Three and a half years ago, 12 deserving high school seniors were chosen as the first group of students to represent the legacy of Colleen Ritzer and her passion for teaching. Today, they are but one semester away from their college graduation and preparing to take the next step in their journey.
“Colleen’s legacy of kindness and love of teaching has been continuously honored and remembered in too many ways to count. The inaugural Colleen E. Ritzer Scholarship recipients established a deeper connection with Colleen, and all she stood for,” said the Ritzer Family. “Many of the recipients had Colleen as a teacher, grew up around the Ritzer family and were inspired by the way Colleen chose to live her life. Colleen’s legacy has inspired recipients to explore a career in education and help them through hard times.”
The inaugural recipients spoke on behalf of the impact Colleen and her legacy has had on their education and dreams of being a teacher.
With time passing quickly at Salem State University, Sarah Mountain is ecstatic to start her teaching career and carry Colleen’s love of teaching with her.
“It feels like yesterday I was a senior in high school, dreaming of becoming a teacher,” explained Mountain. “Now that I am a senior in college this dream feels even more closer and I cannot wait to carry Ms. Ritzer’s memory and love of teaching.”
Christine Aumais, a senior at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, was inspired by Colleen’s passion and dedication during the college application process, and continues to be reminded of Colleen every day.
“So much of Colleen’s story was what inspired me to go into the field of education when I was applying to colleges, and her legacy has continued to stay with me,” Aumais discussed. “It is a constant reminder to be kind to everyone and see the good in every day. I hope that I can someday pass this on to my own students.”
Catherine Lamoly, a former student of Colleen’s and senior at Roger Williams University, has always admired Colleen and her interaction with her students. Lamoly prides herself on continuing Colleen’s legacy.
“Being one of the original recipients is the biggest honor I’ve ever received,” Lamoly said. “I have so much pride knowing that the Ritzer family felt I was capable of carrying on such an exquisite legacy and I will carry that with me into student teaching and beyond.”
Since a young age, Carly Sakellarios, a senior at Assumption College, has always admired Colleen. She has carried Colleen with her every step of the way while reaching for her dreams.
“Colleen was a person that I looked up to as a child. Knowing that she was symbolically with me through this journey to becoming a teacher has been more meaningful than I can express,” Sakellarios explained. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude.”
Courtney Comeau, also studying at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, was honored to be chosen as a recipient to follow in Colleen’s footsteps.
“To be recognized as someone who has promise in the classroom has given me confidence and motivation to be the best teacher I can be,” Comeau said. “I would love to follow in Colleen’s footsteps and be known as the teacher who cared, who put in the extra effort, and truly cared about their students.”
Andrea Lang, a senior at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, is looking forward to the opportunity to share Colleen’s kindness with her students one day.
“…I was immediately given the opportunities and inspiration to share Colleen’s legacy with every group of children I would meet during my college career and beyond,” Lang explained. “It is also exciting to be a part of a group of future teachers who share a similar perspective and inspiration, and a focus on kindness and positivity that we will all share with our students.”
At the University of Connecticut, Elizabeth Dever has taken the task of continuing Colleen’s legacy to heart, a challenge she is proud to take on.
“I have carried on Colleen’s legacy throughout my college career, but it will be a whole other responsibility to carry on her legacy in my future classroom,” Dever explained. “It is a challenge I am excited to take on in the next few years.”
Colleen’s passion and legacy never left the mind of Mary Leahy during her educational journey at Wagner College.
“Throughout college, I have always had Ms. Ritzer on my mind, to ensure that I am becoming the best teacher that I can be, and making sure I find the good in every day,” said Leahy.
Emily Felter, a student at Endicott College, saw Colleen as a role model and a teacher she aspires to be like one day.
“I look up to Colleen’s legacy and hope to be as good as a teacher as she was,” said Felter. “I am proud to represent this scholarship and am so thankful to be given this opportunity.”
As a former student of Colleen’s studying at Salem State University, Samantha Walters is excited to see what the future has to hold.
“As I get ready to begin my career, I look back and feel more honored than ever to have been an inaugural recipient and I’m anxious to see where I will go from here,” said Walters.
Jessica Ferronetti, also studying at Assumption College, is looking forward to the opportunity to honor Colleen and her legacy through her work in the classroom.
“I’m glad I can help carry on Colleen’s legacy through this scholarship and through my work in the future as a teacher,” explained Ferronetti.