Area youths honored for academics

Tiánna Negrón of Spencerport knows she is facing hefty student loans in the future as she pursues her dream of becoming a doctor.

That’s why Negrón said that she is grateful to receive the Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield Community Excellence Scholarship Award. She was among the more than 30 students honored June 11 during the 16th-annual Ibero-American Action League gala and Hispanic Scholarship Recognition Awards at Rochester’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

In addition to the Excellus-sponsored scholarship, Negrón has earned a grant from Johns Hopkins University, where in the fall she plans to pursue biology/premedical studies and Hispanic studies. Although she had applied for many scholarships, Negrón said that a previous connection with Ibero made winning the scholarship meaningful.

"It was nice that it came (through) Ibero," said Negrón, who noted she worked in Ibero’s child-care center on Clifford Avenue in Rochester.

Ibero’s scholarship awards are funded by community supporters, colleges and the Hispanic Scholarship Endowment Fund. In awarding scholarships, judges consider such criteria as standardized testing scores, grade-point averages, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation and a short essay from each student about career goals.

"It has been an unusual year," said Grace Tillinghast, chair of Ibero’s scholarship awards committee. "The economy is hurting a lot of people."

Although several prior scholarship sponsors were unable to continue support due to the economic downturn, 2011 scholarship awards featured the debut of the El Mensajero Católico Scholarship, which was awarded to Carolyn N. Santiago, a student at Rochester’s Joseph Wilson Magnet High School.

Santiago plans to attend Buffalo State College for two years, and then she will transfer to Pennsylvania State University, where she plans to study forensics. She said that her guidance counselor helped her find scholarships to apply to, and she was elated to hear that she had won the El Mensajero scholarship.

"I was very excited," Santiago said. "It was the first scholarship I had won. I applied to many and had been denied."

During high school, Santiago was a short stop and third baseman on the Wilson Magnet High School varsity softball team. She was picked as the team’s player of the week during April for going 4-for-9 with six runs and four runs batted in. In 2010 she was recognized by the All-Greater Rochester Softball Team.

In addition to softball, Santiago works part time at Wal-Mart to save up for college, and she said that the scholarship will help her achieve her goal.

"My mom is excited as well at anything that’s able to help out with college (expenses)," she said.

Like Santiago, Negrón has been active both in and out of school. Her experience has included volunteering with the National Honor Society and with the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Rochester, which promotes safe driving among teens. She also has been active in Spencerport High School’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), and in January she won first place in the Monroe County Regional DECA public-speaking competition, which qualified her for the state competition. She also has been active in Model UN and in the American Legion Junior Auxiliary.

She said that her interest in health care developed when she participated in the science and technology entry program through the University of Rochester. For the past two years, she also has worked at Strong Memorial Hospital through its Healthcare and Technology Youth Apprenticeship program, and she said that professionals at the hospital suggested she apply to Johns Hopkins University’s top-rated program.

She said that she plans to double major in Hispanic studies so that she can communicate more fluently with patients and family members who live in Puerto Rico. Her father, Rafael Negrón, is Puerto Rican.

"It’s so helpful to be bilingual in Spanish in our community," Negrón said. "I have seen a couple of instances where patients could only speak Spanish, and it’s tough to get a translator to call in, if nobody on the spot can speak the language."

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