Berkshire County Arc awarded six students between $1,000 and $2,000 for college costs for their exemplary work with individuals with disabilities and their intent on pursuing higher education in the field of human services.
The applicants submitted essays, resumes, and letters of recommendation, and were interviewed by an independent panel. The selection of award winners are based upon prior involvement in volunteer or paid activities with individuals with disabilities, the potential to contribute to the field of human services, and their academic achievement.
The recipients are:
Kailey Sultaire, Taconic High School
She has spent five summers at Camp Dartmouth-Hitchcock, working with campers diagnosed with rheumatological diseases. But she calls her time volunteering as a translator for a Spanish-speaking elementary student with autism a life-changing experience. She volunteered three times a week to help this student, became close friends, and helped advocate for her rights. She is also interested in the foster care system for children.
She will be attending Simmons University in the Honors College, with an eye on social work and then law school to better advocate reforms for the foster care system.
Emma Marino, McCann Technical High School
Emma plans to become a lawyer and fight for the rights of people with disabilities. Her mother manages the coop apartments for BCArc, as a result, Emma has extensive exposure—and personal relationships—with all the individuals at the apartments. She wrote: “I gave them a person who genuinely wants to be their friend and in return they have become some of my biggest role models. . . . These individuals are constantly looked down upon but they still maintain honest and true hearts which I always strive to maintain. . . . My experience with individuals with disabilities has allowed me to become a better, honest and open-minded person.”
Next year she will attend Assumption College to study pre-law.
Alisa Marra, Wahconah High School
Alisa volunteers for the Special Olympics, the BCArc Buddy Walk, participates in Unified Track as a competitor and peer mentor, as well as a number of other activities. With two brothers who have disabilities, Alisa is a fierce believer in inclusion. She writes: “Inclusion has always been an important battle I try to fight. I always wanted my brothers and their friends to feel included like they were the same as all the other students. As a teacher my job would be to educate the minds of children of all backgrounds and abilities.”
She is looking to study elementary education and special education at Oklahoma Baptist University.
Alyson Kalisz, Hoosac Valley
Alyson has worked as a relief worker for BCArc since September 2018. Of her experience she says this: “Working with individuals with disabilities has really opened my eyes. I’ve realized how great life is.”
She writes that she thinks about the individual’s often when not at work, and on her days off she’ll stop by the house or text a co-worker to see how everyone is doing.
She plans to pursue nursing through Berkshire Community College.
Hannah Robins, Wahconah High School
Hannah has volunteered extensively in the community, with a particular focus on helping people with disabilities. In her words, “I set high expectations because I want to help as many people as I can. I am determined to be a special education teacher because I know I can make an impact in their lives.”
Among many other activities, she served as captain of an inclusive, unified track team that won Western Mass and came in second in the Massachusetts championships.
She plans to attend Westfield State University to eventually teach Special Education.
Madelyn Wendling, Wahconah High School
She has spent most of her life involved with people with disabilities. For the past five years she has volunteered for the Annual Buddy Walk; she volunteers for the annual Buddy Games, a competition for children with disabilities—along with volunteering for that day, she also fundraises for the event for several weeks; she works at the Dalton Youth Center, where she participates in Teen Nights for teens with disabilities; and she babysits for two families who each have a child with a disability.
She plans to attend Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., and study elementary education, possibly get a Special Education license.
Funds for the scholarships were raised through Berkshire County Arc’s Annual Golf Classic and the Berkshire County Arc Down Syndrome Family Group.
Sultaire’s scholarship is the Eighth Annual Carol Craighead Memorial Scholarship Award, which is presented in memory of Carol Craighead, who was a Berkshire County Arc Board member, volunteer and supporter for more than 40 years.