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Announcing 2020 Scholarship Winners

ASLA Connecticut is pleased to announce its winners of the 2020 Karen Ann Shopis-Fox Memorial Scholarship and the Landscape Architecture Environmental Stewardship Scholarship for High School Seniors.

Ely-Anna Becerril, of Bridgeport, is our recipient of the 2020 Karen Ann Shopis-Fox Memorial Scholarship. Ely-Anna, who will be a senior this fall in the University of Connecticut's Landscape Architecture program, says she grew up with a strong fascination with nature. During high school she was part of Groundwork Bridgeport, a non-profit educational program for youth that strives to make Bridgeport more sustainable and resilient. She also worked at Green Village Initiative’s one-acre farm in Bridgeport, which grows fresh produce for the region. It was within these experiences where her interest for design and community planning started to bud.

Starting as a Natural Resources major, Ely-Anna says she's grateful that she "stumbled upon" the Landscape Architecture Department at UConn, which turns out to be the perfect field to integrate all of her interests. "Landscape architecture combines all of my passions — science, nature, art — in such a unique way," she says. "I love being able to express my creativity and create spaces that cater to communities."

"Landscape architecture has given me a newfound passion and purpose not only for my studies but also for life in general," she says. She is particularly passionate about urban design and helping to transform the old standards and paradigms of how cities and neighborhoods are constructed.

"My ultimate goal is to take the skills and talents that I have developed back to my home town of Bridgeport, and help design spaces that are enjoyable, sustainable, and green," she says. "I’d like to be a part of creating change in the city."

The aspect of design she enjoys the most is how projects have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of people. "Spaces heal us physically and emotionally, and this is what makes this field very special to me."

Natalie Miniutti, adjunct instructor in the landscape architecture program at UConn, says that Ely-Anna is one of the most passionate students in the program. "She works very hard to develop her drawing skills and is a strong leader in her class who is always very supportive of her classmates. She is highly motivated to excel in the program," she says.

Ely-Anna is also recipient of S/L/A/M Collaborative's Kyle C. Slocum Memorial Scholarship and is looking forward to developing her skills further in the firm's Internship program this summer.

Elisabeth Helmin, of Simsbury, is the 2020 recipient of the Landscape Architecture Environmental Stewardship Scholarship for High School Seniors. A 2019 graduate of Ethel Walker School, Liz will enter the freshman class at the University of Connecticut this fall.

Liz's interest in landscape architecture was sparked in part by a junior year trip to Texas to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. There, Liz and 13 classmates spackled, painted, and installed flooring...but her favorite activity was laying down sod. "Speaking with the families was very rewarding," she says, and reminded her of how grateful she is for her education and the opportunity to give back to the community. She enjoyed the trip so much that she returned the following year as team leader for her school.

After graduating, Liz took a post-grad year to study at Eastbourne College in East Sussex, U.K. As Matthew Clover, Head of Design and Technology at Eastbourne says, it was there that Liz "immediately made it very clear that she wished to pursue a career in landscape architecture." To that end she took courses in fine arts, photography and selected Design and Technology as one of her pathways, undertaking what is known in the U.K. as an Extended Project Qualification, demanding that students study independently, think analytically, pursue in-depth research, and be creative.

Liaising with internal staff, the college’s architects, and the director of groundskeeping, Liz produced detailed proposals for an area that links the newest building on campus with its science block and main entrance. "Liz’s proposals create a vibrant, multi-functional space that can be used by students to meet, read, study, or just converse," says Mr. Clover.

Liz had the opportunity to pitch her design proposals to a body called the Arnold Embellishers, a society set up by the college many years ago to embellish aspects of the college. After presenting her work and several proposals, they offered to fund the majority of the project. "Liz has shown great determination, enthusiasm, passion, and drive in making all of this happen."

While her year abroad at the college was cut short due to the coronavirus, Liz hopes to continue working on the project in the coming years.

"While my involvement in Habitat enhanced my passion for landscape architecture, my opportunity to travel abroad really solidified my attraction to the profession," she says. "These opportunities allowed me to continue my passion for community service as well as give me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to broaden my horizons, meet new people, build my portfolio, and create something beautiful in benefit of others."

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