Dreams of WCSU come true
President-to-President scholars Ramon Velazquez and Ben Engel took their studies and leadership roles at local community colleges seriously. Each received a full scholarship to complete their bachelor’s degrees at Western.
DANBURY, CONN. — Ramon Velazquez and Ben Engel worked hard to put themselves through community college. Despite wanting to continue their education, dreams of going to a large university seemed out of reach. But their commitment to their schools and their studies didn’t go unnoticed and both men earned scholarships to complete their educational goals at Western Connecticut State University.
Velazquez and Engel were chosen as this academic year’s President-to-President Scholars, an honor awarded annually to one graduate from Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) and one from Norwalk Community College (NCC). Since 2003, Western and NVCC have co-sponsored the scholarship; this is the second year that Norwalk Community College has presented the scholarship. The annual grant pays full tuition costs for an exemplary associate degree graduate to complete the final two years of studies and earn a bachelor’s degree at Western
Engel, a 21-year-old Southport native, earned an associate degree from NCC and is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in managerial accounting. He said he developed good study habits in college and, even though the work has gotten harder, Engel earned a 4.0 last semester.
“I realized I needed to dedicate myself to my studies at Norwalk and I’ve maintained that idea that ultimately I’m here to improve myself in my classes,” Engel said.
Velazquez, 27 and from Waterbury, also moved to campus for more of a “college experience” and said that adjusting to his studies took more focus. But he sailed through his courses with a 3.5 GPA and is looking forward to completing his goal of a business management degree from WCSU.
Velazquez was very involved in community college life and was president of the NVCC Student Government Association, president of the Hispanic Student Union, a President’s Circle member and a mentor for middle school students in “Gear Up.”
Velazquez attended NVCC because it was affordable and a five-minute walk from his home. He applied for the scholarship because he wanted to continue his education and further his career.
“I wanted to pursue my education,” Velazquez said. “This was a sign to keep going. I consider this like a job: I’m investing my time learning and accomplishing my goals.”
Engel and Velazquez said that the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree at Western has been a great complement to their community college education.
Engel choose Norwalk Community College because of its affordability and close proximity, but he quickly became immersed in campus life. He took on the role of student body president and presided over a variety of leadership activities. At Western, Engel decided to live on campus for the full experience and is hoping to become more involved with clubs and organizations now that he’s established himself as a student.
Both Western students said that receiving the award was a crowning moment, as each wasn’t quite sure what the future held for them in terms of education.
“It was one of the best moments of the year,” Engel said. “It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.” He said without the scholarship, he would have likely taken time off from school to work and save for tuition.
Engel said that his professors in the Ancell School of Business at WCSU are thought-provoking and accessible. Velazquez agreed and said that his professors have dedicated extra time toward helping him work through some of the more difficult courses. He said he learned the basics in community college and now the learning is “hard core.”
“I know I have a lot to learn and my learning is now on a whole new level,” Velazquez said.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.