Three city high school students heading for college to pursue degrees in education have each received $1,000 scholarships from the Paterson Education Association (PEA), the teachers union.
The Mildred L. Wright Scholarship awards, named after a longtime member of the union who passed away two-decade ago, went to Carmen Rodriguez, Christian Mejia, and Alejandra Ramos.
“It is always a difficult task to select only three students out of the eleven applications received,” Vera Schemly, first-vice president of the union, said.
Rodriguez is a student from Eastside High School’s Government and Public Administration Academy. She has received admission to Montclair State University and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“I have a passion and desire to teach others. Ever since I can remember, I have always looked up to the great teachers I have had along the years,” Rodriguez said. “They have inspired me to join the ranks of education and to commit my time and energies to teaching and guiding future students into the paths of success.”
Rodriguez said her Paterson English teacher has encouraged her to follow her dreams to one day have a positive impact on urban students.
“My career ambition is to become a teacher and mentor to at risk kids who are still young and don’t know how to adapt to a rapidly changing, often confusing world,” Mejia, a student at the School of Informational Technology in Eastside High School, said.
Mejia has been accepted to Centenary College and the New Jersey City University. He hasn’t decided on which of the two schools to attend in the fall.
Ramos, another student from the Eastside High School’s Government and Public Administration Academy, got accepted to Felician College, Bloomfield College, University of Hartford, and Montclair State University. She plans to study education either at Felician College or at the University of Hartford.
“I strongly believe that teachers are capable of making an impact on students’ lives. A way that will allow me to help other is by becoming a teacher,” Ramos said. “If I can just help at least one person and influence them in a positive way, I feel accomplished.”
Ramos said she has had many great teachers in Eastside High School and she wants to become one of those teachers who has a reverberating impact on a student throughout their lives. “Anybody can become a teacher but it takes a good teacher to know what to do to help a student,” Ramos said.
The three Eastside High School students are among a long list of students who have received much needed college scholarships through the Mildred L.Wright Scholarship Fund. The union has been issuing Mildred L. Wright Scholarships to three city high school seniors for the past 15 years.
The thousand dollar scholarships aide students entering the education field while honoring the memory of Wright, a longtime member of the union’s executive board.
“Mildred was an integral part of the organization for many years. When she passed our immediate thought was to name our Scholarship in her honor,” Pete Tirri, president of the union, said.
Wright also chaired the association’s Human Relations Committee for many years. She suddenly passed away over 20 years ago.
The union funds the scholarship through generous contributions from its members via either payroll deductions or direct contribution to the scholarship fund. Union due monies cannot be used to fund these activities by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.
The scholarships allow for the training of a new generation of teachers.
“Many understate the importance of the teaching profession,” Mejia said. “They forget that teachers are like second parents and teach students much more than just class subjects: they also teach life lessons.”