A young Massapequan will head into college this fall with a bigger boost than she every dreamed imaginable.
Tara Tardino, a senior at Massapequa High School is this year’s recipient of the 2014 Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarship. The Massapequan beat out thousands of applicants to win the four-year college scholarship, which will provide her the opportunity to attend Cornell University.
At Cornell, Tardino will dive into the the pre-med track, studying human development with the goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist. Tardino applied for the scholarship with no expectations that she would actually win — she thought she submitted the requirements too late, and was surprised by a phone call from her father.
“My dad told me there was a message from me on the answering machine,” she said. “They told me I won, and that it was a four-year scholarship. I was so surprised.”
From there, Tardino was among the scholarship recipients recognized for their achievements at the Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholars luncheon on July 30 at the Ronald McDonald House of New York. The students and their families were joined by selection committee members and Ronald McDonald himself. New York state Assemblyman Tom McKevitt even presented Tardino with a citation.
“The ceremony was great, I never felt so special,” she laughed. “It was really such an honor.”
To achieve the scholarship, Tardino submitted school transcripts from ninth- through 12th-grade, SAT scores, an essay and a list of all her extracurricular activities. The highly active student also had experience volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park, where she worked with many young children.
“I adored the children there. It was a hospital setting, but I loved helping the kids and seeing the smiles on their faces,” she said. “It helped me feel like I had a purpose. I knew that I wanted life to be meaningful and I knew I wanted to help people.”
Christopher Perry, executive director of Ronald McDonald House charities in New York, said that Tardino displays precisely the qualities desired by the scholarship committee.
“The hard work, dedication and commitment to education and community service exemplified by these remarkable students is exactly what the Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholars program stands for,” said Perry. “I am extremely proud of what these students have accomplished, and we know they will continue to achieve great things in the future.”
Tardino sees her future at Cornell and beyond full of exciting endeavors, but forever grounded by her home life in Massapequa. She grew up in the town with her mom, dad and older brother, and she said there is plenty she will miss about her hometown, including her mom’s cooking.
As summer begins to wind down, Tardino has some nerves bubbling to the top, mostly concerning the coming college course load. But luckily, she already knows a few friends who will join her at Cornell.
“I’m sure when I’m up there, it will hit me all at once,” she said, adding that she expects to find herself missing Massapequa High School. “I much as I dreaded getting up early, I’ll miss high school. I loved the sports and really all the people.”
For the younger generation, groups of kids she worked with extensively in peer mentoring clubs, Tardino advises to always try extra hard — one never knows the opportunities that might arise.
“Try hard in everything you do,” she said. “And take advantage of every opportunity that comes around. Try new things and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”