The 2017 New Haven Promise Legacy Award recipients — Jorgieliz Casanova and Lawrence McGill — didn’t just graduate on time with lofty grade-point averages, they made a difference for those coming behind them.
If everyone looks for someone who leads by example, then 2017 Eastern Connecticut State University graduate Lawrence McGill is in high demand.
As a Promise Scholar, he took advantage of every opportunity, posting impressive grades, being named to the Dean’s List and utilizing the summer internship program to the maximum. A math major at Eastern, he spent each of the last four summers working on Yale’s campus, twice with Information Technology, once with the School of Medicine’s Web Group and this past year as a geographic information system intern at the Center for Science & Social Science Information.
Part of his recent job was helping to engage city youth in discovering the broad range of STEM fields as he led activities with Yale’s Pathways to Science program and the City’s Microsoft YouthSpark Hub. Yet his service to the development of young folks has been hardly limited to his position. At ECSU he mentored Latino middle school students who had English as a second language. He has also been mentoring Elm City youth through basketball for four years as an assistant coach with the New Haven Heat AAU team.
And, of course, athletics is in the Career High graduate’s DNA. He was a team captain for the Eastern track & field team, where he was at various times utilized as a sprinter, middle-distance runner and even a long jumper. But he blossomed as an athlete this spring when he found his groove in the 400-meter dash, improving his personal best in that event by more than two seconds and showing his teammates that they should never ease up.
Sharing the award with McGill is someone who has talked more with New Haven Promise scholars than anyone else. Jorgieliz Casanova, who graduated cum laude from Albertus Magnus College in May, has served as a program assistant at Promise headquarters since 2013, handling every task imaginable. But perhaps most importantly, she has helped guide so many first-generation-to-college students through the tricky maze of paying for and succeeding at college.
What makes her on-time graduation and her work-school balance even more amazing is that she managed to do it all as a full-time mother to two-year-old Noél (the youngest Promise pledge in the database!).
She didn’t enroll at Albertus from the Metropolitan Business Academy to become a teacher, but her work at Promise and her volunteer activities, from the Boys & Girls Club to College Summit to the New Haven Juvenile Court, has led her to a path toward education.
“I met Jorgieliz back in 2013, before she started college, and her commitment to the city was evident then,” said Promise President Patricia Melton. “I would go to events all over the city and Jorgieliz would be there tabling for one organization or another. So we snapped her up her freshman year and she has been a critical component to all of our success… and the success of a lot of students as well.”
Lawrence and Jorgieliz will receive their awards at the 2017 Scholar Celebration to be held at the Lyman Center for Performing Arts on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University on Thursday, August 17. The 2016 Legacy Award winner, Fontaine Chambers, will present that honor. The event is free and open to the public.