Celebrating Seniors – The Graduating Class of 2020

Categories: Donor Story, Patient Families
Connecticut Children’s caregivers, family members and committee members gathered on Zoom to virtually celebrate this year’s Isidore Wise scholarship winners.

For 29 years, Connecticut Children’s has celebrated exceptional graduating high school seniors at the Isidore Wise Scholarship Awards Ceremony. While COVID-19 required that the 2020 event be a virtual experience, it did not diminish the caliber of talented students selected by this year’s review committee to receive scholarships toward their first year of college.

Virtual Isidore Wise Scholarship Celebration Honors Exceptional Seniors

This year, 145 students—either current or former patients treated in any of Connecticut Children’s more than 30 specialties—applied for the prestigious award, established through a generous bequest of Hartford businessman Isidore Wise. Of that impressive group, five high school seniors were selected for their resiliency and ability to succeed despite a challenging medical diagnosis.

Among this year’s award winners are gifted athletes and talented musicians, a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and an exceptional baker. These are students who are passionate about their communities and selflessly volunteer to help others; all of them have graduated with academic accolades. Coincidentally, they all plan to pursue degrees to prepare them to have an impact on the future of health care.

2020 Isidore Wise Scholars


Brandon Demkowicz Brandon Demkowicz
Brandon is a graduate of Farmington High School, where he was captain of the Robotics Team and conducted scientific research at UConn Health. As a pediatric cancer survivor himself, Brandon helped lead his town’s Relay For Life team to be the fourth largest fundraiser in the nation. For the past three summers, Brandon volunteered as a medical Spanish interpreter with a mobile medical clinic, serving migrant workers throughout the Connecticut River Valley. He was also a volunteer at Bristol Hospital, training volunteers and providing support to patients in their oncology unit. He is a member of the Connecticut Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Advisory Council and was featured as an inaugural All-Star by the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation. Brandon plans to attend Harvard University in the fall, where he will major in computer science on a pre-med track. He hopes to bring science and technology together to make meaningful contributions toward improving health care.


Melissa Mauro
Melissa is a graduate of Lyme-Old Lyme High School, where she excelled in both academics and athletics. She played varsity soccer for four years, was co-captain her senior year, and played varsity tennis her sophomore and junior years. She is a dedicated soccer player and played premier travel soccer during the off-season. Melissa is a “registered baker” at her church and volunteers her skills to provide baked goods for the Shoreline and New London Soup Kitchens and other church activities. She has served youth as a counselor at the YMCA Camp Hazen and as a volunteer coach with the Lyme-Old Lyme town soccer club. Melissa was awarded an Academic Achievement letter from her school and the President’s award for educational achievement. Melissa’s experience with Ewing’s Sarcoma has influenced her career aspirations and she plans to study nursing when she attends Emmanuel College in the fall, with the goal of becoming a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner.


Natalie Millerick Natalie Millerick
Natalie is a graduate of St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, where she was a member of the National Honor Society and Student Government. Natalie is passionate about golf and was on the varsity team all four years, serving in the role of captain her junior and senior years. As a Confirmation project, Natalie was given $10 to “make a difference in her community.” Natalie used her $10 to buy a toy and encouraged others to follow her lead—she collaborated with the Mill Foundation For the Kids, and her efforts netted $4,000 to provide toys to patients at Connecticut Children’s. She’s an advocate for young women, and shared her experience with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) on a local news station. She hoped sharing her experience would educate other women to recognize the symptoms of TSS. This past summer she completed an EMT certification course and is now nationally certified. She will attend Providence College in the fall to study biology on a pre-med track.


Olivia Runte 
Olivia is a graduate of Portland High School. She is an activist for the education system, and serves as a Portland Board of Education representative and a member of the Connecticut Student Advisory Council on Education. She served as President of the Student Senate, treasurer of the school’s National Honor Society and played the clarinet in symphonic band. Witnessing what a politically polarized time we’re living in, Olivia is an advocate for civil discourse and helped organize a conference of more than 100 students to discuss gun control, immigration issues and the acceptance of refugees. Olivia volunteers at the Middletown Senior Center and in her community at the Portland Public Library and Portland Unified Theater. In the fall, Olivia will attend the University of Connecticut, where she has been named a Presidential Scholar. Her experience as a Type 1 diabetic has inspired her to work toward earning a medical degree and becoming an endocrinologist.


David Teti 
David is a graduate of Torrington High School, where he was the captain of the swim and tennis teams, a member of Rho Kappa Honor Society and Vice President of the National Honor Society. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton inspired David to learn to play the guitar, and he is now an accomplished musician. While managing his Crohn’s disease, he has been an active volunteer in the Torrington community. He serves as an usher at the Warner Theatre as well as Vice President of the Mayor’s Committee on Youth, where he serves as a role model for committee members. In this position, his leadership and advocacy raised the legal age to purchase vaping products to 21. He is the recipient of the Brian Piccolo Memorial Award and the National Youth Service Day Award for his contributions to his community. David will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall to study biomedical engineering.

To support extraordinary patients like Brandon, Melissa, Natalie, Olivia and David, please make a gift online, or call the Foundation at 860.837.5700.