This past year the Foundation launched the Ascienzo Family Foundation Scholarship. The application was open to RHHS seniors who have demonstrated a commitment to giving back to their community, and are planning on staying in the area after graduation. We are thrilled to announce the inaugural recipient, Irene Celaya!
Irene is heading to Siena College in the Fall, and plans to study Business Marketing and Communications. The Foundation was impressed by her commitment to volunteerism throughout her time in high school, and her desire to continue giving back as she continues her education.
Here are some highlights from Founder Nick and Irene’s conversation this past weekend:
Nick: What have been your proudest accomplishments in and out of the classroom?
Irene: Algebra in 9th grade was a challenge. I did my best day-in-and-day-out and was rewarded with a grade in the 80’s on the Regents exam. I was so proud of that! My volleyball experiences were collectively very rewarding, as well. Becoming the captain of the team was awesome and I worked on my communications skills and leadership abilities in that role!
Nick: Other than your parents, who has motivated you the most in your life?
Irene: My sister Rosa, who is ten years older than myself; she pushed me to keep going and make our parents proud of who I was becoming.
Nick: How about your favorite teacher?
Irene: Mr. Swanwick my English teacher in my sophomore year. I remember a speech I gave in class on immigration that he helped me put together. He encouraged me throughout the year to be my own person and not listen to the opinions of others.
Nick: Your application for the AFF Scholarship included your volunteer time with Culture Connect in the Life, Language, & Culture program administered in the elementary schools at Mill Road. What is your one take-away from that experience?
Irene: The program would have been a great opportunity for me growing up, if it had been in existence. Since I love helping others, assisting young kids through that mentoring program made me feel good about myself, as well.
Nick: What was the process like in considering undergrad study?
Irene: At first I was undecided about a four year school and its costs. My parents and I agreed that Siena was a possibility, following a meeting with Mrs. D’Onofrio, the College and Career Advisor at RHHS. She provided the encouragement and guidance that my family and I needed.
Nick: What will you miss the most about Red Hook, its community and school?
Irene: There is great comfort in having grown up in such a warm and caring community. It’s been nice to know so many people in such a safe environment. I’ll miss my classmates, after 13 years of sharing our childhood and young adulthood together!
Nick: What about your favorite food?
Irene: Italian - I love pasta!
Nick: Favorite fun things to do?
Irene: Well of course volleyball! I also like to shop and adventure!
Nick: As a young woman - and one who has with her family overcome the challenges of immigration - what advice might you give to younger kids, especially girls?
Irene: Don’t take no for an answer, keep pushing yourself to be better, and don’t hide who you really are!