TORRINGTON >> Since 1948, the Torrington Varsity Alumni Club annually has helped deserving Torrington student-athletes get to college.
Much of the fund they use for their $1,000 individual scholarships came from the club’s establishment of a wildly successful youth basketball league that morphed into Elks and PAL basketball.
This year, success of the Club’s Raider Run and bequests enable eight recipients rather than the usual six.
Micaela Bottari, Joann Duman, Paula Kolada, Nick LaMothe, Kiley Rosengrant, Caroline Teti, Ernie Tracy and Makenzie Welch join a list of recipients who have received more than a combined $200,000 for their educations.
This year’s elite eight join Club members Wednesday at PSam’s to receive their checks and leave behind a sampling of their personalities as emcee Paul Denza interrupts the banquet periodically for answers to questions ranging from personal traits to world affairs.
Here’s a taste of what they’re bringing.
Anyone who saw Bottari play the lead in last spring’s Torrington High School Theater production, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, knows what a talented star she is. Anyone who watched her play in last fall’s soccer season knows how determined she is.
The combination plays out in her plans for the future.
“While I participated in many sports, clubs and activities in high school, my one passion has always been music,” she says.
Bottari participated in a long list of school and civic activities and finished seventh in her class academically while working year-round at Patty’s Restaurant and summers at the Dairy Queen.
After years of private voice lessons, she’s headed for Westminster Choir College (Princeton, New Jersey), a part of Rider University, to study opera, hoping to eventually perform around the world.
Duman is one of those unsung kids who stick with sports even though they’re not going to be a star. Turns out, sports made her the star student she is – 13th in the class.
“The reason I did well in my academics was because of athletics,” she says. “Playing sports helped me concentrate on my school work better.”
Like all these kids, Duman went the extra mile, with school clubs, church and civic activities mixed in.
She will begin studies in electrical engineering at UConn in the fall.
Kolada is one of those people who make you feel good about Torrington High School, the community and the country. She and her family arrived from Poland nine years ago, speaking no English.
Now, after earning her U.S. citizenship a year ago, Kolada is preparing to attend the University of Saint Joseph (West Hartford) after an overwhelmingly successful high school career.
“I was very motivated to learn English fast,” she says. “I took many honors and AP classes and got involved with many extracurricular activities and sports.”
She finished third in her class. She was captain of the Red Raider cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams and the school’s bowling team. Besides her long list of school, church and community activities, she worked part time at Walgreen’s year round, Ski Sundown in the winter and Torrington Childcare Center in the summer.
Her dream is to be a teacher, majoring in special education and elementary education with a minor in Spanish.
LaMothe wants to be a neurosurgeon.
“I understand that there is a large amount of schooling, but I am ready for it because it will allow me to improve the lives of others, something that cannot be accomplished by medications alone,” he says.
In high school, he was a leader as Executive Board President of the Student Body and captain of the golf and indoor track teams.
He ranked 12th in the class, pursuing the dream as a volunteer at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, where he worked in the rehabilitation unit and shadowed doctors and nurses.
Rosengrant’s focus is on sports.
In high school, she was a fierce competitor in volleyball and tennis for four years, a diver on the Raider swimming and diving team for two.
She credits her family.
“Having two older brothers was a struggle to say the least,” she says. “We fought, yelled at each other, wrestled each other, and they surely tortured me, but that made me competitive, hardworking and strong.”
Now, she’ll put it to work at Keene State College (Keene, New Hampshire), on the school’s volleyball team and in her athletic training major.
Teti earned area fame as starting point guard for Torrington High School’s girls basketball team for three years, leading her team to an NVL title as a junior.
Meanwhile, she was doing a world of other things – forays into track and field and soccer in sports; school, church and community volunteer activities; fourth, academically, in her class.
None of it was quite enough for her.
“Something that I have always tried to hold on to for all my years in school and athletics is a strong set of values to help me stay focused,” she says. “I believe that my sense of humility leaves me with a lot of room to improve myself and stay competitive, academically and athletically.”
She takes her values to Western New England University (Springfield, Massachusetts), where she’ll play basketball and major in mechanical engineering.
Torrington High School football fans know Tracy as the ultimate warrior. Deep in the offensive and defensive trenches as a lineman, he led the team as captain in his senior year with knees that swelled up after every game.
“From the start, I believed that I’d be a low-key freshman who would play a little bit of JV, but right off the bat, before the season had even started, I wound up playing practice team defense against Torrington’s All-State and now-DI (University of Iowa) football player Dean Tsopanides,” Tracy says. “The daily butt kickings that I received taught me how to hold my own against my opponents and set me up for success for my next three years.”
Tracy was a Cadet Colonel Commander in Torrington’s JROTC program.
He’ll major in criminal justice and ROTC at West Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia).
If Tracy was the epitome of last year’s Torrington football team, Welch filled that role for the girls swimming and diving team.
Swimming competitively for just five years, including high school, Welch was All-NVL for her entire high school career, All-State for two.
In that time, she broke seven records, including NVL league and meet records.
It was the tip of an all-around iceberg of success. She ranked 17th in her class academically and served as president of the Honor Society among her distinctions.
She will swim and study nursing at Colby-Sawyer College (New London, New Hampshire) in the fall. Long term, she plans to be a neonatal nurse in an intensive care unit.