HCC students asked to fund scholarship for one of their own

By Linda Conner Lambeck, STAFF WRITER, CT Post
Published: 09:13 p.m., Sunday, January 10, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- Dantana Solson, an occupational therapy student at Housatonic Community College, struggles to find the means to pay for tuition and stay in school.

Unemployed, Solson juggles a lot of financial aid and, to be honest, says the next semester is always a question mark.

Yet the Bridgeport resident said she'd chip in a buck to a new "Pay It Forward" Scholarship campaign that's been launched at the two-year college.

Naturally, she added, she'd also like to win it.

For 10 days in February, every HCC student will be invited to contribute to the scholarship fund. The total amount collected will go to a deserving student in the fall.

There were 5,609 students enrolled last fall at Housatonic, where tuition, as of this year, is $3,200.

"Wouldn't that be wonderful?" Maureen Dowdle, development director at the Housatonic Community College Foundation, said of the potential for a new $5,000-plus scholarship.

A 20-year-old organization that has provided more than $441,000 in scholarships and assistance to HCC students, the foundation recently came up with the idea for a student-generated scholarship.

While there are other "Pay It Forward" scholarships awarded around the nation, this is the only one in the area, according to Barbara Belmont, a West Hartford-based consultant who works with the foundation. And it also is the only one that she knows of where the funds are generated by students themselves.

"It's exciting in that it gives students the opportunity to help another student. Students on scholarships themselves, who have part-time jobs and who are struggling, it's poignant that they would be willing to put money together to help another," said Belmont.

Paul Antinozzi, president of the Housatonic Community College Foundation, agreed.

"Finances are an issue for many of our students. For them to reach out to help other students emphasizes how important they regard education," he said.

Linda Bayusik, acting director of student activities, said she plans to promote the campaign through the Student Senate and among alumni.

The fundraising campaign will run Feb. 8 through 18. A method for collecting donations has yet to be established, but Bayusik said students can drop dollars off in her office -- Room 317 of Beacon Hall. She won't turn away more than a dollar per contributor, but said the idea is that every contribution is as important as the next.

Konrad Mazurek, 26, a student from Derby, thinks the scholarship is a great idea.

"For the price of a bag of chips, people can help somebody through education," said Mazurek. "I would definitely contribute."

So would Kurt Wesley, 24, of Bridgeport, a general studies student, who this year received a full scholarship from the foundation. "There are a ton of students at Housatonic who don't get financial aid. I didn't before I got a scholarship. I think (Pay it Forward) is a fantastic idea. Very innovative, very smart."

Dowdle said the size of the scholarship will be determined by how much is raised. Students can apply for it as they do other awards distributed by the foundation. A scholarship committee meets regularly to make awards based on merit and need.