Ten Outstanding Students Awarded LAPS Foundation Scholarships


Ten remarkable students have been awarded the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation Scholarship.

Each student selected demonstrated a balance of academic excellence, extracurricular participation and community service throughout their high school career. The winners have each selected an Educator of Distinction; this is an education professional that had a positive impact on the student’s time in the Los Alamos Public Schools.

The LAPS Foundation is a non-profit organization leverages time, talent and funds to promote innovative learning in our public schools. The Foundation continues to grow its scholarship funds through donations made by community members and alumni of the Los Alamos High School. The LAPS Foundation would like to thank Don Taylor Photography for taking the pictures used in this story.

Allison Rooney, left and Joy Handsberry

Allison Rooney was awarded the Ed & Betty Rynd Memorial Scholarship. The Rynds left a legacy of service to our community and our schools. They donated a large portion of their estate to the LAPS Foundation, finding the organization to be aligned with their values and trustworthy of such a bequest. Rooney was selected as the LAPS Foundation’s most meritorious applicant.

Rooney selected Joy Handsberry, her AP calculus teacher at LAHS, as her Educator of Distinction. Rooney said of Hansberry, “Ms. Handsberry is a great teacher, but it is for her personality that I truly admire her. She is a kind, compassionate teacher who really cares about her students. She made sure we knew her door was open for any problems we had. Very active in the school environment, she makes an effort to get to know all her students and keeps up on high school affairs.She dresses up during spirit week and encourages her students to do the same. She is always full of life and energy and radiates excitement to anyone she talks to. She is an amazing person.” 

While at LAHS, Rooney participated and excelled on the soccer and track teams and with Key Club. Rooney will attend Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. to study biology with plans to pursue a career in neuroscience eventually contributing to Alzheimer’s research. She is the daughter of Brian and Cindy Rooney.

Marlie Apperson, left, and Lynn Ovaska

Marlie Apperson selected Lynn Ovaska, her Advanced Placement Psychology teacher at LAHS, as her Educator of Distinction. Apperson said of Ovaska, “Going through high school, I forgot that life existed outside of AP classes and test scores. Mrs. Ovaska reminded me that it is okay to just breathe, and enjoy the sunshine. She has encouraged me to make the most of what life has given me. With that in mind, I believe that she has contributed to sending a well rounded pupil out in the world.”   

While at LAHS, Apperson participated and excelled on the cheerleading squad and Speech and Debate team. Apperson will attend the University of New Mexico and plans to study public heath with the intention of becoming a pediatrician. She is the daughter of Jason Apperson and Meghan Keresey.

Toni Batha, right and Catherine Puranananda

Toni Batha selected Catherine Puranananda, her Advanced Placement Literature and Composition teacher at LAHS, as her Educator of Distinction. Batha said of Puranananda, “The open and accepting environment in Ms. Puranananda’s classroom challenged me to think and give voice to my ideas about the literature we are reading and discussing. Catherine Puranananda takes the time to listen to her students during and after class. She treated all of her students as adults and with equal respect. Her own curiosity inspired our curiosity and rich conversations that extended well beyond the classroom.” 

While at LAHS, Batha participated and excelled on the Speech and Debate Team and the La Loma yearbook staff.  Batha will attend Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. and will study communications. She is the daughter of Steve and Margo Batha.

Janalie Gustafson, right, and Lynn Ovaska

Janalie Gustafson selected Lynn Ovaska, her advanced placement psychology teacher at LAHS, as her Educator of Distinction. Gustafson said of Ovaska, “She was amazing at explaining concepts in a way that we not only understood them intellectually but could apply them to ourselves as well. As a result, the class opened my eyes to aspects of myself that I had never looked at before. This self-reflection also showed me the power that looking honestly at our lives can have in strengthening relationships, especially with ourselves.”  

While at LAHS, Gustafson participated and excelled on the Cross Country Team and in Los Alamos Youth Leadership. Gustafson plans to attend Quest University, B.C., Canada where she will study exercise science and psychology with plans to work as a teacher or physical therapist. She is the daughter of John and Sarah Gustafson

Marcus Gutierrez and Margo Batha

Marcus Gutierrez selected Margo Batha, his 11th grade advanced placement language and composition teacher at LAHS, as his Educator of Distinction. Gutierrez said of Batha,” Mrs. Batha’s class melded my experiences in the classroom with the “real world”, constructing a bridge between analysis and action, inquiry and implementation. Rarely before had classroom experiences been able to grab my undivided attention, fully driving me to consider my responsibilities and ever-developing role as a maturing global citizen.” 

While at LAHS, Gutierrez participated and excelled in Natural Helpers and on the Cross Country Team. Gutierrez will attend Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass. where he will study biology with plans to become a physician specializing in bariatrics. He is son of Joaquin and Melinda Gutierrez.

Paulina Majewska, left, and Margo Batha

Paulina Majewska selected Margo Batha, her 11th grade advanced placement language and composition teacher and speech and debate coach, as her Educator of Distinction. Majewska said of Batha, “I saw her strong dedication to what she taught. Every class was interesting and in every class I learned something new. Mrs. Batha taught with the use of lectures and presentations, group discussions, and projects, just to name a few, and each project was a new experience. I remember that although Mrs. Batha had four classes of over 20 students each, she still had time to individually talk to each student about his project. She was not only helpful and dedicated in academics, she provided me with guidance in my personal life as well, and she was always someone that I felt comfortable talking to.  Her passion for her work truly inspired me.” 

While at LAHS, Majewska participated and excelled on the Speech and Debate Team and in Key Club. She will attend the University of New Mexico and will participate in the BA/MD program with plans to become a physician.  Paulina is the daughter of Beata and Jaroslaw Majewska

Simona Martin, right, and Joy Hansberry

Simona Martin selected Joy Handsberry, her advanced placement calculus teacher, as her Educator of Distinction. Martin said of Handsberry, “Ms. Handsberry helped me not only fall in love with the material being taught, but with math in general. She led by example, and her curiosity and passion was contagious. Through her sense of humor and creativity, she was consistently able to engage with every student in the classroom. She is not only a truly brilliant educator, but also a perpetual source of support and inspiration for all her students.” 

While at LAHS, Martin participated and excelled on the Swim Team and as a volunteer at the Los Alamos Medical Center. Martin will attend the University of Chicago and plans to study biochemistry and mathematics with plans to work in medicine. She is the daughter of Lana Martin and Ivar Martin.

Amy Neal, right, and Lynn Ovaska

Amy Neal selected Lynn Ovaska, her advanced placement psychology teacher at LAHS, as her Educator of Distinction. Neal said of Ovaska, “I have had several remarkable teachers, but there is one teacher who has gone over and beyond anyone else to help me achieve. She has not only instructed me in a subject I have really enjoyed, but she has taught my class to love learning. She has over 195 students this year, but she made each one of us feel as if we were her favorite student. What she taught me, I will take to college and beyond.”

While at LAHS, Neal participated and excelled on the Soccer Team and the United Way Youth Team. Neal will attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to study civil engineering or science. She is the daughter of Ben and Ruth Neal.

Gillian Hsieh Ratliff

Gillian Hsieh Ratliff selected Anita Mitchell, her fifth grade teacher at Mountain Elementary School as her Educator of Distinction. Ratliff said of Mitchell, “Mrs. Mitchell inspired me to learn—something a teacher had yet to do. I loved going to school because Mrs. Mitchell challenged me and expected me to do my best work. Learning to love being challenged is something she gave me. I challenge myself by signing up for class that asks for the same things she expected from me. Because of Mrs. Mitchell, I’ve come to expect academic challenges. She changed me by showing me I could be successful in her class.”

While at LAHS, Hsieh Ratliff participated and excelled on the Tennis Team and co-president of Natural Helpers. Hsieh Ratliff will attend Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. and plans to study human biology and international affairs. She is the daughter of Linda Hsieh and Gilbert Ratliff.

McKenna Schoonover, right, and Catherine Puranananda

McKenna Schoonover selected Catherine Puranananda, her advanced placement teacher, as her Educator of Distinction. Schoonover said of Puranananda, “Ms. P. has taught me many life lessons: how to be patient and respectful, hard-working and motivated, accepting and realistic. She has become someone I can confide in and learn from, a woman that I look up to as a role model. I am very blessed to have spent the past six years with Ms. P. in my life. She is not only an encouraging and wonderful teacher, but also an excellent cook, a classy dancer, and an amazing, life-long friend!” 

While at LAHS, Schoonover participated and excelled with the New Mexico Dance Theater and Los Alamos Youth Leadership. Schoonover will attend Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.to study nutrition and biology with plans to pursue a career in either pediatric medicine or national security. She is the daughter of Jon and Shelley Schoonover.

To donate to the LAPS Foundation call (505) 470-3734 or visit the website at www.lapsfoundation.com.


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