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Forward, Together Forward scholarship recipients named

DeKALB – Five fell. Five are rising up. Northern Illinois University announced Thursday the winners of five Forward Together Forward Scholarships, awarded in honor of the five students killed in the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting at NIU.

The five recipients, and that latest among 55, will get a $5,000 scholarship, funded by more than 1,800 donors who have given more than $745,000 to the fund over the past 11 years. The bells outside Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University tolled five times at 3:06 p.m. Thursday, to remember the five students shot and killed Feb. 14, 2008.

Ainsley Galvez

Galvez is a first-generation college student, according to a news release from NIU.

An operations management and information systems major, who’s also double-minoring in Latin American studies and social entrepreneurship, she’s committed to her fellow students.

“Ainsley has a spirit that projects kindness and hope,” Russell Devereaux, who serves as Galvez’s academic adviser in NIU’s College of Business, said in the release.

Kristen Koehler

It’s never too late to chase your passion, as exhibited by Koehler, a Waterman resident who in her 40s decided to pursue her elementary education/reading major.

A junior, Koehler said in the release she’s a survivor of an abusive marriage. Coupling that with her dedication, she was an ideal nominee, in the eyes of instructor Julie Bartelt.

“Having some familiarity with the tragic events of February 2008, it seems most fitting that Ms. Koehler has applied for this particular scholarship,” Bartelt said in the release. “She is a survivor of tragedy in her own life and someone who truly relishes the opportunity to be a part of the NIU community. She is someone who is determined to not only make a positive impact within the NIU community, but to carry that impact to future classrooms as she prepares to become an educator.”

Emily Schaumberg

A senior music education major, Schaumberg wants to instill her passion into students, ideally in a rural area similar to her old stomping grounds in Streator.

“Being an educator can impact anyone’s life,” Schaumberg said in the release. “But to have the career of impacting a community is even stronger.

Michelle Bringas, director of NIU’s Asian-American Resource Center, recommended Schaumberg for the scholarship.

“Every student is special, and there are also those students who allow their light to shine its brightest,” Bringas said in the release.

Pablo Valencia-Garcia

Another first-generation college student, Valencia-Garcias is an athletic training major who wasn’t sure transferring from community college to NIU would work – until he read the campus group handouts.

“I gave it a chance, and I went to their weekly meetings,” he said in the release. “That was probably the best choice I’ve made at NIU. I have created many networks through various student-led organizations.”

He’s president of the Dream Action NIU organization that advocates for undocumented students, and also is a Student Association senator.

Sandy Lopez, coordinator for undocumented student support in the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, sang Valencia-Garcia’s praises in the release.

“Pablo seems to understand that by volunteering he advances the common good of the communities from which he comes,” she said.
“I would also add that Pablo doesn’t give back – he gives and expects nothing in return.”

Keelan Wright

A music education major who’s also double-minoring in black studies and business innovation and entrepreneurship, Wright said the greatest gift he’d received was being taught to read music.

Wright is a senior, and during his freshman year, he put in more than 300 community service hours.

“Keelan is community-minded and is very talented and bright,” NIU Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden said in the release. “He is laser-focused on achieving his educational and professional goals of becoming a music teacher and giving back to the community that gave him so much. There is no doubt he will be a great teacher and role model for his students, colleagues and community.”

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