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VNA-Newtown At 100: Scholarships Past And Present

Published: April 02, 2018 at 12:00 am


CORRECTION (Wednesday, April 4, 2018): The spelling of Kelly McLachlan Rudis's name has been updated. It was incorrect in the initial post of this feature.

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The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Newtown is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It opened the year with a visit from Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and a proclamation thanking the group for a century of service to Newtown residents.

During the group's board meeting earlier this month, Parliamentarian Mae Schmidle mentioned that the local group was launched at the time a flu pandemic was going around the country. VNA-Newtown President Anna Wiedemann echoed Mrs Schmidle's comments.

"Newtown VNA got started in 1918," Mrs Wiedemann said. "The flu pandemic was going around the country, and nurses needed to help care for the many ill patients."

VNA-Newtown plans to offer special events and highlight achievements each month this year. March is dedicated to scholarships, which the local nurses association began distributing in 1972.

March is the month, says Margareta Kotch, "when we zero in on our scholarships."

Mrs Kotch is a member of the VNA-Newtown board, and a member of its Scholarship Committee. The committee also includes Deb Osborne, chair; Maureen McLaughlin and Ms Wiedemann.

The first VNA-Newtown scholarship, The Anna E. Clow Scholarship, was for $300.

The need-based scholarship was named in memory of Mrs Clow, who had been chair of the VNA Thrift Shop for almost three decades.

The first scholarships were awarded to encourage interest and growth in the field of nursing, according to literature provided by VNA-Newtown.

In 1972 a second scholarship was established, by a Newtown couple, and named simply The VNA Scholarship. The non-need-based award also started at $300, but increased over the years.

The Mary M. Holian Scholarship was established in 1988. It honored a longtime member who had been a board member, at that time, since 1959, and had served as president for nine years, in addition to other capacities.

While the first two financial awards were intended for graduating high school students, the new one was meant for a Newtown resident returning to school pursuing a degree in the health care profession.

The first Mary M. Holian Scholarship was for $1,000. The award later increased to $2,000, and eventually to $4,000.

The Janice B. Van Sycle Scholarship was the fourth scholarship, established in 1988 by Dr Guy Van Syckle in memory of his late wife. Mrs Sycle, RN, a head nurse at Hartford Hospital, reportedly had a lifelong interest in nursing.

She was an active member of VNA-Newtown for many years, serving as president from 1988 until 1991, and was "an enthusiastic member of many committees including the Scholarship Committee," according to VNA-Newtown literature.

According to guidelines for scholarship committee members, Dr Van Syckle asked that the committee keep his late wife's wishes in mind when considering applicants. The committee was reminded that "special attention be paid to an applicant's caring personality and 'passion and ability and plans for the future - not necessarily on financial need.'"

The initial VNA Scholarship was discontinued by the mid-1980s. The others have also since discontinued, but VNA-Newtown now awards one scholarship, again simply called The VNA Scholarship. The amount varies depending on the amounts available at the time of each award. Scholarships are awarded to recipients when they enter the clinical portion of the nursing program, at least into the second year of their nursing education.

Presently an average VNA-Newtown scholarship is about $4,000, Ms Wiedemann pointed out. As of January 2018, approximately $185,250 in scholarship funds have been disbursed by the VNA.

The VNA recently received a $1,000 donation in recognition of its scholarship program.

Newtown High School students can pick up applications at the NHS Career Center. Residents attending other high schools are invited to contact Scholarship Committee Chair Deb Osborne at 203-426-6962 for additional information.

Deadline for this year's applications is April 11. Interviews will be conducted April 26.


Past Scholarship Winners

Katie Pessin was a VNA scholarship recipient in 2012, two years after she graduated from Newtown High School.

VNA-Newtown at 100 -- scholarship recipient Pessin

Newtown native Katie Pessin is a past VNA-Newtown scholarship recipient. Now based in Brattleboro, Vt., with her husband, Ms Pessin is a traveling emergency room nurse.

-photo courtesy Katie Pessin

Ms Pessin was enrolled in her junior year of college when she was presented with a scholarship check for $2,000. She was starting the clinical portion of her studies that autumn, in the Nursing Program at Central Connecticut State University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2014.

"I am very grateful for the VNA scholarship," she told The Newtown Bee via e-mail on March 17. "It allowed to peruse a career that I truly love. It's such a blessing to be able to do what I love for a career."

Ms Pessin and her husband, Erik Muzzey (Ms Pessin kept her name), now live in Brattleboro, Vt., where Ms Pessin is a traveling emergency room nurse.

"I work for a company the hospitals hire when they are short staffed," she explained. "Then my company will let me know what hospitals have openings in which I can apply for.

"I have the freedom to choose wherever I'd like to go," she added. Ms Pessin has worked, she said, in the Boston area, Vermont, and San Diego.

Her career also provides the freedom of choosing when she works.

"I usually work for three months then take some time off," she said. "I'm currently taking two months off to travel and to work on the tiny house."

Ms Pessin and Mr Muzzey are building a house on wheels that will allow them to continue combining travel with work.


SH_VNA-Newtown at 100 -- scholarship recipient Remson WATERMARKED

Sean Remson, before starting a shift at Masonicare at Newtown.

-Bee Photo, Hicks


The VNA scholarship awarded to Sean Remson has given the Sandy Hook resident "the opportunity to obtain important tools to become successful."

He wrote about his journey for VNA-Newtown, which "was kind enough to give me the extra supported I needed."

Mr Remson was awarded $4,000 in July 2015, shortly before beginning the practical portion of his studies at Naugatuck Valley Community College to become a registered nurse. With a background in nutrition and fitness,

Mr Remson had decided to transition into nursing.

"With that scholarship award, I was able to buy a computer as well as other supplies I needed for clinical," he wrote. "I have so much respect and gratitude for the Newtown Visiting Nurse Association and the work that they do aside from helping nursing students get the funds they need to achieve their goals."


VNA-Newtown at 100 -- scholarship recipient Rudis

Among the things that made life easier for Kelly (McLachlan) Rudis while she attended Georgetown University was a scholarship she received from Visiting Nurse Association of Newtown. The local nurses' association is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and has been awarding scholarships to high school seniors and adults returning to school for over a quarter of a century.

-photo courtesy Kelly Rudis


Kelly (McLachlan) Rudis grew up in Newtown, "with many ideas and dreams of my future," she wrote recently in a letter to the local VNA. She was a recipient of a VNA-Newtown scholarship.

Ms Rudis attended St Rose School, then Newtown Middle School before heading to Immaculate High School in Danbury. It was after taking an aptitude test, she said, that all signs pointed to nursing.

"While medicine was focused on the cure, I found that my strengths and interests were more about care," she wrote. She was accepted into Georgetown University - her first choice - and "embarked on an academic life and career that has given me, and the people for whom I have cared, an abundance of knowledge, skill, and compassion."

Among the things that made life easier for the young student, she said, was a scholarship from VNA-Newtown. Her parents had made "generous contributions," she wrote, for her tuition, room and board. A student loan and work study covered "a lot of my expenses, but not all."

In the early 1990s, she was presented with the funds for a VNA-Newtown scholarship.

"Receiving the Newtown VNA Scholarship at that time in school was so beneficial in helping me to achieve academic success," she said.

"To be able to focus on my studies, enjoy the rich campus life of Georgetown, and vibrant city of Washington, DC, without having to supplement my income with extra work because of the VNA Scholarship, was so appreciated," she added. "I was so touched by the VNA's investment in me, as they periodically checked on me to see how school was going, what I was doing in my clinical rotations, and what I intended to do with my career.

"Being a recipient of this scholarship also instilled in me the importance of giving, which I have attempted with both volunteering my time to others and with causes, and in financial donations to others when I have been able," the letter continued.

Ms Rudis is now a licensed registered nurse (Georgetown, 1993), with a graduate degree in nurse midwifery (CNM, from Frontier Nursing University), and a master's degree in public health (MPH, 2003, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).

Since 2013 she has served as the obstetrics patient safety officer with the University of Maryland Medical System. She has not forgotten her hometown, or the people who invested in her education.

"I reflect with gratitude on the Newtown VNA Scholarship," she wrote. "It reminds me that every action counts, every gesture, every bit of support and assistance.

"It is with this spirit that I have conducted and advanced my career in nursing, and give to others, telling them: there is a time we all receive what we need, and there will come a time when you will give back, too."

The VNA-Newtown Scholarship Committee currently includes, from left, Anna Wiedemann, Deb Osborne (chair), Margareta Kotch and Maureen McLachlan. Deadline for this year's applications is Monday, April 11. Interviews will be conducted April 26.

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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

“In The Bag” exhibition, on view to September 28
0% (0 votes)
The Lords of 52nd Street concert, September 14
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Arts Festival weekend, September 15-16
50% (1 vote)
“An Evening of the Arts,” September 15
50% (1 vote)
“The Fox on the Fairway” production by Town Players of Newtown, weekends September 21-October 13
0% (0 votes)
“The Main Street Replica Project,” launching September 25
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series screenings of “The Blues Brothers,” September 30
0% (0 votes)
Photography display “In Our Rearview Mirror” by Marleen Cafarelli, et al, October 1-30
0% (0 votes)
“Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb” with Tinky Weisblat, October 3
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Day, October 6
0% (0 votes)
The 3rd Annual Newtown-Sandy Hook Restaurant Week, October 8-14
0% (0 votes)
Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
0% (0 votes)
“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
0% (0 votes)
Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
0% (0 votes)
The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
0% (0 votes)
Connecticut Author’s Reading Series, October 21
0% (0 votes)
Natalie’s Open Mic, October 21
0% (0 votes)
“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
0% (0 votes)
Pianist Konstanza Chernov, October 28
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series double feature screenings of “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Beast with Five Fingers,” October 29
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 2