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Shalon Hinojosa Scholarship Recipient Profile

Edith, John & Chandler Hicks Family Scholarship

The basic facts about Eastern Senior Biology major Shalon Hinojosa - now a two-time recipient of the Edith, John & Chandler Hicks Family Scholarship - are impressive: a 3.72 GPA in one of Eastern's toughest majors, a vast resume of community service involvement at Eastern and outside, membership in Beta Beta Beta, a Biology honor society. The thought processes and motivations behind them are even more impressive.

After graduation in May 2013, Shalon hopes to attend graduate school in cellular and molecular biology or disease pathology. Her decision to point her post-undergraduate career in that direction was formed in part by a terrible family situation. She decided in high school she wanted to learn about the science of eradicating infectious diseases in college. Then in her first year at Eastern, her stepmother was diagnosed with an advanced case of a virulent form of lung cancer, and subsequently died of the disease.

"I have always been passionate about the idea that everything we are as living organisms is due to our cells, and how easily a mistake by the cell or in the genome can cause disease," Shalon said. "Now that my stepmom is no longer with us, I want to take part in understanding how to save other lives by studying the intricacy of cellular function."

From a long list of community and extracurricular activities Shalon has involved herself in since around the time she started at Eastern, two stand out in particular for her. She is proud of her work over two summers with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station for the Department of Plant Pathology. Her favorite at Eastern was as Student Director of the Collegiate Health Service Corps of Willimantic in 2009-10, a program which subsequently lost funding. In that position she helped train Eastern students in first aid and CPR, helped them understand the Health Insurance Protection and Portability Act, which protects patient record privacy, and arranged for fellow students to train disadvantaged local residents on preventive health matters.

The scholarship Shalon received twice was made possible by a bequest of nearly $800,000 from the Hicks family several years ago. Shalon feels that assistance was instrumental in helping her stay focused on her studies, particularly in light of her stepmother's terminal illness. "Being awarded scholarship assistance I was able to focus on spending time with my stepmom, excel in my classes and volunteer with nonprofit health care groups to inform underprivileged locals of the importance of preventative care."

Shalon's thoughtful response to a written question regarding how she feels about alumni scholarship donors:

"French Writer and philosopher Voltaire once said, 'Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.' The alumni who donate to Eastern are not only doing a great kindness to many students, but could very well be changing a life. The help I received from benevolent donors allowed me to be able to continue my education during a difficult time. I plan on giving back to Eastern to help other students in need."

Sarah Gracie Scholarship Recipient Profile

The George Shafer-Frederick Noble Endowed Scholarship; Doris K. Brown Endowed Scholarship

Sarah Gracie of Plymouth will graduate in the Spring of 2013 with a degree in Social Work, and plans to continue her education to earn a master's in Social Work after Eastern. One experience at Eastern that went beyond the bounds of her major, however, stands out as a highlight to her educational experience and informs her future plans.

Sarah spent a semester abroad during her junior year at England's University of Central Lancashire, and was able to travel in a total of seven European countries as part of that "incredibly enriching and unforgettable experience." She now wants to focus on international social work in her career and travel as much as possible, she says.

"I believe that what I took away from that experience is something that I couldn't have learned in a classroom and I will never forget the time I spent abroad," Sarah asserted.

Sarah is twice a competitive scholarship recipient at Eastern of The George Shafer Frederick Noble Endowed Scholarship in 2011-12, and the Doris K. Brown Endowed Scholarship for her senior year. The Brown scholarship was made possible the largest bequest in Eastern's history, nearly $5 million. Scholarship assistance helped fund her expenses during that semester abroad, and also "helped relieve some of the financial pressure on my mom, who has taken on the responsibility of funding my education," Sarah said. She also said alumni who fund scholarships make selfless decisions to help others, and she believes Eastern students appreciate that.

The assignment of the short essay required for the scholarship application in 2011 was to write about a person the applicant respected or admired, and explain why. Sarah chose her grandfather Piotr Iwanow, who was interned in a Russian labor camp as a child, an experience of hardship that made him believe in the importance of helping other people throughout his life. "He taught me to consider the suffering of others rather than worry only about my own." She considers him "a true hero," she wrote.

Sarah's impressive array of extracurricular activities at Eastern and community service involvements here and beyond include singing with Eastern's Chorus, participating in People Helping People and Habitat for Humanity on campus, and volunteering at the No-Freeze Shelter in Willimantic. Now, she will have a degree in Social Work from Eastern and head out to work on the advanced version, with the goal of helping people not just here but internationally.

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