The Department of Spanish & Portuguese is delighted to announce this year’s Marsha Gray Ehrlich Scholarship Fund recipients. Marsha Gray Ehrlich was a former graduate student in our Department, and an inspirational teacher during her long professional career. She received a Master of Arts, with a major in Spanish, on August 17, 1968. She carried the preparation she received from our Department and her joy for Spanish to New York, where she taught Spanish and Latin in public schools for more than thirty years, before retiring in 2002. Ms. Ehrlich carried her love and passion for languages inside and outside the classroom, inspiring colleagues and family alike.
In the words of Manuel Cerda, the first of three recipients, “Community service is an exercise in partnership and in the acknowledgement of privilege. In order to engage actively in community service, one needs to recognize and, exercise their privileged standing so as to create space for those with less opportunity. It is by creating this space that a community can express its needs and thus work together towards the benefit of all. Therefore, it’s easy to conclude that the importance in community service lies in the connections we make. It is by these connections that we learn from one another, that we breathe life into ideas and perspectives different from our own. I sincerely believe we are only as strong as our weakest link, but rather than cut the chain and divide ourselves, it is much better to clear the rust: it is much better to heal. The space that community services provides does this.”
Anna Gorman, our second recipient, had this to say, “I admire Marsha’s legacy as a UW-Madison student who was driven by passion to help others, desire to practice the Spanish language, and appreciation for different cultures. As a current senior at UW-Madison pursuing my Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Spanish, as well as a certificate in Gender and Women’s studies, I feel as though my desire to combine my interests in community service and multicultural learning have influenced the course of my undergraduate studies.”
Jesús Del Toro, our final recipient, writes, “I am a first generation Latino male from Aurora, Illinois. A city where Latino students often do not dare to dream. I am one of the few students who dared to dream for myself, my family, and my community. I understood that I could not change my circumstances, but I could change my attitude. I knew that I had to take initiative because I recognized that the odds were against me. I come from an immigrant family from Mexico whose sacrifices serve as enough motivation for me to propel forward in higher education. The odds have always been stacked against them, however, they still dared to dream and dream big. They challenged me to do the same: seek new opportunities, learn as much as possible, and become an advocate for my community.”
Upon learning of his selection he added, “The Marsha Gray Scholarship reinforces my belief that ‘en la unión está la fuerza’. This motto was first inculcated by my mother and later enriched by my fraternity’s pillars. It has guided many of the community organizing and community service initiatives I have pursued during my undergraduate career and it will continue to do so for the rest of my life.”
We congratulate these students on their sustained commitment to community service.