PeoplesBank supports local students

Matt Bannister of PeoplesBank and Elisha Bonilla ’22

By Kevin McCaffrey 

Elisha Bonilla ’22, a Frances Perkins Scholar from Amherst, has been named the recipient of this year’s Western Massachusetts Scholarship Fund.

The fund, established two years ago and supported by an annual contribution of $10,000 from PeoplesBank, aims to provide scholarship assistance to Mount Holyoke students from the area.

According to Matt Bannister, senior vice president of marketing and corporate responsibility at PeoplesBank, the bank’s support for local students is part of its broad commitment to invest in the economic, cultural and social health of the Pioneer Valley.

“We are consistently impressed with the caliber of Western Massachusetts Scholarship [Fund] awardees from Mount Holyoke,” Bannister said. “Great students, but also imbued with leadership qualities and world visions. Our area’s most precious resources are the developing minds of our future leaders, and we applaud Elisha’s selection while wishing her many successes.”

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized for both my academic achievements and my work within local communities,” said Bonilla, a senior who is majoring in gender studies and minoring in Latina/o studies. “I want to thank PeoplesBank for continuing to provide support to Mount Holyoke students like me.”

Bonilla has focused much of her academic work on studying Latina matriarchy, or madrismo. Her current research project focuses on Latina mothers and Latina women who have raised or “mothered” children and involves nationwide interviews. Her work will inform a study she’s coauthoring with Mount Holyoke assistant professor of psychology and education Jen Matos.

Committed to ensuring that her work benefits the surrounding community, Bonilla is active in local nonprofit organizations and has also recently served as an intern at Girls Inc. in Holyoke, where she facilitated workshops and other programs.

She has also served as an assistant to the former mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, currently the Harriet L. Weissman and Paul M. Weissman Distinguished Fellow in Leadership at Mount Holyoke College. In January she became the coordinator for the Weissman Center’s community-based learning program.

What’s next for the soon-to-be graduate?

“In the fall,” Bonilla said, “I will begin work on my master’s degree at UMass Amherst. There, I will be working on a master’s in higher education, [and] I will focus on Latino/a/x studies, pathways to higher education and community engagement with Latino/a/x communities in western Massachusetts.”

Supporting local students is important to the College.

A total of 77% of Mount Holyoke College’s students receive financial aid from the College. More than 8% of Mount Holyoke students come from Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties this academic year, while more than 19% come from the Commonwealth.

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