Serena Mangual received a life-changing gift two days after Christmas back in 2014, even though she had no idea how great the gift would be at the time.
That’s when her grandmother stepped in to her life to care for her and her half-brother.
Up until that point, Serena’s life had been challenging, to say the least. Her mother had been battling drug addiction, leaving Serena to care for her half-brother as a parent would. They were living in Connecticut at the time, but then the Department of Children and Families separated Serena and her half-brother, and they moved to Florida.
“During this transition, I was very scared as nothing was certain at the time,” Serena told us. “I took six months to move to Florida and live with my new grandparents (Diane and Donald) due to out-of-state fostering laws and regulations.”
“Once we were situated in Florida, I was introduced to a life I never had,” Serena added. “I was neglected by my mother most of my life and had to take care of brother when I shouldn’t have. My grandparents allowed me to become a kid and gave me the life I had always dreamed of. They’re my grandparents, parents – they’re everything to me.”
Serena’s grandparents introduced her to theater class and later got lead roles in school productions. She excelled in the classroom and was blossoming. But in May of 2019, her grandparents’ son, who was not Serena’s father but a father figure in her life, died of an overdose. Three days later, Serena’s mother died of an overdose as well.
Her grandparents provided the support Serena needed to carry on through those challenging times and get her back on track in school and outside the classroom.
In November 2021, a week before Serena’s 18th birthday, her grandparents officially became her adoptive parents.
Now Serena is entering another new phase, and she is adding some other family members. This time, it is the UMPS CARE Charities family stepping up to the plate to assist. Serena is one of two recipients of the UMPS CARE All-Star College Scholarship Program a four-year scholarship program which provides $10,000 annually to children adopted later in life.
The program expanded to support two recipients this year, thanks to Deloitte, Michael Alkin and generous donations from UMPS CARE supporters. To date, UMPS CARE has provided more than $300,000 in scholarships to adopted children.
In addition to the financial support, all of our All-Star College Scholarship recipients are matched with a Major League Baseball Umpire and family members to serve as mentors for their college journey. Once you become an All-Star College Scholarship recipient, you become part of the UMPS CARE family.
“This scholarship lifted a huge weight off my shoulders for attending college,” said Serena, who plans on majoring in health science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “I won’t have to work two jobs, and I can focus on my studies.”
Serena is especially grateful for the financial support since she is considering entering the medical field and might pursue graduate school or medical school.
“I am very grateful that UMPS CARE gave me this opportunity,” she said. “I don’t think it will be wasted on me. I will use it to the max to achieve my dreams.”
Perhaps the most excited family member is Serena’s grandfather, who is a lifelong baseball fan. Her grandparents’ home is in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, near where the Spring Training home of the New York Mets.
“He’s ecstatic,” Serena said. “He’s very into it. He’s trying to teach me everything.”
Serena has been to some baseball games, but her passions are cooking, baking and drawing. While in college, she is considering trying dance.
The University of Central Florida is about two hours away from home, but she has friends from high school who are also going to college with her in addition to her boyfriend, Jordan.
All of us at UMPS CARE Charities are delighted to welcome Serena to our crew and look forward to seeing her navigate her college journey in Orlando.
Special thanks to the All-Star College Scholarship Committee members who work many hours they devote to this important program: Ashley Weibling, Leslie Timmons, Kelly Tichenor, Gabe Morales, Dave Rackley, Paul Emmel, Josh Perrin and Jeannette Doehring.
For more information about the UMPS CARE Charities All-Star College Scholarship Program click HERE.