PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College students Elijah (Eli) Master, Kristine (Kris) Amels and Natalija LaPorta are three of the 207 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) members nationwide to earn the $1,000 2019 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise scholarship.
Selected from nearly 900 applications, the scholarship will help the honor students cover their educational expenses and provide them with the opportunity to develop leadership skills as part of the international honor society for two-year institutions.
Master, of Haworth, obtained his GED diploma before enrolling at Bergen as a professional studies major. While attending the College, he developed a music program for the institution’s Child Development Center to engage enrolled preschoolers through music arts. Master aspires to become a teacher who infuses his love for music and poetry into education.
“Through this scholarship, I feel supported and that my efforts are being validated,” he said. “Because of Bergen, I realized I love learning and I am willing to take risks to become better educated and in-tune with the world. I am receiving a great opportunity to do that and for that, I am very grateful.”
Amels, of Wood-Ridge, a social work major, created the Little Free Library project, a community literacy initiative in her town. The project places free books in locations such as playgrounds, train stations and municipal downtowns to promote access to reading. As a trustee of the Wood-Ridge Public Education Foundation board, Amels worked with her town and the board to complete the project, while students from the Bergen County Technical Schools helped build and assemble bookcases. After graduating from Bergen, Amels plans to transfer to Rutgers University and wants to address issues regarding homelessness.
“I had to drop out of high school to work, so I never got a chance to go to college, even though I always wanted to,” Amels, who is disabled, said. “I am very grateful to Bergen for helping me realize that dream. I am delighted to have won this scholarship.”
LaPorta, of Maywood, a science major, plans to pursue a career in international business law. Born in Latvia, she emigrated to the United States at age 14 as an adoptee. She volunteers for Bergen’s International Conversation Partners program, which helps non-English-speaking students become comfortable speaking the language. Upon graduating from Bergen, she plans to transfer to Rutgers University where she hopes to double major in business and Russian.
“I feel very fortunate to have been selected for this honor and I am grateful for the opportunities that Phi Theta Kappa has opened up for me,” LaPorta said.
With a total of $207,000 awarded through the program, the Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps new PTK members defray educational expenses while enrolled in associate degree programs. Scholars are encouraged to assume leadership roles by participating in society programs and are selected based on scholastic achievement, community service and leadership potential. PTK recognizes the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helps them grow as scholars and leaders. The society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations. Learn more at ptk.org.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 14,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.
Photo caption: Kristine (Kris) Amels, Elijah (Eli) Master and Natalija LaPorta.