Reservoir High School senior Ricardo Loyola will be the first person in his family to attend college, thanks in part to a new scholarship developed by the Howard County school system.
The Teachers for Tomorrow program, which trades college scholarship money for service to the school system, was introduced last fall in an effort to diversify the county's teaching force while providing low-income students with college access.
"I would be starting a new trend for my family," said Loyola, 18. "If I succeed, more people in my family will follow in my footsteps — that will be a great thing to do."
School officials recognized Loyola and 10 other Howard County high school students as members of the inaugural Teachers for Tomorrow, or T4T, class at a ceremony Wednesday.
"We need our best and brightest students to teach and work in our school system, and we must remove financial means as a barrier to their success," Superintendent Renee Foose said. "The T4T scholarship program is one step in a long-term commitment to increase the diversity of our workforce and create opportunities for all students to pursue their dreams."
Each scholarship is partially funded by a $12,000 contribution per year from the county school system; McDaniel covers the remaining costs, after state and federal grants are applied. Tuition and fees to attend McDaniel in the 2015-2016 school year cost $39,900.
The Kahlert Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Sykesville, has pledged to contribute $230,000 to T4T over the next four years.
Minorities constitute nearly 60 percent of the student body in the county, while approximately 15 percent of the system's certified teaching staff are not white.
A report released last year showed that low-income students in the county who received free or reduced-price meals in schools were 20 percent less likely to attend college than other graduates.
School officials said they targeted low-income students with high academic achievement for the T4T program, as well as those who would be first-generation college students.
The 11 winners, who were chosen based on academic achievement and recommendations from teachers and guidance counselors, will receive scholarships that cover tuition and room and board at McDaniel College, a private college in Westminster. The students may major in any subject they choose, so long as they minor in education, complete student teaching and maintain at least a 2.75 grade point average.
In exchange, the students commit to working for Howard County schools for three years following graduation.
"I find it interesting because as a student, I received a lot of help from teachers and counselors," Loyola said. "And I'll be coming back to help students, so I get to see both sides of the story. It would feel great to know I influenced someone's life for the better."
Students in the inaugural T4T class have a wide array of backgrounds, experience and interests, and more than half are among the first in their families to attend college, according to a statement from the school system.
Daniela Yacobucci Lapaitis, a senior at Wilde Lake High School, was born in Caracas, Venezuela. She speaks both English and Spanish, is a member of the National Thespian Society and has been a part of both the technical crew and ensemble cast for her school's theatrical productions.
Kevin Rockwell, a senior at Oakland Mills High School, has been involved in his school's concert choir for the past four years and has played football and wrestled.
Other T4T scholarship winners were Nicolette Brookman, Philip Bonsu, Dorothee Cadet, Lucero Espinal, Austin Metzler, Irma Murhutta, Kory Williams and Moises Zelaya Caceres.
"I can't wait to see what the first Teachers for Tomorrow Scholarship recipients achieve at McDaniel," said Roger Casey, president of McDaniel College. "They exemplify the best of what America is searching for in its future teacher workforce."