Scholarships and Support Help Young Women Succeed

“Seeing Carolyn graduate made me realize how our combined work is worthwhile,”

On Sunday, May 18, when Carolyn Johnson received her associate’s degree from the University of Hartford – with honors – Leslie McCarter, her mentor and director of the Community Life Skills for Girls program at The Village, was in the audience and beaming.

“Seeing Carolyn graduate made me realize how our combined work is worthwhile,” said Leslie. “I know she is definitely on her way to experience all the wonderful opportunities that life has to offer.”

Carolyn Johnson participated in the Community Life Skills for Girls program since she was a senior in high school. “I learned so many different things about myself, and formed a great support network,” she said. It also helped Carolyn figure out what she wanted to do with her life, and create a plan to get there. So, when she was awarded the Abbott-Carlson scholarship in 2013, she began implementing that plan.

“I am so grateful to Mrs. McCarter for always being there if I needed anything, and constantly checking in with me.” With Leslie’s support, Carolyn has been successfully moving along her path to realize her dreams.

Carolyn Johnson, Maria Rodriguez, Linda Carlson, Erica Rusczyk, Tiffany Brown, and Marangelisse Nieves.

In addition to directing the Community Life Skills for Girls program at The Village, which provides a safe, caring environment to encourage self confidence and improved judgment for young women ages 11-19 in the Greater Hartford region, Leslie also became Carolyn’s mentor when she was chosen to receive one of four original Abbott-Carlson Scholarships.

Linda Carlson, a former actress in theater, film and television, playwright, and essayist, created a scholarship fund to help young women who want to go to college and become financially self-reliant. “I knew that the girls served by The Village were the girls I wanted to support because they had overcome many challenges and had the discipline to succeed,” Linda said.

In addition to the monetary support, Carolyn and three other young women were paired with a mentor from the business, nonprofit or volunteer community. “I felt these young women could benefit from a person who would support and guide them during their college careers,” Linda said.

Linda also personally follows each girl’s progress and is invested in their success. “She provides them with emotional support and encouragement beyond the financial support. That means the world to these young women,” says Kim Burris, one of the mentors.

Carolyn said the most important skill she learned while in this program was how to be a leader. “It was such a surprise when everyone in the group started to look up to me. I felt like I really was a leader.”

This fall, Carolyn will be attending the University of Hartford, on her path to receiving a bachelor’s degree, studying clinical psychology. While she’s not exactly sure what her career will be, she would like to open her own psychology practice one day. The scholarship, her mentor, and the Community Life Skills program has helped Carolyn move closer to completing her higher education, and preparing her to use those leadership skills she’s acquired along the way.

This Spring, two other young women were selected to receive Abbott-Carlson Scholarships.

Erica Rusczyk, who graduated from Newington High School this spring, will attend Tunxis Community College in the fall; her goal is to become a mental health counselor or clinician.

Maria Rodriguez graduated from the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, and will attend the University of Hartford in the fall to study forensic science with a focus on biology.

In addition, Tiffany Brown, who is attending Tunxis Community College, and plans to continue on to get a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, received a laptop to help her with her schoolwork.

More Stories