URI recipients of USDA environmental scholarship aiming for careers in law, medicine, research

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 29, 2004 — The five recent recipients of an environmental scholarship at the University of Rhode Island are still early in their college careers, but they all know exactly what they want to do when they graduate. And they’re all aiming high.

Carissa Hie of Providence, Anayra Izquierdo of East Providence, Analy Lopes of East Providence, Vanessa Moncion of Cranston, and Cassius Spears of Ashaway have been awarded full-tuition scholarships to URI through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Multicultural Scholars program.

Designed to encourage under-represented students to study environmental, food and agricultural sciences, the USDA scholarship was awarded to the URI students based on academic achievement, letters of recommendation, personal interviews, and evidence of interest and commitment to studying the required subject areas.

Hie and Izquierdo, both freshmen microbiology majors, plan to attend medical school after graduating from URI.

Izquierdo earned her Certified Nursing Assistant’s license at age 16 and worked at a nursing home during her junior and senior years in high school. “I found that helping others who are in greater need was so fulfilling, and it made me feel like I was really contributing to their lives. I was making a difference,” she said. “So I decided that I wanted to become an obstetrician because childbirth and the development of the fetus really interests me.”

Hie has similar goals. “I plan to be a renowned pediatrician who will be well known for giving back to my community and helping children in need,” she said.

Both students say the scholarship will play an important role in helping them achieve their goals.

“With the scholarship comes mentors, facilities and many different people who can help me in their own special ways,” Hie said. “So I’ll receive help becoming the well-rounded student I want to become.”

“The USDA scholarship has provided me with the chance of living on campus next semester so I can take advantage of the facilities that are offered for higher learning,” Izquierdo said.

Lopes and Moncion are also microbiology majors, but rather than pursuing medical degrees they are preparing for careers in scientific research.

Lopes is especially interested in how diseases grow and spread. “My friend’s mom has Multiple Sclerosis, so I want to know everything there is to know about it,” said the URI sophomore. “Whenever I hear something about a disease, I want to learn more.”

Moncion, a freshman, was torn between studying pharmacy or microbiology, but her love for microscopic organisms won out. “After graduation I’m hoping to get a Ph.D. in microbiology and biotechnology, and then hopefully work as a biotech scientist for a major company,” she said. “I’d also love to work for the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Spears has chosen a very different career path than the other four scholarship winners. A Native American who grew up with a strong connection to the environment, he is studying environmental science with a goal of becoming an environmental lawyer.

“The environment sustained my ancestors for hundreds of years, so naturally it’s a big part of my culture and my family’s everyday life,” said Spears, a URI freshman. “As a child I spent a lot of time outdoors hunting, fishing, clamming, and crabbing. So by majoring in environmental science, I chose something I love and want to learn more about.”

All five students agreed that without the scholarship, it would have been difficult for them to afford college. “Getting the scholarship was financially very important to me and my parents, who would have otherwise had to struggle to pay for school,” Lopes said.

Added Spears: “I was so happy and honored to be selected for this scholarship. This is a special program run by very great people.”