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DeMaso Scholarships encourage Hispanics to become teachers

April 7, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Sisters Dora and Delia "Dee" DeMaso of Battle Creek, Mich., have established the first endowed scholarship at Western Michigan University aimed at encouraging Hispanic American students to pursue careers in teaching.

"There's a huge need for teachers of diverse backgrounds to match the diversity in our classrooms," says Jodie Palmer, director of diversity in the WMU College of Education. "Our minority students, in particular, need financial support and encouragement to pursue careers as teachers.

"If you could witness, as I have, the difference this kind of scholarship makes in encouraging a promising student to stick with their dream of becoming a teacher, you would understand how very valuable and appreciated this gift from Dee and Dora DeMaso is."

The DeMaso Family Scholarships will be awarded to first-year students, with preference given to students of Hispanic American heritage. The scholarships may be renewed annually, provided the recipient maintains an acceptable grade point average and continues to pursue a degree in teaching. The first scholarships will be presented in about three years, when funding for the endowment is completed. The amount of the awards will be determined at that time.

Both Dee and Dora DeMaso are graduates of Western Michigan University and former teachers in the Battle Creek Public Schools. Dee earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish, teaching certification and a master's degree, all from WMU. Dora earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in elementary education from WMU.

Dora DeMaso, who has taught internationally in Venezuela and Germany, began her teaching career with the Battle Creek Public Schools in the late 1950s. She describes the schools in Battle Creek in those days as very progressive, because few schools at that time would consider a significant commitment to teaching Spanish, especially at the elementary level.

"I have taught Spanish at all levels--elementary, junior high and high school--and have always had a great love for the language and culture," says Dora DeMaso. "It is important that we encourage Hispanic students to consider careers as teachers, because we need role models for the growing number of Hispanics in our K-12 schools."

The DeMasos are active in the Battle Creek community. Their work with the local Hispanic population includes helping Hispanic children master English and encouraging Hispanic senior citizens to use the services of the Burnham Brook Senior Center.

In 2003, Dee DeMaso received the Senior Citizen of the Year Award, sponsored by the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging. For the past eight years, the DeMasos have devoted much of their energies to Burnham Brook Senior Center, holding USO events, helping World War II veterans earn a high school diploma, and registering seniors to vote. The sisters note that they have help many seniors in their 70s and 80s register to vote for the first time in their lives.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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