MVF awards scholarships to four Village high school graduates

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by Roslyn Price
The Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF) once again joined the Watkins Mill and Gaithersburg High Schools’ Parent Teacher Student Associations (PTSA) to continue the MVF Scholarship Fund, now completing its 27th year. Since the program's inception in 1991, scholarships amounting to over $50,000 have been awarded to Village high school seniors. Through this fund, Village residents are able to show their support by encouraging student leadership and scholastic achievement while assisting graduating seniors in furthering their education. The amount available for each school is entirely determined by the amount donated by Village residents.

This year, MVF scholarships were granted to four Village students: Sarah Elbeshbishi and Elisabeth Warren of Watkins Mill High School (WMHS); and Katie Crocker and Charmaine Pfinayi of Gaithersburg High School (GHS). MVF Board approved guidelines for the awards require that the applicants be Montgomery Village residents who have actively participated in and been leaders of community or civic activities, clubs or organizations and who have demonstrated high scholastic achievement.

Sarah excelled academically throughout her high school years and has been named to the National Honor Society and National Science Honor Society. She continued to participate in swim team and Drama Club, as well as Girl Scouts, where she earned the Silver Award. Her extracurricular activities have been heavily school oriented and include participation in girls soccer, softball and swimming, student government, serving as class president and Students Against Destructive Decisions. 

Sarah discovered her true passion, though, in the field of journalism, when she enrolled in a journalism class and joined the school newspaper, The Current. In that capacity, Sarah not only honed her writing skills, but as Editor in Chief, expanded the content and reach of the paper, including its online presence, to showcase WMHS and celebrate the accomplishments of students and staff, as well as focus on fair treatment of students of all beliefs. Some of her stories have enjoyed national coverage in print and on the air. Her efforts were rewarded this year by being named Maryland Student Journalist of the Year as well as the National Student Journalist of the Year Runner-Up. In addition, Sarah was nominated and selected to receive a 2018 Bethesda Magazine Extraordinary Teen Award, as well as the Lee Thornton Young Scholars Journalism Scholarship.

Sarah will be studying journalism at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she will begin work this summer in a communications position. She credits her school and community for her success and is thankful for the support she has received. Although it seems clear that Sarah’s future path lies in journalism, wherever her studies lead her, her communication skills and enthusiasm will serve her well as she continues working to have a positive impact on the world.

Elisabeth has also excelled academically, being named to the National Honor Society, as well as the Science and Foreign Language Honor Societies. 

In addition to her academic excellence, Elisabeth has been active throughout her high school years in many varied community activities, including joining a coed group of Boy Scouts, known as Venturing, where she became extremely interested in the well-being of the environment. Like Sarah, she also continued to participate in Girl Scouts, earning the highest bronze and silver awards, competed on swim and dance teams and worked summers at a horse rescue farm.

Elisabeth’s strong leadership ability has also been evident in her extracurricular activities at WMHS, where she served as Drama Club President, sharing her love of theater and dance while assisting other theater students through coaching and advice. This year, Elisabeth was instrumental in forming the Outing Club, which introduces various outdoor and high adventure activities to students who may not otherwise have that opportunity. This club Includes conservation work that enables students to earn SSL and CAS hours and helps them to become stronger leaders themselves. 

This summer, Elisabeth will be working as Archery Director at the Goshen Scout Reservation Boy Scout Camp in Virginia. In her spare time, she’ll continue to pursue her love of dance. Elisabeth will be attending Dickinson College in the fall, where it is no surprise that she looks forward to combining her two passions—environmental science and theater.

Katie has also excelled academically throughout her high school years, never earning less than straight As, and named to the National Honor Society as well as the National Spanish and Science Honor Societies. In fact, it is due to her efforts that a chapter of the National Science Honor Society was formed at GHS in her junior year.

Other school activities have included Marching Band, varsity swimming and Student Government. Outside of school, Katie has devoted many hours to volunteer work, including working at St. Martin’s Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, assisting with a Gaithersburg community cleanup and more. Katie notes that she has discovered the important truth that it is in helping others that one finds joy.

Katie is choosing to pursue a career in STEM because, in her words, she wants “to make the world a better place.” She has always had a passion for the ocean and its potential to provide solutions to a variety of our world’s challenges, from providing clean energy to enabling cures for disease. She loves to spend time near the water, either hanging out with friends or even working; you can find her this summer at Lake Marion Pool where she is an assistant manager.

Katie will be attending the Florida Institute of Technology this fall—close to the water, of course—with plans to major in Oceanography or Ocean Engineering.

Charmaine has been an outstanding student throughout her school years, named to the National Honor Society as well as the National Spanish and Science Honor Societies and the National Society of Black Engineers. Early on, Charmaine discovered her passion for neuroscience and is determined to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon. In particular, her participation in Gaithersburg’s PLTW Bio-Medical Sciences Pathway program expanded her knowledge about medical fields, physiology and biological sciences.

Charmaine’s extracurricular activities included softball and varsity tennis. But much of her time outside of school has been devoted to a wide variety of community volunteer activities, including assisting at Montgomery Village Foundation events such as Halloween Hoopla, the Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s Dance and Leader in Training at MVF summer Activity Centers. In addition to participating in numerous honor society and church volunteer events, Charmaine spent a summer doing volunteer work at Shady Grove Medical Center and has worked at a soup kitchen. This summer, she hopes to have a job that will help pay for college expenses, while in her “down time” she enjoys watching horror movies!

Knowing that most science related careers are dominated by males, Charmaine would like to mentor minorities and young girls interested in STEM, with the hope of inspiring them to believe that their dreams can be realized. Although Charmaine was born here in America, she is acutely aware of the plight of many people in her family’s country of origin, Zimbabwe, and wants to give back in thanks for the opportunities she has been fortunate enough to find here.

Charmaine is enrolled for the fall, along with her twin sister, at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, with plans to major in Biology and minor in Medical Sociology, and then go on to medical school to pursue her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon.

All of us at MVF are extremely proud of all of these fine Watkins Mill and Gaithersburg high school students and wish them all the best in the future! On behalf of our award-winning students, we thank all those who donated funds toward this year’s scholarship awards. Although the scholarship amounts awarded by MVF are small in light of college costs, every bit of aid is helpful in a practical sense, and the symbolic meaning of your gift is immeasurably great. 

Thanks also to the volunteer MVF Scholarship Committee members who once again gave of their time and effort to select this year’s recipients from the large pool of applicants: Mary Helen Amery, Jim Andary, Clare Conlon and Sharon Levine.