United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC) has announced the names of two Stamford High School Students as the recipients of the Roberta K. Eichler Heart of Gold Scholarship for 2022. Breana Chery and Dante Ayers, both students at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering in Stamford, were selected by the Heart of Gold Scholarship Committee as this year’s recipients.
“It’s amazing to see such a commitment to volunteering from this next generation,” said Isabel Almeida, President of United Way of Western Connecticut. “Breanna and Dante are two very inspiring young adults serving their community in remarkable ways. It is an honor to award them with this year’s Heart of Gold Scholarship.”
The Heart of Gold Scholarship is named in honor of Roberta K. Eichler, Executive Director of the Stamford Volunteer Center for more than 20 years. Each year, United Way of Western Connecticut awards a $5,000 scholarship to outstanding student volunteers from the Stamford community with the goal of promoting continued education.
“The Heart of Gold Scholarship is an amazing opportunity for Stamford students to be acknowledged and rewarded for their commitment to community service in Stamford,” said Casey Levene, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way. “Both Breana and Dante are especially inspiring. We are thrilled to recognize them as this year’s Heart of Gold recipients.”
Breana Chery is a member of Future Five, as well as an active volunteer with LiveGirl, Person-to-Person, and the Haitian Free Methodist Church. After losing her father to COVID-19, Breana started a grief support group called Grief Relief for teens going through the grieving process.
“Through all the losses that I have endured, and witness in others, I have been more motivated to help others. Because of these experiences, I founded a grief support group for teenagers like myself going through loss.” Breana writes in her essay for the scholarship. “In a time of darkness and need, it’s now more important than ever to be a helping hand to one another. The isolation and uncertainty of grief can be overwhelming and devastating but with support, a listening ear, and a safe space, the load of sadness can become lighter.”
Dante Ayers is President of Future Business Leaders of America at his school and actively volunteers as a bilingual kayak instructor for a free program working to help integrate families into his community. Dante is an aspiring entrepreneur, having launched a candle-making business, The Bungalow Scent Co., through which he led a fundraiser for Hope in Motion in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“My true passion and service towards volunteering stems from my biggest inspiration: my mother,” Dante mentioned when asked about his experience and passion for volunteerism. “From a young age, she set the example for me in every aspect of her being… Her selflessness towards the community inspires and motivates me every day to be a better person. I am so thankful for having such a good role model in my life, making me the man I am today.”
Heart of Gold Scholarship selection is made by a committee of Stamford community volunteers and is based on students’ active participation, dedication, and commitment toward volunteer events and projects along with demonstrated leadership qualities in connection with volunteerism. Applicants must be in their senior year of high school and live in or attend a school in Stamford, Connecticut. The committee, which includes Roberta K. Eichler herself, received a record number of submissions during this cycle.