By Kathleen Hallahan Zeifang ’72
Celeste Pitter ’18 entered Trinity as a freshman with the confidence to tackle a major in criminal justice and minor in sociology, having been the valedictorian of her D.C. public high school class. Pitter was named one of eight freshman Shannon Scholars, a new scholarship program created by Mary McMahon Shannon ’60 and her children.
Shannon and her late husband, Phil, shared a deep commitment to quality higher education. He believed his experience at his alma mater, Seton Hall University, was a life-altering opportunity, and saw Trinity in the same light.
Knowing this, the Shannon family proposed a scholarship program for Trinity freshmen selected for their scholarship and commitment to excellence. This generous scholarship extends support to these students throughout their years of study and on to graduation.
When asked about her freshman year experience, Pitter said she was humbled by the bright students surrounding her. “I’m no longer the big fish in the small pond, but a small fish in the big pond.” Her newly-acquired respect for the rigors of higher education has strengthened her goal of attending law school and a career rehabilitating youth in the juvenile justice system.
Sierra Slide, from Baltimore, Maryland, is studying forensic science and is grateful for faculty who help keep her focused on graduation. She is so thankful to have the weight of tuition payment taken off her shoulders.
Danielle De La Cruz, also from Maryland, says she is able to fully concentrate on her studies toward a business management degree thanks to the Shannon scholarship.
Arriving at Trinity from Columbia, South Carolina, Gabriella Clary found her freshman year enlightening. Being at a women’s college, she said, is giving her a better understanding of what it means to be a confident, educated woman – both the hurdles and the potential for good that such a person can extend to the community. Clary is studying international business with a minor in language and cultural studies.
Lauren Cush from Atlanta, Georgia, arrived by train last fall with bags packed to begin freshman year at George Washington University. Before moving into the dorm, Cush paid a visit to Trinity and was immediately convinced that this was the school for her. She was offered the Shannon scholarship during her second semester and was also awarded the highly-competitive and prestigious Sr. Seton Cunneen ’65 Summer Fellowship, allowing her to work in service to others during the summer at Hearts to Nourish Hope, a nonprofit servicing Atlanta’s youth. Cush is studying international business and international affairs with a minor in economics and lives by the motto, “Nothing amazing happens in your comfort zone.”
Sheila Best and Belelihem Chekole of Washington, D.C., have what it takes to be Shannon Scholars. Both students exhibit integrity and grit. Best is a young mother who takes pride in her ability to manage motherhood and maintain her studies in business administration. Chekole immigrated from Ethiopia and graduated first in her high school class. She suffered the loss of her grandmother to malaria; knowledge that the disease could have been treated has strengthened her conviction to become a doctor.
Like Chekole, Alisa Hashemzadeh is inspired by a loss in her family – just before she entered Trinity her mother passed away. She moved from Montana to Maryland and manages her life independently. She is determined to honor her mother’s memory by being a great student studying criminal justice. To help support herself, Hashemzadeh teaches dance to children on the weekends and in the evenings. Knowing that the Shannon Scholars program will see her through college is a great gift.
Mary Shannon recently came to campus to meet the initial cohort of students. Immensely impressed by these young women, she said she is honored to be investing in Trinity students who have shown initiative and determination while overcoming great adversity. She and her children see the benefit of what Trinity is doing and feel they have a moral obligation to say thank you by giving back.
Without a doubt, the grateful Shannon Scholars, and Trinity Washington University as a whole, will benefit from their efforts.