean’s List.

“I have no doubt that this energetic, charming, exceptionally intelligent CSI student will succeed in all she undertakes,” said Dr. Adrienne Siegel, the faculty advisor who helps CSI students prepare their applications, “she has and continues to give fully of herself to others.”

Ms. Courtney has achieved so much despite the terrible pain that has been her constant companion ever since a serious car accident in 1994 left her with permanent spinal injuries. But she looks on her physical disability as a gift instead of a curse. Rather than taking the comfortable route of staying in a routine job as a customer service representative for The Putnam Berkely Publishing Group, she decided that further education was the logical next step.

Ms. Courtney came to CSI nearly twice as old as many incoming freshman. She walked with a cane and was scared. She decided that what others might think of her was less important than the goals she wanted to achieve. CSI offered her the opportunity to explore many interests, and she discovered that she was “a student of life at heart.”

She decided to tackle Bioinformatics, the application of computer technology to biological questions, and is using this career path to someday allow her to delve into questions of how to prevent debilitating diseases.

Ms. Courtney came to CSI after life had dealt her some bad cards, but it did not stop her from playing her hand with exceptional bravery, generosity and intelligence. “Now that her efforts have won such amazing recognition from the City University of New York,” said Dr. Siegel, “we are sure that she will continue to be a credit to CSI, her profession and our community.”