Kellenberg Memorial High School graduate and Lynbrook resident Patrick LaRosa will attend Villanova University this fall, and thanks to the Francis J. Becker Scholarship, he was awarded $4,000 toward his education.
“He’s an outstanding young man,” Hilary Becker, grandson of the late Francis, said of Patrick. “I’m always impressed, really, by the screening committee. The way they’re always able to come up with these wonderful young people to award the scholarship to.”
The scholarship is awarded to a student in the 4th district each year. It is named for former state Assemblyman and U.S. Congressman Francis Becker. Becker graduated from a business school in Rockville Centre in the early 1900s. He lived through the Great Depression and was successful despite growing up in a family that did not have a lot of money. He was a World War I veteran and died in 1981. “He never stopped believing in the American dream,” Hilary Becker said.
Students that earn the scholarship each year are selected after an extensive screening process that includes the analyzing of grades and SAT and ACT scores. The candidates also go through a rigorous interview process, during which they are asked to dress nicely and are judged on how they present themselves. Money for the scholarship is raised through donations from local businesses and friends of the foundation. Hilary Becker expressed his gratitude to everyone who donates money to the cause.
LaRossa was awarded the scholarship at a special ceremony at Angelina’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in June. On his application for the honor, he noted that he plans to study civil engineering at Villanova.
“I have always had a passion for designing and building structures,” LaRosa wrote. “But, a larger reason [for studying engineering] is because of the finished product. … I can see how it helps out people in their everyday lives. It would brighten my heart to see people drive, work or even live in something that I had constructed.”
The foundation has been granting college scholarships to local high school seniors annually since 1958. Thomas Olivera, a captain of the United States Army Medical Corps., received the honor in 2008 and recently sent a letter to the foundation expressing his gratitude.
“I consider my education the greatest gift I have ever received,” Olivera wrote, “and have never forgotten the faith your foundation placed in me as a promising young man with the desire to become a physician. The memory of your award brings a smile to my face, not only because of the support it provided, but because my scholarly efforts were reinforced.”
After receiving the scholarship, Olivera earned a degree in pre-medical and biological sciences at Columbia University, and then attended the Boston University School of Medicine, where he graduated with distinction before getting his job in the Army. He now serves as an emergency medicine resident physician at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.
Becker said that the letter touched him and members of the foundation. “It’s so overwhelming,” he said. “When I got that letter, I was just blown away. I really was humbled and very touched, and so proud of the organization.”