Four Central Connecticut University students were selected to receive 2020 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awards from the Connecticut States Colleges and Universities Foundation. Lea Fontaine, Jennifer DePalma, Brenden Griffith, and Hannah Rodrigues will be recognized for their achievement later this year at a ceremony on campus, if conditions permit. The University is operating remotely through the end of the Spring 2020 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and campus is closed to students, faculty, and staff.

“We are always so proud of our Barnard Scholars,” says CCSU President Zulma R. Toro. “Not only are they top academic performers with multiple talents, but they are good citizens with a strong sense of community. They are dedicated to making the most of their academic training because they truly want to make the world a better place.

“Since we won’t have an opportunity to celebrate this spring, we are planning an event for late summer or early fall with the hope they will be able to return to campus for the event,” Toro adds.

Every spring, the CSCU Foundation selects 12 outstanding seniors from Connecticut’s four state universities as Barnard Award recipients. To be considered for a Barnard award, a student must have a minimum 3.7 GPA and a record of significant community service. The students are nominated by their respective universities and presidents and must submit a personal essay and other materials to be considered for the award.

The award is named for Henry Barnard, a distinguished Connecticut educator who served as the state’s first superintendent of schools and principal of what later became Central Connecticut State University from 1851 to 1855. Barnard became the first U.S. commissioner of education in 1867.

Meet the Scholars

Jennifer DePalma of New Milford will graduate with a BS in English - Elementary Education. With a current GPA of 4.0 GPA, DePalma has landed on the President’s and Dean’s list every semester since 2016. She is a member of the Kappa Delta PI International Honor Society in Education; Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society; Golden Key Honor Society; and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. She became a member of the National Education Association in 2018.

DePalma also managed to balance her studies and student-teaching responsibilities with a two-year stint on the CCSU Women’s Soccer team and ran for one year on the Cross-Country and Track & Field team. She joined the Department of Residence Life as a resident assistant in 2019.

Going forward, DePalma is considering a graduate degree in Teacher Leadership on a literacy track. She eventually would like to become the leader of literacy instruction for a grade-level academic team.

During her last semester of student teaching, DePalma gained important perspective from her students at Glastonbury-East Hartford Magnet School that has shaped her teaching philosophy.

She says, “The most important thing I did for my students was give them a chance by supporting them. Children need all adults to believe in them, to help them, and to show them that they could succeed at school and in life. This became my goal when I went to their classroom because all children deserve a fair shot in being and doing their best in life.”

Lea Fontaine of Wolcott is in the Honors Program and majoring in Nursing with a minor in Psychology. During her first year in the nursing program, she completed her honors thesis, “The Value of Emotional Intelligence in Nursing Practice: A Call for Change,” while concurrently taking two required courses with laboratory sections that demand significant additional hands-on practice learning.

In her personal essay, Fontaine says she has always wanted to become a registered nurse. She attended W.F. Kaynor Technical High School in Waterbury to earn her Nursing Assistant Certification; at the same time, she volunteered at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury and dedicated more than 300 hours to the Same-Day Surgery Unit. At CCSU, she has since volunteered for the Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and in West Virginia with Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit provider of free pop-up clinics in remote and underserved areas. Her experience with RAM has informed her career goals.

“Overall, my goal is to be a nurse that provides services to vulnerable populations and ensures that all people receive the quality care they deserve,” she says.

Fontaine is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and has served as the vice president and treasurer of the CCSU Gerontology Club. She is the recipient of multiple CCSU Honors scholarships and earned the CCSU Provost Scholarship in 2016.

When she graduates with her BSN, she hopes to work as a registered nurse then return to school to become an Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.

Brenden Griffith of Wethersfield, a Biomolecular Sciences major, plans to continue his studies in the field. As he searches for the right doctoral degree program, he has set an admirable career goal.

“I plan to make the world a better place through the advancement of scientific knowledge. Particularly, through research and contributing to the science community through discovery and novel findings,” he says.

He has started down that very path as a laboratory assistant for the CCSU Department of Biomolecular Science, a position he has held for the last two years. Brenden has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester since the Fall 2016 and placement on the President’s List numerous times. He is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and the Golden Key International Honor Society and has presented his research more than once at academic conferences. 

Outside the lab, Griffith is a member of CCSU’s Student Organ Donation Advocates; the Pre-Health Society; and the Biology Club. He also has shared his interest in science as a volunteer for UConn Health Center’s Great Explorations program for middle and high-school students; Partners in Science, which offers Saturday morning science workshops for middle school students; and the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Program, an eight-week program in which Griffith mentored two high school students in conducting basic scientific research.

Hannah Rodrigues of Wallingford is already contributing to research in her field. When she graduates with her degree in Psychological Science, she will have presented research at three different conferences on two occasions each.

Rodrigues is minoring in Gerontology and plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in neuroscience and aging. She hopes to contribute to research and treatment with older adults with neurocognitive disorders.

Through her memberships in Psi Chi, CCSU’s chapter of the International Honor Society in Psychology; the Gerontology Club; the Psychology Club; and as a peer tutor, Rodrigues has been able to explore and share her research interests with the campus community. In her senior year, Rodrigues also served as president of Psi Chi and the Gerontology Club.

Rodrigues has earned several academic and service awards, including the 2019 Shanette Washington Outstanding Service Award for her work as vice president of the Psychology Club and as a peer tutor and the 2019 Outstanding Research Award in Psychological Science. She is also a member of Sigma Phi Omega, the National Honor Society for Gerontology, and the Golden Key International Honor Society. She has landed on the Dean’s list every semester since Fall 2016.

Rodrigues credits the CCSU community for her academic success and personal growth.

“All of my achievements would not have been accomplished without the endless support of my professors and mentors, and my peers who share the same drive to make a difference in their community,” she says.