Written by Denise Trezza, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 21 May 2014 00:00
The famous words from Forest Witcraft’s Within My Power are ringing true for retired Oyster Bay High School teacher Rosemarie Colvin: “100 years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the type of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”
Colvin is affectionately remembered and beloved by scores of former students, one of whom attributes so much of her success to Colvin’s influence that she felt compelled to honor her in a very significant way. The Rosemarie Colvin Scholarship has been set up in perpetuity for first generation U.S. high school or college students attending Wharton or Wharton/UPenn, providing an opportunity for these students to attend college while honoring a teacher who made so many dreams possible for her students.
While Colvin was an ESL teacher at Oyster Bay High School, she acted as mentor and life coach for many of her students and is most fondly remembered for her unwavering dedication that went far beyond the classroom. Many of her students were recent immigrants who arrived in the US without much knowledge of English or American culture. They found in Colvin not only a teacher who would help them become proficient in English, but one that would expose them to the best of American culture.
One student who immigrated to the United States during middle school said, “We were new immigrants. We didn’t know much about the country at all. My parents were hardworking people, we tried to assimilate into the society, find our way around and make ends meet on a daily basis. She opened her home to us. She took us to our first Broadway show and many of us experienced our first Thanksgiving dinner at her house.”
The college application process can be grueling for high school students. For students with limited English, the process is all the more daunting. Many immigrants to the US are motivated and hardworking with parents who value education. Yet, as one student states, “it’s possible to get really lost here if you don’t have the proper support. Mrs. Colvin was a catalyst for me and many others, because of all of the support she provided."
Colvin not only helped her students with their applications, but she once drove a student down to the UPenn for an admissions interview.
“I didn’t think it was any big deal,” says Colvin. “But the admissions directors couldn’t get over the fact that a teacher from Long Island would spend the day driving a student to her interview. That’s how we do things in life. Small things that turn out to be big.”
Although she is retired from the school system, Colvin hasn’t stopped working. According to Adolfo Zepeda, programs coordinator of the Hispanic Cultural Center of Oyster Bay, “Rosemarie has been a huge supporter of our organization. She always has the time to help us review and write grants. Recently, she met with some high school students.” Colvin discussed their options for college and reviewed the financial aid procedures with them.
Luz Torres, board president of the cultural center, says, “She does everything for us. She writes the proposals, she goes to training, she helps with our programs, and is always willing to work for justice.”
And at 80 years old, Colvin is still opening her home to others. Most recently, she hosted 17 foreign exchange students so they could attend events in NYC.
“There are many unsung heroes in this society,” said one former student. “There are many other Rosemarie Colvins in the world and I would like all the teachers to know that they can make a difference in children’s lives and that is a beautiful thing.”