“I never cease to be humbled and impressed by the high academic achievement and strong community values of students graduating from Montpelier High School and Union 32. Each year in this scholarship process we get a glimpse of the future as graduating students step ahead, and I feel assured that this world will be in good hands,” said Tim Heney, Rotary Investment and Scholarship Committee member
Since March of this year, it’s been a difficult time for local public school education. First came news that the COVID-19 pandemic had spread to Vermont. Then, Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency that in quick order included a “Stay at Home” order. Soon thereafter, public schools closed and face-to-face classroom teaching was replaced by distance learning.
Despite the educational disruptions of the past few months, the Montpelier Rotary Club has persevered with its annual scholarship program to benefit standout graduating seniors from Montpelier High School and Union 32 High School.
Here’s how the scholarship program typically works: In early March, the Rotary Club’s Investment and Scholarship Committee begins promoting the college scholarship program. Then, in April and May, they review applications. By the end of May, the committee announces the recipients. This year there were four scholarship awards. Here are descriptions of the scholarships together with information about the selected graduating seniors.
Carlton C. Smith Scholarship
This year’s Smith Scholarship recipient is Sebastian M. Tanguay, who will graduate in June from Union 32 High School. The Smith Scholarship is specifically reserved for a student who lives in East Montpelier and who is planning to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university. The Smith award is $3,000 a year for four years for a total of $12,000.
As part of a personal essay from his application for the Smith Scholarship, Tanguay wrote, “I have done lots of community service, volunteering at clothing drives, helping the homeless, building food plots, planting gardens, and restoring homes.” Tanguay’s work on projects such as these contributed to his being named an Eagle Scout by the Boys Scouts of America in 2016. Tanguay has already received acceptances from seven colleges. These were the first three colleges he named on his scholarship application: Norwich University, Champlain College, and St. Michael’s College.
David and Gertrude Cohen Scholarship
This year’s two David and Gertrude Cohen Scholarship recipients are Montpelier High School seniors Natalie Mei Dwyer-Frattalone and Jenna Krussman. The aim of the Cohen Scholarship is to provide financial support to Montpelier High School students “. . .who attain the highest grade point average in at least three courses in mathematics and three in science.” The Cohen award is $5,000 each year for four years, for a total of $20,000.
In addition to their strong academic records in mathematics and science, both Dwyer-Frattalone and Krussman were selected for the Cohen Scholarship based on recommendations they received from their Montpelier High School math and science teachers. Dwyer-Frattalone will pursue her undergraduate studies at Vermont’s Middlebury College and Krussman will pursue her undergraduate studies at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.
Charles E. Gibson Scholarship
Montpelier High School graduating senior Hope Petraro is this year’s recipient of the Gibson Scholarship. The Gibson Scholarship is a one-time award of $1,000 and places a strong emphasis on the applicant’s community service achievements.
As part of a personal essay that Petraro submitted with her Gibson application, she told her own story of what it was like as a 12-year-old girl to leave her home in Brooklyn, N.Y., and move to the much smaller and more rural setting of Montpelier.
After the move, Petraro found herself missing the urban energy of Brooklyn and New York City, a place that she described as “a racially diverse, cosmopolitan metropolis of over 8 million people with thousands of blocks of bodegas, museums, synagogues and subway stations.”
As a middle school student—first at Union 32 Middle School and later at Montpelier’s Main Street Middle School—Petraro struggled to fit in. Remembering that time, she wrote, “As I struggled to weave myself into the close-knit social fabric of my new schools…my life in Vermont thrust me into a level of loneliness and isolation that I had never experienced before.”
As time passed, she began to come to terms with her new life in Montpelier and a growing conviction that only she could define her identity. In her application essay she wrote, “Self-worth could never be defined by whether it aligned with someone else’s version of ‘normal.’ Growing older I learned that only I could define my self-worth, regardless of whether or not I felt I belonged.”
As a freshman at Montpelier High School, Petraro organized what became a successful student racial justice organization called “Race Against Racism.” In its third year, Race Against Racism attracted hundreds of participants for an event that included a 5K race, a rally with youth speakers and performers, and a fundraising drive that benefited other grassroots racial justice organizations in Vermont and in New Hampshire.
And at Montpelier High School Petraro was active in many other ways—as a student council representative and student body president, as a musician with the Green Mountain Youth Symphony and as captain of the girls soccer team.
Petraro concluded her Gibson Scholarship essay by exploring her thinking about what it means to live a good life:
So I live my life each day based on a new definition of greatness. My greatness is not about whether I have two parents, how well-educated my family is, or how well I conform to Vermont or Brooklyn. My greatness is not about what I can or can’t afford, or whether I am the poorest person in the room. The truest test of myself is whether I live each day with a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.