SHBP Announces Scholarship Winners


July 2015


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The higher education aspirations of eight individuals – three active Seafarers and five dependents – now are more solidified thanks to the recent awarding of $132,000 in scholarships to them by the Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan (SHBP).


Seafarers Matthew Bryant, Morris Jeff, and Connie Tarplin; along with dependents Benjamin Isenhart, John Gomes, Alicia Ciliezar, Andrew Hutchens and Larissa- Frances Ramilo were chosen as recipients of the 2015 Charlie Logan Scholarships by the SHBP Scholarship Committee. Following deliberations May 22 in Memphis, Tennessee, the group selected Bryant, Isenhart, Gomes, Ciliezar, Hutchens and Ramilo to receive $20,000 each for their respective pursuits of four-year college degrees. Jeff and Tarplin each will get $6,000 to be used toward two-year degrees.


Matthew Bryant


Deep sea QE3 Matthew Bryant joined the SIU in 2009 and received his apprentice training (Class 712) at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (PHC) in Piney Point, Maryland.


Born in St. Augustine, Florida, Bryant is a 2003 graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School, in Palm Coast, Florida. Following his completion of apprentice training at the PHC, he went to sea aboard the NCL America-operated Pride of America as a wiper. In the years since, Bryant has upgraded his skills on several occasions at the PHC. He currently sails as an electrician aboard the Jean Anne, a car carrier operated by TOTE Services for Pasha Hawaii.


“In my short time as a merchant seaman, I have seen rapid advancements in the electrical systems aboard ships we sail on,” said the Florida native. “Technology that was new today is old news tomorrow.


“Up until now, I haven’t felt like I really needed further training,” he continued. “[But] as I see the advancements in technology happening faster and faster and becoming more and more complex, I know that to stay relevant in the marine electrical engineering field, I need more schooling.


“My educational plans are to go to college for electrical engineering with a focus on industrial electrical systems,” Bryant said. “My ultimate goal is to design shipboard electrical power distribution systems and propulsion systems for merchant vessels. I will also use this knowledge to continue to work as a member of the union as an electrician or an engineer as I am currently studying for my third assistant engineer test.”


Bryant has applied for admission to the University of Hawaii, Kapiolani Community College and Honolulu Community College. He will pursue a four-year degree in electrical engineering.


Morris Jeff


QMED Morris Jeff joined the SIU in 1992 and received his GED and apprentice training from the union-affiliated PHC in 1993.


Born in Louisiana, Jeff has sailed for the vast majority of his career as an electrician. After he completed his apprentice training, his first ship was the Waterman Steamshipoperated USNS Matej Kocak, where he worked as a steward assistant. He switched to the engine department and then worked his way up as an electrician, frequently upgrading his skills at the Piney Point school. His most recent ship was the Alliance Norfolk, operated by Maersk Line, Limited.


“I am extremely grateful for the career and livelihood that the union has provided my three children and me,” said Jeff. “Since my wife passed away of cancer in May of 2001, I could always count on the SIU to provide steady, fruitful work for (the benefit of) my kids and myself.”


He added that although he will still be sailing, the two-year scholarship appealed to him because it would facilitate his opportunities to help his children with their work.


Jeff is currently attending Florida State College at Jacksonville, in hopes of obtaining a two-year degree in business administration.


Connie Tarplin


Chief Storekeeper Connie Tarplin joined the SIU in 2000, after joining the trainee program at the Paul Hall Center.


Tarplin was born in Georgia and has been sailing for 19 years, including 15 with the SIU. She first sailed on the USNS Observation Island, which has since been decommissioned. Her most recent ship was the USNS SBX-1.


“My dream and my ambition have always been to protect and serve, through being a member of law enforcement,” said Tarplin. “I’m a giving person, so I want to do whatever I can do to help others.”


She is grateful to the union for offering support and opportunities, and will use what she has learned while pursuing a college degree. “I will make a difference in life (by) getting my degree in law enforcement or business administration,” she said. “I am currently sailing as a storekeeper, which provides me with experience, accountability and leadership that would help in a future career. This scholarship will also help me excel in my degree program, and help me with my mission to finish a degree program before I retire from the union.”


Tarplin has applied to the University of New Orleans, Delgado Community College and Dillard University.


Benjamin Isenhart


Benjamin Isenhart is the son of inland Captain Randy Isenhart (and mother Chris, a school nurse).


Born in Bridgeton City, New Jersey, Isenhart is a 2015 graduate of Lower Cape May Regional High School (LCMR) in Cape May, New Jersey. He ranked first in his class of 206 students and posted an overall 4.83 grade point average.


Benjamin served as captain of his high school’s track and field team and held membership on the cross country team as well. He was a member of the National Honor Society, the Tri M Music Honor Society and played in the LCMR jazz band. Isenhart performed volunteer work in an elementary school library in his hometown as well as at a hospice facility.


“[My father] began working on fishing boats at the age of 18, soon switching to tugboats to follow in his father’s footsteps,” said Benjamin. “Despite his achievement of a captain’s rank, my father always felt hindered by his lack of [a] college education. Thus, education has been important throughout my life.”


Isenhart said that living in a resort beach town (as he does) constantly presents the temptation. “Many kids skip school to go to the beach or to go fishing,” he said. “[Some] go directly onto fishing boats after high school.”


He admitted that while he has entertained similar temptations, he has avoided them in order to concentrate completely on education. “This has led me to my rank as valedictorian in our graduating class,” Isenhart said. “In this way, I hope to avoid the difficulties my father faced in not having a college degree.”


Benjamin has applied for admission to Lehigh University, the University of Vermont and Clarkson University. He hopes to pursue his four-year degree in physics.


“Although many people think I am crazy when I tell them I want to major in physics, I enjoy the subject,” he said. “I know that it is considered one of the most difficult fields to study, but I find it extremely interesting; and it also provides a multitude of potential careers after graduation.”


John Gomes


John Gomes is the son of deep sea Electrician Eufemiano Gomes and his wife, Flavia.


Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, Gomes is a 2015 graduate of North Bergen High School in North Bergen, New Jersey. He was in the top 10 percent of his class, leaving school with a weighted GPA of 98.53.


He was active in both the debate team and environmental club in high school, the latter of which helped foster his love of environmental sciences.


“One passion I have is in natural resources, especially in forestry and marine biology,” said Gomes. “I believe it takes considerable brain power to sustainably harvest these resources to satisfy each party – the affluent, the poor, the loggers, the eco-protesters, the biosphere and Wall Street. It’s called ecosystem management, a field I find interesting because of how interdisciplinary it is, and how it combines problem solving and critical thinking to better the world, please everyone, and preserve the natural world and economy.”


He has applied to DeSales University, Drew University and St. Peters University, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in natural resources or business and then continue on to graduate school.


“I’m eager to study what I love in college, and hope to make the world a better place environmentally and have fun doing it,” he said.


Alicia Ciliezar


Alicia Ciliezar is the daughter of Steward Assistant Julio Ciliezar and Zeily, his wife.


Born in Honduras, Ciliezar immigrated with her family to the United States in December 2013. She enrolled in the undergraduate program at Miami Dade College the following spring semester, and will complete her twoyear degree in psychology this summer.


Her plans are to continue her education through medical school, and she hopes to eventually enter the field of internal medicine. She has a strong background in volunteering, giving her time and efforts to many different causes both in the United States and during high school in Honduras. She served as a translator to foreign medical students while they were working in Honduras, an encounter that Ciliezar says “was an enriching experience that helped reinforce my decision to pursue an academic pathway in medicine.”


She was the Phi Theta Kappa president for her school, and has worked for the Women’s Breast and Heart Initiative, Citizens for a Better South Florida and the Earth Ethics Institute. She also found time to play on the volleyball team.


She acknowledges that a career in medicine will be challenging. To that she says, “I am determined to engage in a profession that will not only provide me personal fulfillment but also will enable me to make a positive impact in the lives of other human beings. This is my deliberate purpose and commitment in life.”


She plans on applying to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Florida and Florida State University.


Andrew Hutchens


Andrew Hutchens is the son of AB Donald Hutchens and his wife, Cecilia.


Hutchens was born in Dade County, Florida, and is a 2015 graduate of the School for Advanced Studies, one of the top 10 high schools in the country as ranked by Newsweek. He scored in the 99th percentile in both English and Reading on the ACTs, and all of his scores were above 90 percent.


He graduated with more than 60 credits in advanced placement and college-level courses, which increased his GPA to a 6.51 upon graduation. He has applied to Princeton University, the University of Southern California, and University of Miami, to continue his studies in the field of aeronautical engineering.


Hutchens said, “Coming from a household that has only ever managed to generate enough income to finance a stable middle-class lifestyle, the cost of attending a college or university presents a difficult obstacle to overcome. Scholarship money remains the most effective method of overcoming said obstacle.


“I aim to major in aerospace engineering so as to become as completely educated in my field as possible, for without the necessary knowledge and achievement of academic goals I cannot achieve my career goals,” he continued. “Extensive classroom and practical experience at the university level will allow me to interact with both former and current professionals in the field of engineering; setting a strong base of understanding is essential to success in my career.”


Larissa-Frances Ramilo


Larissa-Frances Ramilo is the daughter of Oiler Francisco Ramilo and his wife, Riza. She graduated in the top five percent of her class, with a perfect 4.0 GPA.


Born in Manhattan and living in Mission, Texas, Ramilo attended South Texas High School for Health Professions in Mercedes, Texas, a specialized school for pre-medical studies. At the same time, she attended classes at South Texas College. She also balanced out her studies with various volunteer endeavors, including work with Relay for Life, the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.


Moved by her experiences in the field, Ramilo is driven to pursue a career in medicine, ideally in epidemiology and global health. “Spending a week in the heart of the Texas Medical Center at Houston for a summer symposium opened my eyes to what my hometown lacked – specialized medical professionals and up-todate technology. Cancer patients from the Rio Grande Valley normally take a grueling six-hour trip to Houston to undergo stateof- the-art medical procedures only available at the MD Anderson Cancer Center for their illnesses, which led me to think, how about the cancer patients originating from medically underserved countries around the world?”


She has been accepted into Texas A&M University’s Partnership for Primary Care program, a bachelors-to-master’s degree program through their medical school. Ramilo plans to continue volunteering throughout her college experience, saying, “During my undergraduate years, I hope to take part in international medical volunteer missions and continue to shadow doctors in order to build my experiences in the medical field.”


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