“I have always wanted to give back to other people,” Nik Kutrolli says, and it’s a conviction he has put into action from a very early age.

The Kutrolli siblings all received Community Foundation scholarships for their college educations. From left, George (Ohio State, 2016); Olsa (URI, 2013); Alex (UConn, 2011, and George Washington University Law School, 2015); and Nik (UConn 2010, Southern New Hampshire University, 2015).

When he arrived in New London from Albania in 1995, eight-year-old Nik did not speak a word of English. After fleeing the unrest in their native country, his parents were granted U.S. citizenship through political asylum, and the family began building a new life in southeastern Connecticut.

They did so with the help of relatives and many others in the New London community who welcomed them as family. Ten years later, in 2005, the 18-year-old Nik walked into the offices of the Community Foundation to be interviewed as a candidate for one of the four-year Marjory B. & Laurence P. “Jim” Smith Scholarships, then one of the largest and one of the few multi-year scholarship grants awarded by the Foundation.

“My guidance counselor hadn’t supplied any background information on me to the scholarship committee, saying that he didn’t wish to ‘steal my thunder’ and that I had to tell my story in my own words,” Nik recalls. The high-achieving New London High School senior made an impression on the committee and later that year became the first in his family to attend college.

After starting off on a pre-med and pharmacy track at the University of Connecticut, he discovered strengths in finance; he graduated with a degree in that field in 2010 and was offered a position at Liberty Mutual Insurance. Now living in Peabody Mass., he has worked as a claims team leader for the company ever since.

In 2014, Nik marked two milestones: he got married and he earned his MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. All three of his siblings have followed in his footsteps as scholarship recipients from the Community Foundation: Olsa, (URI Class of 2013); Alex Lisandri, (UConn Class of 2011, and George Washington University Law School 2015); and the youngest, George, (Ohio State, Class of 2016).

In 2012, Nik made his first gift to the Community Foundation. Today he is proud to be in the category of “loyal donors,” those who contribute each and every year.

“It’s my way of saying thanks to all the people who have invested in me over the years,” he says. “Everyone in New London was always willing to go above and beyond for me — my family, our church, the teachers and guidance counselors at the public schools, and also the people at the Community Foundation — and I will never, ever forget that.”