Diversity Defines Winners of Stamford Board of Realtors Scholarships

STAMFORD, Conn. -- The diversity that runs through Stamford public schools and makes the district extraordinarily unique is reflected in the Stamford Board of REALTORS® 10 Frank N. Green Memorial scholarship award winners.

The winners each received $1,000 from the Stamford Board of REALTORS®, which is celebrating its 100th year. Since the organization began distributing scholarships, more than $163,000 has been distributed to students who are graduating from the community's public, private, technical, and parochial schools. Award are based on community service and academics, and each of the students made significant contributions and spent countless hours supporting local programs. Forty-seven students applied for scholarships.

The Stamford Board of REALTORS®started the program in 1993. The organization has selected 10 recipients every year since 2016 except for 2018, when 12 students were honored.

This year's class is particularly diverse, with different backgrounds, ethnicities, experiences, communities, and values. Yet for all of their differences, all of the students are exiting the public schools with an appreciation for the mix of students and educators within the system that makes the city a model for embracing multicultural dialogue.

"The diversity in Stamford public schools has helped me be more open-minded,'' said Shayna Druckman, a Stamford High School senior and one of the scholarship winners. "Seeing people from all walks of life every day was a terrific experience. The other day, there was a spring concert for the band and choir, and there were so many different kinds of people. It made me happy to see that. It fuels my soul. Stamford is good about that. There's not much separation between races or gender. That's how it is in the world. I'm happy that I've grown up that way."

Three Stamford students also won scholarships from the Connecticut Association of Realtors. Benjamin Grass and Kevin Zyskowski were awarded $1,000 Raymond F. Gates Memorial Scholarships. Jared Tuttle was awarded $500.

Here's a brief look at the Stamford Board of REALTORS®scholarship winners: 

Samuel Diamond, Stamford High. Elementary and Middle Schools:Newfield, Scofield. College: University of Delaware, Health.Sam amassed more than 400 hours in community service, including time with Big Brother Big Sister, the Jewish Community Center, New Covenant House, and BBYO, a Jewish Teen Youth organization. He also served as an editor with the student newspaper, the school's Environmental Action Committee and the Leadership Academy, where he mentored freshman. When Sam entered Stamford as a freshman, a friend convinced him to sign up for a community service club. His parents also encouraged him to become involved in community service. "I remember people talking about how you have to do community service to build your resume,'' he said. "I've grown to like it, growing connections and talking to the advisors, administrators and other students. I had no idea that I'd ever reach that many hours in community service."

Shayna Druckman, Stamford High. Elementary and Middle Schools: Newfield, Rippowam. College: George Washington, Human Services and Social Justice. Shayna was the President and lead student advisor for Friendly Faces, a group that works with special needs students; the founder of Students Demand Action, a group dedicated to creating awareness and programs to end gun violence, and editor of the Stamford Round Table, the school's online newspaper. She also served as a student intern for State Representative Matt Blumenthal. "I had a couple of teachers that challenged me to step out of my comfort zone,'' Shayna said. "That was a big thing for me. I was a little shy and introverted. Now I'm totally comfortable being out there. The values of the Stamford Public Schools emphasize to treat people the way you want to be treated. That's something that I'll always keep with me."

Donia Elmansy, Academy of Information Technology and Engineering. Elementary and Middle Schools:Stark, Stillmeadow and Scofield. College: Harvard University, Economics and Government and International Relations. Donia volunteered with the Islamic Cultural Center, Domus Kids, Ferguson Library and Stamford Nature Center, and was also the Co-President and Founder of Girl Up at AITE, a United Nations campaign that aims to raise funds to support girls in impoverished nations. Originally from Egypt, Donia saw firsthand Stamford's acceptance and embracement of different cultures. "It gives me a new perspective,'' Donia said. "Not a lot of towns have that. The Stamford community did a good job of helping me integrate into the school system. I had an ESL teacher in first grade, because I didn't speak English at that point. It was nice and welcoming. I don't think I could've have done what I have without the support of Stamford Public Schools."

Alyssa Goldberg, Westhill. Elementary and Middle Schools:N/A. College:New York University. Alyssa served on the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council and Congressman Jim Himes. She is also Vice President of the Westhill Feminist Club and the lead student organizer for Stamford March for Our Lives, a demonstration in the wake of the Parkland School shootings in 2018. 

Zoe Karukas,Westhill. Elementary and Middle Schools:Newfield, Rippowam. College: Temple University, Psychology. The scholarship for the Stamford Board of Realtors carries additional significance for Zoe, whose grandfather, Allan Plumb, has worked as a real estate agent in town since the 1970s. Zoe volunteered at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center and March for Our Lives, and served in leadership positions on the Mayor's Youth Leadership Council and Abilis. Her work with the youth council and a mental health club at school helped her identify her educational path. "I fell in love with learning about the brain,'' Zoe said. "I know it's going to be a good career field. There are so many different options. I'd like to work as a counseling psychologist for children." Zoe said she's grateful to have been educated in a diverse environment. "It's an experience not everyone has,'' she said. "I got to learn a lot about different people."

Lauren Klym, Westhill. Elementary and Middle Schools:Toquam, Rippowam. College:Syracuse University, Business. Girl Scouts honored Lauren with its highest honor, the Gold Award, for a lockdown plan that included a checklist, written procedure and a visual overview of every classroom at Westhill in the event of an active shooter on campus. Lauren worked with school administrators and the Stamford Police Department to develop the plan. Pieces of the plan are now incorporated into all 21 public schools in the district. She also volunteered with Abilis, St. Leo Youth Group, the Stamford Education Foundation's mentoring program and Stamford Education for Autism, to help promote awareness and inclusivity. "Stamford schools allowed me to grow as a person and to figure out what I wanted to be in the world,'' Lauren says. "I would describe my educational experience as challenging, fulfilling and exceptional."

Rehana Konate, Westhill. Elementary and Middle Schools: Northeast, Scofield. College: University of Connecticut, Political Science. Rehana started her journey through the Stamford school system in third grade, after her family moved from The Bronx. "They were completely different settings and atmospheres,'' she said. "The teachers were not as encouraging, there were fewer resources. I know my educational path would have been completely different if we had stayed in New York." Rehana immersed herself in her new community, serving in various leadership positions with the student council, mentoring ESL students and helping 8th graders transition to high school. She also volunteered with several groups, including the Mill River Collaborative, Bartlett Arboretum, New Covenant Center and Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County. "The opportunities that are available to you as a student and the support system in the schools has really shaped who I am,'' Rehana said.

Claudia Lucien, AITE. Elementary and Middle Schools: Davenport, Rippowam. College: University of Connecticut, Nursing. Like all of the other scholarship winners, Claudia embraced many community causes. She served in a leadership capacity with Future 5, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students from Stamford reach their full potential. Claudia, who is of Haitian descent, also contributed more 1,000 hours in community service throughout her four years in high school. She was a member of the National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, and Future 5 Student Ambassador and member. Claudia said she is "the person who likes dissections and getting my hands dirty. Eventually you build up a stomach for it." In her senior year she did a full dissection on a fetal pig. "It was gruesome and intense. There were times I lost my appetite, but it reminds me why I love medicine: I love that intensity and problem solving to try to achieve a goal."

Chris Matrullo, Westhill. Elementary and Middle Schools: Northeast, Turn of River. College: Georgetown University, Business. Chris ranks first in his class, played soccer, ran track and was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America for all four years. He also served as a Senior Patrol Leader with the Boy Scouts, where he led a team of 20 scouts and volunteers to re-roof and repair an equipment shed at the Stamford Animal Control and Care Center. His interest in business developed from his parents, each of whom owns a small business. With his wide range of activities, Chris paid particular attention to time management. "When you know what needs to be done and what your limits are, I think that helps you manage time,'' Chris said. "I don't think there was any time where I felt like I would bite off more than I can chew. I don't think it's a challenge if it's something you enjoy doing."

Zachary Rubin, Westhill. Elementary and Middle School: Private. College: Tulane University, Finance and Communications. Unlike the other scholarship winners, Zachary's first public school experience came as a freshman. He embraced his new school enthusiastically, and his classmates responded in kind. "The diversity of the schools impacted me in a very different way,'' Zachary said. "I did not have the opportunity to speak and befriend people from all of the world before coming to Westhill. I knew what I was getting into, and when I got to Westhill I was excited to meet people with all ethnicities. I became friends with people from all corners of the world." Zachary served as captain of the lacrosse team, volunteered for several organizations and worked as an intern for Legg Mason last summer. He also served on the Student Governance Council and was President of the Stock and Finance Club. "My experience in Stamford Public Schools has been extraordinary," Zachary said. "It's one of the greatest experiences I could have ever asked for."


Follow Stamford North HamletHub