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Alexandra Dilger Award Recipients

A special education student teacher, an aspiring park ranger, and a young entrepreneur were the recipients of the 2022 Alexandra Dilger Award. The award is presented annually to neurodiverse young adults aged 18 to 30 who have face challenges but have persevered to reach a personal goal from Connecticut River Valley and CT Shoreline communities.

The Alexandra Dilger Award was created in 2019 by Gale and Patrick Dilger of Deep River, in memory of their daughter in conjunction with A Little Compassion Inc. Alexandra, who struggled with anxiety and depression, loved travel, and had wide and eclectic interests in the arts.  Alexandra was an undergraduate student looking to complete her degree and move on to graduate school when she died at age 21.

Her parents believed that one way to honor her legacy was to recognize other young adults who, like their daughter, had wrestled with personal challenges but are determined to progress toward the attainment of their goals, such as becoming an illustrator or musician, attending college, or starting a small business.

Nicole Ringuette of Moodus is working toward her master’s degree in education at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford and will be the first in her family to graduate from college.

As an individual with dyslexia, Nicole expressed her understanding of the challenges students with disabilities face. Her goal is to become a special education teacher to “help my students believe in themselves and know that there is someone who believes in them.”

Completing assignments can be challenging for Nicole, so she works with a personal tutor several times a week who assists her with time management, editing and revising, and more. This can add up financially, so Nicole works the entire summer to support her tutoring needs.

The Dilger Award will relieve some financial burdens by paying a semester’s worth of tutoring for Nicole so she can concentrate fully on achieving her well-earned master’s degree.

Anthony Joia of Deep River is focused on becoming a park ranger. After an internship last year at Gillette Castle, he was hired as a seasonal worker. He is also a part-time student at Middlesex Community College and working towards a degree in Environmental Science.

Anthony is a conscientious student but needs some specialized tools to help him with his studies. The Dilger Award is purchasing him a new laptop with Microsoft Office and an echo pen. These tools have a recording function that allows Anthony to transfer notes directly to the computer.

The third recipient is Sam Wollscheager of Deep River. Sam served as an intern at The Nest Coffee House, and a regular volunteer at fundraising events. He is also a budding entrepreneur and businessman. His homemade soaps, Sam’s Suds, are available at The Nest’s Possibilities Boutique.

The Alexandra Dilger Award is providing Sam with new molds, tools, and packaging so that he can grow his business and customer base. Sam will also receive support from a professional who can help him develop and implement a business plan.

Jane Moen, Executive Director of A Little Compassion expressed that, “The Alexandra Dilger Award breaks the mold of awards given to standout academics or athletes. This award is really unique because we search for young adults who despite challenges of neurodiversity have dreams and goals they are reaching for.” Jane appreciates that “these individuals being sought out and recognized can be a life changing event. Former recipients have received adaptive driving lessons to gain their license, a hitch and trailer to allow them to transport an adaptive bicycle, tools to learn the book binding trade and launch a career path, and laptops with adaptive software to allow them to excel in college.”

With the help of A Little Compassion Inc.– www.alittlecompassion.org – the Alexandra Dilger Award gives wings to a community often silenced and overlooked.

Mary Jo Helchowski, an ALC Board member and dedicated volunteer stated, “Though things have improved in the past few years, the neurodiverse population sometimes gets left out when it comes to scholarships, employment, and social opportunities. ALC provides opportunities to move past the awareness of autistic and neurodiverse people to the acceptance and inclusion of neurodiverse people, and this award truly promotes and lifts deserving people toward their goals.”

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