OSWEGO — Breaking barriers and finding their way through financial and other challenges, while excelling in the classroom, have earned five students Diversity Graduate Fellowships at SUNY Oswego.
Current graduate fellowship recipients at Oswego include Stacy Araujo, Stacy Baum, Kimberlyn Fernez, Rodney Golden and Krystal Jones.
Funded through the State University of New York, the Diversity Graduate Fellowship Program supports full-time graduate students who are part of the college’s diverse student body.
The program aims to support those who demonstrate they have overcome a disadvantage or other impediment to succeed in higher education and to enrich the student body and their future professions.
Established by SUNY in 1987, the fellowship provides full tuition to selected students, as well as an annual stipend.
A better life
As the daughter of a single mother and as a young woman who contributed much to her family, Araujo knew college was the path to a better life but had to weigh leaving the Bronx, and a little sister she was very close to, behind to go to school. Ultimately Araujo found validation in earning a bachelor’s degree in human development from Oswego and is now pursuing a master’s in mental health counseling.
“This college has contributed to my drive and ambition, and it has helped me to become a role model my younger sister can emulate,” Araujo wrote.
She is thankful for the support when she came to Oswego in the Educational Opportunity Program, which helps low-income students and others who might need more help to transition academically to college. “Without this program I would not be the hardworking, focused and determined student I am today,” said the Diversity Fellowship winner. “And more importantly, I would not have thought myself capable of succeeding during my undergraduate years and pursuing graduate studies.”
The Diversity Fellowship “will allow me to continue engaging in the SUNY Oswego community by continuing to be the active member I have been throughout my undergraduate studies,” Araujo explained. “Not only will this fellowship allow me to contribute to the diversity of the graduate class in regard to gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic class, it would enable me to become a counseling professional in the future, thereby diversifying the profession as well.”
Making a difference
“I am humbled to have made it this far in my journey and will never let my past limit me,” said Baum, who found herself homeless and often staying with friends while becoming the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree — in human development at Oswego. Now pursuing her master’s degree in mental health counseling, the Diversity Fellowship winner said she contributes “to the diversity of the student body as somebody who has overcome an immense financial barrier” in pursuing higher education.
As a lesbian and member of the LGBTQ+ community, Baum wrote she “contributes to my program’s student body because I provide another perspective and speak for a sometimes underrepresented population.” Needs of the LGBTQ+ community are often overlooked by those in counseling and other human services, Baum added, which is another reason she would be valuable in the field.
“With my education, I fully intend on making a difference in the lives of individuals who may not have been lucky enough to have the same unexpected support I found in my friends and community members,” Baum wrote. “My goal is to pursue a career working with at-risk youth and/or homeless individuals. Having this incredibly personal experience and resiliency motivates me to make a difference within my campus community and in the lives of people I work with in my future.”
Finding her purpose
A single mother who was working as a juvenile correction officer several years ago, Jones realized her purpose when she met a young man with major depressive disorder who would not talk to anybody.
“I took the initiative to help the young man by using my communicative and counseling abilities,” the Diversity Fellowship winner recalled. “As the days and months went by, he progressed into building trust with me and eventually began speaking. … As he began to start speaking, making positive choices and, most importantly, smiling, things changed for the better.”
Jones herself changed as a result.
“I used to doubt myself in thinking that because I am a minority and single mother that things would somehow be different for me, and I wouldn’t be granted certain opportunities,” said Jones, who is now a teacher at Syracuse’s Academy of Science Charter School and will earn her master’s in childhood education and teaching certification in May. “However, the young man’s struggles to overcome his fears and challenges made me realize that I could do the same in pursuing my dream of being a schoolteacher and using my skills to make a difference on a much grander scale.”
She has found a “drive to keep pressing forward to engage, motivate and inspire students,” which led her to pursue the master’s at Oswego to continue helping at-risk students. SUNY Oswego is “a fantastic training ground” that lets its students “explore, engage and grow in their desired field of study,” she added.
The Diversity Graduate Fellowship Program echoes a value system that SUNY Oswego and its fellow state colleges and universities across the nation are fostering around the concept of “Opportunities for All.” Dedicated to fulfilling America’s promise by offering high-quality, accessible and affordable higher education to those willing to work hard in order to be successful, these colleges aim to collectively create brighter futures for all.
For more information about graduate studies programs and opportunities at SUNY Oswego, visit https://www.oswego.edu/graduate, call 315-312-3152 or email [email protected]