Poised for success: Students thrive with scholarship support – News

Every year, Illinois State University donors contribute to student recognition, success, and relief. During fiscal year 2022, more than $11.9 million of the $31.2 million raised was earmarked for student support.

There are a variety of scholarships at Illinois State, including scholarships geared toward major studies, financial assistance, or recognizing the overall excellence of a student. However, all scholarships have the commonality of supporting highly capable and stand-out students at Illinois State. This is exemplified through students Erinda Aidoo and Edcel Javier Cintrón-Gonzalez.

Erinda Aidoo is a junior molecular and cellular biology major. She plans to attend medical school to earn her M.D./Ph.D. and eventually become a physician scientist.

Erinda Aidoo looking into a microscope
Erinda Aidoo

Aidoo was awarded the Give Something Back Foundation Scholarship in high school. “In this scholarship program, they don’t just give you money,” she said. “It’s a very good program to both prepare you for college and give you good connections.”

The scholarship provided Aidoo with a tuition waiver and access to college preparation resources such as opportunities for the SAT, college tours, meetings with professors, and fee waivers. Additionally, the Give Something Back Foundation includes a large network of alumni to provide guidance and connections.

Aidoo has a passion for research, medicine, and helping others. Since arriving at Illinois State, she has become the philanthropy chair for the African Student Association and is an involved member of the Society Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the STEM Alliance, and the Pre-Health Society. In spring 2022, Aidoo won the Best Undergraduate Poster Presentation award at the annual Phi Sigma Research Symposium.

Aidoo is an active student researcher in associate professor of molecular neuroethology Dr. Andres Vidal-Gadea’s lab. She experiments with microscopic nematode C. elegans worms to study the effectiveness of steroids on muscular diseases that are developed through a person’s genes.

During summer 2022, Aidoo conducted cancer cell research at Yale for a 10-week internship program that connected Aidoo with a cohort of students from around the world and influential research mentors. She shadowed doctors at a hospital, participated in career-development programs, and attended informational panels while experimenting with antigen-based treatments for lung cancer.

“It’s just incredible how far I’ve gotten and how far I will possibly go in the future,” Aidoo said.

In reflecting upon her college experience and donor support, Aidoo said she can’t help but feel grateful. She said the Give Something Back Foundation Scholarship has provided much more than monetary assistance.

“This scholarship has given me the courage to know that I’m capable of being successful; to know that I am someone that people are willing to invest in,” Aidoo said.

Edcel Cintrón-Gonzalez is a graduate student at Illinois State pursuing a Ph.D. in English studies with a specialization in children’s and young adult literature.

Edcel Javier Cintrón Gonzalez standing in front of Fell Hall
Edcel Javier Cintrón Gonzalez

Originally from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Cintrón-Gonzalez earned his undergraduate degree in English literature at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM) where he participated in a teacher preparation program.

Cintrón-Gonzalez has always loved to read, which is why he pursued a Ph.D. with a specialization in children’s and young adult literature. He also had some friends and mentors from Puerto Rico who encouraged him to enroll at Illinois State.

Once on campus, Cintrón-Gonzalez did not hesitate to get involved. He is a contributing editor for the website Gamers with Glasses, a picture book reviewer for the Palabradores Newsletter, president of the Graduate Student Association, a production manager for the Polyglossia Journal of Sigma Tau Delta, and an advisor for the Storytelling Club.

“I just love helping and contributing to the community any way I can,” said Cintrón-Gonzalez.

In addition to many involvements, Cintrón-Gonzalez is currently working on his Ph.D. dissertation which focuses on mental health in children’s picture books.

“I’m interested to explore how children are able to read mental health picture books and understand the mental health issues,” said Cintrón-Gonzalez. “But I’m also interested to know how parents, either explicitly or implicitly, are checking up on their own mental health as they’re reading together with their children.”

Cintrón-Gonzalez was awarded the Taimi Maria Ranta Children’s and Young Adult Literature Scholarship through the Illinois State English Department. This scholarship provided him with financial aid and research validation.

“As a scholar, it’s very rewarding that other people are really interested in your research and that completely validates the number of hours I have spent reading other scholars’ work, researching articles, writing, presenting at conferences, and basically the whole project,” he said.

Cintrón-Gonzalez plans to publish his first big project, a chapbook titled Irma, Maria, Fiona, and Me in spring 2023. The book will discuss his lived experience with hurricane Maria. He plans to use his personal experience and love of storytelling to tell the story of Irma, the warning; Maria, the catastrophe; and Fiona, the reminder.

“It’s given me the opportunity to use my voice and experience through writing, and that’s something I’m really passionate about and excited for,” Cintrón-Gonzalez said.

After earning his Ph.D., Cintrón-Gonzalez aspires to become a professor and return to Puerto Rico to do what he loves: teach children’s and young adult literature. While Aidoo and Cintrón-Gonzalez demonstrate overall excellence associated with scholarship, they represent just two of the 2,788 scholarships awarded this year.

Donor support continues to fuel excellent students with passion, financial assistance, validation, and motivation. Scholarship donations continue to grow thanks to generous donors, as exemplified by the 89 new scholarships established during fiscal year 2022.

To join the impactful number of Illinois State donors who change lives through scholarship, visit Giving.IllinoisState.edu.

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