College of Staten Island undergraduates Marybeth Melendez and Ismael Gonzalez are the proud winners of scholarships offered by The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), an organization representing nearly 450 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.

Supported by corporate sponsors such as Lockheed Martin and GM, HACU offers multiple scholarships, for which students from member institutions across the country may apply.

“I congratulate Marybeth Melendez and Ismael Gonzalez for earning this well-deserved accolade in their respective fields of Psychology/Sociology and Mechanical Engineering. Ms. Melendez and Mr. Gonzalez are the College’s first winners of HACU scholarships, and we couldn’t be more proud,” commented Caryl Watkins, Director of the Career and Scholarship Center at CSI.

Marybeth M. Melendez, the oldest of three children, was raised in the tight-knit and culturally rich community of Spanish Harlem where, to this day, her pride and roots still lie. Following high school graduation, Ms. Melendez was employed in the legal field. In the late 1990s, after the birth of her children, Ms. Melendez began to rapidly lose her sight due to a genetic disorder known as Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive disease that destroys the retinal muscle of the eye rendering those afflicted with blindness. Ms. Melendez’s illness forced her to retire from her job in a law firm in order to focus on raising her children as a visually impaired parent. Thereafter, her vision began to quickly deteriorate, and she struggled to find a balance between parenting, surviving, and going blind. She became involved with the Martial Arts, where, as a student, competitor, and instructor of Tae Kwon Do and Judo, she began to find the balance, peace, and strength to go forward in life. Currently a full-time student completing Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology with a Minor concentration in Disability Studies, Ms. Melendez hopes to pursue a career as a Clinical Psychologist.

The HACU award should go a long way toward helping Ms. Melendez realize her goals, as she notes: “The HACU Scholarship was both a blessing and an honor. It gave me the opportunity to maximize my education, as it not only covered the cost of my tuition for the Winter Session, but also the costs of my textbooks and supplies. I was fortunate enough to purchase a digital recorder and a talking scientific calculator, both of which are the much-needed tools that a blind student, such as myself, uses to be successful in the classroom. I am honored, blessed, and thankful that I was selected to receive this award.”

Ismael Gonzalez is a recent immigrant to the United States. Mr. Gonzalez grew up in Cuenca, Ecuador. In late 2006, he received the opportunity to come to New York, and shortly thereafter began taking classes at the College of Staten Island. Mr. Gonzalez is a full-time student in the Mechanical Engineering program. His eventual career goal is to work on designing computer hardware components.

To learn more about award opportunities such as the HACU Scholarships, please Click Here to visit the College of Staten Career and Scholarship Center online or contact Dr. Geoffrey Hempill, Scholarship and Fellowship Coordinator, at 718.982.2301.

CSI undergraduates Marybeth Melendez and Ismael Gonzales are both winners of HACU scholarships.