Tag Archives: Madison Rotary Foundation

Making Dreams Come True–Rotary Scholar Event

–submitted by Mary Thompson; photos by Dennis Cooley

Photo 10  IMG_0702

Photo 1: from left, Jose Rodriguez, Mary Thompson, Cynthia Maduka & Liliana Teniente; Photo 2: from left: Ryia Steps, Moses Altsech, Brett Stratton, Jason Beren & Teresa Holmes

With record attendance, over 60 Rotary Scholars and Mentors joined the Winter Mixer event on January 3, 2018.  While mentors and scholars swapped stories, I wanted to learn how the Rotary Scholar/Mentor program had influenced them.

The importance of relationships was the overarching theme.   Melanie Ramey’s scholar, Matida Bojang (UW–Milwaukee Pre-Pharmacy) shared that this program is making her dreams come true.  Ryia Steps (Alcorn State Psychology)  connected on many levels with her mentor, Teresa Holmes.  They love coffee and talk about everything.  Jose Rodriguez (UW Madison Psychology) has forged a relationship with Rob Van den Berg; Liliana Teniente’s (UW Madison Biology) mentor, Dennis Cooley gave her books to read such as “Grit–a Story in Perseverance.”  Donna Beestman’s scholar, Reyna Groff (UW Madison Art) shared she enjoys meeting with someone outside of school.   Rahim Ansari (UW Madison Chemical Engineering) met his mentor, Stan Kitson, through Memorial High School’s Interact program.  Stan commented that he can’t wait to see where he goes!  And my scholar, Cynthia Maduka (UW Milwaukee Communications) has been introduced to a Milwaukee newscaster to further Cynthia’s career in broadcasting.

IMG_0717  IMG_0701

Photo 1: Dom Petty & Stacy Nemeth; Photo 2: from left: Leen Bnyat, Melanie Ramey, Matida Bojang, Hannah Kwiatkowski & Sarah Best

The highlight of the program occurred when co-chairs Cheryl Wittke and Ellie Schatz called for introductions.  It was an impressive group of scholars ranging in majors from STEM to the liberal arts and everything in between.  Teresita Torrence from Madison College explained the resources available to students in their student development center.  Bob Shumaker reminded everyone to follow the Madison Rotary Mentor-Scholar Facebook (FB) page; Linda Baldwin offered $10 tickets to the Overture Center for the Arts by signing up through the Club 10 link on the FB page; and Dean Nelson announced the Summer Picnic on July 1.

IMG_0705  IMG_0697

Photo 1: from left: Becky Steinhoff, Jana Hvorat & Joy Gander; Photo 2: from left: Tenzin Kunsel, Jim Christensen, Eddie Larson & Majid Sarmadi

The group adjourned to the Rotary meeting for more conversation and Charlie Sykes’ presentation.

For more photos, visit our Madison Rotary Mentor-Scholar Group on Facebook.

Our Madison Rotary Foundation awards college scholarship assistance to 25 students per year to assist them during their four years of college, so we have 100 scholars in college each year.  Nearly all of our scholars are connected to a Rotary member who serves as a mentor during their college years.  Since many students are on break this week, we invited scholars to attend our Rotary luncheon on January 3.  It was a great opportunity to check-in with our scholars, and they had a chance to connect with their Rotary mentors.  We enjoyed hosting our scholars and wish them all the best as they head back to college later this month.  Our thanks to Dean Nelson, Ellie Schatz and Cheryl Wittke for organizing this gathering of scholars and mentors just before our Rotary luncheon.

Annual Madison Rotary Foundation Scholarship Program

–photo credit to John Bonsett-Veal & Pete Christianson

2017 ScholarsAAA

The Madison Rotary Foundation has awarded college scholarships totaling $312,000 to 26 graduates from Madison area high schools, and we honored the students, along with their guests, at our May 24 luncheon.

Students who received these scholarships are listed below by donor scholarship fund:

      Robert M. Bolz Scholar: Rahim Ansari
      Nathan F. Brand Scholar: Lydia Starkey
      Frederic Brandenberg Scholar: Evelyn Cuellar
      Harry French Scholars:  Matida Bojang, Paula Gonzalez, Daniel Obi & Alvin Xiong
      Dick Goldberg Scholar: Violeta Calderon
      Perry & Virginia Henderson Scholar: Terence Agee
      Louis Hirsig Scholar: Ivanna Sanchez-Vineuza
      Thomas Leonard Scholar: Wesley Proctor
      Irving & Dorothy Levy Family Scholars: Hawi Bedaso, Allison Bultman, Soulja
Gamble, Justin Lor, Sarah Matejka, Narik Riak, José Rodriguez, Ryia Steps & Liliana
      Andrew McBeath Scholars: Kevin Leuaxay & Alfred Lopez-Daniel
      Regina Millner Scholar: Hannah Kwiatkowski
      Synergy Scholar: Symone Booker
      Worzala Family Scholar: Joshua Isenberger
      In addition, we award a two-year scholarship to a student to attend Madison
Luis Aleman is the 2017 Wilson Scholar.

Our Madison Rotary Foundation Scholarship Committee annually selects students from participating high schools.  The chosen applicants are students with high academic standing and with character and leadership ability who have made contributions to their schools and communities and have financial need.

This year’s group of scholars had the benefit of hearing from a past recipient, Leen Bnyat, a 2013 Levy Famly Scholar who graduated from UW-Madison earlier this month with a degree in Gender & Women’s Studies and certificates in African Studies and Global Health.

We appreciate the efforts of our photographers John Bonsett-Veal and Pete Christianson who provided us with individual and group photos of this year’s recipients.

We sincerely appreciate the donors who have made scholarships possible thorugh the following named funds:  Robert M. Bolz, Nathan F. Brand, Frederic S. Brandenburg, Harry L. French, Dick Goldberg, Perry & Virginia Henderson, Louis Hirsig, Thomas Leonard, Irving & Dorothy Levy Family, Andrew A. McBeath, Regina M. Millner, Mike & Patty Wilson and the Worzala Family – thank you!  We also have our Madison Rotary Foundation Synergy Fund in which anyone can contribute any amount to to help us fund future scholarships.

Our thanks to this year’s Scholarship Committee for the many hours spent on reviewing applications, interviewing students and developing recommendations for this year’s award recipients:  Scott Haumersen, Marci Henderson, Donna Hurd, Robyn Kitson (chair), Oscar Mireles, Stacy Nemeth and Laura Peck. We also thank The Park Hotel for providing complimentary parking for our scholars and their families.

Our congratulations to the 26 students receiving this year’s scholarships and best wishes for success in their college careers!

As always, the awards program is a motivation for all Rotarians to provide financial resources for the Madison Rotary Foundation Scholarship Program.  Anyone wishing to make a donation may send their gift to our MRF Synergy Scholarship Fund, 2 S. Carroll St., Ste. 255, Madison, WI  53703.

2016 Mentor Scholar Winter Mixer Highlights

–submitted by Janet Piraino; photos by Mike Engelberger


Rotary scholars and their mentors got to enjoy some fun and games at the Mentor-Scholar Mixer at the Hilton before our noon lunch on January 6.  We were prompted to get to know each other a little better by finding people in the room who matched the descriptions on our Mentor-Scholar Bingo sheet.  As a result, we now know who helped their scholar find a job and who likes Caesar salad!

IMG_3511  IMG_3477  IMG_3474

Jacqui Sakowski shared the importance of offering internships to our scholars, to ensure they have the opportunity to put the their education to use.  We heard a moving story from one of our senior scholars whose internship is helping launch a career in women’s health.  Ellie Schatz handed out applications for the new Kay Family Scholarship Fund  designed to help students who need financial help beyond eight semesters to finish their degrees.

IMG_3564  IMG_3536  IMG_3479

It was incredibly inspiring to be in a room filled with the next generation of leaders…and the people who are willing to do whatever it takes to help them overcome their challenges and reach their goals.  It made me proud to be a Downtown Rotarian!


We Believe…

–submitted by Linda Baldwin; photos by Mike Engelberger

Rotary scholars start their journey by asking us to believe in their abilities and to invest in their future. The scholars who spoke with us today illustrated how that belief and investment has paid off …one hundred fold.

Seven scholars shared their dreams and hopes and their gratitude to the club and to their mentors for helping to make those dreams come true. Amazing stories of what they would do were told…all knowing that their educational dreams would not have been possible without a Rotary scholarship.

Brandon Alvarez CarreraBrandon Alvarez Carrera (Levy Scholar), the first of his family to attend college, hopes to prove to his family and the community, that his background wasn’t correlated to his academic success. On a path to a degree in Engineering Physics, he’s grateful for the support group that helps him on his journey.


Shamell HomeslyShamell Homesly (Brandenburg Scholar) shared that the excitement she felt when notified of her Rotary scholarship was breath taking. Shamell is studying to be an elementary teacher at Madison College and will transfer to a four year university after completing her associates degree. Destined to be a teacher, Schamell thanks club members…”everyone of you has helped put me on a path toward success.”

Cristian Claudio TeutliCristian Claudio Teutli (Levy Scholar) is proud to be a Badger and is grateful to Rotary for making it possible for him to attend UW. What motivates him to push through the challenges is his dream for the day when he can say, “Mama, Papa, I made it. And I don’t want to hear you say that money is an issue anymore.”


Lilly GonzalezAzucena (Lilly) Gonzalez (McBeath Scholar) is proud to say she will be part of the 2016 graduation class at UW-Whitewater with a major in Social Work and a minor in Criminology. Lilly says that she was blessed with financial help from Rotary and an amazing mentor, Mary Rouse who boosted her confidence all the way. Also, she thanked the Kay family for their scholarship to help with summer school.

Karen Bauer
Karen Bauer
(Synergy Scholar) will graduate in May with a degree in Anthropology and English and a minor in Spanish. She hopes to get her PHD. Karen is especially thankful for the support of the club and her mentor, Dick Lovell.

Patrick RoyPatrick Roy
(French Scholar) says he was one of those guys who you would never imagine working as a Chicago banker.  He credits his mentor, Moses Altsech, for providing him with guidance to stay in school and he will graduate from UWM Summa Cum Laude this year and take the Chicago banking job.

Kay PowellKay Powell (French Scholar) (via video) thanks Dr. John Bonsett-Veal for being a very important part of her live. She’s graduated from UW-Madison and is working on a graduate degree in Optometry. Kay encourages Rotarians to be mentors.

In May, a new group of students will need a mentor. Please consider jumping in to this satisfying role.

(CLICK to watch the video presentation by our Rotary Scholars)

We want to thank our donors who made these scholarships possible:  Nate Brand, Heggie Brandenburg, Harry French, Dick Goldberg, Perry & Virginia Henderson, Louie Hirsig, Tom Leonard, Irving & Dorothy Levy Family, Andy McBeath, Regina Millner, Mike & Patty Wilson, Worzala Family.  In addition, we have our Synergy Fund which is a fund available to all members who are interested in making a gift to our Scholarship Program.  We also thank Lori and Arlan Kay for the new fund they established to provide one-time grants to our Rotary scholars.

Kay Family Scholar Introduced at January 6 Luncheon

Kay Scholar Photo

Back row from left: Mary Rouse, Arlan Kay & Isaac Gonzalez (Lilly’s father); Front row from left: Lori Kay & Lilly Gonzalez

In 2015, Lori and Arlan Kay provided a $50,000 gift to our Madison Rotary Foundation to establish the Kay Family Scholarship Fund.  Lori has been a member of our Rotary Club since 1987, and Arlan has been a member of the Oregon Rotary Club for over 40 years.  This fund provides one-time grants to current Rotary scholars who need funding for educational expenses beyond the eight semesters of scholarship payments they are receiving through our scholarship program.  This year’s recipient of the Kay Family Scholarship grant was Lilly Gonzalez, and she was introduced during our January 6th Rotary luncheon.  Lilly attends the UW-Whitewater and was able to take summer courses towards her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Criminology with this grant provide by the Kay Family Scholarship Fund.  Thank you to Lori and Arlan Kay for making this grant possible for our Rotary scholar.

Christine Hodge Receives 2015 Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award

–introduced by Mario Mendoza on November 11, 2015; photos by John Bonsett-Veal and Loretta Himmelsbach

Christine Hodge pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

Christine Hodge pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

This year’s recipient of the Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award is Christine Hodge, who was nominated by Dawn Crim.  Christine Hodge came to Madison from Arkansas in 1971, along with her three children.  The people of Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Madison’s south side quickly embraced her and her family—a gesture that, as you will see, she reciprocated later in life.

Soon after arriving in Madison, Ms. Hodge—who had previously been a teacher in Arkansas—became a teacher for the Madison Metropolitan School District.  She taught for 26 years.  She then served as assistant principal at LaFollette High School and later as principal of Allis Elementary.  She served the District for 35 years before retiring.  Following her retirement, and as referenced in a news story about her, Ms. Hodge “lounged around exactly zero days before throwing herself into her next project.”  She took her energy and experience as an educator and administrator and founded the Mt. Zion Academic Learning Center.

The Mt. Zion Academic Learning Center is an after-school program affiliated with Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  Ms. Hodge tirelessly enlisted the help of many in our community to transform what was a dark basement at Mt. Zion Church into a bright, cheerful and deserving learning space.  She raised funds and recruited volunteer tutors. The Center’s program is focused on fostering academic excellence for children in grades K-6th, primarily residing on Madison’s south side.  Parents pay nothing; all that is asked of them is their commitment to Ms. Hodge’s program.  The program runs three days a week, and about 20 students participate regularly.  Volunteer tutors and mentors assist the children.  They leave with their homework done, and done right.  Ms. Hodge tells each child her goal:  “Be the smartest kid in your class.”  The Center is credited with improving the academic performance of its students.

Consistent with Rabbi Swarsensky’s example, Ms. Hodge has helped build bridges.  She has built bridges between homes and schools.  She has helped parents establish effective communications and problem-solving with teachers and District staff.  And her contributions toward children’s academic excellence advance the cause of putting an end to the educational achievement gap in our area.  That gap is an obstacle to full participation in and enjoyment of life in our community.  Ms. Hodge’s efforts help build a bridge toward the promise of that full participation and enjoyment—one student at a time.

Ms. Hodge has devoted nearly ten years to the Academic Learning Center.   It is clear that the warm welcome Ms. Hodge received from Mt. Zion Church when she first arrived in Madison many years ago planted a seed in her, which has now blossomed into the this praiseworthy legacy.

Christine Hodge pictured here with Swarsensky Award Committee Chair Mario Mendoza

Christine Hodge pictured here with Swarsensky Award Committee Chair Mario Mendoza

Our congratulations to Christine on receiving the Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award for 2015.

Along with this award, a $2,500 grant is provided to an organization of the recipient’s choice, and Christine selected the Links Foundation, Madison Chapter

Our thanks to Mario Mendoza, chair, and members of this year’s Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award Committee in organizing this year’s award presentation.

swarsenskymanfredThe Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award was established in 1982 and identifies individuals who have, through their voluntary efforts, made a particularly outstanding contribution to the humanitarian service in the greater Madison community, in the tradition so well exemplified by the life of Rabbi Swarsensky.   The award-winning documentary video, “A Portrait:  Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky,” that was created and produced by Rotarian Dick Goldberg with assistance by Wisconsin Public Television, provides background on Manfred Swarsensky and can be viewed on YouTube, and the Rotary office also has a copy of the video for any member wishing to view it.

It Was a Picnic and a Pleasure

–submitted by Maria Alvarez-Stroud; photos by Moses Altsech, Dennis Birke and Stan Kitson


What a great event for Rotary Scholars and Mentors at the home of Nancy and Ed Young on Sunday, July 26.  As hoped for, the crowd included not only new Scholars heading off to various colleges both in Wisconsin and beyond but also past scholars who have continued to be connected to their mentors and to the Downtown Rotary Club.

IMG_0444As intended, the main focus was good conversation and tasty food.  For the Scholars, the picnic gave them the opportunity to get to know each other a bit more and compare notes about their plans for first years at college.  It was terrific to see multiple groups just chatting away, sometimes amongst themselves other times with their mentors at their side.  And for the Mentors, especially those that are new at this, what a great time to hear and see the kind of bonds that can be created.

IMG_0433  IMG_0431  IMG_0355

With well over 90 in attendance, kitchen committee members had their work cut out for them.  But Mentors did a good job in providing snacks, salads and desserts to compliment the hamburgers and brats provided.

20150726_151621  IMG_4930  IMG_4928

Dick Pearson and Ed Young were of course busy providing boat rides around Lake Monona.  And a couple of us were fortunate enough to actually arrive and leave by Dick’s boat; highly recommended, as he is a fabulous tour guide.

IMG_0424   20150726_150300

Thanks much to Nancy and Ed for letting such a large group of people take over their back yard and for their gracious hospitability.