Scholarship Winners Have Remarkable Records Of Community Involvement And Public Service

Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos

The nine students chosen to receive Kiwanis scholarships this year are all scholastically outstanding—but Kiwanis looks at more than just grades. All of those chosen have remarkable and extremely varied records of community involvement and public service.

Sharon Stover, chairwoman of the Kiwanis Scholarship Committee has arranged for each of the nine to speak to Kiwanis, but here, in alphabetical order, is a peek at what makes each of these students special. All of them are “super volunteers”—people who care deeply about the needs of those around them.

Talia Dreicer has been a member of the Los Alamos High School (LAHS) varsity cross-country and varsity track teams for all four years of her high school career. She has also been involved in a page-long list of extracurricular activities. Among them are these two: She said, “I have spent many hours volunteering at PEEC (the Pajarito Environmental Education Center), helping move and organize the center before the grand opening of the new building in 2014, representing PEEC at local events, and helping around the center. I have also worked as a camp counselor at PEEC’s outdoor adventure camps for community youth for two years and intend to do so again. In 2014, I was asked to be the student liaison to the Board of Directors.”  She also spent time during the first semester of her senior year “completing an internship with the vision and mobility specialist at Aspen Elementary School.” She said, “I worked first-hand with children with vision and mobility disabilities such as blindness … I was able to work one-on-one with students, helping them read, write, and walk around.” She is considering applying the skills that she learned “to a teaching position in the future.”

Emily Hopkins is also an accomplished athlete. She was a starter on the LAHS Girls Varsity Soccer Team for three years, and, she noted, “As a captain, I led the team to the state quarterfinals my junior year, and the state finals my senior year.” She was also involved in the United Way Youth Team for four years, serving as co-chairwoman in her senior year. And she is very active in the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church Youth Group. In her scholarship application essay, she said, “I am exceptionally fortunate to be in a community, church, and family … so focused on service and giving back … I have put my heart and soul into creating better experiences for others … Through my major in engineering, my main goal is to find a way to use my degree in a field that will provide safer and healthier living conditions for all people, but most importantly, I wish to leave a positive mark on all places in my life, and set a good example for those who follow.”

Eun Jin (Grace) Kim has been very active in the LAHS Key Club (the Kiwanis high school affiliate organization) for four years. In each of those years, she contributed more than 30 hours of volunteer work to the organization. She served as co-historian her junior year and as treasurer in her senior year.  She has helped with Cookies and Conversations with Senior Citizens, with the Empty Bowls fundraiser, and with Daffodils for Hospice. She is a violinist, and she performed regularly at her church, served as concert mistress of the advanced orchestra at LAHS in her junior and senior years, was selected as a member of the Los Alamos Symphonic Orchestra in ninth through 12th grades, and participated in All State for four years. She is very active in her church youth group, where she has been a young-girl mentor, a visitation leader, and a nursing home organizer. She has also been part of the Los Alamos Teen Science Café Youth Leadership Team, organizing and providing food and activities for monthly events at which scientists presented their research.

EliseAnne Koskelo is an athlete, a young scientist of note, and a very active member of Key Club. She was also in cross-country from 2012 through 2015. She noted, “… My fastest time for a 5K is 21:00.” She was active in Key Club from 2013 through 2015, serving as vice president her senior year. She planned the “Community Literacy Night” this spring. Her record in science is outstanding, and she has already been a featured speaker at Kiwanis twice, describing her research on earthquakes. She explained her Science Fair work from 2009 to 2016 in these words: “Over the past two years, I have conducted two different research projects in which I tested the earthquake resistance of different skyscraper designs inspired by various trees; I have developed an in-depth understanding of earthquakes and structural analyses (through shaker table tests, modal analyses, and Fourier analysis); I have received more than 20 special awards and was named first in state and alternate to ISEF (the International Science and Engineering Fair) last spring. I won the Grand Prize for the Senior Division at the Los Alamos County Science Fair in 2015 and 2016.”  She wants to be “an archeogeoengineer,” and create technologies “that are preserving of both the environment and human cultures.”

JoAnna O’Neill wants to be an emergency room physician. In her application essay she said, “… I donate my time to a number of different activities, with the most significant being Ski Patrol, where I spend nearly 500 hours per year working to help others without compensation. When I joined the Pajarito Mountain Ski Patrol, I was instantly surrounded by individuals who came together through their passion for helping others. I was inspired by these people and automatically knew that I was in the right place….” This past semester, she completed the emergency medical technician (EMT) course at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos to become a nationally certified EMT. Kathy Brooks, DVM, a ski patroller who wrote a letter of recommendation for O’Neill, said, “JoAnna is a self-motivated natural leader. She provides solid moral guidance and encouragement to the other YAPs (Young Adult Patrollers), while also tangibly helping them by setting up YAP medical refresher study parties and other events such as serving at aid stations for local bicycle and long distance running races …  JoAnna excels in many leadership capacities off the mountain as well. She is captain of the Navy high school ROTC Precision Air Rifle team, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. She is a champion shotgun competitor. For the past two years, she has been captain of the girls’ rugby team. This year, JoAnna began running with the cross-country team….”

John Rees is interested in “medicine or a graduate degree in bioengineering or biomedical engineering.” He too is a ski patroller. In his essay, he wrote, “…I have been involved in a number of service activities which have benefited the community. I’m a ski patroller at Pajarito; I work at the Senior Center; and I’m a Natural Helper at the high school. Becoming a ski patroller required over a hundred hours of training in outdoor emergency care and on-mountain rescue training. I now patrol up to 15 days each season. I have also used these skills to support mountain bike patrol and work at aid stations for local running events. During the summers, I volunteer at the Day Out program at the Senior Center, interacting with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients….” Irene Powell, retired former volunteer coordinator at the Betty Ehart Senior Center, wrote, “…John worked for three summers in my office, and he left a lasting impact … He had an important duty to play chess with a man with Alzheimer’s in the Day Out area of the senior center. This man’s face would light up when he saw John. My face would light up when I saw John. He was fun to talk to and a delight to be around….”

Camille Rousculp, recipient of the Stephen Stoddard Memorial Scholarship (awarded by Kiwanis), has been very active in Key Club for four years. She was a class representative to Key Club in her sophomore year; the club secretary in her junior year; and president her senior year. Morrie Pongratz, long-time Kiwanis member and Key Club advisor, wrote a letter of recommendation for her that included a list of 16 Key Club events in which she had played a major role. They ranged from helping with eighth grade orientation at LAHS to helping with Little Forest Fall Fiesta. He also listed 13 community and extracurricular activities in which she had participated. She’s a dancer, who has taken 12 years of lessons. She’s an actress, who sang and tap-danced the lead in the 2014 LAHS spring musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” She performed in Topper Revue 2016 (tap dancing and singing with her sister, Cate). She’s been in three productions of the Los Alamos Light Opera. She has studied piano for nine years. She has sung in the LAHS Jazz Choir. She’s a 12-year Girl Scout who participated for three years in Explorer Post 20.  And that’s just a few of her activities. She has also gotten to the regional tournament in robotics competition, and she has a substantial employment history ranging from summer work at the East Park Pool to teaching basic ballet to little kids at Dance Arts Los Alamos.

Jonathan I. Salazar has been involved in New Mexico 4H for 12 years. He played LAHS varsity football, and he is involved at the local, state, and national levels in DECA (a high school and college business management organization). One of his teachers, Stephanie Hailey, wrote, “Jonathan is very hard working, and he is a motivation and inspiration to other students …. He is extremely talented in academics and also actively participates in many extracurricular activities. Jonathan is a member of the National Honor Society and the nationally ranked Hilltalkers speech and debate team. He excels as a sportsman, and, in 2013, he won the national NFAA (National Field Archery Association) archery championships.” Salazar himself wrote: “…I was born and raised in Northern New Mexico. I was raised by my single mother with the help of my grandfather. My mother always wanted the best for me, so she sacrificed a lot to send me to the best public high school in New Mexico (LAHS) … I help my mom with my two young siblings, and I manage to participate in varsity athletics … I also have dedicated my last four to five years to assisting with the daily care of my grandfather. There once was a time that he took care of me, and now I am taking care of him. He is a great inspiration to me … My grandfather never received a degree nor did he complete anything beyond a high school diploma, but through hard work, perseverance, and dedication, he made a difference in the lives of others. He was a community leader and advocate for the less fortunate. My grandfather inspired me to get a formal education and continue in his footsteps by giving back and helping those less fortunate than myself….”

Anna Tompkins wants to be a teacher, perhaps in a Christian school overseas. She has been homeschooled, and her résumé lists considerable volunteer work for her church. She has also been a volunteer with HOPE Pregnancy Care Center; a volunteer in a second-grade classroom of the Los Alamos Public Schools; and a volunteer juror on the Teen Court. Her background includes seven years of competition experience in speech and debate, multiple years of competition in swimming “with teams such as Los Alamos Aquatomics and Machine Aquatics.” In her essay, she wrote, “When I look to my future goals, I find that I always return to my desire to serve others. I believe that service isn’t a weekly duty but a joyously purposeful lifestyle. The college degree I would like to acquire is in Bible teaching. Such a degree would allow me to minister and serve others, both instructing them for the future and learning to meet their needs in the present. Along with my degree, I want to continue to serve in my local community and ultimately selflessly serve my own family as a wife and mother. I think the most important thing I’ve learned about service is that while it does change me, it isn’t about me. It’s about seeing a need and choosing not to turn a blind eye. It’s about putting someone else’s needs above your own, and it’s about consistent love for others, whether they are second graders or peers….”