On September 15, 2021 three Mount Wachusett Community College Adult Education students were honored by First Literacy with scholarships in a virtual ceremony.
First Literacy Scholarships are awarded in recognition of educational achievements and potential, community service, and perseverance in the face of hardship. This year First Literacy awarded 30 scholarships to deserving individuals from community colleges across the Commonwealth. Students Yves Verneret and Lilian Thimotti were honored among the fourteen continuing scholars, while Bushrah Namirimu was honored as a first-year scholar.
“Adult Education programs are vital to our communities, inspiring and supporting students as they overcome the challenges of work, families, and over the past two years, COVID-19,” noted MWCC President James Vander Hooven. “MWCC is a lifelong learning community, focused on the preparation of our students for lives of fulfillment, leadership, and service in a diverse and global society. These three students are shining examples of that pursuit.”
“These students are amazing,” stated Kimberly Kayser, MWCC Adult Education Transition Coordinator. “We are so proud of all they have achieved and continue to achieve.”
In addition, Namirimu was awarded the Thomas Menino Memorial scholarship which honors Mayor Menino’s commitment to adult literacy education and the potential of all students.
Namirimu immigrated to the United States from Uganda where she was an investigative journalist. Her stories were viewed as anti-government and inciting violence, for which she faced persecution. She fled Uganda in 2018, leaving behind her three-year-old son, and her five siblings. With no friends or relatives in the US, Namirimu found work through a friend in Australia as a live-in nanny and housekeeper. She struggled to find transportation to the Mount from her host’s home because they did not approve of her attending college. After escaping this unhealthy arrangement, she left Massachusetts for a time before returning with her then-boyfriend. The pair married and had a daughter in July 2020. Returning to school in the spring of 2021, she faced the challenges of being a full-time student, mother, wife, and employee.
“Many times, I felt exhausted and stressed,” stated Namirimu in her remarks at the virtual scholarship ceremony. “Nevertheless, I persevered and excelled. Although challenges may force one to put a pause on their dreams or even quit, I never considered it. I grabbed every opportunity that came my way to make sure that I made my life and my future better by working hard for it.”
Yves Verneret came to the United States from Haiti in 2015. Having witnessed the destruction of the 2010 earthquake, she realized she wanted to be a nurse and made the decision to pursue her dream in the U.S. When she arrived in the United States she was met with many challenges. She had to provide for the needs of three children as well as study college-level courses. The forced isolation of the pandemic was hard for all of them, but it caused her to form “many positive changes in my life.” She recognized her competence and success in meeting the various challenges facing her and learned that she could succeed and not be discouraged. The First Literacy scholarship kept her motivated and persistent in following her career path. She has been accepted into the nursing program at Mount Wachusett Community College and was guaranteed future admission to Fitchburg State University’s online bachelor’s program in nursing. Vernerete is looking forward to passing along help to others just as others have helped her.
LilianThimotti came to the United States with her husband and two children to get away from the violence that disrupted her family in Brazil. Her first year in the U.S. was very hard. She knew no English and could not work, causing her family serious financial and emotional difficulties. To make matters worse, everyone in her family became ill during the pandemic. However, with determination and hard work, she faced these challenges and overcame them. The First Literacy scholarship was a lifesaver, allowing her to buy the books and equipment needed for the nursing courses she was taking. Currently Thimotti is working towards an associate degree in nursing and plans to continue on to earn a degree. She looks forward to becoming a nurse and being able to help relieve pain and suffering in others.
First Literacy reaches approximately 5,000 adult learners and 250 teachers in 150 programs across Massachusetts each year through program grants, free teacher workshops, and student scholarships. Since 1990, the First Literacy Scholarship Program has awarded over 500 scholarships to students in adult basic education or English language programs who are continuing their education. To learn more about First Literacy, visit their website at firstliteracy.org.