June 14, 2019
NEW BEDFORD — Sierra Beaulac is a triplet. And thanks to the Jacobs family and the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, her family doesn't have to bear the entire burden of sending three kids to college at once, she said.
Beaulac, a Global Learning Charter Public School graduate, was one of five students Friday to receive $35,000 Jacobs Scholarships to pursue studies in the STEM fields. She will attend UMass Dartmouth to major in biology with pre-med advising.
As a triplet, her brothers were her first supporters, she said. They still are, she said, but as she got older, she found herself surrounded by a new support group of empowering women who introduced her to the world of STEM.
Without them, she wouldn't be able to combine her passion for science and working with children.
"We truly are the next generation of world changers," Beaulac said of herself and the other four recipients of Jacobs scholarships, which support the next group of STEM leaders.
Beaulac was one of five students who each received a $35,000 scholarship Friday afternoon. The others are Rachel Pereira, New Bedford High School's valedictorian who will attend Wellesley College to study chemistry; Liang Xu of New Bedford High School, who will attend UMass Amherst to study computer science; Meiling Zhao, who ranks second in her class at New Bedford High School, and will go on to Georgia Tech for computer science; and Emily Lemieux, salutatorian of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School's medical assisting program, who will attend Hofstra University for neuroscience with a pre-med track.
They all thanked both Dr. Irwin Jacobs (New Bedford High graduate, Class of 1950) and Joan Jacobs, who met while studying at Cornell University, for their generosity in helping them to achieve their academic goals and take advantage of the other opportunities that come with it. Irwin and Joan attended the event at the Whaling Museum to personally hand the students their checks.
Along with other officials, Joan asked the scholars to "please come back and help out this wonderful city."
Irwin told students that there's always more to be learned not only in their own fields, but other fields, and that they have to be open to change.
Katherine Vaz Gomes, a 2016 Jacobs Scholarship recipient and a rising senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute double majoring in chemical engineering and professional writing, knows quite well what this opportunity means.
Last year, she spent three months working in Melbourne, Australia as an audience insights intern at Scienceworks, a branch of Australia's largest public museum organization.
"I think it's a great testimony to the incredible value of the scholarship that myself, a young girl from New Bedford, was able to inspire a love of science to inner city teenagers on the other side of the world," she said, crediting the Jacobs.
And with that, she had some advice for the five college-bound students who were about to receive large checks: "You're not going to college just to study."
She reminded students that they're more than the grades on their transcripts or the credentials on their resumes. She told students they should be committed to their studies, but also encouraged them to travel, meet people and try new things.
Several high school graduates and past Jacobs scholars stood up to share what they've already accomplished and what they aspire to do going forward.
Donna Khalife was the first recipient of the scholarship in 2001. She studied at Boston University, got an MBA from Harvard and founded Surprise Ride, a popular children's subscription company, with her younger sister about six years ago. The company was acquired by Fat Brain Toys about six months ago.
"This scholarship changed my life. I would not have been able to go to college without it," Khalife said.
Now, she's working on a book to help women, minorities and "underdogs" work on their business ideas and launch their own companies, and help them dream big, she said.
"You never know where life will take you," she said. "With people like Dr. and Mrs. Jacobs, it can take you really far. It can take you to places you never imagined possible."