Private Philanthropy Honored at first Transform Lives Event
Scholarship winners and donors came together to celebrate the power of scholarships to transform lives during a scholarship brunch at the UConn Alumni Center last week in Storrs.
As a student jazz trio played in the background, nearly 100 student-scholars and donors got to know each other over omelets and French toast. It was the first Transform Lives event held to thank donors and celebrate the achievements of the scholarship winners selected through the University’s enrollment management office.
Javante Danvers ’20, a freshman from Hartford, said UConn has always been her dream school and her scholarship was critical in allowing her to come here.
“Without my scholarship, UConn probably wouldn’t have been an option for me,” she said. “I would probably be going to community college. It’s really a key.”
Danvers, who is in UConn’s Honors Program, is happy with her choice. “I love it, every experience. The teachers are passionate. There’s a million clubs and so many things to do,” she said.
Many other students had similar stories of how their scholarships opened doors.
“It means I can actually attend college without having to sacrifice a large part of my future to pay back debt,” said Daimon Medina-Lopez ’18, a sophomore who is studying digital media and design.
Medina-Lopez was the class valedictorian at New Britain High School, which qualified him for UConn’s four-year, full-ride Presidential Scholarship. “It’s really the only reason I’m at school,” he said.
Student speaker Camille Van Allen ’17 told the crowd that her scholarship will allow her to study abroad in Capetown, South Africa, next fall in a unique program for nursing students.
“I’m an out-of-state student and my parents are sacrificing a lot to allow me to go here. This scholarship offers me a life-changing opportunity that I may not have been able to take otherwise,” said Van Allen, who is from Milton, Mass.
Wayne Locust, vice president for Enrollment Planning and Management, thanked the donors.
“We are extremely grateful to our alumni and our donors, who, as important members of our UConn family, are helping to make a difference in the lives of our students,” Locust said.
“To our scholarship recipients, we say to whom much is given much is required. You are required to ensure a return on investment,” he said.
He urged the students to be productive and successful in their chosen fields and to give back to the university for the next generation of scholars.
Dan Toscano ’87, the new chairman of the UConn Foundation’s board of directors, spoke about his experience as both as a scholarship donor and student struggling to pay his tuition bill.
“I was shut out of my room for a month as a sophomore,” he said. “The door was slammed in my face and I was told, ‘You’re welcome back as soon as you pay your bill.’ I know what the struggle is like. I know it’s worth it. I’ve had an opportunity to take what I got here and put it into a career and a life that I’m proud of.”
Toscano, a successful executive at Morgan Stanley, thanked the students for choosing to come to UConn and for helping to make it a better school. He urged them to tell other promising students about UConn and the scholarships it offers.
The brunch comes as the UConn Foundation is in the midst of its Transform Lives initiative to raise $150 million for student scholarships.
Toscano said a scholarship is the best gift one can give to the University because it not only helps students, but helps the university by recruiting better students.
“Recruiting great students is one of the things that is really necessary for a great university,” he said.
“This is the number-one priority that we have. The university is only as good as its student body. Transforming lives is really what we set out to do,” he said.