The Charger Blog

Forensic Science Major Recognized for Resilience, Dedication to Community

Johanna Elvir ’22 is committed to helping members of her community who were impacted by the coronavirus global pandemic. Her dedication has been recognized by Wells Fargo, which awarded her one of just 200 student impact scholarships.

January 14, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Johanna Elvir ’22 and Henry C. Lee, Ph.D.
Johanna Elvir ’22 and world-renowned forensic scientist Henry C. Lee, Ph.D.

When Johanna Elvir ’22 was a kid, she liked to stay up late watching the popular television show "Forensic Files" with her older brother. She was fascinated by the technology that investigators used to solve crimes and to "speak" for victims who cannot tell their stories.

Elvir is now a forensic science major at the University of New Haven, and she also aspires to help bring justice and closure to victims and their loved ones. She has been devoted to making a difference in her local community as well, working with members of her church to collect food and necessities for families impacted by the coronavirus global pandemic.

Her dedication has been recognized by Wells Fargo, and she is one of just 200 recipients nationwide of the bank’s Wells Fargo Student Impact Scholarship. The $5,000 awards recognize recipients who have been impacted financially by COVID-19 and who, despite their own challenges, have made a positive impact in their community.

"Seeing how grateful people were when we dropped off boxes of food at their homes gave me the motivation to help more and more families," she said. "This scholarship helped me pay off the rest of my tuition for the year. It’s been tough during the pandemic, and it’s one less thing my family and I have to worry about. I can fully focus on my studies now."

This has been an especially difficult time for Elvir and her family in many ways. A year ago, her father died unexpectedly, yet she has continued to serve others and make an impact where it is needed the most. She has also continued to work one or two jobs during the year to help pay for her education.

"This award was special to me because I earned it by doing something I believed in," said Elvir, who serves as treasurer of the University’s Forensic Science Student Association. "I knew people couldn’t risk leaving their homes or maybe had lost their job, so I wanted to help them. I lost my father, and I understand how hard life can be, so this gave me the drive to help those in my community. I felt like I was making my dad proud."

'She has shown tremendous courage'

In addition to the scholarship, Elvir’s award enables her to participate in Wells Fargo’s spring mentorship program, which pairs students with Wells Fargo staff mentors.

"I think Johanna is deserving of this scholarship because she has shown tremendous courage under extremely difficult situations," said Marcus Paca, MBA, assistant director of employer relations in the University’s Career Development Center. "Not only has she been strong and diligent, she has found time to help others in need during this pandemic. I think students like her need to be recognized as a model of perseverance.

Johanna Elvir ’22 and Charlie.
Johanna Elvir ’22 and Charlie.

"I hope Johanna’s peers understand that we all face difficult times, but it is how you handle those challenges that builds strong character," Paca continued. "It gives people hope to see that even through suffering, you can have the capacity to help alleviate someone else’s pain. If we all do this, as Johanna has, the world will be a better place for everyone."

Wells Fargo is partnering with the University to create even more opportunities for students. What began as a working relationship to create internship and career opportunities now includes plans to engage more students in the longer term. Wells Fargo is hosting a six-month series of virtual workshops to help students prepare for financial wellness, covering topics such as credit and saving for retirement.

Paca hopes the series – and the University’s relationship with Wells Fargo – will continue to create even more opportunities for students.

"This series means that our students will have access to the latest personal financial literacy strategies and engagement opportunities with seasoned financial professionals," he said. "It also means that a higher level of attention will be paid to our students from Wells Fargo in terms of career and internship prospects."

'An amazing source of support'

Elvir is grateful for the for the support she has received from Wells Fargo and that she continues to receive from her mentor. She hopes to earn her master’s degree and doctorate, to work as a crime scene investigator, and, eventually, to work in a federal lab as a DNA analyst.

"I am very grateful to Wells Fargo," she said. "As a first-generation college student, having someone who can advise me on how I can get the best college experience and make the most out of my academic career so helpful. My mentor, Laura Jaramillo, is an amazing source of support, and I think Wells Fargo did a great job pairing us up."