By Cindy Zomar, Education Coordinator
MARLBOROUGH – It is often said that lightning does not strike in the same place twice, but this year the Department of Defense SMART Scholarships landed twice in the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High (AVRTH) alumni pool.
Two recent graduates, Brianna Leigh Williams, 2019, from Hudson, and Mathew Marinelli, 2018, from West Boylston, were both notified recently that they had been selected as recipients of the 2021 awards.
On average, fewer than 15 percent of applicants are chosen.
It wasn’t a coincidence that both applied, however. Both students had been part of the AVRTH robotics team and remained in touch after graduation.
Williams is attending UMass Lowell (UML), while Marinelli chose to go to school at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
Dr. Kavitha Chandra, the Assistant Dean of Engineering at UML, knew of Williams’ interest in working with veterans in need of prosthetics someday, so she encouraged her to apply. Knowing that Marinelli was facing huge college tuition bills, Williams conveyed the details to him, and he also applied.
They never expected that both of them would be chosen.
Paid internships and full-time employment
Providing full tuition for up to five years, the SMART (Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation) scholarship also provides summer internships with a stipend and guaranteed full-time employment with the Department of Defense (DoD) after graduation.
It is funded by the DoD, serving as a combined educational and workforce development opportunity for bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. students to gain technical skills in critical STEM fields. According to its website, the program aims to support the national security mission of DoD to attract, inspire and develop exceptional STEM talent across the education continuum and meet defense technological challenges. For each year of their paid tuition award, Williams and Marinelli must commit to one year of employment with the DoD.
Williams will intern and eventually be employed at the U.S. Army DEVCOM Armaments Center in Watervliet Arsenal, New York, while Marinelli will be closer to home at the DEVCOM Soldier Center in Natick.
Following the career path begun in high school
Williams is enrolled in a dual major of Biomedical Engineering with a pathway to Biomechanics and Biology with a pathway to Biotechnology. She has almost completed her minor in Uteach. Her chosen technical field at AVRTH was the Biotechnology program.
Marinelli chose the Drafting and Design Technology program in high school and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering followed by a master’s degree in Engineering Management.
“I want to thank all the teachers I’ve had over my lifetime who believed in me, no matter how high I set my goals,” Williams said. “And [I want] to encourage everyone to jump on opportunities and apply for everything that comes your way like I did.”