WESTPORT — Returning to her alma mater on Tuesday evening, Courtney Garzone had a few pieces of advice for the crowd gathered in the Staples High School library — all of which had to do with gratitude.

“Be grateful for, and make the most of, your entire college experience,” Garzone began, at the 75th annual Staples Tuition Grants ceremony. “Be grateful to your guardians for being there and helping us get to this point and supporting us through the next four years as best they can. Be grateful for our education and the teachers and administrators here at Staples.”

“Be grateful for the opportunity to advance your career before it even starts. College is an opportunity not everyone has a chance to have and so these tuition grants really help us,” Garzone said.

Garzone is an environmental educator who went on to Penn State University from Staples, where she got a degree in environmental science and international agriculture. She now works at Winslow Park Animal Hospital and, a four-year recipient of a Staples Tuition Grant, was invited back as a guest speaker at Tuesday’s ceremony.

Her remarks were made to the 113 current and former Staples students receiving grants this year, and their families. Staples Tuition Grants (STG), a nonprofit, awarded $304,000 total in grants ranging from $1,000 to $6,000.

“The STG awards grant each year to any Staples High School grad with a demonstrated need who is earning a postgraduate degree, really across the board. So it’s not just a bachelor's degree,” said Matt Porio. Students who apply for the grant are chosen on need-based criteria.

Dr. Albert Beasley, a well-known pediatrician in town, has long been a donor to STG and began an award in the name of his late wife, Dr. Jane Beasley. He was the second guest speaker invited to the podium on Tuesday.

“Staples Tuition Grant is a wonderful asset for Westport. It offers so much to our adolescents and young adults who are going on to start their careers with a college education,” said Beasley.

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1; 203-842-2586