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Cimino: Scholarship applicant stands out

I've been thinking about ... someone very special.

May and June are very busy months here at the Community Foundation. We receive hundreds of applications for the scholarships we hold, over 100 of them. To say we have seen it all, hardly states the case. But this year one application stood out from the crowd and I want to tell you about it.

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The Stephen E. Toop Memorial Scholarship has been with us since the untimely and tragic death of Stephan Toop, about 12 years ago. His friends and family set up the scholarship for students at Francis Scott Key and Westminster high schools. This is a four-year award and really makes a difference for the students who win it. This year it will be doubly meaningful.

I'm going to call the applicant Mike.

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Mike's application was like many others we get — all questions answered well, a better than 4.0 GPA, family income and number of children provided and a list of extracurricular and community activities as long as your arm. He speaks Spanish, is a jazz musician (saxophone), is a member of the National Honor Society and the Musical Honor Society, plays recreational soccer, played basketball at St. John's for 10 years and has been with the Westminster Baseball Association for 13 years and, oh yeah, he has over 800 documented community service hours. He is involved in all aspects of his church's youth ministry and also is an usher and greeter at church. Clearly, he has no problem interacting with people.

Now, I've already told you that we get a lot of applications just like this every year. So when did this one get special? His essay. This young man wants to pursue a career path in bioengineering to help design prosthetic devices for children born with cranial and other malformations and develop other methods using "Star Trek"-like technology to help people. He didn't tell us, until well into his essay, that he himself was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate and has undergone many surgeries himself to correct his situation.

He understands, firsthand, the difficulty in eating, speaking and playing a musical instrument. And do you know what else he understands? I quote him here: "Of all the places to live in the world with Birth Malformations, this is the place to live." He means, of course, The United States of America and especially, Maryland, the home of Johns Hopkins, Kennedy Krieger, University of Maryland and, nearby, Children's National Medical Center.

Mike also knows that babies in third-world counties with cranial malformations fail to thrive and are often shunned and mistreated. He wants to be part of the solution for them and plans to volunteer with The Smile Train and Operation Smile. Both of these organizations help children with untreated clefts living in undeveloped countries get treatment and safe surgery.

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At this time he is working with a surgical engineering team at University of Maryland Hospital in preparation for his own orthognathic surgery to be performed three weeks after graduation. He is facing a six- to eight-week recovery and has been preparing since November with his third set of braces and many appointments in Baltimore with the team.

This young man, who is enrolled at Carroll Community College, is something special in my book and I'm betting he will succeed at anything he puts his mind to.

And just so you all understand, I love my job.

Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.



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