The memories of those lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on 12/14 continue to live on through family, friends, and community members. Now, future educators are honoring the 20 students and six educators thanks to a partnership between We Are Newtown and Newtown Scholarship Association to provide scholarships to four graduating Newtown High School students.
NHS seniors Brianna Bauch, Natalie Svanda and Megan Watts were honored during the We Are Newtown Scholarship Ceremony at the Newtown Youth Academy Courtyard on June 15. Rachel DiVanno, the fourth recipient, was not in attendance.
The recipients each received $6,500 scholarships, making the total money awarded $26,000 in memory of the 26 Sandy Hook victims. Each of these scholarship winners is pursuing a career in teaching/educating, and the money is to help them in their educational pursuits.
“This is something that is important to me. This is a no-brainer for me,” said Kyle Lyddy, co-founder of We Are Newtown. Mr Lyddy said the goal is to distribute $26,000 to prospective teachers/educators each year.
Money was raised through sales of T-shirts, the driving force behind the fundraising efforts, in addition to events held throughout town, and monetary donations from individuals, Mr Lyddy said.
The We Are Newtown Memorial Scholarship Fund has raised approximately $200,000. Newtown Scholarship Association (NSA), established as a nonprofit organization in 1937, has awarded more than $3 million in need-based scholarships to more than 1,000 students. It has been a 501(c)(3) exempt organization since 1963.
NSA board member and awards chairperson Stephanie Gaston said there were nine students to choose from. Decisions are based primarily on financial need, however overall high school academic performance as well as community service and extra-curricular activities are also considered, Ms Gaston added.
Ms Gaston said the total money awarded by NSA to high school graduates this year will exceed $150,000, triple the amount typically awarded. Eight scholarships totaling more than $60,000 is going to students for scholarships established as a result of 12/14.
We Are Newtown members Kristen Brassard and Mandie Fishback, NSA member Julie Savino, area student Bailey Jeffko, who sang the national anthem and “26 Angels,” Sandy Hook Elementary School Library Clerk Mary Ann Jacob, Acting Superintendent John Reed, and Senator Richard Blumenthal all participated in the ceremony, which was held at Newtown Youth Academy.
Ms DiVanno will attend The College of New Jersey and major in elementary education. Ms Bauch and Ms Watts plan to attend Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. Ms Bauch intends to earn a double major in a collaborative special education/elementary education and theater program, and Ms Watts expects to major in an elementary education/special education collaborative. Ms Svanda will major in elementary education at Keene State College in New Hampshire.