Hartford Students Surprised With Full Scholarships To Trinity College

Three top high school seniors at Global Communications Academy in Hartford thought they would be talking to the school's elementary-aged children about college Thursday morning, but when Trinity College's blue and gold Bantam rooster mascot sashayed out to the beat of the school's drum band, they began to get a hint.

Then Trinity's head of admissions, Angel B. Perez, called for seniors Kiera Flynn, Giovanni Jones and Tiana Starks to come forward and announced that they were not only accepted to Trinity, but awarded full scholarships including room and board — a value of $68,000 yearly.

"These students have worked hard, they got good grades, they did tons of things after school," Perez said to the shrieks of the elementary-aged students and the astonishment of the seniors whose teary-eyed families came out of nowhere and hugged them.

"I was shocked that I got accepted, but I was even more shocked that I got a full scholarship," said Kiera. "I didn't think that this would happen. I'm really happy that it happened too because I worked really hard for it. It's just like mind-blowing."

"I almost fainted," Giovanni said, he was so surprised.

Tiana said she was also shocked. "I didn't see it coming."

Trinity has given plenty of scholarships to Hartford kids, but when Perez learned that three of the students receiving awards this year all came from the same school he wanted to do something special.

Admitting students from Hartford has always "been a priority for Trinity, but I think we're trying to be a lot more intentional," Perez said. "We want to see more students from the Hartford area and you know Joanne [Berger-Sweeney], our president, she's really sort of firing everybody up around Trinity being a force for good in the city."

Perez said that normally about five to eight students from Hartford are admitted to Trinity with scholarships; this year, 10 students were offered full scholarships.

Before announcing the scholarship, Perez took time to address the elementary school children at the gathering directly, counseling them that it is "important to study hard and do your work so that one day you too" can go to college.

"Those kids probably never even heard of Trinity College," Perez said later. "To hear that that place is accessible to [them], I think could really transform this community."

Kiera, Giovanni and Tiana are all top students who have taken honors and Advanced Placement courses and even classes at Capital Community College.

"We did everything to help us look more polished to the colleges when applying," Giovanni said.

All three want to go into the health fields and are thrilled that they don't have to burden themselves or their parents with debt to go to college.

"This is a big weight off our shoulders," said Giovanni, who wants to study dentistry.

They also all talked about the hard work it has taken to get where they are.

Kiera, who wants to become a doctor, said she often had extra-curricular activities and homework that took until 11 p.m. to finish.

Kiera said she hopes she is a good role model for younger children. When they see her success, she said, "I think it makes them believe that they are able to do it as well, no matter where they are from or how much money they have. There's a stigma that we are not supposed to be successful, that we are supposed to be in the streets, getting pregnant, selling drugs.

"I always knew I wanted to be different from what society expects me to be," she said. "I always wanted to go to school."

Tiana's mother was only 18 when Tiana was born. "I kind of knew I always had a future because my mother always pushed me because she didn't have a chance to have her future," Tiana, who plans to study psychology, said. "I broke the cycle. It was important for me to break that cycle."

Tiana said that getting good grades didn't come easy for her and that often she was up all night studying or worrying about her work.

"I managed to get here by keeping my eyes on the prize," Tiana said. "I blocked out all the negativity... I just kept on racing and I'm here now."

Giovanni, who is class president, said that he too stayed up late many nights doing homework. He wants to be a dentist because he sees it as a "more hands-on and more personal" kind of medical care that also involves a degree of artistry.

He said he tells younger kids to "never give up and always believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself. Don't listen to negative comments."

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