"New" was the word of the day at the 21st annual Hartford Scholars Program recognition breakfast held Thursday, Oct. 13, at the University of Hartford. There were new program recipients who shared stories of how the half-tuition scholarship program for city of Hartford residents has changed their lives. There was a new success story from an alum who attended the University through the program. And there was the announcement of a new $100,000 donation to the program.
Vice President of University Relations John Carson announced during the breakfast that Peter Stevens, president of Hartford-based JCJ Architecture, has made a $100,000 planned giving gift to the Hartford Scholars Program. The gift is in memory of Stevens’ father, Robert E. Stevens, who died in April.
Since 2004, Peter Stevens and JCJ Architecture have presented a Mayor’s Scholar Award during the recognition event to a University junior or senior who is a Hartford resident who shows commitment to academics and to the local community. This year’s Mayor’s Scholar Award recipient is Vanita Jaikissoon, a junior majoring in criminal justice. Jaikissoon tutors at the Global Communications Academy in Hartford, is secretary and former treasurer of the UHA Steppaz dance team, participates in the BSU fashion show that raises money for the Book Fund, and works for Aramark Dining Services. She received $1,000 in scholarship funds.
Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) presents the CL&P Scholar Award during the annual recognition event to a junior or senior Hartford Scholar who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, has a clear commitment to the community, and shows career potential as an intern at the company. This year’s CL&P Scholar Award recipient is Rajin Roophnath, a junior electrical engineering major in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture. Roophnath, who worked as an intern at CL&P in the summer of 2011, received a $2,500 scholarship.
Recognition breakfast attendees also heard speeches by Hartford Scholar Travis Francis ’14 and Llonia Jackson Gordon ’97, a member of the first Hartford Scholars class in 1990.
Francis is a criminal justice major in the College of Arts and Sciences. In his first year at the University he made the Dean’s List. He is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society, the Criminal Justice Club and the University’s Traffic Appeals Board. In addition, Francis is a member of the Enfield Police Auxiliary and is an Eagle Scout. His community project to achieve Eagle Scout rank was to rebuild the New Meadow Trail in Newington in memory of two Newington police officers who were killed in the line of duty. Francis plans to apply to become a state trooper after graduation. “I have dreams and aspirations for my life,” Francis told the breakfast attendees, “dreams that would not be possible without a college degree. Without Hartford Scholars Program scholarship, it would be financially very difficult, if not impossible, for me to attend the University of Hartford. Thank you so much for your support of this program.”
Gordon is assistant director of field education and student affairs at Adelphi University in Long Island, N.Y., where she directs the Hudson Valley Center Master of Social Work field education program. A native of Jamaica, she was raised in Hartford and was one of 72 Hartford Scholars who enrolled at the University in 1990, the program’s first year. She majored in political science and philosophy.
During her remarks, Gordon said that while her mother stressed the importance of education, a college degree would have been financially out of reach without the Hartford Scholars Program. Gordon’s voice cracked as she thanked University President Emeritus Humphrey Tonkin, who was in attendance. Tonkin was president when the Hartford Scholars Program began. “I remember you addressing the first class of Hartford Scholars in 1990,” Gordon said. “You offered us the gift of an education and the opportunity of hope. I am who I am today because of the gift that was given to me. For that I say, thank you.”
The Hartford Scholars Program gives Hartford residents, who graduate from Hartford public high schools or Open Choice schools and meet the University’s admission criteria, a chance to receive half-tuition scholarships. Over the past 21 years, 315 Hartford Scholars have earned associate’s and/or bachelor’s degrees at the University. Nearly 70 Hartford Scholars are currently enrolled.