Given Dante’s tendency to stand out in a crowd in each of his extraordinarily varied passions, undertakings and achievements, in academics, the theater, creative arts, student government, volunteer community service and entrepreneurship, it’s a little surprising that the wellspring of his confidence and motivation was the time spent all alone in a small sailboat on the Long Island Sound. There, from a young age in the Blue Waters Bound sailing program and later at SoundWaters, Dante said he acquired the gift of self-reliance, as out there he quite literally became the captain of his own ship.
Still, Dante is no loner. At AITE he was freshman class treasurer and has been class president ever since, while gaining admission to the National Honor Society, the Future Business Leaders of America (serving as president since 2020 and more than quintupling its membership), and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. He’s been a member of Westhill’s Northstar Players, the CT Drama Association Competition and has performed twice in the All School Musical (a lead, Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical!). As a freshman Dante was runner-up in the Stamford Public Schools’ city-wide Dolphin Tank Entrepreneur Competition, where he pitched an idea that he has since turned into a full-fledged business enterprise, The Bungalow Scent Co. (www.thebungalowscentco.com Look it up!) that creates, manufactures and sells scented candles and room sprays in stores, farmer’s markets and online. Simply put by Brenda Zanga, Entrepreneurship teacher at AITE, “he works, he volunteers and participates” and adds that she considers herself “so lucky to have had the privilege to have him in my classes and the opportunity to recommend him” for a scholarship, or we’d guess for anything, really.
Outside of school Dante has been deeply involved with SoundWaters, capping off his maritime education there as an instructor himself, where he has earned top reviews. Christina Genz, the Education Director says “Dante is a master of all of the ingredients of successful teaching, especially the ability to inspire.” He’s also shared his passion for the Sound with recent Latin American immigrants at Building One Community, combining weekly kayak lessons with shoreline clean-ups on weekend mornings throughout the summers. As a bonus, Dante says, he gets to practice his Spanish along the way.
Nor has Dante done it alone. He credits his mom, Danette Melchionne, as his champion and mentor, and among her lessons that he takes most to heart are those of tolerance and empathy. “Everybody has a story”, she says, cautioning her son not to judge others too quickly.
We at COTY agree. After all, if you just met Dante, you might think he’s just some really good student
It is no coincidence that singles tennis requires single-mindedness. To perform at a high level, they say, one must empty their thoughts of everything else in the moment, except of course, tennis. Well, in Aryan’s case (Westhill High School’s first CIAC LL Boy’s Tennis State Championship finalist in over 40 years!) we have a little trouble seeing how that could have been possible. You see, despite his prowess on the hard courts, Aryan has had a lot more spinning around in his head than tennis balls.
For one thing this extremely high-ranking National Honors Society member has been a Gold Medal winning fundraiser and President’s Volunteer Service Award winner for Sewa International, a Hindu faith-based, humanitarian, nonprofit service organization that specializes in worldwide disaster relief and rehabilitation irrespective of race, color, religion, gender or nationality. He has also served as a volunteer nurse at Stamford Hospital in its postoperative nursing unit, Westhill High Debate Captain, a Student of the Year in the Westhill Computer Science Academy, and a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist. Says his “unofficial” school counselor, Spiro Milas, “to complete all of this in addition to the herculean amount of homework associated with taking four AP courses this year alone is simply indescribable”.
Back to singles, Aryan has also been a one-on-one tutor with the CT STEM Kids Club and the JAKE Academy of Public Speaking, and has sacrificed many precious high school Saturdays working with the AMBYESE (Annual Multicultural Business Youth Educational Services Embarkment) organization, which assists students with standardized test prep, STEM subject enrichment and career exploration. Said one of his successful tutees whom Aryan guided through AP Biology, “Aryan devised specific study schedules, revising entire units prior to exams. His efforts demonstrated utmost dedication, given his commitment to my understanding, and it paid off, yielding higher grades and self-confidence. Aryan is an impressive individual.”
Aryan has three heroes--first and foremost, his parents whom he credits with providing the love, support and the tools for success that he knows will continue to guide him. And also one more, whom he could not have met, but who has guided him just the same--Mahatma Gandhi, who said “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”
The depth and breadth of thought demonstrated by Aryan in his high school career has us at COTY convinced he will continue to become someone very special and we are very pleased to award him a 2022 Scholarship.
Mike is one of the rare COTY winners who was preceded in the award by a sibling, his brother Alex, although scholarship is hardly the only Edward’s family business. The entrepreneurial Edward’s have built a Christmas tree farm, a hemp farm pilot for CBD, Toasty Toes Firewood Company and Edward’s Landscaping Services, all rooted in their grandparent’s family farm in Redding. The farm is also what first inspired Alex and Mike to start “Bee Brothers” in 2019, based on the Edward’s beekeeping hobby, a series of very popular presentations where they shared beekeeping art and science with Stamford elementary students, in particular at Stark School under the grateful direction of Asst. Principal Joseph Claps. When Alex went off to the University of Virginia (where Mike is also bound), their younger sister Annie joined the team, now dubbed “The Beekeepers for the Future” and to date the three of them have demonstrated the critical role of those very busy pollinators with over 2,500 students in half the city’s elementary schools!
That success, with the guidance of Mike’s AP Environmental Science teacher Carley Grant, led Mike to found and lead “Viking Apiaries” at Westhill, a club that has attracted a diverse membership (including a couple of teachers!). It meets regularly on its mission to spread word of the honeybees’ essential role in the environment and in agriculture, and seeks to grow the hobby of beekeeping while raising funds to start Westhill’s own apiary which has, in turn, already produced and sold enough honey to purchase more beehives and equipment to sustain it into the future.
At once focused and multifaceted, Mike is also deeply interested in U.S. History, in particular WW II and the Civil War, which led him to become a member and volunteer with the Office of State Archaeology. With his metal detector Mike has conducted his own “digs” unearthing musket balls, military buttons, silver coins and other relics from the Civil War, establishing an organized and documented collection with the guidance of experienced archaeologists. He’s also learned to analyze soil composition and stratigraphy to help identify the era of a given relic’s origin.
Some of Mike’s other extracurricular activities include coaching wrestling with Stamford Junior Wrestling, where he’s also an alumni, volunteering at the Stamford Hospital Cardiology Ward, and serving as Community Outreach Coordinator with the Westhill Angels, a school based community service organization that sponsors and operates food, clothing, school supply and other drives for those less fortunate. Also as a straight-A student engaged in multiple Honors and AP courses through his high school career, Mike serves as Vice President of the National Honor Society, organizing and providing tutoring for other Westhill students. And on top of all that, Mike is the captain of the Westhill Varsity Baseball Team.
Now back to family business—Mike credits his Mom and Dad with giving him the love, encouragement and guidance that have made him who he is today—an exceptional pupil, budding environmental scientist and archaeologist, entrepreneur, history buff, star athlete and an excellent brother. Wherever life leads you (and we hope it’s back to Stamford), we at COTY say congratulations Mike!
Perhaps one wouldn’t expect it of a serious, motivated, high ranking Stamford High Senior given to volunteering with special needs children, religious education, and community service, but when it comes to superheroes, especially Marvel Comics movie superheroes, Mollie Herz is a huge fan. Uncle Ben, that is, Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, famously told his spidey-sensed nephew “with great power comes great responsibility” and while Mollie may not have the power thing down just yet, she’s already taken on enough responsibility to give pause to Spiderman himself.
Since middle school Mollie has volunteered as an assistant swim instructor with Swim Angelfish, an adaptive swim organization dedicated to children with various special needs, motor difficulties and sensory processing disorders. Now also working there as a lifeguard, Mollie organizes the pool equipment, greets families, answers questions and assists the instructors and therapists to keep the children safe. Mollie’s mentor and Swim Angelfish’s co-owner, Ailene Tisser says “The children . . . adore Mollie and love seeing her each week. . . she is reliable, compassionate, and patient with the children in our program. . . she is very passionate about pursuing the field of Physical Therapy and will be a true asset to whichever program she applies for.”
As an active member of the Temple Beth El community, Mollie has participated in numerous youth program activities and community service projects, and is a member of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization which performs charitable works like collection drives, packing parties and fundraisers throughout the Stamford area. For the past five years she also has volunteered as a teacher’s aide for Beth El’s Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning religious classes, and a grateful Lisa Gittelman-Udi, its Director of Congregational Learning, says “she has a wonderful manner with younger children and truly serves as a role model . . . who truly understands and takes to heart what it means to be of service to her community”.
Mollie has also served as a member of Friendship Circle, an organization whose mission is to bridge the gap between special needs and typical youth through shared experience, especially in their Buddies at Home program, where she mentored an individual child at home. And for the past two years she’s been president of Friendly Faces at Stamford High, also dedicated to making students with special needs feel that they are in integral part of the school community. Jumpstart, a therapeutic early childhood classroom experience for two year olds with special needs, and Leadership Academy, a volunteer organization at Stamford High, have also been lucky enough to have Mollie’s enthusiastic participation.
No one knew what makes a superhero better than Marvel’s creator, Stan Lee. He said “that person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt a real superhero.”
Now that sounds a lot like Mollie, and we at COTY are huge fans
One might say that AITE Guidance Counselor Joshua Bogard was given to hyperbole when he pledged his future vote for Aishwarya for “President of the World”. After all, she’s only a high school senior and of course there’s the fact that the office itself is not really a thing. Still, one would guess there has to be a reason for that kind of enthusiasm for a student’s future. Actually, there are many.
Beginning at least as far back as middle school Aishwarya discovered the impact she could have on others as an assistant counselor for four and five year olds at Union Memorial Preschool, taking on more and more responsibility with each passing year. But that was just the start. As a freshman at AITE she was part of the inaugural year of Generation Impact, a young woman-led not-for-profit that fundraises and provides grants for meaningful causes like Center for Children’s Advocacy, DOMUS Kids, CLC, Open Door Shelter and Building One Community (to name a few) and one of Aishwarya’s passions, Mental Health Services (at Bridgeport Hospital), eventually becoming GI’s Membership Chair on the Board of Directors. Said Sara Allard and Ellen Reid, GI’s Program Advisors “Aishwarya is one of the most positive, outgoing and engaging teenagers we know. . .we consider ourselves so lucky to have her in our program!” Meanwhile she had also joined Interact Club as a freshman (the Rotary’s youth branch), performing community service programs such as Toys for Tots, food and blood drives, and many others, becoming its President for her junior and senior years. President. You might see where this is going.
Aishwarya has become President of pretty much every organization she has joined that has one—The Spanish Honor Society, which has raised funds for Nicaragua, the National Honor Society attending to tutoring other students, and the Science Honor Society providing STEM programs for elementary, middle and other high school students. She has also been on the Executive Board of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council since sophomore year, leading programs for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, Lead Ambassador for AITE providing orientation to new students, and Table Leader for AITE’s Out of the Box night promoting STEM to younger students. As a junior she finished first as an individual speaker in the CT State Debate Competition (taking second place overall), and even was part of a team that had a research paper published by the IEEE MIT Undergraduate Research Technology Conference concerning methods to curb teen vaping.
Next up for Aishwarya is the University of Virginia, which she will attend as a prestigious Jefferson Scholar, which may be a step on the path to neuroscientific research, a pursuit which combines her passion for mental health awareness and her precocious aptitude in the sciences. But wherever it may lead, we have no doubt, she will be a leader.
Mr. Bogard, we at COTY see your point.
To this straight A, AP Honors senior, the world has been a welcoming place, and so she decided it should be that way for everyone.
That’s why Hannah has volunteered at Building One Community, teaching English to recent immigrants and tutoring citizenship applicants, as well as serving as a Youth Leader, providing leadership and training to 80 other B1C high school volunteers. Hannah has developed a unique ability to engage with people from very diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Hannah’s welcoming nature is also why she became the president of Stamford High’s Friendly Faces, an organization dedicated to ensuring that the student community’s inclusiveness extends to students with special needs, to help them get the most out of their high school years. Under her leadership, club membership, monthly activities, and fundraising opportunities have all skyrocketed. Her energy and inspirational efforts to encourage fellow students to participate has been infectious.
Hannah plans for a career as a physician, and of course to continue to lift up others along the way. And we at COTY are sure that for each and every one of them that stops to thank her, she’ll really mean it when she replies, “you’re welcome”.
This once bashful SHS freshman blossomed into a leader, an influencer, and a vital member of our community.
Sabine Charles’ hard work and dedication for Future 5 community projects like the Pollinator Garden, Fairgate Farms, the Mill River Collaborative, the Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular, the Diaper Drive, Light the Night, Person to Person, the Bartlett Arboretum, Veteran’s Park, the Food Bank, ARI, and many others. Her “all-in positive spirit” led her to be one of the very first Future 5 Ambassadors, which expanded her responsibilities to include welcoming and orienting new members, fundraising, and advising staff about enrichment opportunities.
Sabine’s list of contributions also includes, Stamford Public Education Foundation, Martin Luther King Jr. March, the Afro Roots Food Drive and Stamford High’s Unified Sports Rally. She has a way with young children spending many hours volunteering to baby sit at the First Haitian Free Methodist Church and reading and relating to the kids at the Kingdom Kids Daycare.
Sabine credits her family, her friends, and Future 5 for their inspiration and guidance. The future certainly looks bright for Sabine and we at COTY are very happy to help her along the way with a 2020 Scholarship.
No creature can make you feel as important as a puppy can. As just a ten-year-old, Thomas Connolly saw how to put that love to use. By taking in and providing a puppy pre-K for future seeing-eye and service-dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, these future hero pooches could make a lasting impact for those most in need. So that’s what Thomas did, nearly thirty times for multiple puppies in eight years, right through his senior year at Stamford High.
This A student in the AP and Honors programs and 4 year varsity lacrosse player and team captain, has also been a volunteer coach at Stamford Youth Lacrosse, a St. John’s Vacation Bible School counselor, a member of the SHS Leadership Academy, the National Honor Society, the Science National Honor Society, the SHS Debate Team, SHS Friendly Faces (helping special needs students), a Person to Person and Lower Fairfield County Food Bank volunteer, and in Ath-Life Program as a tutor for struggling student athletes.
A gifted writer, Thomas also won the Stamford Literacy Contest for his article about the disparity in Stamford sports coverage compared to neighboring towns. And yet, we at COTY are still pretty amped about the puppies.
The buzz surrounding Alex Edwards isn’t just talk. Alex cofounded “Bee Brothers”, a series of educational workshops for elementary school students, teaching the crucial role of honeybees in our environment. Alex’s bee sessions are perfectly organized, highly engaging, and jam packed with meaningful content.
An all “A” honors student and 2 sport, 4 year varsity athlete, Alex credits his wrestling and lacrosse skills to his years with the Stamford Junior Wrestling Club (SJWC) and the Stamford Youth Lacrosse Association (SYLA). Alex has volunteered as a coach and referee for SJWC for five years, and at SYLA for two, and helps make Stamford’s annual CT Elementary School State Wrestling Championships a success.
As National Honor Society Vice President, Alex convinced his fellow NHS members to help clean up the Westhill Gardens, and he’s also pitched in at the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, tutored math and science at Tutor Me SOS, and worked with Habitat for Humanity.
Alex credits his teachers and coaches, and especially his parents, who set him in the right direction and created Edward’s Apiary, which along with everything else, helps keep him as busy as a . . . well, you know.
Some obstacles are physical, like a rocky slope set for climbing. Others are metaphorical, like a political chasm or a mountain of indifference. Zac Kitay believes he can cross them all, and he is off to a greatstart.
A varsity athlete (a pole vaulter and diver), Zac foundedthe Westhill High School Rock ClimbingClub, creating a bridge between his school and the climbing studio where he is an instructor. As Regional Presidentof the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, he ledover 850 teens committed to spreading a broader understanding across religious, racial and societal divides.
As a top student in the WHS Agriscience and Technology Program, and member of the Future Farmers of America, Zac’s leadership lifted him to the position of Chapter Sentinel, where his thoughtful consideration of others helped his fellow students feel more like afamily, no matter their background.
A National Honor Society member, Zac has volunteered with Jewish Family Services, Bennett Cancer Center’s Hope in Motion Walk, Friendship Circle, andhas created many graphic designs and illustrations for The Westword, Westhill’s nationally acclaimed student newspaper.
We at COTY doubt that there is a mountainout there, rocky or not, that Zac Kitay cannot climb.
Wendy Lopez strives to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable,” It’s the best wayto grow, she says, and it’s worked for her,and through her, benefitted many others. At Future 5 Wendy became a Student Ambassador, welcoming new members and helping them integrate into the community with her unique ability to make all those present feelcomfortable and her unique ability to make everyone feel involved and important.
On Wendy’s desire to one day teach, her Stamford High AVID Coordinator, Gina Figluizzi says she is excitedbecause “she is organized, energetic, disciplined, kind and patient. She is exactly the kind of young teacherwe need”.
Other beneficiaries of Wendy’s determination include Inspirica, Bartlett Arboretum, Food Bankof Lower Fairfield County, Fairgate Farm, Person-to-Person, St. Mark’s Church, the Pacific House and many others. She’s also been a mainstay in the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council,logging countless hours promoting social causeslike March for Our Lives, the voiceless victims of sexual assault, diversity is our strength, and manymore.
Wendy says she’s been blessed with the love and guidance of big sister Cindy and her parents Jorge and Rosy. Wherever lifeleads her, we at COTY are feeling very comfortable about awarding Wendy a 2020 Scholarship.
Martine has spent her entire high school career striving for excellence because like Maya Angelou, “she’s counting on you counting on” her. And lots of people have, at Future 5, the Stamford Public Education Foundation (SPEF), Inspirica, Stamford High’s Leadership Academy, and others.
With Future 5, Martine has helped connect low income high school students to services, people, and opportunities to help make the world around her a better place. She’s worked with the Mill River Collaborative, the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, the Veterans Park Dog Tag Project, and more. As one of just twenty “highly engaged” mentors in the SPEF’s Stamford Mentoring Program, Martine spent her junior and senior years meeting each week with a group of Stark School students, listening to them and guiding them to participate in activities that encourage community involvement and build strong character.
Martine has also been the SHS Basketball Team manager, the Afro Roots Club president, and volunteered at the Pollinator Garden, Hope in Motion, the MLK Jr. March, and the Stamford DSSD Parade Spectacular, among other endeavors. As an ECMC scholar, she’s also excelled in the classroom.
We at COTY feel pretty good about having someone like Martine to count on.
Sam Diamond is the kind of guy who is not afraid to get in over his head. Sure, he could have decided to cruise through high school college prep courses, but that wouldn’t be Sam. Instead, he dove into the most demanding curriculum that Stamford High had to offer, including upper-class Advanced Placement courses like Physics, Calculus, English and Environmental Sciences, and other Honors courses (going all the way back to Freshman year), earning swimmingly top grades and a spot in the National Honor Society along the way. On top of that, Sam got in even deeper with multiple extracurricular endeavors at SHS like Interact where he volunteers with the ROSCCO afterschool program at Newfield School, the SHS Leadership Academy mentoring incoming Freshmen, and he has immersed himself into the Environmental Action Committee and Students Demand Action, the student response to Parkland. He is also proud to be a multimedia editor for The Round Table, the online SHS newspaper.
Okay, sorry about all the aquatic references, but they’re not just a metaphor. Sam is also a trained lifesaver. A CPR/AED certified Life Guard, he’s lettered in varsity swimming and is a head life guard and swimming instructor for the City of Stamford. So, if you (or Bradley Cooper or Lady Gaga, even) ever find yourself “far from the shallow”, Sam Diamond is a good guy to have around.
Outside of school Sam has also made time to volunteer through the JCC with the New Covenant House serving meals, the Lox Box breakfast fundraiser for the Pacific House, the Maccabi Games where he served on its Teen Council, and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, a Jewish teen youth organization lead by students. Also, at BBYO, Sam created a Big Brother program to help underclassmen and has served as its Vice President of Programming and Recruitment.
“Dangerous” is not typically a compliment nor a word that would spring to mind to describe a woman who tops out at five feet nothing. Still in 1902 when mining industry leaders used it to describe activist Mary Harris (“Mother Jones”), a courageous labor organizer and child safety advocate, because their brutal industry practices were threatened by her activism, it meant she was making a difference. But even so, no one then could have known Ms. Harris’ full impact, because about a century later another, equally petite woman, would be born to be inspired by her.
Stamford High Senior Shayna Druckman has rounded out a stellar academic career with a passion for activism, a long list of influences in addition to Ms. Harris (especially her Mom, herself an activist, and her Dad, a selfless soul), and a longer list of achievements. As the founder of Students Demand Action, a school safety organization she created in response to the Parkland MSD tragedy, she served as a student leader for Stamford’s March for Our Lives. She’s also headed Friendly Faces—dedicated to improving high school for special needs students, and participated in Leadership Academy providing student mentorship, the Abilis Youth Board, Interact, and the Environmental Action Club. She is also the editor-in-chief of the Round Table, Stamford High’s online newspaper, guided by Mr. Ringel, her journalism teacher.
In a lengthy and effusive COTY recommendation from State Rep. Matthew Blumenthal where he expressed his gratitude for her talents, her “sunny disposition” and hard work as an intern, he said “I am even more grateful that she will be using them to better our community and our world.” Stamford High Principal Raymond Manka said of her Friendly Faces participation “it is because of Shayna’s leadership and support” that club membership doubled and increased “community awareness of our special needs population in the mainstream setting”. And with these endorsements comes another just this month—Stamford History Center named her one of the Five Women Leaders of Tomorrow.
Shayna has other interests. A lifelong and sometimes competitive dancer, she favors tap because “you have to give all of your concentration to the steps and the sounds, which is a great way to relieve stress and be completely in the moment.” She also enjoys cooking, laughing, chatting and making up songs.
Shayna Druckman is indeed dangerous. And just like Mother Jones, COTY believes Shayna should take that as a compliment!
Ask this Stamford High Senior what motivates him and at first, he reflects inwardly. His passion for fitness, sports and in his (rare) quiet time, drawing and art, are all focused on self-improvement and self-expression. But if you ask any of the many not-for-profit organizations where he has spent countless hours helping others, there’s no “self” in Eliel at all. From Operation Pathways at Bayview Towers, where he performed maintenance, gardening and some office work, to Stamford Public Education Foundation, where he mentors fifth graders, to places like New Covenant Center, the Palace Theater, Mill River Park, Inspirica, Person to Person, Fairgate Farm and the Ferguson Library, Eliel has earned a solid reputation for selflessness and reliability.
Future 5, a now ten-year-old Stamford organization dedicated to setting a positive path for our youth (and a pretty reliable source of COTY Scholarship winners) is a pretty lucky connection for lots of kids. But according to its founder, Clif McFeely, in 2015 Future 5 had a bit of luck itself when Eliel signed up—and not merely signed up, but jumped right in. Clif says as a high performing student and a varsity athlete in Lacrosse, “I don’t know how Eliel has the time to accomplish all of this, but Future 5 and the Stamford community are the beneficiaries of this remarkable young man’s positive energy, drive and character.” Regan Allen of SPEF says “with his enthusiastic demeanor, he is the mentor assigned to work with elementary school students who may be disengaged or having a bad day, because I know his unwavering support will give them the confidence to participate.”
Eliel credits his parents for providing him with a strong work ethic, moral guidance, and love, and thanks Future 5 and 100 Black Men of Stamford (and their monthly speaker program) for giving him the inspiration to reach high. Eliel will attend college in the fall and hopes for a career in physical therapy because for all this remarkable young man’s interests, he is by far the most interested in healing others.
Stamford COTY is pleased to help Eliel help others with a 2019 Scholarship.
With about 1,600 program participants, the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford sees a lot of talented youth each year, but none more dedicated or involved than Stamford High Senior Maureen Ferrer. As the BGC at Yerwood Center’s 2019 Youth of the Year and Keystone Club (the Ultimate Teen Program) President, Maureen has spent countless hours at organizing and participating in fundraising and outreach events like City Chic, BGC Christmas Dinners and Breakfast of Champions, bingo nights, bake sales, pop-up stores and the Stamford High Holiday Fair, and is a BGC art teacher and counselor. She’s served as BGC’s S.M.A.R.T. Girls facilitator mentoring second grade girls, and helped with so many other programs it’s hard to list them all here. Melissa Stanley of BGC says “Maureen is an exceptional student who has been able to balance school, extracurricular activities and her business effortlessly.” Dwayne Stephenson of BGC observed that “her passion for art and helping others has flourished tremendously since she was younger, and it shows in everything that she is involved in.”
Maureen has the eye of an artist and has generously shared her sense of style, volunteering with Kids Helping Kids Dress Boutique, helping about 1000 Stamford girls in finding clothing and accessories, and has shared her gift for giving with KHK’s Gift of Giving annual holiday program. She’s also an annual volunteer for the Marc US for Change Race (Future Business Leaders of America), and for her big brother Dave, who coordinates the BGC Stamford 5K race among other not-for-profit endeavors.
At Stamford High, Maureen has distinguished herself academically, especially in the arts where she is a member of the National Arts Honor Society and an AP student in Studio Art. But she also has a knack for business (an AP student in microeconomics) and is going to Central Connecticut State University to major in marketing and entrepreneurship.
And she has a head start. A budding entrepreneur, Maureen created @MosClothingCo and @Mo_thePainter. To get an idea of just how much talent Maureen has to offer, visit them on Instagram!
Maureen credits her big brother Dave, Melissa Stanley and especially mentor James Kendall for inspiring her fearless approach to life and art. COTY is happy to award Maureen a 2019 Scholarship
We are not sure if there is a minimum age for mensch-hood (or even if that’s a word), but if not, Jacob is definitely a prime contender. As a Stamford High senior with an excellent academic record that lists numerous Honors and AP courses, one might get the impression that Jacob spends all of his spare time discussing erudite concepts with other student elites. And if so, one would be incorrect. Rather, Jacob has devoted the spare time in his young career teaching, mentoring and most of all, being a friend to kids with special needs.
Deeply involved in organizations like Friendship Circle, JumpStart at the JCC, Interact, and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Jacob has earned a reputation as one who is “cheerful, reliable and responsible” according to the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Beth El, Lisa Gittelmen Udi. She notes that Jacob “has helped make our educational program stronger and for the past 5 plus years, he has enriched the lives of many children in the Stamford community.”
One of these special children, seven-year-old Aaron, was lucky enough to meet Jacob through Friendship Circle. His mom, Stacey wrote to COTY about the many therapeutic appointments that have occupied so much of his young life. “But then Jacob came along. He is simply there to be Aaron’s friend—no therapy, no judgment; just there to be his friend. How nice is that?” Stacey said Jacob is “creative and kind” and “has a whole lot of patience.” When Jacob visits she says, “it’s Aaron’s favorite part of the week.”
Jacob credits his parents (whom among other things turned him onto his “current” favorite artist, Billy Joel), his BBYO mentors David Giver and David Klein, and especially his Grandpa (and their joint international rock collection) for inspiration and guidance along the way. Oh, and he also gives a shout out to Ferris Bueller who said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” We don’t think Jacob Herz is likely to miss anything.
Stamford COTY is proud to have a mensch like Jacob earn a 2019 Scholarship. As Aaron’s Mom would say, how nice is that?
Among the many inspirations for invention, none are more poignant than tragedy. So it was that as a Rippowam Middle School student, Lauren Klym was struck by the sight of so many panicked parents picking up their children on the morning of Sandy Hook. Then, when Parkland happened last February, Lauren, a lifelong Girl Scout and then a Westhill High School junior, took particular notice of one Marjory Stoneman Douglas student who said she had been especially frightened because the substitute teacher that had been assigned to her class on that horrific day may have lacked the knowledge or training to safeguard her classroom. With that, Lauren went to work. With input from the Stamford Police, the school faculty and administration and her own research, she developed a schoolwide lockdown plan comprised of individual room layouts (that she spent a summer drawing herself), check lists and procedures for posting in each classroom. Perhaps most impressive is that she recognized the panic that would prevail if it had to be employed, and so designed it for quick consumption for different kinds of readers, the verbal and the visual.
Lauren did not stop there—Stamford Education for Autism, SPEF, Interact, LandD Crew Director, Bridges Academy, Stamford FFA, Abilis Youth Board and the Lacrosse team have all benefitted from Lauren’s enthusiasm. According to her very impressed Westhill Principal (and before that, Rippowam assistant principal), Michael Rinaldi, “from the moment I met Lauren it was very apparent that she was a kind and happy young person of exceptional character who was also very dedicated to her studies . . . now what’s even more apparent is that this excellent student has also grown in to an incredibly talented student leader.” Of Lauren’s pursuit of a Girl Scout Gold Award (its highest honor) her co-leader, Nicole Sandford said “I’ve watched her pursue higher education with discipline, rigor, and passion. Frankly, I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone put as much thoughtful effort into this process.”
Lauren, who is inspired by her Mom’s amazing ability to multitask, and by other strong women leaders like Indra Nooyi, loves this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And she also lives it. Just this month, Stamford History Center named her one of the Five Women Leaders of Tomorrow.
Stamford COTY is proud to participate in Lauren’s bright future by awarding her a 2019 Scholarship
When this outstanding AITE Senior told us “to understand the present, you must understand the past” she was referring to the sacrifices her parents, who emigrated from Haiti thirty years ago, have made working long hours to provide for her and her siblings a chance at the American Dream. By taking that opportunity and turning it into a high school career worthy of the National Honor Society, the National Science Honor Society, the Pillar of Character and other accolades, she affirms the success and wisdom of an even deeper history—our American Experiment.
Also, a first-generation college student (attending UCONN in the fall), Claudia has embraced her heritage while plunging headlong into a future that she hopes, and we expect, will include a career in medicine. As Head Acolyte of St. John’s Episcopal Haitian Congregation (in which she assists the priest during weekly services), she has also been a church camp counselor and versatile volunteer since she was nine years old. As a member of Future 5, she’s spent countless hours helping at places like the Stamford Food Bank, Inspirica, ARI’s Walk for Independence, Veteran’s Park Dog Tag Project and others. As a member of the Medical Mentorship Club and the Perry Initiative, she has had hands on experience in her future career as a nurse practitioner or physician.
She has relied on many mentors, and earned many fans at AITE, Future 5, and St. John’s. Her guidance counselor Maria DeAntonis sums it up: “Claudia is an outstanding individual with infinite promise.” Her Honors Physics teacher, Bing Yang, calls her “hardworking and serious” who thinks about what she hears.” Her teacher Dr. Samah Chadli cites her “trustworthiness and caring” as standout traits while she has chosen to take the hardest courses and earned the “Academic Excellence Award distinguishing her as a top student in the Biomedical Program.”
If Claudia were receiving an Academy Award, the music would start long before she finished her thank-you’s: “Future 5--Clif, Lise, Deirdre, Maddie, Nancy, Raul, Polly, Rachel, and Jane; St. John’s Episcopal Church: Haitian Congregation; my guidance counselor Mrs. DeAntonis, my teachers Mrs. Middleton, Dr. Chadli, Ms. Yang; and most of all, my mentor Sharon Katz.”
Stamford COTY is also proud to be a small part of Claudia’s future, and that makes us feel just a little more patriotic.
"There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up." By living these / words by author John Andrew Holmes in the few years that have spanned his high school career, Will Gold must have developed a heart like Secretariat.
For Will, there is no substitute for the feeling he gets when he helps others, and he gets that feeling a whole lot. A dedicated member of the not-for-profit Friendship Circle since 2014, Will has participated with enthusiasm in their MVP program, the Friends at Home Program, and their Children's Circle Program, all dedicated to assisting children with special needs through sports, music, art therapy and storytelling. But most of all, for Will, it is about the power of friendship, and his easy manner and enthusiasm has spread to the other teen volunteers. That's why he's been appointed to the Friendship Circle Teen Board, where he leads others, organizing events, planning programs and recruiting other volunteers, with heart.and his dedication is not just reserved for the little ones. Will has also volunteered at Brighton Gardens Senior Living Facility ever since his high school career began. There he serves meals, sings, dances and entertains the residents. He's even
been given a regular seat at the bridge table something that's turned into a passion. Of bridge (and portending much more)
Will says "I have learned that while you may not always get the best hand, you make the best of what you have." Lori Gunn, the Brighton Business Director said about Will "I even struggle with the word 'volunteer'," because he has become so much more to the residents and staff.
In seeming defiance of the time space continuum (his favorite author is Sci-Fi icon Ray Bradbury) Will is also a certified EMT who volunteers with Greenwich EMS, he is a member of the National Honor Society, and the Westhill High School Leadership and Development Crew. He credits his parents and family for showing him that while anything is possible, you have to make what is probable. He is especially inspired by his grandfather Michael Gleiberman, a holocaust survivor and to Will, a hero.
Nikhil Anil Rao
73rd Annual Citizen of the Tear —
With a 4.0 GPA Nikhil may enjoy a #1 ranking at Stamford High, but that is just one in a long list of accomplishments for this good-hearted senior. Having shown extraordinary leadership as a Senior Patrol Leader for a troop of 45 scouts for Boy Scout Troop 9, Nikhil achieved the rank of Eagle Scout after spearheading a project rebuilding Stamford's kayak racks at Cove Beach. Other projects (and there were many) included community and church clean-ups, fundraisers and mentoring other Eagle Scout candidates to complete their projects, all of which have benefited the Stamford community.
At Stamford High, Nikhil founded and leads SHS Gives Back, a club whose motto "For Students, By Students" is fulfilled everyday by his empathy and dedication, and by other students he has recruited with his enthusiasm. He created an in-house food pantry that feeds over 45 fellow Stamford High families on a weekly basis. Nikhil developed and manages the restocking and distribution processes, and the many other students he's recruited ensures that SHS Gives Back doesn't end when he graduates.
After a tragic accident involving a fellow student, Nikhil sponsored a Go-Fund Me page that raised over $60,000 toward the expenses that had befallen the family. When another student's family was in danger of eviction after a parent was diagnosed with cancer and couldn't work, Nikhil raised rent money and helped the other parent find a part time job to lessen their financial hardships and still allow therapeutic time at home together. He also created an annual SHS coat drive, which gathered over 220 winter coats for the needy this past December, and because of his organizational skills, it too will survive past Nikhil's graduation.
Under Nikhil's leadership, SHS Gives Back also tutors other students in Math and Science and helps middle schoolers build a proper foundation for their high school careers. As a member of the National Honor Society and the All Student Congress, he has participated in numerous projects designed to beautify Stamford High and to instill in its students a sense of community pride. In the words of the Dean of Students, Michelle Malave, Nikhil "has enacted each program without breaking the confidentiality of the students in need while still ensuring that every student's basic needs of clothes, food, and shelter are provided to them, so they can focus on obtaining a strong education."
Josh is one of those people that understands that if you just do what is expected of you, you will never really learn what you're capable of. And so even if his parents and his many mentors, scoutmasters, coaches and advisors, had always expected him to be a straight A student, an Eagle Scout and a two-sport varsity athlete, well, he has still surprised them. Inspired by figures like Teddy Roosevelt and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Josh has done even more than that.
Space doesn't permit a listing of all of Joshua's accomplishments, but we will try. As a Boy Scout, he rose from Patrol Leader to Senior Patrol Leader to Eagle Scout. As an Eagle Scout, Josh earned the respect and gratitude of the Bartlett Arboretum when he led 27 scout volunteers in "a project of historical significance" in the restoration of the "Pollarded Tree Garden," an experimental section that had been planted in the 1920s by Francis Bartlett himself for the study of arboreal insect damage. Other scout projects have included removal of invasive species at the Bartlett, the Memorial Day planting of American flags on veterans' graves in two Stamford cemeteries, numerous fundraisers, community cleanups, and serving on the Boy Scout's Color Guard for parades on Veterans' Day, Memorial Day, and for COTY and Vietnam Veterans' ceremonies.
As a member of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, Josh has served as Project Leader, Vice President of Community Service and Vice President of Communications, and as a volunteer at Brighton Gardens, the Stamford DSSD Thanksgiving Parade. Also with BBYO, Josh has prepared and delivered food to the Pacific House Homeless Shelter, among many other endeavors. As a Westhill Agriscience student he became a member and Vice President of the Stamford Regional Chapter of the FFA (Future Farmers of America), where he has organized regular meetings, mentored younger students, and provided regular assistance with animal care and farm maintenance, including at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center where he has also volunteered at the annual Maple Sugar and Harvest Fest events. Josh has also raised funds for the Stamford Men's Shelter and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, among other worthy organizations.
Josh made the varsity wrestling team as a freshman, and as a pole vaulter with the Westhill Track Team, he won the Connecticut Junior Olympics in 2016 and has regularly placed at or near the top in FCIAC and State High School CIAC tournaments. And since he obviously has no fear of heights (real or metaphorical), Josh has also competed in bouldering (rock climbing) with success.
It's one thing to volunteer to help established charities provide services to those in need, and there certainly is nothing wrong with that. But it is quite another thing when it's the organization itself that needs help. And that's when you need someone like Kiran Jagtiani.
BuildOn is an international not-for-profit organization devoted to the causes of global education and volunteer service. Members participate in local volunteer service opportunities, raise awareness of global issues related to education and poverty and fundraise to build schools in developing countries. In the 2015-2016 school year, BuildOn had terminated its Stamford High chapter due to a lack of sponsorship. But Kiran wouldn't have it. In the words of her adviser and varsity tennis coach, Matt Gladstone, she "immediately started brainstorming," and privy to the tastes of her classmates, engineered a chocolate dipped pretzel sale that jumpstarted the chapter's renewal. And from that day on, with Kiran as its president, BuildOn has been going strong at Stamford High, sponsoring fundraising and awareness raising events like Spirit Wear sales and Stamford High's own Color Run, among others.
That achievement, coupled with a stellar academic record would be enough for many, but not for Kiran. Her enviable service record also includes two years as a volunteer counselor at Peak Performance Sports Camp, tutoring for Creative Learning at the First Presbyterian Church. Kiran also was chosen among other extraordinary students to serve as a primary care center volunteer at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she shared stories and arts and crafts projects with seriously ill patients in 2015 and 2016.
In school, she's the editor-in-chief of the Stamford High School Roundtable (the school newspaper), the treasurer of the National Art Honors Society, and a varsity tennis player. She's also on the Executive Committee of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council, which spreads awareness concerning social issues facing Stamford's youth.
Kiran has also participated in many volunteer projects for the Sathya Sai Center in Norwalk, which is a non-denominational service organization based upon the principle of personal responsibility for ethical transformation through selfless love and service. Her many projects (over the course of 10 years!) have included serving at the Stamford Soup Kitchen, cooking for Domus students, participating in the Domus Health Fair, the Inter-faith Walk-a-thon for hunger awareness, and teaching younger children the lessons of inter-faith unity and community harmony.
If you get, give. If you learn, teach." So reads Mishel's favorite inspirational quote by Maya Angelou. If she mere directly speaking about Mishel, however Ms. Angelou would have probably had to pick up her pen again and add: "And if you did all that, do more."
It is a wonder Mishel has even had the time to go to school given her incredible roster of extracurricular and charitable projects. For starters, she is the creator and founder of Beds for Pets, a now growing organization of high school students dedicated to helping local animal shelters purchase needed supplies and to help enhance their adoption rate, through fundraising, social media, merchandising, and sponsoring and attending events like the CT Pet Expo.
Mishel is also highly regarded as an intern with the Stamford Police Department Crime Scene Unit, where she has spent many nights and weekends studying and assisting with forensics like collecting and processing evidence at actual crime scenes. She's also a member of the Norwalk Public Safety Cadets which is a law enforcement and firefighting training youth organization that provides a variety of volunteer services for the community.
At Westhill, in addition to being a senior in the Agri- science Program, she is Vice President of ALTA (Aspiring Leadership Through Action), which provides after school and Saturday programs for students to help prepare them in academic, college readiness, and social, emotional and family support. She is also the Head Manager of the Westhill Boys' Basketball Team, a member of the Stamford Regional Agri-science and Technology Program, and a volunteer coordinator for the Girls Group which engages incoming students and helps guide them on the right path.
Outside of school, Mishel is also a volunteer with the Stamford Museum (Si Nature Center, where she helps teach animal husbandry to the public as well as helps care for the animals themselves. She is also a youth support volunteer with the Domus Leadership Program, assisting incoming freshmen to prepare for the high school challenges that await them. Mishel's energy, spirit and enthusiasm for helping others seems boundless. But just as Maya Angelou would have hoped, when Mishel gets credit, she is quick to give it, and mostly it's to her Mom. About her she says "has sacrificed a lot of herself to see me succeed and to be someone in life" and that "she never complains about helping me... picking me up morning, noon, and night... even after .. a long shift at work" and "she has taught me to have a caring heart towards everyone."a
The good folks at Domus who run the multifaceted Chester Addison Community Center count themselves as lucky that Ayna's (in their words) "calm demeanor," "poise," "academic brilliance," "perseverance," "cheerfulness," "humility," "passion" and "heartfelt dedication" are in no small part invested with them, enhancing their many and diverse youth programs. You would have to pull out a thesaurus to find more effusive superlatives than Makeda Green and Michael Hyman used to describe Ayna in their scholarship recommendations. And during this "extraordinary young woman's" high school career Ayna has been a volunteer in so many of their varied programs and elsewhere, one would have to add "versatile" too.
For starters, as a two-sport high school varsity scholar-athlete, Ayna has coached basketball (the "Mighty Mights"), fitness, softball and soccer at CACC for the past three years where she inspires all those around her as a coach, counselor and peer leader and she leads by example. She volunteers in the Girls Leadership Group, a mentoring partnership with the Stamford Police Department that also fundraises, serves the less fortunate and removes graffiti from public places. She also leads the Reptile Club, a STEM based club teaching reptile anatomy, genetics and animal care. She even presents to the community at an annual Reptile Immersion Day in an "impressive" fashion, say those who have witnessed it.
And speaking of STEM, Ayna mentors computer coding for the kids at CACC. After a study abroad trip to Spain to experience the emergence of technology in urban culture, she returned to mentor a group of kids in creating a meaningful app for nonprofits at the Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon. She also brought her experience studying engineering in a STEM program at Fordham University to help her teach her Domus kids.
She has made other contributions as well. Ayna has traveled to Costa Rica to perform landscaping and construction work for families in need, and she is a member of Reach Prep, an educational organization that assists underserved, high-achieving Black and Latino students to graduate from top colleges, where she has volunteered as a student ambassador and represented her school in a panel for younger students and their families.