ALKU, in partnership with Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP), has announced that Kimberly Morales, a student at Needham High School, and Valeria Cardoza, a student at Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion School, are the recipients of the 2022 ALKU Scholarship. The $30,000 award, payable over four years, is given to two rising high school seniors who plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution. The recipients must benefit from a positive mentoring experience with an adult, be involved in their community, display leadership in and outside school, and demonstrate financial need.
This is the eighth year in a row that ALKU—a highly specialized consulting services firm, and MMP—the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding quality youth mentoring in Massachusetts, have granted this educational scholarship.
For the first time, ALKU extended two $30,000 scholarships to celebrate MMP’s 30th anniversary. The ALKU Scholarship was created by ALKU’s Founder and CEO and MMP’s Governing Board Member, Mark Eldridge. Morales and Cardoza were selected as the 2022 recipients by ALKU’s Scholarship Committee, which is comprised of ALKU employees who are personally involved and dedicated to the mentoring cause.
Morales met her mentor, Maria Sartori, at Needham Step Ups (NSU). “My relationship with my mentor is perfect. I consider her one of my best friends and one of the people I can trust most. She knows everything about me; if I talk to her about my feelings, I know she won’t judge me. She is so nice and stands up for me,” said Morales.
Morales, who lives in a single-parent household, has faced many obstacles to get where she is today. “My family and I are originally from Guatemala. I immigrated to the United States with my mother and brother when I was 11 years old. I come from a very low-income family; my mother works hard so that my brother and I don’t lack a plate of food. I have come fleeing from my country because the crime was getting worse, money was not enough, education was not so good, the teachers treated me badly and insulted me, they told me that I was a person who would never reach my goals,” said Morales.
Despite Morales’s difficult situation, she works hard for the future she dreams of. She enjoys working with the 2nd graders at the elementary school in Needham, where she has a leadership role and assists them in writing. Additionally, she is a peer mentor to an English Language Arts (ELA) student continuing to learn English.
“Kim spends most of her time working at her part-time grocery store job. She uses the money she earns to help out at home. Kim is one of the hardest-working students I know. Her time in high school has been far from easy. As an immigrant from Guatemala, Kim has had significant language and cultural barriers when she first arrived. Her persistence allowed her to learn the language and cultural norms of America. Kim also had to navigate her way through mental health struggles and spend a lot of last year healing from past trauma. She has seen and been through more than any 17-year-old kid should. Her resilience is truly inspiring,” Maria Sartori, Morales’s mentor, wrote in her letter of recommendation.
With the assistance of the ALKU Scholarship, Morales hopes to attend Boston College to pursue a Criminal Justice degree. “I want to study criminal justice for my undergraduate degree. I know this will be a good major to have when applying to law schools. I also think it will be a good major for me so I can really know how to help the people I want to help,” said Morales.
“Being on the scholarship committee is no easy task. We read through so many applications and connected with students through their stories. I was instantly drawn to Kim’s hard work, passion for advocating for immigrants, perseverance, and resilience. Despite the unfair challenges life has thrown her way, she does not back down and does not allow it to define her. Kim’s determination and drive will allow her to achieve everything she sets her mind to. This is just the beginning for Kim, and I cannot wait to see everything she will accomplish,” Anarianny Rodriguez, Benefits Coordinator II and Scholarship Committee Member, said on selecting a 2022 recipient
Cardoza met her mentor Elizabeth Dixon through the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston Program. “I was matched with Elizabeth, my Big Sister, through the Big Sister program. I have grown to express myself and share intimate parts of my life that have shaped me into the individual I am today. It has framed my mindset to be resilient and driven to accomplish my passions. My relationship with my mentor has also been an aspect of my life that I find comfort in, from trying new things to doing things I had grown up loving and having someone to share those interests with, ” Cardoza.
Cardoza, who lives in a single-parent household, has faced many obstacles to get where she is today. “Growing up in a low-income single-parent household, I’ve had to work hard to be independent due to my mother having to work to bring income for us. Additionally, living as a person with a disability, spina bifida, means that there are medical costs that my mom and I have to consider daily. I’ve had to overcome many challenges with the concept of independence itself, society not being accessible physically. Having to be mindful if I can access a building or if there is a ramp makes it sometimes challenging even to access job opportunities. Having to both rely on my mother but also be the person for my mother to rely on has been a challenge I have had to overcome on multiple occasions,” said Cardoza.
Despite Cardoza’s situation, she continues to take on leadership roles and grow as an individual. She was a peer leader at Chica Project, a nonprofit with a mission to empower girls with self-confidence and a prosperous future career path. Additionally, Cardoza was a summer Intern at Big Sister in 2021, Assistant Manager of Big futures in running summer programming, and Communications and Community Specialist. Now, she holds the role of Vice President, where she can support the board with the advocacy it needs.
“I have had the privilege of knowing Valeria since January 2017, when I became her “Big Sister” through the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston program. When I first met Valeria, she was a shy and quiet little girl; however, throughout the years, she has blossomed into a thoughtful, intelligent, and outspoken individual. Our consistent one-to-one visits allowed us to have countless fun adventures together, as well providing us an opportunity to build trust, give space for Valeria to talk about her week, and have someone to bounce ideas from, which has helped mold our relationship to what it is today – a true friendship. She is a critical thinker, a passionate friend, a helper, a comic, and always eager to expand her learning in any way possible. Valeria is up for any challenge, whether it be attempting to bake a cake with me or be interviewed to promote funding for programs she is passionate about,” Elizabeth Dixon, Cardoza’s mentor, wrote in her letter of recommendation.
With the help of the ALKU Scholarship, Cardoza hopes to attend Lesley, Northeastern, UMass Boston, Boston University, or Boston College to pursue a Child Development and Psychology degree. “I would be majoring in child development and child psychology because I want to pursue a career as a child-life specialist. I would like to pursue a career in this field because I value the work I have grown up admiring with being in and out of hospitals,” said Cardoza.
“Valeria is everything that we look for in an ALKU Scholar! She has proven to be resilient time and time again, regardless of any challenges life has thrown her way. She continues to push herself and aim for the moon, setting goals for herself with the confidence that she will achieve them while maintaining a positive and vibrant attitude that will help propel her to new heights in life,” Elvis Bisono, ALKU’s Community Relations Coordinator, and Scholarship Committee Member said on selecting a 2022 recipient.
The two $30,000 ALKU Scholarships will be awarded to Kimberly Morales and Valeria Cardoza on October 10th at MMP’s Journey to 30 event on November 10th at Encore Boston Harbor.
Founded in 2008, ALKU is a specialized consulting services firm focused on deploying highly skilled consulting resources in ERP, Healthcare Information Technology, Life Sciences, Government Programs, and Cyber Security. ALKU ranks as one of the fastest-growing firms within its industry. Since its inception, ALKU has consistently received national recognition for its industry-leading growth, company culture, and success. Learn more about ALKU here.
Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) is committed to ensuring that every young person in the state has access to quality mentoring relationships, regardless of who they are or where they live.
MMP is a statewide capacity-building organization that partners with corporate, public, and philanthropic entities to drive critical resources to a network of more than 370 mentoring and youth-serving organizations, representing more than 50,000 young people.