TORRINGTON >> The Torrington Varsity Alumni Club held its 40th annual student-athlete scholarship banquet Wednesday evening at PSam’s in Torrington.
Micaela Bottari, Joann Duman, Paulina Koloda, Nick LaMothe, Kiley Rosengrant, Caroline Teti, Ernie Tracy and Makenzie Welch crossed the last hurdle toward the club’s $1,000 scholarship with a host of thoughtful answers to club-posed questions.
The annual tradition backs up, in one short evening, the values and focus that bring recipients through four years at Torrington High School to the point of deserving the club’s support.
Emcee Paul Denza came straight to that point with his first question to the group.
“What did it mean to be a Raider?” he asked.
“You learn a lot more than athletic skills,” said Teti. “You learn a whole set of values.”
“We work together in a community sense,” said LaMothe.
“You make friends with coaches as well as teammates,” said Rosengrant.
“We’re part of a huge family,” said DuMan.
Welch, Bottari, Tracy and Koloda fleshed out the concept with terms like “support,” “discipline,” “camaraderie,” and “values that teach how to be a player on and off the field.”
The kids waltzed through questions about college selection, with well-thought-out personal reasons made most poignant by Duman’s selection of UConn, in part because “it’s a large school that I think is closer to the real world.”
They did the same with consideration of a dream lunch partner, living or dead.
The answers sometimes coincided with intended career or sports pursuits – Ella Fitzgerald, Missy Franklin – sometimes thoughtful considerations – Mother Teresa, John Brown, a Middle Eastern family “to see how they view the conflict” – and sometimes intensely personal motives – a grandfather “I never knew,” an old gymnastics teacher who died in a car accident.
The greatest challenges they expect in college ranged from “having enough money to keep from going broke in the first month-and-a-half.” (Tracy); to confrontation of the seriousness of their studies: “Staying on the path I’m on (musical performance). They talk about hitting a wall as a music student.” (Bottari).
Without exception, parents were the greatest influence in the kids’ success so far – pushing, but not too hard; supporting; “allowing me to live my own dreams.” (Welch).
For all the beauty of the answers, none was more touching than Koloda’s on the subject of her parents’ influence.
Arriving with them from Poland nine years ago, she seized English and the rest of the American high school dream, stopping on Wednesday to issue her thanks to her parents in Polish.
The Torrington Alumni Club began in 1945 with the formation of an immensely popular and profitable basketball league that’s become the Elks/PAL league. The Club used the money to present its first scholarships in 1948.
It’s followed up with some $290,000 in scholarships since.