Funded by voluntary payroll deductions from Boston College support staff, the $1,500 annual scholarship is awarded to a graduate of College Bound, a School of Education program that grooms Boston high school students for university success.
Pena, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who worked three jobs as a student at West Roxbury High School to save for a college education, said she was particularly honored to receive a scholarship paid for by custodians, secretaries and other working people.
"When I saw the letter I literally cried," said Pena, 22, of Jamaica Plain, whose family moved to the United States when she was nine. "I know a lot of the people come from similar backgrounds as mine and I couldn't believe they would have money taken out of their paychecks to fund a scholarship like this.
"It's meant more to me than any other scholarship I've received, because I know they worked hard for it," she said.
Pena, a School of Nursing student, took her finals early last week so she could depart for a 15-day trip to Ecuador, where she and other members of the Por Christo-SON Health Project team are providing community health services to the poor in the city of Guayaquil.
During the semester break last year, Pena traveled with the Ignacio Volunteers to Tijuana, Mexico, where she and her Boston College team members assisted on a range of community projects.
Dayhanara Pena '98.
"We did everything from mixing cement to building a school to visiting the elderly," she said. "It was hard work, but I loved it."
Pena hopes to practice after graduation as a nurse-midwife in one of the developing nations of the Third World, where hospitals and health care workers are few. "I don't find a challenge in working in a community where everything is available to them," said Pena.
The idea of becoming a midwife has appealed to her since she performed her clinical practicum earlier this year at Brigham and Women's Hospital, where she witnessed six deliveries and two caesarian sections.
"I love every aspect of nursing, but I really want to become a midwife," she said. "In labor and delivery, there's a lot of teaching, a lot of coaching, a lot of support, a lot of encouraging. That's what I like about it."
Helping others has been a hallmark of Pena's student career at Boston College.
In addition to her work with the Ignacio Volunteers and the Health Project, she has been an AHANA tutor, a floor coordinator for the Social Justice Floor in her residence hall, an officer with the Organization of Latin American Affairs, a volunteer at the Martha M. Eliot Health Center in Jamaica Plain, and a mentor for high school students in the College Bound Program.
The Boston College Staff Scholarship was established in 1990, primarily through the efforts of Boston College support staff and the Staff Advisory Senate. The first scholarship was awarded this year when the fund topped $25,000.
"What is really special about this scholarship is that it represents a statement from employees who value what we do here," said Lynne Prosser, associate director for major gifts. "The philosophy of service to others is something we instill in our students and it's part of our employee culture here."
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