LEAP Counselors Score Scholarship Funding

Lucy Gellman PhotoAmistad Academy student and LEAP counselor Kevin Torres thought his first job would be in the fast food industry. Instead, he found himself working with kids — and getting financial help with college in the process.

LEAP is a not-for-profit that runs after-school and summer activities for neighborhood kids, stressing academics and athletics. The program’s counselors include high school students, many of whom attended LEAP as youngsters and nowhave taken on a mentorship role. Torres is one of six LEAP counselors to score scholarship money as he heads off to college this year.

With fellow counselors Tanyra Myers, Nicholas Mayne, Rasheedah Shahid, Darcus Henry, and Devin Torres (Kevin’s twin brother), he celebrated that accomplishment at a luncheon and awards ceremony at Gateway Community College Wednesday afternoon.

Two types of scholarships were awarded Wednesday to great fanfare from a room of LEAP counselors and staffers. The first, carrying a $2,500 award that goes right to the school, come from the New Haven-based law firm of Neubert, Pepe & Monteith, P.C. Having dedicated a total of $100,000.00 for LEAP scholarships (that’s over several years), the firm is in its fourth year of awarding the scholarships.

This year, the awards went to Myers, Mayne, Torres and Torres. Myers, a graduate of Career High School, will attend Temple University. From Wilbur Cross High School, Mayne will go on to the University of Connecticut at Stamford. Both Torres brothers are graduates of Amistad Academy; Devin will attend Bowdoin College in Maine and Kevin will head to Trinity College in Hartford. 

The second award, for $1,500 that students are able to use on books, transportation, and other ancillary college costs, are part of the 17th annual J. Bovilsky Scholarship, created in memory of former LEAP board member Jay Bovilsky. The recipients of those scholarships are Rasheedah Shahid, now a student at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities Public High School, and Wilbur Cross student Darcus Henry. Shahid plans to attend Housatonic Community College; Henry will be going to University of Connecticut.

At the ceremony, awardee and lawyer Greg Pepe (his wife is the head of LEAP’s board) lauded the students as “the future leaders of our community.” He added that the competition was particularly stiff this year, as LEAP’s crop of students seems to grow more competitive and more ready for college with each new group of counselors.

“Whether you know it or not, the community is here to support you,” he said. “You are already paying it forward because you are counselors at LEAP.”

That’s true for Kevin Torres, who recalled before the crowd that he thought his first job would be in fast food, or a similar customer-based, temporary job. Instead, he found a community.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” he said of his counselor position. “I know I’ll make an impact on my community and the future.”


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