VCU Staff Senate rewards eight students with Virginia’s Caring University scholarships

Virginia Commonwealth University Staff Senate helped eight students bridge financial gaps and continue on their educational journeys with Virginia’s Caring University scholarships. The juniors and seniors were presented with their scholarship certificates during an awards ceremony on Oct. 6 in the University Student Commons.

Scholarship funds were raised through the 11th annual Marquita Aguilar Scholarship Walk-A-Thon, which was held April 16. The walk-a-thon’s name was changed in 2012 to honor Aguilar, director of the Great Place Initiative for the College of Humanities and Sciences, who founded the event and the scholarship.

Participants warming up with Eric West, Ph.D., assistant director of recreational sports, before beginning the walk.
Participants warming up with Eric West, Ph.D., assistant director of recreational sports, before beginning the walk.

More than 150 people, including administration, faculty, staff, students and guests, participated in the walk-a-thon and helped raise $11,000 in scholarship funds. Each of the eight student scholarship recipients received from $1,300 to $1,500 to put toward their education.

Nancy Rodrigues, secretary of administration for Virginia, attended the walk-a-thon as a representative of Gov. Terry McAuliffe and read a letter from the governor to those in attendance.

“It is essential for us to ensure that all students receive a quality education that prepares them for the highly skilled jobs of today’s workforce,” Rodrigues read. “Over the history of this event, you have increased access to higher education for more than 80 students. Your work to support scholarships for young Virginians continues to positively impact hundreds of young people.”

Since 2005, the Staff Senate has raised more than $90,000 from the VCU and VCU Health communities through the walk-a-thon. To be considered, students must be juniors or seniors in financial need with a grade point average of 2.7 or better who can demonstrate past or current community service. A total of 101 students have benefited from the scholarship.

Robert Breckenridge, Tania Valencia, Marquita Aguilar, Ebony-Dominque Moore, Kiera Rohan and Vena Reed.
Robert Breckenridge, Tania Valencia, Marquita Aguilar, Ebony-Dominque Moore, Kiera Rohan and Vena Reed.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Robert Breckenridge, computer science, School of Engineering.
  • Luis Martinez, foreign language/French and Spanish, School of World Studies, College of Humanities and Sciences.
  • Ebony-Dominique Moore, mathematical sciences/statistics, College of Humanities and Sciences.
  • Brianti Murray, social work, School of Social Work.
  • Vena Reed, English, College of Humanities and Sciences.
  • Valeria Rivas-Cruz, biology, College of Humanities and Sciences.
  • Kiera Rohan, psychology, College of Humanities and Sciences.
  • Tania Valencia, sociology, College of Humanities and Sciences.

“This scholarship is such a blessing,” said Valeria Rivas-Cruz, a senior pre-med student majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. “I’m so thankful it has allowed me to continue my education here at VCU.” Rivas-Cruz is a member of Project Sunshine, a student organization that provides free educational, recreational and social programs to children facing medical challenges and their families, and also volunteers at VCU Medical Center in her spare time.

Robert Breckenridge, a senior studying computer science, hopes to attend graduate school after graduation and focus on cybersecurity. “My career goal is to ensure that our nation’s information and technical assets are as secure as possible,” Breckenridge said. “We are no longer living in a world where wars are fought on the battlefield. Today it’s more of an ‘e-war’ and the bullets that are being fired are the keystrokes of a keyboard.”

We targeted rising juniors and seniors because they’re committed. They’ve been with us through their freshman and sophomore years and sometimes life hits us hard.

“I look at these students as being our future,” Aguilar said during the ceremony. “They are our future leaders and we need to help them. We targeted rising juniors and seniors because they’re committed. They’ve been with us through their freshman and sophomore years and sometimes life hits us hard. VCU is Virginia’s Caring University and I want to thank the community for believing in our students and supporting student success.”

The 12th annual Marquita Aguilar Walk-A-Thon is scheduled for April 5, 2016. Registration will open in January 2016. For more information about the walk-a-thon, visit http://staffsenate.vcu.edu/walkathon/index.html.

Participants walking the walk-a-thon route in Monroe Park on April 16.
Participants walking the walk-a-thon route in Monroe Park on April 16.

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