The 2020 Forward, Together Forward Scholarship winners continue a 12-year history of celebrating and supporting students who not only succeed in the classroom, but also serve as leaders on campus and beyond.
This year’s winners include College of Health and Human Sciences students Arlene Elias, of Woodstock and Kayla McTear, of Chicago. Both are involved in multiple service organizations and dozens of volunteer activities, work jobs on campus and off, and have plans to give back to the community.
Honorees are chosen through a competitive process which seeks to find individuals whose scholarship and service honor the memory of the five NIU students lost on Feb. 14, 2008: Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Dan Parmenter. The scholarships are funded by gifts from more than 1,800 individuals.
Learn more about the 2020 Forward, Together Forward Scholars:
Arlene Elias was attracted to Northern Illinois University because of its dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“From the moment I stepped on campus I saw reflections of myself everywhere – first-generation students, women of color and members of the LGBT community. I am proud to be part of an institution that does not fear diversity, but rather celebrates it,” Arlene says.
Her personal commitment to diversity is evident in her activities on campus. She works with adults with disabilities through Best Buddies and serves the community through her work with the Sigma Lambda Sigma Service Sorority.
While doing all those things, Arlene has earned a GPA of 3.56, majoring in Rehabilitation and Disability Services and pursuing minors in Psychology and Counseling and a along with a certificate in Women and Gender Studies. Arlene is also a participant in the University Honors Program and a member of the Adela de la Torre Latino Honor Society.
Making her record of accomplishment all the more amazing is that, as an individual raised in the foster system, statistically speaking, Arlene had a 10 percent chance of graduating from college. While beating those odds, she is working to help others who share her background, participating in groups where she shares how she has overcome challenges and found success.
“I have been so very humbled by seeing Arlene grow and blossom into the woman she is today,” says Dahlia Roman, an instructor and coordinator of NIU’s Child Development and Family Center, who wrote in support of her nomination. “I look forward to her helping many others in the future.”
When Kayla McTear thinks about Feb. 14, 2008, her thoughts turn to the parents of those who were lost.
She understands their pain because she lost a child of her own to pneumonia. More than that, she understands the strength and resilience it takes to not only endure such a loss, but also the determination to commit oneself to being a positive light in the world despite those circumstances.
For Kayla, that has meant dedicating herself to a life of caring for others. She is enrolled in the NIU College of Nursing and is pursuing minors in Psychology and Community Health so that she can become a psychiatric nurse after graduation. She also plans to volunteer her time and talents at Veterans Affairs hospitals to care for those who risked their lives for their country.
Kayla has found a supportive community in the NIU School of Nursing to help her achieve her goals: “I have never been to a school that displays such gratitude to its students and gives back to them like NIU does,” she says. “I am proud to be a Huskie.”