The Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan’s 2020 Scholarship Committee on Aug. 10 bestowed scholarships totaling $132,000 upon nine individuals – in the process helping to chart their respective courses toward higher education degrees.
Two active Seafarers and seven dependents were selected by the committee to receive funds to offset costs associated with pursuing degrees at accredited two- and four-year colleges. Tapped for the active Seafarer awards ($6,000 each) were QE3 Raibonne Charles and Chief Cook Craig Wooten. These mariners will pursue two-year degrees. Receiving four-year scholarships totaling $20,000 each were dependents: Collins Agyeman, Pearl Dingzon, Iman Meawad, Alexis Skipper and Angelica Barroga. Claiming $10,000 awards to pursue two-year courses of study were Matthew Ortiz and Marissa Peterson.
Inland QE3 Raibonne Charles hails from Portland, Maine. He signed on with the union in 2016 and was a member of Paul Hall Center Class 809.
A 2007 graduate of Windham High School in Windham, Maine, Charles was a well-rounded student. In addition to serving as president of his class, he was a member of the student council. In the athletic arena, he demonstrated versatility by participating in football, basketball and track and field. Charles was a church youth leader and volunteered numerous hours working in an area soup kitchen. He also assisted residents of a Maine veterans’ home where he was involved in impact mentoring.
Following high school, Charles accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Maine. He earned his degree in forestry while again making his mark on the gridiron as a standout defensive lineman. Charles’ accomplishments on the field did not go unnoticed, and not long after graduation, he was offered a contract to play professional football in the Arena Football League. He played three seasons as a linebacker with the Richmond (Virginia) Raiders.
“In April 2015, I walked away from the game of football forever,” he said in his scholarship application package. “I knew I needed a career that provided stability and would give me the ability to provide.”
At that juncture, Charles began revisiting interests from childhood. “As a young boy, the maritime industry was my first interest,” he said. “I have many fond memories of sitting on my veranda in Grenada and standing in the Portland harbor watching ships come in and out. Often, I was left wondering where did these ships come from and where will they go….”
Charles said his interest in shipping probably was the result of his childhood environment. “Both of my childhood homes were heavily reliant on the maritime industry,” he shared in his application package. “The most influential person in my life was a seafarer…. The first seafarer I knew was my father.”
No surprise then, that Charles chose maritime as his career going forward following his days in the Arena Football League. “After some further research, I realized that this (maritime industry) is what I wanted to do. In January of 2016, I boarded a plane to Baltimore (en route to Piney Point) and my life was never the same,” he said.
While in the apprentice program, Charles says he not only learned about seamanship, but many other things as well. “I learned how important it is to have properly trained seamen sailing under the American Flag…. The American Maritime Industry is not only good for America, it’s good for the world.”
He will use his scholarship to pursue courses which will help pave his way toward obtaining his third assistant engineer’s license. He has applied for admission to the Maritime Professional Training school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and the Mid Atlantic Maritime Academy in Norfolk, Virginia.
Chief Cook Craig Wooten
Deep Sea Chief Cook Craig Wooten joined the union in 2016 after completing the apprentice program in Piney Point. A Georgia native, he is a 2010 graduate of Valdosta, Georgia’s Lowndes High School.
Since his days as an apprentice, Wooten has returned to the Southern Maryland- based Paul Hall Center on numerous occasions to enhance his skills. Most recently, in 2019 he attended the school for firefighting and STCW training.
“This year, I reach the ripe age of 28 and I wonder if I’m reaching my full potential,” Wooten shared in his scholarship application package. “Discovering the union (SIU) has propelled my life in such a dramatic way, but I still hunger for progression.”
Advancement, including financial, educational, spiritual and physical, are all areas in his life that he is extremely passionate about, he added. “Before I joined the SIU, I was a broke college dropout searching for a way out.”
In this stage of his life, he is looking to change that narrative and “leave a legacy worth remembering. To not only be a successful steward, but also a college grad.” His ultimate goal is to complement his work skills with higher education in order to become a successful businessman.
“Studying some form of business is my biggest interest,” he said. “I want to be the CEO of a successful company one day.”
Wooten already has completed 60 credits toward his degree at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He hopes to realize his dream by completing the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in the very near future. He has applied for admission to the University of Miami, Hebron Technical Institute and Florida Barber Academy. He plans to focus his efforts in business and/or barbering.
Collings Agyeman is the son of Deep Sea AB Collins Agyeman (and mother Esther, a care provider) who sails aboard the Intrepid Personnel and Provisioning-operated Pennsylvania. He has one sibling.
Agyeman hails from Texas and is a 2020 graduate of YES Prep Boys School in Houston. During his high school tenure, he posted an overall 4.05 GPA and was involved in a host of athletic and non-athletic student activities. In the athletic arena, he was a member of the track and field as well as cross country teams. His non-athletic pursuits included the school debate team, academic decathlon team, Cavaliers for Christ and the YES Black Brotherhood.
Agyeman served as lead drummer at Love in Christ Church and held leadership positions in several high school organizations, including president of this senior class. He regularly volunteered his time at Houston’s Westchase Health and Rehabilitation Center where he assisted the elderly and mentally impaired. Agyeman worked as a policy analyst, field intern and high school ambassador for the Raj Salhotra Campaign for the Houston City Council At Large. Finally, he was a teaching fellow for Breakthrough Houston. In this position, he taught rising high school juniors and sophomores effective strategies to improve scores on SAT tests.
He has applied for admission to Vanderbilt University, Rice University and Emory University. Agyeman will pursue a degree in Political Science.
Pearl Dingzon is the daughter of Deep Sea ABG Julian Dingzon (and mother Nelia, a homemaker), who sails aboard the Decisive. She has five siblings.
A 2020 graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, she posted an overall 4.61 GPA. Dingzon was a member of her school’s badminton squad and was active in a number of non-athletic activities. Included were the German Club, Gardening Club and the MERIT Health Leadership Academy. She was also the CEO, Youth Leadership Advisory Council.
She has applied for admission to John Hopkins University, University of Maryland College Park, and Stevenson University. Dingzon plans to major in pre-med and psychology.
Iman Meawad is the daughter of Inland GUDE Kamal Meawad (and mother Howaida, a homemaker), who sails with WATCO. She has three siblings.
Meawad hails from Staten Island, New York, and is a 2020 graduate of Susan E. Wagner High School. She ranked 107 in her class which numbered 768 students and posted a 4.68 overall GPA. She participated in her school’s Helping Hands and SAT Clubs. Additionally, Meawad served as a peer trainer and youth action member of New York City’s Citizens Committee for Children.
After graduating from college as a registered nurse, she plans on becoming a nurse practitioner. Once she has realized that goal, she hopes to continue her education in nursing, ultimately specializing in mental health.
Meawad has applied for admission to New York University, Hunter College and the College of Staten Island.
Alexis Skipper is a 2020 graduate of St. Augustine High School and hails from St. Augustine, Florida. She’s the daughter of Inland Ordinary Seaman Norman Skipper Jr. (and mother Helen, a self-employed travel agent) who works with Crowley Towing and Transportation. She has four siblings.
Skipper posted a 3.57 overall GPA at St. Augustine High and was a member of the tennis team. She also was a member of the National Honor Society and an all-star cheerleader. Additionally, she was a member of the school chorus and participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Happening and New Beginnings retreats. Highly involved in church and civic activities, Skipper held office as head of music, youth delegate, communications director and junior weekend advisor. She was also a counselor and leader in her community’s Vacation Bible School.
Skipper plans to pursue a career in nursing. She has applied for admission to Florida State University, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.
Angelica Barroga is the daughter of Deep Sea Chief Cook Domingo Barroga Jr. (and mother, Adelia, a drug store shift supervisor), who sails aboard Maersk Line, Limited’s Maersk Denver. She has two siblings.
A 2020 graduate of Moanalua High School in Honolulu, Barroga accumulated an overall 3.83 GPA. She ranked 85th in her class which boasted 504 students. She participated in her school’s Judo, Leo and Science Clubs and was a member of the marching band color guard. Barroga also took part in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Academic Bowl. She was treasurer of her freshman class and Flight Leader of her school’s JROTC Golf Flight Element. An active participant in affairs that directly affected her community, she devoted countless hours volunteering. Included were such undertakings as Feed the Homeless, the Salvation Army Thanksgiving Lunch and Toys for Tots. Barroga was a frequent helper at elementary school fun fairs and music festivals.
She has applied for admission to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Grand Canyon University and Chaminade University. Barroga plans to study the health science and ultimately realize a career in nursing.
Matthew Ortiz hails from Saint Johns, Florida. He is the son of Inland DEU Ruben Ortiz (and mother, Miriam, a school clerk), who works aboard vessels operated by Crowley Towing. He has two sisters.
A 2019 graduate of Creekside High School, Ortiz ranked 78th in his class which numbered 569 students. He posted a 4.31 overall GPA. Ortiz participated in cross country and track and field and was active in a host of non-athletic activities and societies including the National Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma, Rho Kappa and the Catholic Student Union Economics Club. Ortiz dedicated many volunteer hours at the Dreams Come True Club, the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Engineering Academy-St. Johns Housing Partner.
He is enrolled at Florida State University where he already has completed 15 credits towards his bachelor’s degree. Ortiz is studying political science and economics. Ultimately, he hopes attend law school.
Marissa Peterson is from Pooler, Georgia. She is the daughter of Inland Deckhand James Peterson Jr. (and mother, Michelle, a homemaker), who sails with Crescent Towing.
A 2014 graduate of Windsor Forest High School, Peterson achieved a 4.0 overall GPA. She participated in her school’s concert and marching bands and was a member of both the Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society. Peterson was extremely active in her community, volunteering her time at a host of organizations.
She attended the College of Coastal Georgia from 2015-2017, along the way earning 41 credits. Over the past five years, Peterson has been self-employed as a child care provider for multiple organizations. She is a childbirth education doula, birth and bereavement doula and postpartum doula.
Peterson currently attends Georgia Southern University and has already earned 67 credits towards her degree. She is majoring in nursing. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education, ultimately earning her master’s degree in nursing-midwifery.