Students ‘Pay it Forward’ for others

By Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post 2/18/2010


BRIDGEPORT — Competing against other ta­bles giving away candy, pens and water bottles Wednesday at Housatonic Community College Club Day, Magaly Cajigas and Cindy Cominsky had the unenviable task of asking for money.

And it wasn’t for Haitian earthquake relief.

“ It’s students helping students,” shouted Ca­jigas, over music from a DJ set up on the opposite side of the college cafeteria. “ You pay a dollar so some other student can get a scholarship next fall.”

Some reached for their wallets. Others said they were broke. Over the course of three hours, there were 35 takers — or rather, givers — most forking over a buck, a few contributing $5 or $10. One fac­ulty member wrote a $25 check.

Since the Pay It Forward scholarship campaign started Feb. 8, donations have trickled in.

If every student at the two- year public college were to contribute the suggested dollar to the schol­arship fund, it would have $5,845. That would equal HCC’s record- breaking spring enrollment and be more than enough to give one student a full- time scholarship in the fall of 2010. A full-year’s tuition,

as of this year, is $3,200.

Hampered by two snow days that broke fundraising momentum, and competing with an effort to aid the earth­quake- stricken nation of Haiti, the 10- day drive has been ex­tended two more days, to Sat­urday, in hopes of attracting more notice — and more cash.

“ It’s the first year, so we don’t know how much to ex­pect,” said Maureen Dowdle, development director at the Housatonic Community Col­lege Foundation, the orga­nization behind the scholar­ship idea. Cajigas is her as­sistant and Cominsky is the scholarship coordinator.

Organizers by the end of Wednesday said they have raised $ 309 from 109 donors. So far, the top donation came from a student who gave $40, and then another $5.

Linda Bayusik, acting di­rector of student activities, said the HCC Student Senate has done its part to promote the concept. Enid Serrano, 34, a student senator from Bridgeport, hit every table at the cafeteria during the fair to drum up donations.

“ I tell them, ‘ What if you were that incoming student who couldn’t pay for your books? All we’re asking is for a dollar, a dollar you prob­ably are going to waste on a bottle of water or a bag of chips. Why not hand it over to someone in need?’ ” Serra­no said, practicing her pitch.

Students will apply for the scholarship just as they do other awards distributed by the foundation. A foundation scholarship committee meets regularly to make awards based on merit and need.

Zobra Mali, a student from Stratford, was awarded a schol­arship from the foundation that enabled her to take a class during the winter interses­sion. She said that’s why she plunked down a $1 for the new student-funded scholarship.

Natalie Averill, 19, of North Haven, also contributed a buck. She said she had been asked for a donation several times over the past week and finally was asked when she was in posses­sion of lunch money. “It’s just a dollar. I won a scholarship. If I were a freshman I’d want to win it,” she said.

Mike Belletzkie, a soph­omore from Fairfield and member of the Student Sen­ate, said in addition to a scholarship, the fund drive is promoting student cama­raderie. “ Students helping students is what we really need,” he said.

Emma Vaczek, a nurs­ing student originally from Ghana but now living in Bridgeport, agreed. “It’s good to help our own,” she said, giving $2.

Thanh Ngo of Bridgeport gave $5. “I got financial aid. I want to help someone else,” he said.