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Sykes Family Scholarship

Suzanne Sykes and her late husband, Donald, founded Marpac Industries Inc. in 1967. Marpac manufactured custom plastic containers for specialty chemicals, with offices in Waldwick, NJ and manufacturing sites in New York, California, Oklahoma and Ireland. After selling the company in 1998, Sue enrolled at Ramapo as a returning adult student. She earned her degree in American Studies in 2006 and remains very active with her alma mater.

Of her experience at Ramapo, she says, “The encouragement of the faculty was the probably the most surprising and most meaningful for me. I had some initial concern about how I would be accepted by other students, but it had not occurred to me how the professors might feel about an older student. I was put at ease and never felt uncomfortable. On several occasions, professors told me that they appreciated my presence in their classes, because it changed the dynamics and brought fresh perspectives. Needless to say, I was delighted.”

Sue was a volunteer counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), which provides small business mentoring and training, and is a former member of the Alumni Advisory Board of the School of Humanities and Global Studies. She now devotes her volunteer hours to various leadership roles in her church and the Ramapo College community. She established the Sykes Family Scholarship to benefit other returning adult students who are pursuing American Studies at Ramapo. She hopes that by completing her college degree as an older adult, she has set a good example for her five grandchildren that learning is a life-long rewarding endeavor.

  • American Studies Major
  • Returning Adult Student
  • Good Academic Standing
  • Financial need preferred, but not necessary
  • The Dean of the School of Humanities and Global Studies will select the recipient based on recommendations from the faculty

2022 Recipient

Kiara Balliram

“My mission is to cultivate compassion and civic consciousness,” says Kiara Balliram. Kiara is a Political Science major with minors in International Studies and Civic and Community Leadership. She is from Ramsey, N.J. 

While at Ramapo Kiara has been a passionate advocate for mental health as a peer educator with Wellness is Now. She was inducted into the Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society, Tau Sigma, and Sigma Iota Rho. Kiara is currently a campaign intern for New York State Senator John Brooks.

In the near future, Kiara plans to pursue graduate studies in Divinity and International Relations. “Pursuing both avenues of study fully embraces my identity,” she said. “I really found out who I was while at Ramapo.”


2021 Recipient

Michelle Claudio

Michelle Claudio of Oakland, N.J. is a Social Science major with a 3.76 GPA. She has been working at the United Nations as a Senior Support Staff since 1990. Through the UN General Assembly, she serves as a Special Protocol Officer in ushering Heads of State. 

Michelle enrolled at Ramapo College after her children completed their undergraduate degrees. Her education was disrupted due to a health crisis in the family. After a long battle with cancer, she lost her husband last year. They were married for thirty-three years. She decided to resume her studies this past fall during the pandemic. 

“Returning to Ramapo has given me a renewed sense of purpose in life,” says Michelle. She credits her husband in teaching her perseverance, as well as the college for their incredible support and encouragement. 


2020 Recipient

Thera Carlin

Thera Carlin of Springfield, Ohio, is a History major with a minor in Human Rights and Genocide Studies. She has a GPA of 3.8.

“At Ramapo, I have worked hard to keep up on studies and promote healthy discussions amongst peers on difficult topics. Off campus, I have a part time job while also making time to participate in organizations such as SOAP, who combats sex trafficking.” Thera’s goal post-graduation is to join the Peace Corps and use her history degree to teach in underdeveloped countries. “In addition, I’d like to join human rights organizations that focus on refugees or sex workers.”


2019 Recipient

Michael Romano

Michael Romano of Lodi, N.J. is a History/American Studies Secondary Education major. He has a 3.6 GPA. He is part of the education honor society at Ramapo, and recently presented a paper at an American Studies conference.

Michael works on campus as an editorial assistant at the Jane Addams Papers Project, where he conducts research and creates educational resources for teachers. “I hope that students will learn something about history from what I have written, and expand their worldview.”

He plans to teach high school history and attend graduate school after Ramapo.


2018 Recipient

Zurine Cadena Jimenez

“My goal is to obtain a position at UNICEF where I can work with regional organizations to provide access to early childhood education in developing countries,” says Zurine Cadena Jimenez.

Zurine is an International Studies major with a minor in Human Rights and Genocide Studies. She has a 3.85 GPA. She plans to continue her education at Columbia University to earn a master’s degree in Human Rights Studies. In addition, Zurine has an associate’s degree in Studio Art.  Her poetry has also been published in literary magazines such as “Driftwood” and the “Promethean” and has been featured twice as Reward Publishing’s Poet of the Month. 

Zurine is from Mount Arlington, N.J. and is currently a preschool teacher for Kindercare Learning Centers.



2017 Recipient

Maria Garcia

Maria Garcia of Maywood, NJ was unable to finish her education in her native country, Spain, so after arriving in the United States, she learned English and started at Ramapo to follow her dream of earning a college degree. For most of her college career, she has been on the Dean’s list, and has been nominated as the best student in the Spanish program.  She is a member of the Spanish Club, the Book Club and tutors in the Spanish Lab.

She has also been involved in off –campus leadership positions at Sacred Heart church in Suffern. She was one of the coordinators of the Spanish Religious Education Program; she also participated during mass as a Reader and Eucharistic Minister until she moved to Maywood a little over two years ago. She works part time in St. Dominic’s School in Blauvelt, NY as a teaching assistant.

After graduation she hopes to find a job in a school district close to home. In the near future she hopes to be able to go back to school to earn a Master’s Degree.

The senior has a double major in Spanish and History, and a concentration in Education. Her GPA is 3.7.


2016 Recipient

Donna Stempert

Donna M. Stempert of Denville, NJ is a Literature major.  She has a 3.96 GPA.

Donna is very active off-campus as a first grade teacher and mother of four.


2015 Recipient

Paola Bermedo-Sturla

Paola Bermedo-Sturla of Hackettstown, N.J. is a Spanish language/ international studies double major.

She has a 3.87 grade point average.

Paola was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society, Sigma Delta Pi and Sigma Iota Rho.

Throughout college Paola has been a full time student while continuing to work full time.



2014 Recipient

Kristin Knudsen

Kristin Knudsen was born in Bad Ischl, Austria and now lives in Hillburn, NY. She attended Marymount Manhattan College before enrolling at Ramapo and is acertified interior designer. “I see beauty and art in every space, shape and object,” she wrote, “It is my desire to widen my knowledge so that I may expand and develop the artist that I am.” At Ramapo, Kristin is majoring in Literatue and has a 3.95 grade point average.

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