Two Boston Public School seniors who are active in the Scholar Athletes program were surprised with full four-year college scholarships last week. Ainsley Peña, a student at English High School in Jamaica Plain was awarded a scholarship to Curry College; and Janelys Delvalle, Snowden International High School senior, received a scholarship to Regis College.
Scholar Athletes, a non-profit launched by Suffolk’s John Fish, supports academic achievement through athletics and college and workforce preparation. The program will pay the full four-year tuition cost for both students.
Peña earned a 3.02 cumulative GPA and played multiple sports at English High and was the only female to play on the football team. Delvalle earned a 3.6 cumulative GPA while playing varsity basketball and interning at a hospital. Both applied for the scholarships and were recommended by Scholar Athletes based on academic performance, participation, and financial need.
They learned the news last Tuesday during a Zoom call with Fish and Scholar Athletes interim director Cara Gould.
“Leave your video on, and go ahead outside for a surprise,” Gould told Peña, who lives in Roxbury. Once outside, a drone approached her house from above, lowering a Curry College backpack. When she opened the backpack, she found a letter detailing her four-year scholarship to Curry College.
“Ainsley, I just want to congratulate you,” John Fish said. “When I think about the American dream, I think about people really believing in themselves and having an opportunity, and you’ve taken full advantage of that opportunity. You should be very well congratulated. As an ex-football player, I really admired it when I heard you were playing football for English.”
Caitlin Murphy, a Dorchester resident and headmaster at English High School, called Ainsley “an absolutely incredible young woman.”
“When she approached me last year about going out for the football team — to be the first female football player that we’ve ever had at English High School— we knew that she would be not only accepted by her teammates but also celebrated because she gives 100 percent of herself at all times. She inspires all of us.”
“To everybody in the Scholar Athletes foundation, you should be so proud of yourselves. Thank you for what you do,” said Ken Quigley, president of Curry College, who was also part of the presentation.
“Most importantly, Ainsley, thank you for who you’re going to become, what you’ll do on our campus and the impact that you’ll make.”
Peña was shocked by the surprise — and a drive-by parade that followed it.
“I don’t know how you all did it,” she said. “This was a great set-up and a great surprise because I was never going to know,” she said. “I’m speechless, I’m excited. This was definitely my number one choice school to go to. I really appreciate and value this, and I’m never going to forget it.”
She added: “Thank you, this is going to be so much fun, and I can’t wait to get on campus.”
A few hours later, the Scholar Athletes team readied themselves for another surprise virtual scholarship announcement. Janelys Delvalle was waiting for what she thought would be an admissions interview with Laura Bertonazzi, dean of undergraduate enrollment and retention at Regis College.
“We are so impressed by your academic achievement and your passion about improving the world. We believe that you are exactly who the world needs now more than ever,” said Bertonazzi. “On behalf of President [Antoinette] Toni Hayes and the entire Regis College community we are proud to award you with the 2020 Regis College Scholar Athletes Scholarship.”
Added Bertonazzi: “There is no doubt in my mind that you are going to become a doctor but that you are going to make this world such an amazing place. You are going to help those who need your level of expertise the most.”
Gene Roundtree, headmaster at Snowden, said keeping the surprise under wraps was difficult, but worth it.
“We’ve been keeping this secret for a couple of weeks. I was so excited when I heard you’d been selected for this honor,” said Roundtree, “Because it’s been such a great honor to be your headmaster and to see your growth and development through academics, sports, and more.”
Linda Dorcena Forry, a vice-president at Suffolk and board member of Scholar Athletes, also joined in to congratulate Delvalle.
“Look at all the amazing teachers and support that you have at Snowden. It’s incredible,” said Forry. “We hope that you come back and speak to the students at Snowden and elevate them with the support and courage that you’ve had to get through to your senior year. The whole Scholar Athletes team is so proud of you.”
Looking happy, shocked, and humbled, Delvalle gave thanks to her support system at Snowden and Scholar Athletes saying: “Thank you to the whole community and my teachers at Snowden, you really helped me a lot.”