NORTHAMPTON – Five HEC Academy students were able to increase their independence and pursue their dreams this year thanks to Ben DeMarino Scholarship awards, administered by the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES). HEC Academy in Northampton is an approved alternative special education high school and middle school managed by CES.
Over the past decade, DeMarino scholarships have provided students at the Academy with opportunities to explore their interests by financing community college courses, or gain skills (such as driving) that enable them to be more independent and self-sufficient.
This year?s recipients included:
Ben Madison, a junior from Agawam, who used his DeMarino scholarship award to take driver?s education courses last summer. As a result, he was able to get a part-time job as a security officer at Six Flags theme park this year. Madison says the job has influenced his decision to enter the Marine Corps following graduation. ?It is a big plus on my resume,? he said, ?The scholarship was really beneficial to me and I?m pretty grateful for it.?
Dakota Ford, a junior from Greenfield, who is utilizing the award to take a music theory course at Holyoke Community College (HCC). Ford said he chose the course because ?I wanted to learn more about music and I wanted to see if I was ready for college.? He said he was pleased to discover the course was ?easier than I thought it would be?I like it a lot.? Ford is now planning to attend college after he graduates next year. While he wants to major in computer science, the HCC course piqued his interest in music. ?It?s helped me play and just understand music better when I hear it.
Jackson Gallese, a junior from Holyoke, who is using the award to take a psychology course at HCC. Gallese now plans to attend HCC or another community college next year. ?He wouldn?t have been able to see what college could offer him, and realize that he can do fine there, without the scholarship,? said HEC Academy Educational Coordinator Pedro Gomes.
John Reynolds, a senior from Conway, who is using the award to take driver?s education and community college courses. ?The award money pays for classes at HCC…it?s pretty sweet.? He added the license will allow him to work this summer so he can save money for college. ?Because I live in a rural community?I can?t get a job without getting a license.? John plans to attend a two- or four-year college after he graduates from high school to pursue a degree in either business or machining.
Malissa Robert, a senior from Easthampton, is using her scholarship award to take drivers education classes. She hopes to get her license soon after she graduates in June, and looks forward to the independence she will need to begin job training programs once she graduates.
About Ben DeMarino:
While he had struggled in previous school programs, Ben DeMarino thrived at Collaborative for Educational Services? Alternative Learning Program (ALP). He graduated from the program in 1993, fulfilling his dream of attaining a high school diploma.
After high school, Ben moved to Memphis. Though he was a hard and serious worker, he found time to pursue his passion of scuba diving. He died unexpectedly, while training for his diving test, in 2002. Shortly after his death, Ben?s family created a scholarship fund as a way to honor his courage and determination. Community donations to the Fund continue to make scholarships possible.