Celebrating Brilliance

During a week in which the sobering news headlines just wouldn’t quit, Virginia’s Community Colleges took time out to celebrate some bright stars in our midst.

Philanthropists Cheryll and L. T. Simmons (center left) with New River Community College community

First there were the 24 individual donors and groups that were recognized with the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy on Tuesday. The 2013 class of philanthropy leaders has collectively donated $17 million to support Virginia’s Community Colleges – and they shined on Tuesday.

Among them were Cheryll and L. T. Simmons, the philanthropy leaders nominated by New River Community College, who traveled to Richmond with members of the New River community.  When you give to community colleges, they say, you are actually able to see results in the lives of students - as well as the effect their success has on the community.

The student speaker on Tuesday was a shining example of that success as she told the philanthropists how grateful she was for the scholarship she received through their support. Karyn Pickett, who graduated from Lord Fairfax Community College and will complete a bachelor’s degree at UVa next month, said she didn’t think she could attend college – and that scholarship support made her success possible.

Karyn Pickett with 2009 Philanthropy Award recipients Mr. and Mrs. Bob G. Sowder.

In addition to being a Commonwealth Legacy Scholar in 2009, Karyn was also a member of the Top 10 Virginia students of 2011, as nominated by Phi Theta Kappa.

And on Wednesday, the 2013 Top 10 – along with the entire group of All-Virginia Academic Team members – were honored in Richmond with their presidents and advisors proudly looking on.



This year’s top 10 includes the top student in Virginia, Anastasiya Hvaleva, who didn’t know any English when arriving in the U.S. three years ago – and now is at the top of her class at Piedmont Virginia Community College.  Two Valley Proteins Fellows also made the top 10 – Lindsay Narmour of Virginia Western and Ida Thompson of Paul D. Camp. All receive scholarships from their college foundations as well as from the Coca Cola Foundation and will be recognized nationally in USA Today.

The students and the philanthropists honored this week are a welcome reminder of the potential of a brighter future.

– posted by Susan Hayden

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