Pearl Wright Award Recognizes Student's Dedication to Educating Children
Date: July 29, 2002
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos by Colleen Kelley
University of Cincinnati education student Jennifer DiSanto first worried she was just too old to go to college. At 27, the single mother of two kept thinking that by the time she graduated, she'd be 32. That seemed so far away. Now, at age 30, DiSanto is adding another honor to a long list of outstanding achievements as she pursues her dream of becoming an elementary schoolteacher.
DiSanto is the recipient of the 2002 Pearl M. Wright Award from the University of Cincinnati College of Education. The annual award is considered one of the largest undergraduate merit awards at any public university in the United States. DiSanto, who lives in Price Hill, will receive $27,000 over two years to pay for her college, housing and living expenses.
The award is named in memory of a UC alumna from the College of Education who devoted her life to educating the very young. Pearl M. Wright spent 30 years working for Clifton School and retired as principal in 1957. Her sister, Kathryn, also graduated from UC's College of Education, and spent much of her career working with blind and visually impaired children. It was in Kathryn's will that the Pearl M. Wright award was established for the student who "best exemplifies high moral and academic standards of a primary teacher -- who is sensitive, loving and understanding of little children."
Kathryn E. Wright died in 1996, six years after her sister. The annual award comes from a bequest, which established an endowment totaling $660,000. DiSanto is the college's fourth recipient of the honor.
"This year, we had many strong candidates," says Regina Sapona, associate dean for academic affairs, College of Education. "However, Jennifer's application stood out because of her strong contributions and active involvement in professional organizations within the community. She clearly exhibited a passion for learning, and she was rewarded for her persistence in pursuing a degree in education, despite difficult personal circumstances."
DiSanto first earned her associate's degree in early childhood education from UC's University College in 2001. Because of her straight-A average, she graduated from University College as valedictorian and student marshal. As she continues earning her bachelor's degree through the College of Education, she's made the dean's list every quarter.
"I've always wanted to be a teacher," says DiSanto, who found the pathway to a higher degree affordable when she was awarded a scholarship to University College. She adds her seven-year-old, Cody, and her 11-year-old, Allison, are a great support. "They know when Mommy needs some 'quiet time' to finish her paper."
DiSanto says the award will allow her to cut back on her work hours so she can dedicate her time to study. She works at 4C for Children in Walnut Hills, a childcare resource and referral agency.
As for her earlier concerns that the time spent earning her degree seemed nearly impossible, she's found "It really has gone quickly. It's hard to believe I'm almost done." She'll graduate in 2004.
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