If you’re a previous Bloomfield Educational Foundation scholarship winner, please let us know how you are furthering your education or career.
Josie Cruz ‘21
My first semester has been such a wonderful new experience overall!
The pandemic is a large factor at Rutgers Newark, and we are complying with the regulations regarding masks and vaccinations. We also have a strong support system here to help us through this difficult time, showing compassion and concern for all students to ensure we all succeed!
College life is liberating. My fellow students and I have to be proactive in our education, but it’s also reassuring to know that I am in control of my education. It boosts my confidence and it’s making the transition to adulthood easier.
The biggest change from high school is the constant moving around campus. Sometimes I have to walk a block or two to get to a different building for some of my classes. Another big change is that I have more free time that I use for studying, sometimes I have about 3 hours in between my classes that I use to do my homework, write papers, or complete the readings for next week.
One of my biggest academic accomplishments so far was when my professor used one of my essays as an example. I’m learning how to write in my own voice and how to write effectively, relearning how to write was a challenge for me. But it felt so good when my professor asked to use my paper as an example for class, I felt all my hard work had paid off!
I’m having a great time in college, learning new things about the world, and meeting amazing people! And I wouldn’t be experiencing these things without the BEF community! Stay safe, and blessings always!
Melinda Hidalgo ‘21
Interview with Melinda Hidalgo ’21
Is the pandemic still a factor in college and how are the students coping with the regulations, etc.?
The pandemic is still a factor in college, there are still restrictions like two people in a table in the cafeteria, masks on at all times when indoors, covid testing every week, and completely covid check in questions every day, and all other normal covid restrictions.
I am glad to say that most of the population here are very compliant with the covid regulations. Because the Hopkins student and staff population have been so safe and conscious of the pandemic, I have been able to attend in person classes, events, and other normal college activities that were not available last year.
How is college life in general?
In general college life is hard work with a good mix of fun. Some of my classes this year include calculus, chemistry, chemistry lab, intermediate French and more. I am having so much fun in these classes since they are in person, and I get to have a hands-on learning experience.
For example, in chemistry we are working with chemicals and conducting experiments that require attention to detail and knowledge of the equipment. French is also another fun experience that made me do a double take when I first entered the class. But one thing I learned when I went to classes on the first day is that if I let fear of something new decide my future, I would not get anything done in life. In the beginning it was an adjustment to high school for example walking into French class only to hear my teacher speaking in all French no English not even to explain activities was something I expected but it still made me take a double take, but it helped me learn to adjust to what I was used to, to something new.
College life took some getting used to but after passing the bump in the road it has been a fun semester with amazing experiences.
Does more freedom also mean more responsibility on the student to get the work done and in on time?
Absolutely, it is up to you to schedule your day and time accordingly to turn in assignments and study for exams while also leaving time for your mental and physical health. Teachers in college will not hunt you down for missing assignments or exams it is up to you to manage your life and grade because at the end of the day you are one of a thousands of students one teacher is teaching. One way I have found very helpful when I am feeling overwhelmed with all my responsibilities is to talk to my professors and get help from the programs offered to help students adjust at Hopkins. One resource that is offered here to every student is a study consultant, with her help I was able to better create a good routine with my schedule so that I am spending my time efficiently.
What have you found so far that is different from high school?
Everything, well almost!
College life has its similarities to high school but it’s mostly up to you to get things done. Students are no longer treated like children we are all treated like adults who are responsible for our own actions. Like I said before you have more freedom in what you want to study, at what time you have classes, and how you set up your day but that also means you have more responsibility. You must be an active learner and look for ways to contact teacher if you need help, stay after class and talk to professors attend office hours, got to tutoring or any other life/academic help. Another difference I found is that if you want opportunities you have to search for them. For example, I know that I have wanted to shadow doctors and get internships but instead of waiting for them to come to me I am emailing doctors setting up meetings and making connections. Just in this past month I spoke to a doctor that would be willing to give me shadowing experience next semester if my schedule allows it.
The only similarity that I can think of is Wednesday schedules, they are like office hours here on campus. It’s a time of the day where the teachers are not teaching, they are just available to help students that have questions or just to chat.
And of course if you have any accomplishments and extracurricular activities that you’d like to share with us, that would be great.
I’m happy to say that am still playing volleyball, I made the women’s club volleyball team, I am part of an organization here at Hopkins called HOP-IN and part of the student advisory board (SAB) for HOP-IN. I have been making many good friends, having fun, and making connections. I just recently landed an interview for Matriculate and have a job at the Hopkins recreational center, and I am still looking for another job/research to gain more experience the work/professional field.
Brandon Wojak ‘21
My first semester at William Paterson University is quickly coming to an end. I really liked it and am doing well in all my classes. One of the biggest adjustments, well besides the commuting and parking, is the independence I have. I no longer have teachers and counselors to rely on to keep me on track. This now all falls on me. I appreciate the freedom but it does come with added responsibilities of making and getting my work completed. Faculty at the college have been very helpful though. I am also extremely happy to be back to in-person classes although COVID still plays a major role in campus life. Strict mask and vaccine rules are enforced everywhere on campus. I found that the masks make meeting all new people, fellow students and faculty challenging. Trying to establish relationships in masks does not afford the same level of familiarity and can be restrictive when forming new friendships. Some classes still give virtual options on certain days but for the most part it is back to “normal”.
I am looking forward to my next semester and the challenges it will bring.
Thank you again to the Bloomfield Educational Foundation for everything you do for all the students in the Bloomfield School system.
Michael BSales ’20
Michael BSales ’20 began his career at Notre Dame in the Fall of 2020. He describes here, how his first semester is going and how BEF scholarships have helped him pursue his dream of a college education.
Can you tell us a little about your experience so far at Notre Dame?
My experience so far has certainly been far from the traditional college experience. While most of my classes are in person, with only half of a lab session and a once weekly tutorial session being online, there was a two week period after an outbreak among off-campus students, as well as a week where I was quarantined where I took all of my classes online. Staples of Notre Dame culture including tailgates before football games, interhall sports, and my dorm’s famed “Za” pizza parlor have been eliminated amid the concerns for student health. All of the regulations around indoor gatherings have made meeting friends as a freshman difficult, but the University of Notre Dame has put together awesome outdoor spaces with lights, firepits, and outdoor seating for students to gather around such as the newly established Library Lawn.
What are your favorite things about college life? Is there anything you would change?
The close-knit culture of my dorm and the Notre Dame community as a whole has been a welcome surprise. Even with the adversity and regulations put forth by the university, the upperclassmen in my dorm have put together a slew of traditions and helped the freshmen transition to this especially weird version of college life. Hand in hand with the close community and my sister Sarah has been the obvious- gamedays. While not the usual experience where eighty thousand Irish faithful descend on South Bend for a weekend, the energy on campus with only the few thousand students and staff is still palpable. Besides the COVID regulations there isn’t much I would change about my experience thus far. The biggest thing would be reducing the bee population of South Bend; the bees love attacking us while we eat out on the quad.
How do you manage your time, and juggle a rigorous course schedule and extra curricular activities?
I rely a lot on the people around me to keep me in check and on schedule. My sister Sarah helped me put together an online schedule format which has helped with making sure I get all my work done. I have also been studying and doing work with friends when I can.
Do you have an overall career goal?
When I graduate, I want to work in the data science or economics field. I want to work in a field where I can use data to solve problems, whether they be optimization of processes, healthcare outcomes, or even in sports. I would prefer a career where I can see the positive effect of my work on others.
Do you have other interests in addition to school? Sports, hobbies?
A really big interest of mine has always been sports analytics. At Notre Dame there is a sports analytics club which works directly with a half dozen of Notre Dame’s Division 1 programs, including the football, hockey, and women’s basketball teams. I am incredibly excited to work with the women’s basketball (2-time National Champion) analytics team, watch a whole ton of basketball, and learn a lot of coding and analytics skills.
Is there any volunteer work that you are involved in that you’d like to tell us about?
I have joined a club called CS4Good. The mission of CS4Good is to use our programming knowledge to help local charities. My particular project this semester is working with Hannah’s House, a Maternity House in the South Bend area, to create a database for the registering of interest, intake, and discharge of members. It is really cool to be able to jump right into clubs and activities which are directly related to my area of study, and to be prepared to contribute to projects which will help the community thanks to the preparation of all my teachers at BHS.
While at BHS, you took AP classes in US History, English, Computer Science, Physics, Biology, and Calculus and the exam to gain college credit at BHS. Was this beneficial to your college career?
Definitely! The general goal of AP classes is to gain college credit and the credits from my Calculus and English exams have helped me gain a ton of flexibility and skip some prerequisites early in my college career. Even the classes for which Notre Dame didn’t accept my scores- Physics and Computer Science- have helped by teaching me concepts and skills which I now take for granted in my first semester courses.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The scholarships and support have helped me transition to college life.
Haley Patel ’19
Haley is the 2019 recipient of The Matthew Melucci Scholarship and The Dorothy Jewkes Straight and Leroy Straight Scholarship.
(Read Haley’s recap of her freshman year at Rutgers below.)
Haley’s brilliant smile and willingness to share the spotlight with others are the first two things that you notice about her. Her accomplishments are numerous and she is quick to tell you that her successes have been because she was able to work with those who share her enthusiasm for academics and community service. And anything she does, she does to the fullest extent. Case in point, not only is she a member of the Key Club, but a member with Distinction, logging in over 20 hours annually as a volunteer. She is VP of
The National Honor Society and a Student Council member. Chosen for the Senior Leadership Program, Haley was one of 30 selected, out of 75 applicants. The Senior Leadership Program students go into the freshmen classes and talk to the students about getting involved and the importance of trust, kindness and communication. Does this make a difference to a freshman student? Yes, Haley heard from a freshman who said it made all the difference in the world to have a senior there and ready to help out and solve problems.
The Leadership students also travel to Shop-Rite and set up tables to tell elementary students about good nutrition and how to create a personal nutrition plan. When Haley isn’t in class (in addition to her regular classes she is taking AP Computer Science, AP BC Calculus, AP Literature and Composition and AP Language and Composition) she volunteers at Second Home in Passaic. There she works with the senior citizens and helps with clerical duties in four-hour intervals. She enjoys hearing the seniors’ stories of when they were young and likes helping them to feel cheerful and optimistic.
Haley said the SAT Prep classes were very helpful and she feels she did better on the test because of them. Her AP Statistics class broadened her horizons and helped her realize a career path that she wouldn’t have discovered had she not taken the class. She has done well enough in her Junior AP classes to earn college credits and hopes to do the same this year. She has been accepted to Rutgers and Temple and is wait-listed for Northeastern. She also applied to NYU, Stevens Tech., Drexel, Lafayette, and Cornell. Haley has an older sister in college who also benefitted from the SAT Prep and AP Test programs. Her Dad is a recruitment manager and Mom is an RN.
“My first year experience was better than I could ever imagine despite the fact that it was abruptly cut short. I was a part of the SAS honors program, and was recently chosen out of many applicants to serve on the peer mentor programming board where I work closely with the honors dean to create events and help incoming freshman adjust this year. I was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA for my entire first year, making deans list both semesters and met tons of new friends. Through the first year experience I was also able to land a summer finance internship as a freshman. I want to thank Candace Straight for her help and support in selecting me for her scholarship, I really appreciate it.”
Sarah BSales ’17
Sarah BSales ’17 is a 2017 Robert Fetterly Alumni Scholarship winner attending the University of Notre Dame.
What year are you entering at Notre Dame?
I am currently going into my junior year at the University of Notre Dame and cannot believe that I am already halfway through college!
At Notre Dame, we have something known as our ND intro. Here is mine: My name is Sarah Bsales and I am a junior studying Computer Science. I am originally from Bloomfield, New Jersey and call Farley Hall home on campus.
How has the experience been so far? What were/are your favorite things about it and maybe one ‘not so favorite’ aspect of college life?
When going through the stressful college application process, I
continuously reminded myself that I will end up where I am supposed to be, and I truly believe that I did. One of the most difficult pieces
of college is the transition of moving away from your family and
everything that you have known for the first 18 years of your life
into a new place with all new people. While this was a challenge for
me, the University of Notre Dame is a family of its own. You are
brought into a dorm where people genuinely care about you and how you are doing. Classes are collaborative rather than competitive.
People from all backgrounds come together on campus under one dome. I still struggle to leave my family at the beginning of each year, but I think of locking arms with friends in the Notre Dame Stadium as we belt out the alma mater and remember that I am simply passing from one family to another.
Did you participate in the BHS SAT test prep classes or take any AP classes and the exam to gain college credit? If so, did either of these programs help you?
In my time at Bloomfield High School, I took advantage of the
multitude of AP classes offered. Since I did not have to worry about
the cost of tests thanks to the BEF, I was free to take any and all
courses that would further my academic journey. In my junior and
senior years at Bloomfield High I took eight AP courses including AP
English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and
Composition, AP United States History, AP Statistics, AP Computer
Science A, AP Calculus BC, AP Biology, and AP Physics I.
While Notre Dame did not accept credit for many of these courses, what I gained from taking these classes was far more important than credit hours. Through these classes, I was introduced to the rigor and
scheduling of a college course. I learned how to study for a final
which encompasses all material covered in a given class and take
multiple exams in a short time frame as I do during finals week each
Most importantly though, I discovered the field which I currently
study and will continue my career in following graduation. Through
the BHS AP program, I discovered Computer Science. My teacher
inspired my passion and encouraged me to continue into a field where
women are the minority. Because of him, I have the confidence and
drive to work through the challenges and pursue a career in the field
which I love, computer science. For him and the AP program which
sparked my passion for coding, I am forever grateful.
I chose to take the ACT test rather than the SAT so I did not take the
BHS SAT test prep course.
How do you manage your time, as it seems like you are engaged in many extra-curricular activities?
One of the best pieces of advice I received freshman year of college
was to pick a few clubs and fully commit to them. I was told this as
I walked to the annual activities fair where over 400 clubs set up to
recruit new members. With that in mind, I chose to take part in the
First Year Engineering Council which was a division of the Engineering Leadership Council (ELC) for freshmen students.
At Notre Dame, the dorm culture is a large part of what makes our
university so unique. First year students are randomly sorted into
single-sex dorms where they will live for the remainder of their time
on campus. Each dorm has their own personality, traditions, and
events. I was lucky enough to be placed in Farley Hall where the
motto is “Come Share Life.” I made the decision that beyond ELC, I
would be an active member of the hall. I became a Welcome Weekend
Ambassador to help make the new first year students feel at home as
well as the sisterhood commissioner my sophomore year. Beyond that, I competed in dorm sports including flag football and was present for
hall councils and various other events.
With so much going on at all times, I had to learn work-life balance.
I began studying with friends as many of us had rigorous workloads
that required long hours in the library. I learned that academic
planners were my friend and allowed me to plan ahead so that I could
hand in high quality work on time while still having a social life.
Most importantly though, I learned to, at a point, just put away my
work because the social growth of college is just as important to me
as the academic growth. The memories made with my friends are what I will look back on years from now, not the nights of work, and so I
want to fit in as many long talks and endless giggles as I possibly
can. While I have still not perfected my time management, putting life
in perspective and prioritizing what I find truly important has helped
me to be successful.
Can you describe Women in Engineering and how you have worked with the group?
I am mainly involved in the Engineering Leadership Council on campus. As a freshman, I was the Vice President of the First Year Engineering Council which was the freshman division of ELC. As a sophomore, I was the Chair of Engineers Week for which I planned a week worth of academic, social, and professional events for the 2,000 students in the College of Engineering. As a junior, I will be the Vice President of the Engineering Leadership Council and will oversee the many events that we put on as a council.
The Engineering Leadership Council is essentially the student council
of the College of Engineering. We work closely with other engineering
clubs, including the Society of Women Engineers, to put on events that
benefit the college as a whole. We act as a liaison between the
students and faculty of the College of Engineering as well as outside
organizations. The council brings companies to campus for professional development, runs social events for students including the annual Engineering Formal, and works with the local South Bend community through volunteer events.
Can you tell us a little about the SMART award and the application process and if you know, why you were chosen as a recipient?
The Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART)
Scholarship-for-Service Program is an opportunity for students
pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics disciplines to receive a full scholarship and guaranteed civilian employment with the Department of Defense following graduation.
I applied for the scholarship throughout my freshman year and was
informed that I was a recipient in April of 2019. Applicants must
submit many essays, multiple recommendation letters that speak to
their abilities, a transcript, and preference for locations to be
placed in. The process consists of three rounds during which your
online application is reviewed and sent to sites that the applicant
may be a match with. Each site then interviews the applicants that
they feel strongly about. If a site and applicant match, an offer is
As a SMART scholar, we are provided summer internships at our sites
and are guaranteed a job at the same site for as many academic years
as we were granted the scholarship. Since I was given the SMART
scholarship for my sophomore, junior, and senior year of college, I
will be with Picatinny Arsenal for three years following graduation.
While I was not told exactly why I was given the scholarship, I
believe that I stood out from other applicants through my essays and
interview. Computer Science can be a quirky field in which people
often have difficulty conversing. My essays were full of personality
and interviews consisted of a natural flow of conversation. With these
I believe that I stood apart as a woman in the computer science field.
What will you be doing for the Picatinny Arsenal upon graduation?
Following graduation, I will be a full time Department of Defense
employee at Picatinny Arsenal in the Quality Engineering and System
Assurance division. In my role, I will perform software testing and
development tasks for the Army’s newest technologies.
Do you have an overall career goal or and/or are you thinking about a
master’s degree or above?
Picatinny has a program which would allow me to get a master’s degree at Stevens University when I am an employee. While I am considering this, I would like to gain some industry experience before I decide what I would like to further my education in.
As for a career goal, I thrive in a hectic environment and see myself
in the startup world at some point. I enjoy interacting with many
people to complete tasks that require a varied skillset.
Do you have other interests in addition to school? Sports, hobbies?
Does tailgating count as a hobby? Notre Dame is a very active campus
which has inspired me to be active as well. I often go for runs
around the lakes on campus and participate in dorm sports such as flag football and soccer.
Any volunteer work that you are involved in that you’d like us know about?
Through the Engineering Leadership Council, I am able to volunteer in the local South Bend community. For an event we call Engineers
Inspire, we teach STEM lessons at a local elementary school and
showcase projects that our various engineering clubs work on in a
two-day event. We have also worked with a class to build a local park
and gazebo for the community to enjoy.
I would like to once again thank you for the feature and for all that
the Bloomfield Educational Foundation makes possible for students in
Bloomfield such as myself.
Christelle Louis ’17
Catching Up with Christelle Lewis ’17, Winner of The Leroy Straight ’40 and Dorothy Jewkes Straight ’39 Scholarship
How is this year different for you from the past three years at Rutgers? Are there any similarities?
This year is different because of the transition to online schooling. I live on campus so to come back and have the residence halls, library, and cafeteria empty is very sad. This is definitely not the senior year I was looking forward to but I understand the circumstances. Rutgers University is doing an amazing job at accommodating for students with COVID regulations and I’m glad to be back! This year definitely feels different because I will not be returning next year and I feel adulthood knocking on my door. I am almost done with my course load so my classes are much more manageable.
Are any of the extra-curricular activities of the past years still active and if so, can you tell us a little about them this semester?
Throughout these past years I had the opportunity to be very active at Rutgers. I am a residential assistance in University Square Apartments, Former Vice President of the Haitian Association of Students at Rutgers, Peer Advisor for the Office of Academic services and I am a fellow of the Braven Career Accelerator program. This semester these programs look different with transitioning to an online presence, but I take pride in being able to support and be active with the student body here on campus. Each and every one of these roles has impacted me in such a positive way.
What was your major and what are your plans upon graduation?
I majored in Supply Chain & Marketing and I plan to work in technology post graduation. I’ll be working as a Global Program Manager for Amazon Web Services on the EdStart team which works with education technology startup companies.
Is there any volunteer work that you are involved in that you’d like to tell us about?
Yes, I was able to volunteer at the Newark Food Pantry part time during the semester which provided me a different side of the Newark community. I was able to get to the people of Newark and how diverse this city is. This volunteering opportunity opened my eyes to accepting that I have a passion for helping and I wanted to translate that into a bigger cause in my career, which is what led me to commit to working in education technology.
Alexandria Russomanno ’ 14
Alexandria is a 2014 BEF Leroy Straight and Dorothy Jewkes Straight Scholarship Recipient
Alexandria began her post high school educational career at Rutgers University, where she enrolled in the Rutgers Business School, and majored in Accounting and minored in Human Resource Management.
Alexandria considers herself fortunate to have worked as a Finance Intern at Dun & Bradstreet in the Corporate Controllers Group during the Summer of 2017. She is also very grateful to have been selected as the New Jersey Society of CPA’s 2017 Scholarship Award Recipient. Currently she is interning with the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, Florida, and this summer she is looking forward to beginning her journey at PwC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, as an intern on the Assurance team-practicing audit.
Alexandria graduated from Rutgers in May, 2018, with plans to become a CPA and begin her career at PwC.
“My BEF scholarship really helped to make my education possible and opened so many doors for me,” Alexandria said. “I am so grateful for the BEF scholarship, founded and made possible by BHS graduate, Candace Straight, that I received four years ago.”
As a grateful member of the Bloomfield community, one of her favorite things was working as a camp counselor for two-and-a-half years with the Bloomfield Recreation Department during her college career. She states enthusiastically that it helped her to stay connected to her Bloomfield family that she loves so much!