Two $3,000 each, Louis and Nellie Skalny Scholarships Awarded

For the past nineteen years, the Louis Skalny Foundation has donated a grant for the Louis & Nellie Skalny Scholarships for Polish Studies. The American Council for Polish Culture (ACPC) is the administrator in awarding the scholarships. The Committee: Evelyn Bachorski-Bowman, M.S.; Ursula Brodowicz, M.S.; Ange Iwanczyk, M.S.; Marion Winters, M.A.; Deborah M. Majka, M.S., Chair

[Margaret Naczek picture]

Margaret Naczek

Margaret Naczek is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Polish Language and Culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She states in her essay that Polish language and culture not simply a path of study for her, it has shaped her entire upbringing. She was born in Milwaukee to a Polish American family and grew up hearing Polish being spoken between her mother and aunt. Her father was born here and had grandparents who were born in Poland. The family upheld the Polish holiday traditions and Margaret began dancing with the Syrenka Polish Folk Dance Ensemble of Milwaukee at the age of five and continued through grade school, middle school, and high school.

Margaret chose to study at UW Madison though had to leave the Syrenka dance group after 15 years though plans to return to it. She states that she developed great pride in Polish culture through dance and that it is part of her identity. She is passionate about the beauty of folk dance, gained confidence, poise, and developed leadership skills. She was the first high school student to be appointed instructor and choreographer of the children's group. She remains the social media director of Syrenka, having been appointed for the position in 2013.

Margaret was certain that she would study Polish in her academic career due to her strong foundation in Polish heritage and her ties to Polish culture through folk dance.

She began her Polish studies in high school through a county youth program and then took first year Polish at the university and then before her sophomore year she studied in Poland for five weeks at the Saint John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin and was awarded the highest marks for her studies. Following her studies in Lublin, Margaret continued enrolling in courses towards a major in Polish. She is currently a double major in Polish Language and Culture and in Journalism, specifically studying strategic communication and reporting. In addition, she has served as treasurer for the Polish Student Association at the University since 2014.

Professor Ewa Miernowska, senior lecturer at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UW Madison writes in recommending Margaret for the Skalny Scholarship, "At several occasions Margaret proved to be passionate about Polish culture, history and language" and that "she takes very seriously her connections to Poland, the homeland of her ancestors."

Margaret says her goal is to become fluent in Polish, she states the she chose to study Polish language primarily due to her love of Polish culture that developed over the years as well as wanting to speak with her family both here and in Poland. "It gives me immense joy to be able to speak with my mother in her native language and connect through the Polish language." Aside from her current studies, Margaret will be attending the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

Following college Margaret plans to use to Polish professionally as well. She currently has a blog about Polish culture and traditions and in 2010 she had a poem and article published in a multicultural magazine. Henry Kosarzycki, president of the Syrenka Children's & Youth Polish Folk Dance Ensemble writes of Margaret that "her accomplishments are an amazing testimony to her motivation and intelligence all fueled by her heritage and cultural passion." In his letter he also writes that "she is someone who will make a significant impact and dedicate all her energy to any and every opportunity."

Margaret's plans for her career is to be able to live in Poland as a foreign correspondent or in communications possibly at a company. She would also consider moving to Chicago to pursue these goals.

(source: Ursula Brodowicz, 2016)

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Aleksandra Kurzydlowski

I had the opportunity to speak with Professor Anna Frajlich-Zajac, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer at Columbia University at the Polish Consulate General in New York and mentioned to her that Aleksandra Kurzydlowski, who had taken several courses with Professor Zajac and for whom Professor Zajac had written a letter of recommendation, was to be a recipient of the Skalny scholarship.

Professor Zajac was overjoyed and shared that she had observed Aleksandra's dedication to Polish studies. Professor Zajac added, "I would like to state with deep conviction that Aleksandra Kurzydlowski is a very intelligent, motivated and inventive student with genuine focus on Polish studies and subjects." She also noted that Aleksandra's involvement in Polish studies outside the classroom was incredibly impressive.

Aleksandra Kurzydlowski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with a Minor in Slavic and East European Regional Studies at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York. She is a participant in the Athena Scholars Program aimed at preparing students for leadership positions and a recipient of a merit-based scholarship for undergraduate students of Polish descent pursuing a degree in economics from the Kosciuszko Foundation.

"Aleks" entered college as a Polish heritage speaker with no formal education in Polish, and after one year, her language skills allowed her to work at a Polish law firm here in the USA. In 2015, she was a representative of the European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw, regarding multi-lateral negotiations and Poland's EU Integration and Transition. That same summer in Warsaw, Aleksandra collaborated with economists, journalists, politicians and students to conduct conferences regarding the economic crisis in Greece, EU Membership, the Anti-System movement in the EU and the Presidential elections in Poland with the Adam Smith Centre for Economics.

Geraldine Balut-Coleman, Ph.D., who has known Aleksandra since her freshman year at Loyola Academy, a Jesuit College Preparatory High School, located in Willmette, IL, describes her as, "geniuine, smart, humorous. She is charismatic, wonderfully diligent, cheerful. She is a gem!"

Aleksandra also has a lovely soprano voice and may often be found singing the American and Polish anthems at many Polonian cultural events like the Pulaski Parade, the Polish American Association Gala and the Polish Museum of America.

(source: Debbie Majka, 2016)