Claudia Chavez, Letty Collier and Nora Zepeda are the first recipients of the Laila Arman Scholarship for students studying early childhood education. Each will receive $500 toward their educations at Brandman University.
The scholarship fund was created by Nick Arman, Ed.D., and his family to keep alive the legacy of their beloved 16-month-old daughter who died in a tragic accident just before Arman completed his doctorate at Brandman in 2016. Thanks to his fundraising efforts and the generosity of his fellow Ed.D. students and faculty members, the original decision to offer two scholarships was expanded to three.
Students submitted essays explaining why they chose to study early childhood education and their career and educational goals.
Claudia Chavez, who is a year away from earning her B.A., plans to continue her education with a credential and a master’s degree emphasizing special education. “I’m pursuing a career in the early childhood education field after working with special need preschools. I fell in love with them immediately,” she wrote. Her educational and career choices also stem from challenges she faces to provide stability for her 6-year-old daughter.
“I promise that with your generosity, you are not only changing my life but you will have also changed thousands of lives because you will help me become a teacher,” she wrote in her essay. “Brandman University is my top choice as it is sensitive to my needs and is flexible in permitting me to obtain an online education while I continue to work.”
Letty Collier is about to finish her sixth term at Brandman as she pursues a bachelor’s degree. She is the first of her parents’ seven children to enroll in college. She began pursuing an education and career in early childhood education but had to interrupt her education to support herself and siblings. She and her husband eventually adopted her youngest sister, who has been her inspiration and motivation for returning to college and completing her degree.
“The field of early education has allowed me to remain in control of my future while pursuing something I am passionate about – being an example of resilience, hope, and perseverance to children, our future. The experiences and interactions that I am honored to have in this line of work have the potential to have a positive impact on the lives and minds of children and families,” wrote Collier. Brandman, she wrote, makes it possible to balance caring for her family, working as a para-educator in a kindergarten classroom and further her education. She hopes someday to have her own transitional kindergarten or kindergarten classroom.
Nora Zepeda is a preschool teacher, working full time, who never gave up on her dream of earning a bachelor’s degree despite numerous setbacks, including a stroke that put her in the intensive care unit. “I miraculously survived my near-death experience. Having to relearn to do things that I was able to do prior to my stroke was terribly challenging,” she wrote. Despite that, she completed her associate degree at Allan Hancock College and began working toward her bachelor’s at Brandman. She plans on completing the program in Spring 2018.
“My students and their families are of utmost importance. I feel that I have a huge responsibility, and I am up for the challenge. I provide a safe, nurturing, engaging and stimulating classroom that promotes learning and development. I have been a preschool teacher for 14 years and I still love it! I see myself as a preschool teacher until I’m old and grey. I will continue to educate young learners, instilling a love for learning while exploring life in preschool,” she wrote. Zepeda, who also has a 20-year-old son in college as well as two other children, ages 7 and 16, said she was grateful for any opportunity to help ease the cost of her college education.