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It's in the giving

The East Stroudsburg University Foundation awarded 688 scholarships in fiscal year 2021-2022, making it possible for students to focus on their studies and extracurricular activities. These opportunities would never have been possible without the kindness and generosity of ESU’s alumni and friends who selflessly provide philanthropic support. Student scholarship recipients have hopes and dreams personal to them, but one constant remains – their gratitude for the financial support they receive.

By Sara Karnish


Class of 2024

ESU Suncoast Alumni Chapter Annual Scholarship
Pennsylvania State Employee Credit Union Annual Scholarship
Third Floor Shawnee Hall Alumni Endowed Scholarship

Opportunities don’t always knock on your doorstep—sometimes you must go out and find them. Brian Akonu learned this in his time at ESU, and he shares this life lesson with his residents and fellow students.

The Bronx, N.Y., native has made the most of his time in college. He serves as an orientation leader and resident advisor, and is the current Student Government Association president. The position is demanding, but he says it’s “really cool—it’s been an interesting opportunity. I’m always on the move.” Akonu said potential students should take a closer look at ESU when considering colleges. “ESU is definitely an underrated school in terms of growth and opportunity,” he said. “There are literally opportunities knocking every day, but you have to recognize them. And always maximize and capitalize on every opportunity. Sometimes you self-sabotage and think, ‘I’m not worth it’ or ‘Talk to someone more qualified.’ Sometimes looking out for others instead of yourself actually hurts you.”

Akonu chose ESU because of the campus size and proximity to his home in Allentown. “The class sizes, the campus size ... it’s not too big, not too small, but a perfect size,” he said. His gift for speaking with people led to pursuing his major in communication with concentrations in broadcasting and public advocacy. He hopes to use his innate talent and education on a larger scale, working toward a greater good. Besides the lessons learned in the classroom, college has taught Akonu even more about himself, and life in general.

“I’m a perfectionist, and I’ve learned a paper that is 50 percent and turned in is better than a paper that is 100 percent and not turned in. I didn’t want to turn things in unless I thought they were ‘perfect’. A professor sat me down and explained things aren’t always perfect. I would also say, always do something you never thought you’d want to do. I took some of my residents to Stony Acres for team building. Many of them are from New York and Philly, and I said, ‘I know this is something you wouldn’t normally do.’ But always take the initiative and be a leader. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes.”

Akonu said his scholarship awards “make it a lot smoother in terms of financial aid and navigating loans. It’s a comfort to know the money is there. It definitely does help. I’m very appreciative.”


Class of 2024
Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management

Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau
Bob Ugucconi Endowed Scholarship
Edmund A. Strickland Endowed Book Award
Skytop Resort Endowed Scholarship

College is about finding yourself, both personally and professionally. William Been originally planned to be a teacher. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he was working at a restaurant and became more interested in the hospitality industry. “I started working with amazing people who came in after losing their jobs in restaurants. I’d always enjoyed cooking and did it a lot growing up. When I grew into doing it professionally, I fell in love. I decided to change my program. The opportunities I’ve been given are unbelievable. Networking has been the biggest thing for me,” he said.

A native of Ephrata, Pa., Been wanted to fully experience college. “I wanted to enjoy my time here—your college years are short,” he said. “I became friends with lots of people, and as I got more comfortable, I got more involved.” He joined the Theta Chi fraternity and sits on the executive board of the Hospitality Management Club.

“I try to get more involved each semester. It goes a long way—I never know where it may take me,” he said. Been faced some personal challenges with family members passing away during his time at ESU. His family is a top priority, and the losses were difficult. “They expect a lot from me, and I always try to makethem proud. Being away from home while dealing with death and family was difficult— probably the most difficult thing I’ve dealt with,” he said.

There were some bright spots during the dark times. The Skytop Resort Endowed Scholarship he received lifted some of his financial stress. “I’m very thankful for the scholarships I’ve received,” Been says. “I’m motivated to keep going. College is expensive—it’s a struggle to pay for it, and this award has helped me in so many ways. It’s nice that someone thinks I’m special enough to get an award. I was shocked when I received it—the first words out of my mouth were, ‘I don’t deserve this’, but it’s also really special. It’s my motivation to push through with school as much as I can.”

While still planning his future, Been is considering opening his own restaurant or catering company in the southern United States—a mecca for anyone who loves food. For now, he is focused on his classes and earning his degree. His advice to students? “Get involved as much as you possibly can. It’s helpful to have a relationship with your campus. If you don’t, there’s less motivation to stay involved with school.”


Class of 2023
Biology with Premed Concentration

Robert J. Shields '55 Endowed Scholarship

Choosing the right college depends on several factors. For many students, it often comes down to the financial aid package. That was the ultimate deciding factor for Anastasija Gligorevic. “It was far enough from home (New Holland, Pa.) but not too far. ESU took my dual enrollment and AP credits from high school, and I felt I could grow independently here, but the main reason came down to the financial aid,” Gligorevic said of the Robert J. Shields ’55 Endowed Scholarship she received. “As a first- generation American college student, I didn’t want to ask my parents for help. My scholarship has made things so much easier. I would say I was stressing about my financial situation and looking for jobs on campus. I can’t say how heavy the burden was until it got lifted.” As a biology major with a premed concentration, Gligorevic has more schooling ahead of her. She loves her field. “During my junior year of high school, I discovered I had a love for the sciences. This field fulfills my intellectual curiosity more than any other field. In science, you never stop learning. In biology, there are never-ending questions and research opportunities. I have a love of helping people. As a first generation American (her parents emigrated to the United States from Serbia; Gligorevic and her siblings have dual citizenship), I have a lot of respect for vulnerability and people’s safety. I picked up the premed concentration—I do plan to go into science, but in the healthcare aspect.” Gligorevic is finishing her undergrad career almost a year and a half early and plans to take a gap year before applying to medical schools. She is not sure of her medical specialty yet; that is something to think about during her gap year.

Gligorevic’s overall experience at ESU “has been super positive. 2020 was my graduation year and the pandemic. Online learning was hard in terms of the labs, but since being on campus, I felt welcomed. I got involved with the Pre-Med Club. I volunteer with cancer patients at the local hospital. There are always ups and downs with college, but I’m really sad to be graduating. I’m thankful to be here and navigating life on my own. No one from my area, and none of my friends, came to the Poconos for college. I thought it would be good to make a new start.”

It’s Gligorevic is grateful to ESU’s many donors and those involved with scholarships; she urges other students to seek out and apply for scholarships. “ESU gave me the opportunity to get ahead. My award helped me out financially.”



Class of 2022, Criminal Justice
Class of 2024, Masters in Management and Leadership

Panaia-Soloway Men's Basketball Annual Scholarship
Willard Stem '76 Men's Basketball Annual Scholarship
Dr. Richard and Mrs. Jean DeSchriver Track & Field Annual Scholarship

Peter Nevins M‘84 Endowed Scholarship for Cross Country, Track & Field

Carlos Pepin looked at many colleges, but there was something special about ESU. “I came to ESU and fell in love with the environment,” he said. It wasn’t too far from his home in Lodi, N.J., and as a three-sport athlete in high school, the university’s athletic programs were appealing.

He started his undergraduate career as undeclared, but the criminal justice program piqued his interest. “I like helping people and being engaged with the community. I felt the criminal justice program was something that fit me. I have a brother in the Marines and an uncle in the Army—the criminal justice field seemed like something similar to the military,” he said. After Pepin earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Pepin continued working toward a master’s degree at ESU. “ESU doesn’t have a master’s in criminal justice, but management and leadership is close to the criminal justice program, and it gives me the background for future leadership or management positions,” he said. Looking ahead, Pepin is considering a career as a professional basketball player (he was the 2021-22 PSAC East Men’s Basketball Athlete of the Year) or a trooper with the New Jersey State Police. “I want to be able to give back to my community—maybe as an inner-school police officer, maybe with coaching,” he said. He received the Panaia-Soloway Men’s Basketball Annual Scholarship, the Willard Stem ’76 Men’s Basketball Annual Scholarship, the Dr. Richard and Mrs. Jean DeSchriver Track & Field Annual Scholarship, and the Peter Nevins M‘84 Endowed Scholarship for Cross Country, Track & Field. A conference champion high jumper in addition to his success on the basketball court, Pepin admits it’s been a challenge balancing academics and athletics. “When I came to college, I had a few setbacks that could’ve made me stop. But it made me want to come to school even more—to make sure I was doing everything I could to set myself up for success. Throughout my four years here, I’ve met people I’ll probably know the rest of my life. My experience here has always been good.”

The financial assistance he received, along with his pursuits in athletics, are Pepin’s main motivators. “Without the scholarships, I probably wouldn’t have been able to go to school—they definitely helped me out. When you have certain scholarships and certain people pushing you, it just makes you work harder. If I’m getting a scholarship and not doing well, that’s disappointing. It makes me who I am today—someone is supporting me and making sure I have what I need.”

Pepin credits men’s basketball coach Jeff Wilson ’86 M’92 as one of his biggest mentors. “He’s taught me life skills like being on time, and how there’s a difference in being early or on time, and how first impressions mean everything. You never know who’s watching, so make sure you’re doing everything you can, the best you can. Don’t think something doesn’t matter, because it does.”


Class of 2025
Business Management

Stacy L. Perryman '97 Women's Basketball Endowed Scholarship
Kenneth and Evelyn Long Women’s Basketball Annual Scholarship

Of all the schools Isabelle Vogel visited in her college search, ESU stood out. “I loved the size of the campus, and the family atmosphere,” she recalls. A basketball player, she felt like part of the team right away. Her teammates were “inviting – I felt like the coach really believed in me and my well-being. It’s hard to find that sometimes. She truly cared for everyone,” she said. A Harrisburg native, Vogel was impressed with ESU’s business program. “Being a state school, I knew ESU would have a strong business program. I was attracted to it because you can do so much with it—it’s such a broad degree. I knew that by coming here, I would get a strong degree that could take me places,” she said.

Vogel had a fairly smooth transition to college academics. “I took honors and AP classes in high school, so transitioning to ESU wasn’t that hard. We have mandatory study halls through basketball, so I have time to sit down and do work. I have my teammates to lean on if I need support in basketball or personally. Playing at the collegiate level is a big commitment, both mentally and physically. I quickly realized you have to invest the time and manage your time.” She received the Stacy L. Perryman ’97 Women’s Basketball Endowed Scholarship and the Kenneth and Evelyn Long Women’s Basketball Annual Scholarship. “I’ve been blessed to receive a scholarship, which has allowed me to meet my teammates and coaches at ESU,” she said.

Her time at ESU has taught her to take risks. “You never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes you have to dive headfirst into something to get the most out of it. Once I knew I wanted to come here, I dove headfirst into the process. I welcomed everything with open arms and embraced everything that was coming my way,” she said. “If I didn’t have such great people around me, I wouldn’t have the same experience I’m having. I’ve truly been blessed by the people and environment here. I definitely made the right decision.”


Class of 2023
History and professional and secondary education

History and Professional and Secondary Education
Class of 1937 Endowed Scholarship
Therese M. Macaluso '87 Endowed Scholarship

College is more of a marathon than a sprint through four years for some students due to their life circumstances. This makes approaching the finish line even sweeter. Theresa Wilusz began her college journey in 2012, stepped away from her studies, relocated to Pennsylvania from New York, then returned with a renewed commitment to finish her degree a few years ago. “Originally, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. When I got to PA, I got the drive to complete my degree. I was looking around for state schools, and ESU was one of them. It seemed like the perfect spot for me. When I decided to pursue teaching, ESU’s program looked really promising. The community was great—I’d never experienced a small college town. I’d transferred to two different schools—ESU gave me the sense of purpose and community I was looking for,” Wilusz said.

Wilusz was interested in history but not sure how it fit into her professional goals. She chose education because of her job as a translator in a local school district. “It made me want to impact more kids and students in a meaningful way,” she said. “I come from a first-generation Latino community—my open arms and embraced everything that was coming my way,” she said. “If I didn’t have such great people around me, I wouldn’t have the same experience I’m having. I’ve truly been blessed by the people and environment here. I definitely made the right decision.” parents were immigrants. I didn’t see many people like me being teachers, so I said, ‘It’s my turn. No one else is going to be that person who is relatable to kids.’”

Her steady climb toward her degree has come with a few challenges. “Mental health was a big one. I started my degree right out of high school in 2012—I’ve worked on my degree for 10 years. With the financial status, it’s a slippery slope when you’re 28 and trying to balance finding and having a job, a family, and school. It’s a hard balance.” The awards she received—Class of 1937 Endowed Scholarship and Therese M. Macaluso ’87 Endowed Scholarship—made juggling it all much easier.

“I took a step back from working every day to just focusing on my schoolwork. Now my biggest hurdles are to complete my capstone classes in order to graduate. One thing I’ve learned is it’s okay to take a step back. The people around you at ESU—professors, other students—are willing to work with you if you communicate. That’s key. Having a sense of community is so important, so don’t isolate yourself. If there’s a lot happening in your life, it’s okay to step back, then okay to push on. Don’t worry about failing. You’ll succeed— there’s no time limit on success.”