Last month I wrote about feeling privileged to be a member of the team that chooses the Rotary Club of Moines (RCDM) scholarship winner from East High School. (And the Winner Is . . . )
Every year RCDM awards an $8000 scholarship to a student from each of Des Moines' six high schools, so there are six separate interview teams. After the selections are made, the scholarship committee meets as a whole to ratify the list of winners, and the awards are presented a few weeks later at a luncheon honoring the winners and their families, counselors and school officials.
I was impressed by this year's awardees, both individually and as a group. Check them out.
The winner from East High, Jasmine Johnson, is one of seven children. Because her father was abusive, he couldn't remain part of the family, so Jasmine was raised by a single, working mother who nevertheless taught Jasmine to read by the time she was three. Despite working 24 to 30 hours a week at HyVee and volunteering more than 200 hours, Jasmine managed to earn good grades and academic honors. She plans to attend Iowa State University and major in psychology to prepare for a career as social worker or mental health counselor.
Tam Cao is the scholarship recipient chosen from Hoover's applicants. In addition to her academic achievements which include making the honor roll and becoming a National Honor Society member, Tam has been active in cheerleading, tennis, choir, the Viet Eucharistic Youth group and her church, and she mentors ESL students. Tam's goal is to become a dentist and will attend Grandview as a pre-dentistry student.
The Lincoln High winner is Blessing Hutchinson. The interview team described her as a wonderfully, positive person who lives up to her name. Blessing was a member of the Lincoln track team and well as active in Upward Bound, church and multi-cultural dance. She has been accepted at Drake University where she will pursue of a bachelor's degree followed by a master's in school counseling. She said, “Sometimes all you need is someone in your corner.”
Raymond Abwe was selected from eight applicants at North High. The interview team said they were strongly affected by the “incredible” personal essay written by a young man who knew no English less than three years ago. Raymond was born in Tanzania to a family that had fled from the Congo and came to the U.S. as refugees. Raymond helped found and is active in a church for Congolese in Des Moines. He plans to study accounting at Grandview in order to teach badly needed financial literacy to the Des Moines Congolese community.
The Roosevelt winner is Oanh Bui. Oanh, whose parents are from Vietnam, has a 3.82 grade point and has already earned 22 college credits through her AP work. Oahn said in their seven-person household, commitment to education and hard work are expected. She has been active in student government, the Rider Crew, Christ the King Church, and she plays the piano. She is also a graphic artist who started her own design business as a high school sophomore. Oanh is enrolled in Iowa State University's College of Design.
Scavo's winner, Nou Vue, is a first-generation Thai-American and a single mom who works full time to support her grandmother and her two two-year-old daughter. After leaving school for two years, she returned, earning all A’s and B’s in spite of the limited time she had to study. Nou, who was unable to be present for the award luncheon because she was on a mission in Thailand, plans to attend DMACC to earn an association nursing degree, followed by Iowa State University to complete her nursing degree, then medical school to become a pediatrician.
The gumption it's taken for all of these students to succeed in spite of the challenges and obstacles they've faced is impressive.