Three MERIT Scholarship Recipients Announced

Joliet, Ill. – Taking on the challenge of inspiring the next generation of students is a responsibility that teachers proudly accept. For Jasmine Flores, Isabel Jaquez and Crystal Mendoza, who are the three newest MERIT (Multicultural Education Recruitment in Teaching) Scholarship recipients at the University of St. Francis (USF), that challenge is one they are ready to assume.

The MERIT program is a partnership between USF, Joliet Township High School District 204, Joliet Public Schools District 86 and the Joliet business community. The MERIT Scholarship provides scholarship funds for qualifying students of color who major in education at USF. Recipients are required to teach in a Joliet school for either four years (Joliet Township High School District 204 and other area seniors planning to attend USF for four years) or two years (Joliet Junior College students planning to transfer to USF for two years). Ultimately, the program is intended to help recruit, prepare, place and induct a new generation of teachers of color for Joliet’s schools.

As the three recipients prepare to begin their respective educational journeys in the fall, they are thankful for the opportunity presented to them through the MERIT program.

“To be a MERIT Scholar, it means that I am given the opportunity to learn and grow into the teacher I want to be. It means that I am learning about the community I will be working in and connecting with students to prepare myself as an educator. As a MERIT Scholar, I am being trained to be a leader and an influence not only to the children, but to everyone who surrounds me,” said Flores, who graduated from Joliet Central in 2018 and then recently graduated from Joliet Junior College.

“To me, being a MERIT Scholar means that I am going to get the opportunity to be the best possible teacher I can be for my students. I also get to be for someone else, what I never got as a little girl, a teacher who looks like me. While all of my teachers were amazing, none of them looked like me nor had a similar background as me or had the same passion that I do for my culture. Being a MERIT Scholar means that I am going to be a teacher in a community where there are many children of color, and I get to be their teacher. My students will walk into my classroom and see someone who is like them, someone who can show them they can be any they want to be regardless of where they came from or what color their skin is,” said Jaquez, who is a graduate of Bolingbrook High School.

For Mendoza, a graduate of Joliet West High School, the opportunity is an example of a dream coming true.

“To be a MERIT Scholar means the world to me because it will help me turn my dream into a reality. Further, it will allow me to share my experience with a diverse group of students,” she said.

While there are many opportunities that come with a career in education, the three newest MERIT Scholars are driven by the impact they aspire to have on their future students.

“I am looking forward to being a teacher because I want to be the one who gets to inspire the next generation to believe in themselves and what they can achieve. No matter who they are or where they come from, I will always want to bring the best out of my students, even if it starts with a smile,” said Flores.

Jaquez believes that building relationships with students is an important characteristic of an effective classroom.

“I look forward most to building relationships with my students and watching them grow as students and as people. Building relationships is so important to a classroom setting. Students learn better when they trust and know their teacher. Even though I have not met my students and many of them probably don’t even exist yet, I love them, and I look forward to getting to know each and every one of them,” she said.

Mendoza also points to the importance of the relationship between teacher and student.

“I look forward to getting to know the students and working with them to reach our goals. I not only want to share my knowledge, but I also want to cultivate relationships and make great memories together,” she said.

Specifically, all three MERIT Scholarship recipients look forward to the opportunity to teach in Joliet schools.

“As a student that lived in the Joliet area for most of my life, I grew to love the diverse atmosphere and the acceptance that was given in the school system. Even though I was surrounded with positive energy, there was still a divide between teachers and with the students; there were not enough minority teachers to balance with the minority populations of the schools,” said Flores, who would like to teach middle school social sciences. “Since I grew up in the Joliet public school systems, I had friends of different cultural and economic backgrounds and was able to understand and connect with those different from me. As a teacher, I want to be able the build relationships with my students through the understanding of the cultural norms and using them to create a unique curriculum that will inspire students, rather than bore students. I want to pursue education because I want to be the missing voice in faculty discussions to stand up for minorities and to give an insider perspective on what will benefit the majority.”

“It is not a secret that many kids in this world do not have someone at home who cheers them on, who tells them they are deeply loved and valued. I want to be a teacher because every child deserves to know they are loved and that they are worthy, every child deserves someone in their corner. My mission as a teacher is to be a confidant and a cheerleader for any student that needs one. I know that I can have a positive effect on the future by teaching every single student I have that they are treasured and valued,” said Jaquez, who would like to teach in elementary school.

“When one thinks about the gifts and talents they have to offer, why not use them to make a difference in the lives of young students. In my case, I would like to share the talents that I have to offer with students and my community. Ever since elementary school, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. My dedication, interest, and passion for the field of education are some of the gifts that I have to offer, and I want to share them,” said Mendoza, who would like to become a high school U.S. history teacher.

Visit stfrancis.edu/merit for more information on the MERIT Program at USF.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Scholarship Opportunity Supports Students of Color Who Aspire to Become Teachers

Joliet, Ill. – Local data has shown that there is a sharp contrast between student and teacher demographics. In fact, a large gap currently exists between the percentages of students of color and teachers of color in Joliet’s schools. A scholarship opportunity offered by the University of St. Francis (USF) for qualifying students of color who aspire to become teachers is helping to address this gap.

The Multicultural Education Recruitment in Teaching (MERIT) Scholarship at USF provides a four (4) year scholarship up to $8,000 per year for eligible seniors applying to USF as a first-year freshman, as well as a two (2) year scholarship up to $2,000 per year for eligible students applying to USF as a junior-level transfer. Awards are offered in conjunction with other scholarships/grants and will apply to the direct cost of USF full-time undergraduate tuition and fees. This scholarship opportunity is open to all eligible high school and community college students.

Scholarship requires that applicants are:

  • a student of African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino American, Asian American, or Native American origin;
  • a U.S. Citizen or eligible non U.S. Citizen with demonstrated financial need;
  • a high school or transfer student with a GPA of 3.00 or higher, and
  • able to commit to teach in Joliet public schools for either two or four years upon graduation from USF.

Scholars are selected based on qualities that indicate their potential to become exemplary teachers. Visit stfrancis.edu/merit to apply today or to request additional information. Review of applications will begin March 1, 2021 for the 2021–22 academic year.

The MERIT project is a partnership between the University of St. Francis (USF), Joliet Township High School District 204, Joliet Public Schools District 86, Joliet Junior College, and the surrounding community.

: :

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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MERIT Scholarship

Joliet Central High School Seniors Named USF MERIT Scholars

May 3, 2019 | Joliet, Ill.

Mercedes Hernandez and Ayeka Santoyo

Joliet Central High School seniors Mercedes Hernandez and Ayeka Santoyo have a lot in common. Both students officially graduate from Joliet Central High School  in May as members of the Class of 2019. Both students are planning to pursue careers in early education. Now, a new item can be added to the list of things they have in common – both students have been named 2019 Multicultural Education Recruitment in Teaching (MERIT) Scholars at University of St. Francis (USF).

MERIT is a partnership between USF, Joliet Township High School District 204, Joliet Public Schools District 86 and the Joliet business community. The MERIT Scholarship provides scholarship funds for qualifying students of color who major in education at USF. Recipients are required to teach in a Joliet school for either four years (Joliet Township High School District 204 seniors planning to attend USF for four years) or two years (Joliet Junior College students planning to transfer to USF for two years). Ultimately, the program is intended to help recruit, prepare, place and induct a new generation of teachers of color for Joliet’s schools. This year is a special one, as it marks the first time in the program’s six-year history that two MERIT Scholars have been named in the same year. Hernandez and Santoyo will now each receive $8,000 per year for four years and have committed to teaching in a Joliet school for four years after earning their undergraduate degrees.

Hernandez and Santoyo both knew at an early age that they wanted to become teachers, which is yet another thing they have in common. Both also look to their teachers at Joliet Central as mentors.

“Miss (Melissa) Cady has been so important to me,” Hernandez said. “Ever since I met her my sophomore year, I clicked with her. She was the person I could talk to. She would listen to me– not just like my teacher but as my friend.  She has always supported me and has always wanted the best for me. She has always wanted me to succeed.”

Santoyo feels similarly about Ms. Andrea Richardson.

“(Richardson) teaches the Child Development course at Joliet Central. Every day she comes in with a smile, regardless of the situation. She is always ready to roll,” she said.

One area in which the two students differ is that of how they came to choose USF.

“Ever since I was young, I would pass through the USF campus. One time after I visited with my class, I told my mom, ‘I want to go here.’ And now here I am ready to attend USF in the fall,” Hernandez said.

Santoyo became interested in USF through her elementary school’s participation in a reading program partnership with the university.

“When I was in first grade, I attended Farragut Elementary. USF had reading program and I came here for it. We met in the library and I thought, “When I am older I want to come here,” she said.

Both students are looking forward to the opportunities that being a MERIT Scholar will present them. For now, though, they are still letting the magnitude of the honor settle in.

“Being named a MERIT Scholar means a lot to me,” Hernandez said. “It shows how hard I worked and tells me that I should be proud of myself. I am succeeding in life and am headed toward where I want to be in the future.”

“It is a phenomenal opportunity,” added Santoyo. “It is important to be able to represent students. I always have wanted my career to help my community. This is the first, small step in a process that will take me to somewhere huge.”

The two students were formally presented with the scholarships by a USF representative at Joliet Central High School’s Senior Awards/Ivy Night event on Wednesday, May 1.

Visit stfrancis.edu/merit for more information on the MERIT Program at USF.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 49,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.