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Forward, Together Forward scholars continue legacy of academic excellence and service

February 17, 2020

The memory of the five students lost in the shootings on Feb. 14, 2008 were honored last week with the announcement of this year’s Forward, Together Forward scholarship recipients.

This year’s winners are Cristina Bravo, of Palatine, Arlene Elias, of Woodstock, Frederick McClure, of Orland Park, Kayla McTear, of Chicago, and Emily Staples, of Aurora. The five recipients represent four different colleges, are involved in multiple service organizations and dozens of volunteer activities, work jobs on campus and off, participate in learning opportunities across the country and abroad and have plans for careers ranging from teaching, to sales, to caring for those with mental illness.

Honorees are chosen through a competitive process which seeks to find individuals who have distinguished themselves through scholarship, leadership and service on campus and beyond. The scholarships, which are funded by gifts from more than 1,800 individuals, are offered in the names of those lost but not forgotten: Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Dan Parmenter. The scholarships are funded by gifts from more than 1,800 individuals.

This year’s recipients are:

Cristina Bravo

Christina Bravo

Raised in a bilingual environment, Cristina knows that getting students to embrace a language requires more than teaching them how to conjugate verbs. So, rather than settle for a certification as a Spanish language teacher, she has chosen to pursue a degree in Spanish Education and a minor in Latino and Latin American Studies, which will prepare her to teach not just language, but also about the cultures and traditions of Spanish-speaking nations.

She also has worked to make the path to NIU less difficult for her peers by creating and presenting a program at her high school alma mater, Palatine High School, where she taught Spanish-speaking parents about the college process so that they can better support their students as they pursue higher education.

Arlene Elias

Arlene Elias

Arlene Elias is beating the odds. Having grown up in the Illinois foster system, statistically speaking she had a 10 percent chance of graduating from college. At NIU, she has thrived, earning a GPA of 3.56 while majoring in Rehabilitation and Disability Services and pursuing minors in Psychology and Counseling along with a certificate in Women and Gender Studies. She is active in Best Buddies and the Sigma Lambda Sigma service sorority and works with peers and children in the foster system, sharing the story of the challenges she has faced and overcome.

Frederick McClure

Frederick McClure

Frederick McClure couldn’t wait until after graduation to start fulfilling his dream of working with underprivileged youth. An avid percussionist with a double major in Music Education Music Performance, he created “Music Education Agents,” organizing a group of 10 of his peers to visit a low-income neighborhood in DeKalb where they performed and then gave children the chance to try their instruments.

He also has served as the percussion section leader in the NIU Philharmonic, played in the NIU Steelband and the NIU Percussion Ensemble and currently serves as president of the NIU Percussion Club. He also is a member of the John Henrick Clarke Honor Society and serves as a student advisor to the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Kayla McTear

Kayla McTear

When Kayla McTear thinks about Feb. 14, 2008, her thoughts turn to the parents of those who were lost. She understands their pain, because she lost a child of her own to pneumonia. More than that, she understands the strength and resilience it takes to not only endure such a loss, but also the determination to commit oneself to being a positive light in the world despite those circumstances. For Kayla, that has meant dedicating herself to a life of caring for others. She is enrolled in the NIU College of Nursing and is pursuing minors in Psychology and Community Health so that she can become a psychiatric nurse after graduation. She also plans to volunteer her time and talents at Veterans Affairs hospitals to care for those who risked their lives for their country.

Emily Staples

Emily Staples

Emily Staples started her college career at another university, but when she transferred to NIU, she knew she was where she belonged. Now, she works to welcome others to campus.

As a Northern Ambassador, she is one of the first people many future Huskies meet, and she is determined to help them get off to the best start possible. She doesn’t just lead tours; she also tries to connect with prospective students, asking about their dreams and goals, and then explaining how NIU can help them attain those things.

Emily shows the same level of commitment in her work with the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, where she serves as philanthropy chair and recently helped raise $3,000 for the Special Olympics.

To learn more about this year’s recipients of the Forward, Together Forward scholarships visit the NIU Newsroom.