News about the program and our honorees

2 Honorees Introduced in Virtual Celebration

Andrew Amaya and Brianna Bobo were introduced to the education community and supporters of the Alma Exley Scholarship Program in a virtual celebration recently on Zoom.

Both are preparing for careers as history teachers. Each received a $5,000 scholarship along with recognition of their potential to become outstanding educators.

Andrew Amaya with Woody Exley and Candice Tabone of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain at Foundation headquarters.

Brianna Bobo with Woody Exley at the West Hartford Library.

They are among 38 future educators who have received more than $130,000 in scholarships since the program was established in 1995. The program is carrying on the legacy of Alma Exley, who was working at the State Department of Education to bring greater diversity to the state’s educator workforce.

Compassionate Connections

Thanking the supporters of the program, Mr. Amaya said, “It’s important to have people of color in the classroom. It’s important for students to feel comfortable going to someone who looks like them, someone who has had similar experiences and is open to having a conversation to help them get through a tough time. High school can be a complicated time for a lot or kids, and it can make a different to have someone there who can help them through a difficult time, as it did when I was in high school.”

Mr. Amaya referred to a Hispanic mentor who was helpful to him in high school. “Hopefully, I can do the same for a student who may be feeling lost or out of place. I’ll be sure to make the best of the opportunity you have given me.”

Teaching is Serving

Ms. Bobo thanked the donors and the educators who inspired and encouraged her along the way.

“I believe the core of teaching is to serve,” she said. “It’s not what I do; it’s who I am. Whether I realized it or not, for my whole life I was preparing to be an educator. With this scholarship, I am fulfilling my lifelong purpose to serve my community through education.

“Three promises I pledge to myself and my community:

“One, to serve my students wholeheartedly;

“Two, to create a learning environment filled with acts of kindness, compassion, and patience;

“Three, to empower my students to contribute to creating an equitable society.”

She concluded by saying, “It means a lot to me to know there are people who believe in me, who believe in people who look like me, and who are making it a priority to support teachers of color to strive and create an equitable society.”

Congrats from Cardona

Secretary Miguel Cardona

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, 1998 Alma Exley Scholar, congratulated the recipients via video. Dr. Cardona, who received his bachelor’s degree from Central and graduate degrees from UConn, said, “I may be a little bit biased but I’m confident these excellent institutions are preparing you well for the next steps in your careers and your lives.”

Said the Secretary, “Educator diversity benefits all students. Diverse educators serve as positive role models in classrooms and communities. Diverse educators hold students to high expectations and develop trusting relationships with diverse students. This translates into tremendous social, emotional, and academic benefits for all students.

“To the teachers and aspiring teachers here tonight, you have the power to ignite generational change, to inspire hope, and to build safe, supportive school communities.”

2024 Diversity Champion

Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker

Also at the event, the Alma Exley Scholarship Program honored State Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker as the 2024 Diversity Champion in recognition of her leadership in bringing more people of color into the state’s educator workforce. Read more on the Diversity Resources page.


UConn, Central Students Are 2024 Alma Exley Scholars:

Students from the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University have been chosen as Alma Exley Scholars for 2024.

Brianna Bobo is pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut. She has a bachelor of science degree from UConn in secondary education with a concentration in social studies and history.  She is a graduate of Conard High School in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Brianna Bobo

Andrew Amaya of New Britain is a student at Central Connecticut State University. He is a secondary education major with a concentration in social studies. He is a graduate of New Britain (Connecticut) High School.

Andrew Amaya

Growing Endowment

The program was able to offer two scholarships again this year because of the growth of the endowment at the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. The growth has been achieved thanks to substantial contributions as well as solid investment gains.

A selection committee of respected educators chose the recipients from among applicants from educator-preparation programs in Connecticut. The selection committee was impressed with the potential of all the applicants. All were deserving and worthy of the scholarship. We need to keep growing the endowment so that we can award more scholarships in the future.

  • Woody Exley

Alma Exley Scholar Wins Prestigious Fellowship

Tamashi Hettiarachchi, who is in her second year of teaching chemistry in West Hartford, Conn., has been selected for a prestigious national program that supports early-career science and mathematics teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise.

Tamashi Hettiarachchi, right, invited Mehreen Pasha, a medical student at UConn Health,
to talk to her students about careers in medicine.

Intensive Five-Year Program

The Knowles Teaching Fellows Program is an intensive, five-year program that provides financial support in a variety of ways. The program provides stipends during the summer and funds for professional development and also enables teachers to buy classroom materials and join professional organizations. Fellows can also gain graduate credit for work in the fellowship.

Ms. Hettiarachchi, whom we honored in 2022, joins a network of more than 500 Knowles Teaching Fellows in 34 states and the District of Columbia who are committed to improving science and mathematics education.

In total, fellows are eligible to receive more than $50,000 in financial support over the course of the five-year fellowship. Fellows can apply for grants to pursue efforts that will have a positive impact on education in their own classroom and beyond.

UConn Graduate

Ms. Hettiarachchi received our scholarship when she was a student at the University of Connecticut. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry education and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UConn before taking a position teaching 11th grade chemistry at Hall High School.

“I am so honored and grateful for this opportunity and recognition,” she said. “I hope to use this funding to meet the needs of my students and provide my students with new opportunities in chemistry.

“My pedagogy is rooted in love and joy in the classroom. I strive to ensure that all of my students feel they belong in a science classroom.

“As a teacher of color, I recognize the need to diversify the field and hope that I can aid in that process.”

Ms. Hettiarachchi is advisor to the Future Educators of Diversity Club at Hall High School and a building representative in her local union.