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Campus Life + In the World

High Achievements, High Expectations

Three first-generation Boston Scholars stay in the city, but join a new world

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In the slide show above, three of BU’s Boston High School Scholarship recipients reflect on big steps across town, out of their neighborhoods.

Well after 5 p.m., Rosanna Lograsso steps off the train and into oppressive August heat. She’s wrapping up the final days of her summer job at a downtown Boston law firm, racing home to prepare for freshman year at Boston University.

A graduate of East Boston High School, Lograsso (CGS’11) is a first-generation American, and the first member of her immediate family to attend college. Her mother emigrated from Uruguay, her father from Italy. She grew up a few steps from Maverick Square, in a yellow house shared with her mother, her stepfather, two older brothers, and her grandparents. “They always supported me,” she says. “They were there for every award, every recognition night.”

Lograsso was 11 the first time she visited BU. “My second cousin went here, and I decided way back then that I would go here, too,” she recalls.

She made good on that goal, and it’s not costing her a dime. She’s one of 19 students who earned a full-tuition four-year scholarship, thanks to the Boston High School Scholarship Program. Established in 1973, it is one of the country’s largest scholarship programs for urban high school graduates. This year, BU selected students from 10 schools, representing a total of nearly $3 million in tuition.

As she walks home along Brooks Street, Lograsso points to neighborhood landmarks. “I’m getting confirmed here in October,” she says, stopping at Sacred Heart Parish. “I didn’t do it in high school because the classes were so expensive, but I really want to be a godmother someday.”

She arrives at Angela’s Café and enters a cool, colorful interior. Her parents come here every morning for coffee, sometimes served by her brother, a part-time waiter. Digging into an order of chips and guacamole, she chatters about her expectations for the upcoming school year. “I’m nervous,” she admits. “I want to make a good impression on my professors.”

Outgoing and outspoken, Lograsso made plans to settle into her dorm before move-in weekend. “That way,” she says, “when everyone else is moving in, I can be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? You need help unpacking?’ I’ll make lots of friends, and then we can go to a hockey game. I bought my jersey weeks ago.”

At home, Lograsso speaks Spanish, English, and a smattering of Italian. She and her brothers often get into political debates over dinner. Her feistiness will likely come in handy in the profession she hopes to pursue: law. And her family couldn’t be more proud; her grandfather’s car now sports a BU sticker on the back window.

“He tells everyone, ‘My granddaughter got into BU,’” she says, laughing.

From Albania to South Boston

Tedi Shipcka’s family came to the United States when he was six. In Albania, his mother was a judge and his father an engineer. After immigrating to Boston, they both worked as custodians. “It’s your typical dramatic coming-to-America story,” says Shipcka (SMG’13). “They came here with nothing and struggled for a long time. They did it for my brother and me.”

Shipcka remembers little of his native home; although he’s fluent in Albanian, his thick Southie accent identifies him as Bostonian. “I love this city,” he says. “I love the noise, the people, the diversity.”

That affection helped him choose BU over Boston College. “BC has a beautiful campus,” he says, “but it’s in the suburbs. I’m going to study international business, so I wanted a place where I can immerse myself in all kinds of cultures.”

At Boston Latin Academy, he was on the varsity football, baseball, and track teams. His love of sports began in the Albanian countryside, where he played soccer with his older brother and cousins. When he moved to Boston, he found a niche playing baseball with classmates from Gate of Heaven Elementary School.

“I’m still tight with those guys, even though we all went to different high schools,” he says, strolling through Joe Moakley Park. “That’s how it is in South Boston. You never forget your best friends.”

He wishes BU had a varsity baseball team. “But I can play in an intramural league,” he says. “I’ve already talked to some of the guys, and they say they need outfielders.”

Shipcka hopes that BU’s proximity to Fenway Park will increase his chances of being hired as a ballpark vendor. “That’s my summer dream job,” he says.

His new roommate is from New Jersey. “He’d better not be a Yankees kid,” Shipcka cracks.

Jamaican roots, engineering future

An only child, Tristan Campbell is soft-spoken and reserved, with a quiet demeanor demonstrating maturity beyond his years. He and his mother emigrated from Jamaica when he was 11, and he’s the first person in his family to attend college. “There aren’t many opportunities in Jamaica,” he says. “We came here so I could have a better future.”

Before he left his home country, Campbell (ENG’13) worked on disguising his accent. “My friends accused me of conforming,” he recalls. “But I didn’t want people in the States to judge me by the way I talk. In essence, I’m still very Jamaican. I’ve never compromised myself or my heritage.”

The family settled in Dorchester, his mother juggling jobs to make ends meet. “It was a little lonely,” he says, “but I focused on school. I’ve always been very independent. My mother never had to remind me to do my homework.”

He found community in a Pentecostal church in Hyde Park and became a Christian seven years ago. “I believe in ethical limits,” he says. “You can live a free life without being wild. My faith keeps me grounded.”

Campbell knew he wanted to study engineering long before he enrolled at BU. He attended West Roxbury’s Urban Science Academy and participated in a Boston College urban ecology field studies summer program. “Engineering uses art and science to better the world,” he says. “We’re the dream makers, as one professor put it.”

He had a hard time choosing between BU and the University of Chicago; both have strong engineering programs, and both offered generous financial aid. His devotion to his mother tipped the scales. “We’re very close,” he says, “and I didn’t want her to be lonely. I didn’t want to leave her behind.”

As chance would have it, BU housing assigned him a single room on South Campus. “Of course, they put an only child in a single,” he says, rolling his eyes. “I know I’ll make friends, though.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu. Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu.

3 Comments

3 Comments on High Achievements, High Expectations

  • Anonymous on 09.08.2009 at 8:13 am

    Love this!!

  • Anonymous on 09.16.2009 at 9:00 pm

    good stories&writing!

  • Anonymous on 09.25.2009 at 4:41 pm

    great words

    This guy is going to reach his potiental in life i wish u all the best. keep your eyes on the prize and never ever forget your maker who is God.

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