Notre Dame Senior Awarded Prestigious Nutmeg Scholarship

By Emily Clark

When Bella Augusztin was a child, she enjoyed playing “dress up” with her older sisters and pretending to compete with them as they “worked” at their own fashionable boutiques. That sense of competition and drive for success only grew as Bella, now a senior at Notre Dame in Fairfield, became an honors student and a highly ranked soccer player while in high school. And today, she is most grateful for an award that will allow her to continue pursuing these passions in college and beyond.

Each year, the University of Connecticut grants between 15 to 20 Nutmeg Scholarships to exceptional high school seniors throughout the state. This year, Bella was one of those seniors, recognized for her academic achievements, her outstanding community service, and her strong character and leadership skills. Though hopeful when she applied, Bella said she felt that the scholarship was a “shot in the dark.”

“When I heard that the acceptances were coming in, I kept reloading the portal,” she said of her UConn admissions account. “When it said, ‘status update,’ I thought ‘uh oh!’ But then I saw the confetti and knew I was in. I was totally shocked!”

Shocked – but also ecstatic, for this prestigious scholarship provides recipients four years of free tuition, room, and board at the state’s flagship campus in Storrs, a school she always hoped to attend but also realized the high cost. “College is very expensive so this means so much,” said Bella, a Stratford resident. “I’m so glad that there is no financial burden on my parents.”

Because of her high academic accomplishments, Bella was accepted into UConn’s honors program and feels the comparable Distinguished Scholars Program at Notre Dame helped prepare her for this next step with its many Advanced Placement classes and summer studies at Oxford University in England.

“For me, Notre Dame provided opportunities to do it all with personal, academic, and spiritual growth. I’ll take what I learned here and bring it back into the community to make it a better place,” said Bella, who, at 18, has already begun to do just that.

From the Model UN club and varsity sports to student council and Link Crew, Bella immersed herself completely into the culture and climate of Notre Dame, becoming student body president and taking an active role in the Student Leadership Institute. Here, Bella and her peers learn to problem solve and develop interpersonal and time management skills while implementing a project designed to benefit the community.

One of the most meaningful experiences, however, has been her involvement in campus ministry, where service and fellowship emerge at the center of this Catholic high school and where, Bella said, “there are so many opportunities for students to express their faith in and out of school and connect with peers spiritually and socially.” She also treasures the opportunity to attend Mass in the chapel on the campus of Sacred Heart University, which recently purchased Notre Dame High School after a long history of strong bonds and partnership.

“It’s such a beautiful environment, so gorgeous with the stained glass and artwork,” said Bella. “I feel so appreciative to have been here.”

In addition to her service work, Bella also balances a heavy load of challenging classes including AP Calculus, Latin, and Humanities, one of her favorites, where she consistently impresses her teacher, Dr. Mary Callaghan. “She’s critical and sharp-eyed. She takes time to think, and when Bella speaks, others listen,” Dr. Callaghan said. “A wonderful student who does it all with such calm and balance but also has a life! This scholarship is really such a nice honor for her.”

And now, with the school year ending and her senior internship – at a dress boutique, of course – about to begin, Bella is thinking more and more about her plans for UConn and maybe grad school, a business degree and maybe study abroad. When asked what keeps her so active and involved, Bella didn’t hesitate in answering. “My family,” she said, of her parents Mike and Laura and her three sisters. “They’re so supportive of me and so grateful for the scholarship. They’re my internal push to always keep doing the best I can.”