By Mariana Stebbins
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN — U.S. Rep. Rosa Delauro has given more than $500,000 in scholarship money since 1991, in memory of her father and of a longtime member of her staff.
And she is still giving.
Fifty students from DeLauro’s 3rd District, which includes Greater New Haven, each will receive $1,000 toward their college education. The money comes from the Ted DeLauro and the Maria Baez Perez scholarship programs.
DeLauro created the Ted DeLauro scholarship in 1991, when she was first elected to Congress, to honor the memory of her late father, Ted DeLauro, a former New Haven alderman.
"My father was very concerned with education and community service, and the scholarship was a way I found to honor him and also create an opportunity for youngsters to seek a college education," DeLauro said. "My hope is that these students will use the scholarship to fulfill their dreams."
Along the same lines, the other scholarship was created in 2002 to honor Maria Baez Perez, a native of Puerto Rico who served for many years on DeLauro’s staff, focusing her work on immigration, social security and health care issues. Perez died in 2002; she was 33.
The scholarships are awarded to 40 to 50 high school students annually and more than 500 students over the last 17 years. The scholarships are entirely funded with the pay raises and cost-of-living adjustments from DeLauro’s congressional salary. DeLauro, who technically earns a $169,300 annual salary, still takes home the same yearly pay she did when she first took office in Jan. 1991: $125,100.
"Since I came to office I decided not to take any pay raises, so all that money goes directly to the scholarships," said DeLauro.
To qualify for the Ted DeLauro scholarship, students must have participated in community service and kept a B grade average over the past three years. Schools in the 3rd District are randomly chosen to participate in the program and the school officials independently select one student to receive the scholarship.
The Maria Baez Perez Scholarship is open to any graduating high school senior who is either an immigrant or the first generation American in their family, having at least one parent who immigrated to the United States. All schools in the 3rd District can participate in this program, which has an independent selection committee of community leaders to review applications and select recipients.
"Each student earned (these scholarships) because they sought to help others as they worked to realize their own goals," DeLauro said of students who all volunteered in community initiatives, including peer mentoring and diversity education programs. "It is their willingness to better themselves by seeking new information and experiences and sharing it that makes each of (them) a leader in (their) community."
Although DeLauro makes sure not to be involved in the selection of recipients, she and her family get a little closer after the recipients are announced.
DeLauro’s mother, Luisa DeLauro, who served 34 years as an alderwoman in New Haven, attends the students’ graduation every year, representing her daughter. "It’s hard for me to go because I am in Washington, but she enjoys going and she does a great job," the congresswoman said. "And we also have a reception for them in our house in July."
Mariana Stebbins is a Register intern.