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By Lois Thomson 

The life of a dedicated, hard-working mother is being honored in the form of a grant to benefit female students in Monessen. The family of Stella Stachura Sowal has established a scholarship through Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC) to revere their mother's strong work ethic.

Linzi
Linzi Troilo-Dalfonso, was the first recipient of the Stella Stachura Sowal Scholarship.

As daughter Vickie Oles explained, her mother, who was born in this country in 1913 to Polish immigrants, had to drop out of school after 8th grade when her father died. Her day then started at 5:30 a.m., working at a job that paid one-fifth the wages of union plants because that was all that was available to women with a limited education.

"Staying out of debt and helping her daughters get an education were priorities," Oles said. "She encouraged us to do our homework, use good grammar, and get more education or training. Working our way through college and scholarships enabled my sister to become a teacher/principal, and I became a social worker."

For that reason, the family decided to use money left from an education savings Stella had set up for her grandchildren, and donate it to WCCC. 

"Having some financial help seemed like a good way to help someone get additional education or training, even if they started with one or two courses; or it might enable a current student to continue her education,” Oles said.

The scholarship is available to any female Monessen resident who is a high school senior, or a full- or part-time student at WCCC. Oles said state aid isn't an option for part-time students, but the family wanted to make this available to anyone, including "non-traditional" students, e.g., those who are seeking a degree later in life, or a working mother who is not able to go full-time. Everything is handled through WCCC.  Applicants are asked to answer three essay questions regarding research skills, challenges they face, and how a scholarship would help them to reach their goals. The scholarship office then sends the family appropriate applications to review. Two scholarships are offered each year, one for the spring semester and one for fall.

The first one was awarded this year to Linzi Troilo-Dalfonso, who is graduating this spring from WCCC. She said she was "so excited" to receive the award because "it took such a burden off me. I was able to use some of the money to buy a new laptop to complete the semester.  It was really just meant to be." Troilo-Dalfonso will receive her degree in photography, and, as an historian for the Monessen Amphitheater Committee, she said she is thrilled to be able to continue her documentation. "I love giving back to Monessen."

Oles is also pleased. "It is fitting to honor our mother by helping other females in their efforts to obtain an education,” she said.

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