Howard Center Announces First Catherine Simonson Educational Advancement Awards

Howard Center is pleased to announce Catherine Simonson Educational Advancement Scholarship Awards to staff members Judy Fiumano, Matt Kline, and Kelly Ramos-Arango. The scholarship was created to help Howard Center employees reach educational goals so they can continue their careers in social services and related professions. Awardees were selected from more than 20 applications from across the agency.

Judy Fiumano lives in Killington and works at Howard Center’s Park Street Program in Rutland where she provides nursing support. She’ll use the award to further her graduate studies at Wilkes University to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Originally from Brooklyn, Judy has been with Howard Center for 12 years.

Kelly Ramos-Arango plans to use the award to help pay for a graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Vermont State University. A 2015 graduate of UVM, Kelly works at Howard Center’s T-House residential program and aspires to a full-time counseling position. Kelly credits a counselor who helped her in her youth with sparking her interest in her career.

Burlington resident Matt Kline has been at Howard Center for nearly six years with most of that time spent helping students in local K-12 schools through Howard Center’s Inclusion program. Like Kelly, Matt is pursuing a graduate degree at Vermont State University. A native of Georgia, Vermont, his career goal is to become a full time clinical mental health counselor.

Catherine Simonson was Howard Center’s Chief Client Services Officer until her retirement in 2022 when the scholarship fund was created with support from Lisa Steele to honor Catherine’s 27 years at the agency.

When she learned the awards had been made, Catherine offered her congratulations to the awardees and shared, “For me it’s all about the need to create pathways so people can stay in the agency. We can’t do the work without the people.”

Staff at social services agencies like Howard Center often need to continue their schooling to stay in the field and advance their careers but high education costs, prior educational debt, and the modest pay available in social services get in the way. One of the scholarship applicants reported having nearly $100,000 in student debt.

“It is an honor to recognize Catherine’s legacy this way, and we’re so grateful to all the applicants,” said Charlotte McCorkel, chair of the scholarship committee. “All of us on the committee wished we had

enough resources to fund every application. Howard Center relies on its incredible staff to deliver high quality services to clients and our community, and these awards will have deep impact for years to come.”

Efforts are underway to continue to raise money to ensure the fund’s sustainability, which means continued educational support for our employees and more stability for our community. “It’s so important that we have people with the education and skills necessary to provide high quality care for our community, but they are challenged by the cost of tuition and other competing economic pressures like rising housing costs. We are so grateful that Lisa Steele shares our commitment to education and quality care and was willing to provide the seed money to help us get started,” said Howard Center Director of Development Denise Vignoe. “This is one way we can help ensure Howard Center will continue to have the workforce our community needs.”