Freshman Lalaya R. Wilson, of Bridgeport, couldn’t believe her eyes when she opened a letter last winter congratulating her on getting the equivalent of a full scholarship to UConn.
“My entire family, we just all just screamed. We were so happy to get this,” she says. “My family started calling me Husky. They’d say, ‘Oh, Husky’s here.’ It was really exciting.”
Wilson is one of four students so far who has received a full ride to UConn with the help of a $4 million scholarship donated by an alumnus couple from Westport.
The new endowed scholarship is earmarked for Bridgeport students, and covers educational expenses remaining after federal, state, private, and UConn grants and scholarships to meet the student’s financial need. In many cases, this means that most of the costs to attend UConn, such as tuition, fees, room, board, books, and supplies, are covered.
“Honestly, it helped a lot,” says Wilson, the oldest of four children. “I was always really worried about loans and just the whole financial situation. My family, we’re not rich. Now I can focus more on school and picking my major rather than having to worry about whether I can pay off tuition.”
Wilson, who says she is a bit of an introvert, loves spending time with family and friends and is considering majoring in business and minoring in art. She loves watching documentaries and mysteries and recently discovered a passion for gardening.
Tageria D. Davis, another scholarship recipient, is exploring a major in computer science and engineering and says she is grateful for the opportunity.
“The scholarship has really been a motivator for me,” she says. “It’s caused me to do a lot of reflection on all the choices that I make on a daily basis. I could never have imagined that I’d get a scholarship like this. I’m deeply thankful.”
The scholarship is linked to Connect-Us, a Bridgeport afterschool enrichment program for inner-city students. The donors wanted to provide a pathway to UConn for these students. Connect-Us participants get priority consideration for the scholarship.
Pam Lewis, the executive director of Connect-Us, says the new scholarship is life-changing.
“I think it’s incredible,” Lewis says. “Our young people in Bridgeport have a lot of dreams and a lot of aspirations just like kids who live in more middle-class and affluent communities. They have this opportunity to go to college and focus on their grades and not be worried about if they’re going to have the money to pay. It makes all the difference.”
School of Business Dean John A. Elliott says the scholarship will have a lasting impact.
“This gift of support for deserving students from Bridgeport is exceptional in several ways,” Elliott says. “It enables students to earn a UConn education. It is not only a major economic benefit, but also gives the students a sense of support from their local community. Not only do the students gain affordable access to education, but the whole community is enriched by an enhanced workforce and greater economic and social mobility. We are immensely grateful.”