Progreso Latino Fund 2023 Founders Scholarship Awards

Metropolitan Business Academy graduate Gwyneth Perez-Perez and Wilbur Cross graduate Alvin Diaz each received the $3,000 Founding Funders Scholarship for 2023.

Gwyneth Perez-Perez

Gwyneth Perez
Gwyneth Perez-Perez has played squash for Squash Haven since the fifth grade.

Gwyneth Perez-Perez is a community volunteer and gifted student athlete. In her Fair Haven neighborhood, she helps set up and break down the annual Fair Haven Family Stroll and Festival, and she regularly picks up trash along the streets and nearby parks. In her family, she helps her father with his cleaning business. And as she embarks for college, she plans to study psychology in a pre-med track at Connecticut College. She eventually wants to help people with their mental health.

“I’m a person who likes to help out people and make my neighborhood a better place,” Perez-Perez says.

Perez-Perez grew up in the Fair Haven neighborhood with her parents and three siblings — an older sister and brother and a younger sister. In addition to receiving the Progreso Latino Fund Founders Scholarship, Perez-Perez is a New Haven Promise Scholar.

Perez-Perez also takes advantage of opportunities that come her way. In middle school, she attended a demonstration by Squash Haven, the sports, academic enrichment and college preparatory program. She was fascinated by the game and signed up to join.

“I discovered that squash was my hidden talent,” she says.

She soon caught the attention of the coaches and became a top player for the program and in the region. Competing in squash tournaments around the northeast, Perez-Perez met and became friends with a wide network of student athletes. She also drew the interest of college coaches and was successfully recruited by Connecticut College.

"Gwyneth is steady and steadfast, and couples her authentically kind demeanor with an intrinsic competitiveness. Gwyneth leads on the court with her willingness to define and then push her own limits, and to compete passionately with grace and respect," says Christi Boscarino-Elligers, Program Director for Squash Haven.

Perez-Perez values her Metropolitan Business Academy school community, which had to overcome the major disruption of COVID-19. Students were initially quiet and kept to themselves when they first returned to hybrid classes, Perez-Perez says, but they began opening up once school was back in person full time. They eventually bonded from the experience.

“We are all kind of like a family. There was no conflict over there,” Perez-Perez says. “All we did was work together to get things done our senior year and make the best memories we could have.”

Alvin Diaz

Alvin Diaz is an avid lover of music and sports. He plans to continue pursuing both passions as a student at the University of New Haven, where he intends to major in music and sound recording.

“I appreciate learning more than just about the artist who made a song. I like learning about the producers, the songwriters and the ways things were put together, to have a complete and utter depth of understanding of the piece,” Diaz says, adding, “My love of sports will probably also drive me to some sort of career in sports management or sports communication."

A Wilbur Cross graduate, Diaz played in the jazz band all four years and developed a deep appreciation for music that was inspired in part by his middle school band teacher at Clinton Avenue School, Doreen Canzanella.

“She probably had the most effect on my life, second to my mom,” Diaz says.

Diaz grew up in the Fair Haven neighborhood with his mom and older brother. In addition to playing music and watching sports, he enjoys running. Diaz is also a New Haven Promise Scholar.

Coming of age during the COVID-19 lockdown and its aftermath, Diaz says, was terrible from a social perspective. But shortly after the lockdown ended, it fueled a period of intense musical creativity. A metal guitarist, Diaz remembers days when he would develop 10 to 12 separate ideas for sections to songs.

“As a musician who is very in tune with his feelings and who uses those to give rise to his music, I had never been more inspired in my life,” says Diaz. “It wasn’t like I was sitting down and analyzing each idea. They just came out with every note I played, every string I struck, every chord I would choose to play just led into something and led here and led there and created this and spawned that. The next thing you’d know, I’d have eight ideas after three hours of playing.”