Long Island City, NY—Three LaGuardia Community College students who despite personal hardships had the perseverance to continue their education after a long hiatus were the recipients of the 2013 Education Fund Fellow award of $10,000.
Ellen Lee, a dietetic technician major; Rema Marks, a childhood education major; and Mayra Vega, a liberal arts and science major, were among 15 women selected from 12 New York colleges including Columbia University, New York University and Queens College.
The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum provides annual awards to encourage women who are at least 35-years old of need to fulfill their potential through the pursuit of an undergraduate college education. The award recognizes extraordinary and often heroic effort in overcoming adversity and the most daunting of odds in building lives for success.
“This scholarship changes the trajectory of these students’ lives in unimaginable ways,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College. “With this generous gift these incredible women will now be able to pursue their educational and career dreams with far fewer financial worries and with the recognition they well deserve.”
Ms. Lee, a victim of domestic violence who found the strength to escape an abusive marriage, enrolled in LaGuardia’s dietetic technician program after being out of school for 30 years. Entering the program with a keen interest in the science of weight loss and nutrition, the 52-year-old honor student excelled in her studies despite her long absence from higher education.
She joined Phi Theta Kappa, the College’s honor society, and was an active member of the Food and Nutrition Club. She also volunteered for the Cornell Cooperative Extension at the Mount Sinai Greenmarket where she educated residents in the low-income community on how to shop for fresh food at the farmers market.
Ms. Lee recently graduated with her associate’s degree and will transfer to Lehman College this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. “I am extremely passionate about making a difference in the obesity epidemic,” said Ms. Lee, who has dealt with her own weight issues, “and with this scholarship I can continue to fund my education.”
After winning her battle against cancer after over a year of multiple treatments, Ms. Marks, 38, decided to pursue a passion she had to put off for many years—higher education. She quickly earned her GED after six weeks of classes and enrolled in LaGuardia’s early childhood education program.
As an international student, Ms. Marks faces financial hurdles, which almost prevented her from continuing her education, but she managed to obtain a 3.7 G.P.A. Off campus, she is a counselor at Global Christian Ministries Community service, mentoring battered women and young boys.
“This scholarship has given me new hope to pursue my dreams,” said Ms. Marks, who plans on becoming a teacher. “The money from this scholarship will help to alleviate some of my financial issues and will enable me to stay focused on my academic work and graduate in June of 2014.”
At the age of 14, Ms. Vega’s life was thrown into upheaval when her parents learned she was a lesbian. Facing verbal and physical abuse from her parents and ostracism from her poor Hispanic community in New Jersey, she moved out when she was 18. She moved from place to place, first with a friend and then with a group of squatters. And throughout that period in her life she tried to attend college, but the instability prevented it.
That all changed when she volunteered as an outreach worker for the Hispanic AIDS Forum’s HIV prevention program for gay Latino youth. Volunteering led to a position as a health educator, which motivated her in 2012 to enroll at LaGuardia, her first step to getting a degree in psychology. The 43-year-old liberal arts and science major who has a 3.9 G.P.A. and is interning with the psychology department’s Student Experiences Research Group, is determined to pursue a doctorate in developmental psychology.
“Being selected as a 2013 Women’s Forum Education Fund Fellow will allow me to continue as a full time student, allowing me to dedicate myself completely to my academic career,” said Ms. Vega. “I am honored by the fund’s confidence in me and their willingness to contribute to my future education.”
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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.