Two Connecticut students this year have been awarded Racially and Ethnically Diverse Educators Scholarships from the Connecticut Education Foundation (CEF) to help them pursue teaching careers. They will receive $2,000 for every year of undergraduate study leading to their Connecticut teaching credentials.
“We know how important it is for all children to see themselves reflected in their teachers, and we’re committed to growing and diversifying our profession to ensure that happens,” says CEF President and CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey. “We are so pleased to award opportunities to students who are interested in becoming professional educators, and we look forward to seeing them lead their own classrooms.”
Lavinnia Nazareth, (pictured at left), whose family moved to the United States from Brazil four years ago, hopes to make a difference for English learners like herself.
“I started high school with barely any knowledge of the English language,” she explains. “I was scared, confused, and lost. As an immigrant, everything is twice as hard for you, and high school is no different. Upon my arrival to the United States, I had no direction on where to go with my life. I always thought I had no talent for anything. Since I had little to no English experience, I took English as a Second Language (ESL) classes my freshman and sophomore year.”
Nazareth’s family first moved to Old Saybrook, where English language tutor Erin Reid described her as positive, kind, and brave, and her rapid grasp of the English language as “nothing short of amazing,” adding, “Her academic success was in large part due to her incredible work ethic. Despite her lack of knowledge of the English language, Lavinnia enthusiastically jumped headfirst into her academics and never skipped a beat.”
She also joined extracurricular activities as a means of learning the language and culture, in addition to a busy home life that included responsibilities for younger siblings.
“I had a lot of support from my ESL teacher,” she says, “and it was by seeing her work that something lit up inside of me, and I knew I was meant to do that job one day. My first ESL teacher is one of the reasons I know what I want to do with my future now. I want to guide non-English-speaking students to success.”
After two years, Nazareth’s family relocated to Westbrook, where she completed an internship tutoring Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking middle school students and started a high school club—The Welcoming Committee—as part of a civics project.
“It turned into something much bigger than I could ever imagine,” she says. “The club’s purpose is to help non-English-speaking students with enrollment in school, translations, and more.”
Both the club and internship confirmed her desire to become an ESL teacher, she says.
“The first step toward this dream is majoring in Spanish and pursuing my teacher certification, and this scholarship will help me be the first person in my family to obtain a college degree.”
A 2023 graduate of Westbrook High School, Nazareth joins UConn’s class of 2027 this fall.
Katherine Grace Wright-Goodison, (pictured above at right), a 2023 graduate of Hall High School in West Hartford, will also begin her freshman year at UConn this fall. Her goal is to become an English teacher.
“Throughout my life, I have had role models in teachers,” she says. “In seventh grade, my English teacher encouraged me to break out of my comfort zone and take on challenges in my academic career instead of settling for being good at what I enjoyed. She is the person who opened my eyes to teaching as a career. In ninth grade, my earth science teacher urged me to sign up for AP biology. Without his belief in my abilities, I would not have taken a course that taught me to persevere through difficulties. I want to be the teacher who inspires students to take initiative in their learning journey and recognize their potential.”
Earth and marine science teacher Anthony Wasley says, “Grace is a student I will remember for the rest of my career.”
Wright-Goodison has spent weekends and summer breaks in academic settings mentoring and supporting middle school and younger students—and assisting their teachers.
“My role was to run activities that motivated students to learn, and I found myself looking forward to my time there, because I connected with students through games and activities while seeing them improve their literacy, math, and problem-solving skills. Through these interactions, I provided safe spaces for students to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Students sometimes came in feeling apprehensive and not interested in stretching their skills, but working with them one on one helped them become more invested in their learning.”
Wright-Goodison also founded her school’s Student Equity and Diversity Council (SEDC), which provides a platform for students to share ideas for school improvements and implement solutions. Outside the SEDC, she has been involved in multiple extracurriculars where, she says, “I collaborate with my peers to improve our school environment for people of color and other marginalized groups, and I am the voice asking how to involve those who are not represented. I am passionate about equity work, and I hope to teach with diverse texts and in a manner that empowers my students to be leaders, influencing the world around them through written and spoken word.”
Do you know a deserving high school senior who plans to pursue a teaching career? Learn more about scholarship opportunities at cea.org/cef.