Four CCSU students receive 2020 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award

Published on Friday, 8 May 2020 16:30
Written by Catherine Shen


NEW BRITAIN – Even during a pandemic, there was no stopping Central Connecticut State University from celebrating four students who received the 2020 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awards from the Connecticut States Colleges and Universities Foundation.

“We are always so proud of our Barnard Scholars,” said Zulma Toro, CCSU president. “Not only are they top academic performers with multiple talents, but they are good citizens with a strong sense of community. They leave this University motivated by a real desire to make the world a better place.”

Lea Fontaine, Jennifer DePalma, Brenden Griffith and Hannah Rodrigues will be recognized for their achievement later this year at a ceremony on campus, if conditions permit. The university is operating remotely through the end of the spring 2020 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and campus is currently closed to students, faculty and staff.

“Since we won’t have an opportunity to celebrate this spring, we are planning an event for late summer or early fall with the hope they will be able to return to campus for the event,” Toro said.

The Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award is named for Henry Barnard, an influential Connecticut educator who served as the state’s first superintendent of schools and as principal of what later became Central Connecticut State University from 1851 to 1855. Barnard became the first U.S. commissioner of education in 1867. Every spring, the CSCU Foundation selects 12 outstanding seniors from Connecticut’s four state universities as Barnard Award recipients.

Each of the four students are involved in several different disciplines. Jennifer DePalma from New Milford will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in English, elementary education. With a current GPA of 4.0 GPA, she has landed on the president’s and dean’s list every semester since 2016.

DePalma also managed to balance her studies and student-teaching responsibilities with a two-year stint on the CCSU women’s soccer team, and ran for a year on the cross country and track and field team. Going forward, DePalma is considering a graduate degree in teacher leadership on a literacy track and would like to become the leader of literacy instruction for a grade-level academic team.

Lea Fontaine of Wolcott is in the honors program and majoring in nursing with a minor in psychology. During her first year in the nursing program, she completed her honors thesis, “The Value of Emotional Intelligence in Nursing Practice: A Call for Change,” while taking two required courses with laboratory sections. She attended W.F. Kaynor Technical High School in Waterbury to earn her Nursing Assistant Certification, and at the same time, she volunteered at several hospitals, clinics and nonprofit organizations.

When she graduates with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, she hopes to work as a registered nurse then return to school to become an adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner.

Brenden Griffith of Wethersfield, a biomolecular sciences major, plans to continue his studies in the field at the doctoral level. As a laboratory assistant for the CCSU Department of Biomolecular Science, he already has contributed to and presented research at national and international academic conferences. Griffith has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester since fall 2016, and is frequently on the President’s List.

Outside of the lab, Griffith is a member of CCSU’s Student Organ Donation Advocates, the Pre-Health Society and the Biology Club. He also volunteers several programs that emphasizes on middle school and high school students, such as UConn Health Center’s Great Explorations program and the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Program.

Hannah Rodrigues of Wallingford is also already contributing to research in her field. When she graduates with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychological Science, she will have presented research at three different conferences on two occasions each. She is minoring in Gerontology and plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology with a concentration in neuroscience and aging. She hopes to contribute to research and treatment with older adults with neurocognitive disorders.

Rodrigues has earned several academic and service awards, including the 2019 Shanette Washington Outstanding Service Award for her work as vice president of the Psychology Club and as a peer tutor and the 2019 Outstanding Research Award in Psychological Science. She is also a member of Sigma Phi Omega, the National Honor Society for Gerontology and the Golden Key International Honor Society.

Contact Catherine Shen at 860-801-5093 or

Posted in Newington Town Crier, CCSU on Friday, 8 May 2020 16:30. Updated: Friday, 8 May 2020 16:33.