Lifetime of Caring Inspires Nursing Scholarship

Michele DiCapua was a nurse devoted to caring for others. Her daughter and granddaughter are continuing her legacy.

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Michele DiCapua devoted her life to taking care of people. For 48 years she was a Registered Nurse, working first in hospitals, home care and geriatrics before eventually becoming a school nurse in the New Haven Public Schools. She was also the primary caregiver for her son Daniel, who was born with a congenital heart defect and learning disabilities. Leaning on her nursing background, Michele tirelessly advocated for Daniel as they navigated a complicated health plan involving seven open-heart surgeries.

"She lived her life for everybody but herself," says Tara DiCapua, her daughter. "She dedicated her entire career to taking care of other people both personally and professionally."

Tara and her daughter, Jordyn Zembrowski, are honoring Michele's legacy of giving back with the Michele DiCapua Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship fund, created at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, will benefit a senior graduating New Haven Public Schools who will be attending Gateway Community College to pursue a career in nursing.

"We all attended New Haven Public Schools," Tara says of her family. "This will honor her since she devoted her life to taking care of students in New Haven," says Tara.

Michele spent the last two decades as a school nurse for many different New Haven schools including Barnard, Mauro Sheriden, Ross Woodward, Fair Haven Middle School, New Haven Academy and Cooperative Arts and Humanities (Co-op) High School.

Michele's work and the experience of growing up with Daniel inspired Tara to follow her mother's example. After she graduated from Sound School, Tara studied to become a nurse. She is now a clinical coordinator at Yale New Haven Hospital. Tara's daughter, Jordyn, was similarly inspired by Michele and became a certified Emergency Medical Technician. A New Haven Academy graduate, Jordyn is studying to become a teacher and plans to come back to her hometown after college and teach in the New Haven Public Schools. Tara's son, Joseph, graduated from Co-op High School and now works with grieving families as he pursues his degree in mortuary science.

"We are continuing the legacy of my mother's lifetime of caring for others," says Tara.

Michele's interest in nursing was sparked at the end of high school when she worked as a secretary in a hospital pediatrics unit. Her manager noticed Michele's kindness with the families who came to her desk and told her that she would make a good nurse. The manager arranged for Michele to tour the nursing program at Norwalk Community College, where Michele enrolled and ended up earning her degree.

In addition to her nursing work, Michele was active in her union, participating in contract negotiations and advocating policy changes. Even after she was diagnosed with cancer in June 2018, Michele went back to work at the start of the school year and continued working as she received chemotherapy treatments.

"She was a hard worker," says Tara. "She worked until her very last day."

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Michele DiCapua Memorial Scholarship Fund