Forward, Together Forward scholarship winners discuss award

By Kyla Gardner

On Monday five students received the Forward, Together Forward scholarship, a one-time award of $4,000.

The scholarship was created to honor the memory of the five students killed during the Feb. 14 shootings, said Anne Hardy, director of the Scholarship Office.

This year’s winners qualifications speak for themselves, Hardy said.

“They are dedicated to NIU, to serving their community, and to bettering their lives and the lives of those around them.” she said, “Each of the students are excellent representatives of our university, and their character truly honors the memories of the students we lost.”

Kelsey Borg

The junior speech language pathology major said she is proud to honor the memory of Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter.

“Meeting the families on Sunday of some of these students was a great opportunity to see what [the students] accomplished in their lives,” she said. “And through what I[‘ve done] and what I am going to do I will always remember them and this honor I’ve received…at such a cost.”

Borg said her greatest accomplishment is overcoming a brain tumor she was diagnosed with in 2004.

Borg plans to become a speech pathologist in a school, working with young children who are disabled or have speech impediments.

“It [is] an opportunity to give somebody a voice or better speech that may not have had that opportunity,” she said.

Mayra Diaz

A junior Spanish and international politics major, she said she was surprised to be awarded the Forward, Together Forward scholarship because the accomplishments of previous winners were so impressive.

“I feel truly honored,” she said.

Diaz is a member of Mujer a Mujer, and Dream Action NIU. Mujer a Mujer plans to start a mentoring program at DeKalb High School, a program Diaz said she is very excited about.

Diaz said though she didn’t have a direction when she first came to NIU she made many connections through different clubs and organizations.

“I constantly look for places that I fit in and make my experience here worthwhile,” she said.

Diaz said after graduating she plans to pursue either a law degree or work at a law office helping Hispanic immigrants.

Jasmine Land

“It’s definitely something really special,” said the junior marketing major about receiving the scholarship. “I’m just really gracious and thankful.”

Land said the scholarship honors the memory of the students killed on Feb. 14, 2008 by being awarded to students who are actively involved on campus, have Huskie pride and try to make a difference in others students’ lives.

“I’ve had so many different mentors and organizations and people helping me to get to the point where I am now, I always feel I need to return that favor to someone else,” she said.

Land said she plans to pursue a career in student affairs or marketing.

“I know I would love [working in student affairs] after being an orientation leader and working in housing,” she said.

Justin Larsen

The junior communications major said his greatest accomplishment is pursuing his baccalaureate degree as a first-generation college student.

“I’ve put a lot of work into my college career because I know it’s an opportunity a lot of people don’t get,” he said.

Larsen said he plans to pursue a masters degree in student affairs and work at a university.

He said he is very interested in leadership development, especially helping students get to and through college to follow their own paths in life. He hopes to work for a non-profit someday with underprivileged youth.

Larsen serves as senator in the Student Association, as a founding father of the newest fraternity on campus, Delta Chi, and serves on the Recruitment, Retention, and Student Success Vision 20/20 committee. He also interns at Career Services.

Reneka Turner

She has received one of the most prestigious scholarships NIU offers, but the senior nursing major said she’s been humbled by it.

“It’s not always about receiving things,” she said, “Our job is to give back to the community.”

Turner had always planned on being an attorney but decided to pursue nursing after her mother became ill and she was the primary caretaker.

“Just having that overwhelming responsibility and seeing what she went through, it changed my outlook on what I wanted to do,” she said.

Turner’s goals are to mentor teenagers interested in going into the health care field and to open health care clinics around the country for the economically disadvantaged.


Turner is involved in three pre-professional nursing organizations. She is the president of the Student Nurses Organization at NIU.

Turner also volunteers with a program that helps Chicago minority youth through the college application process.