Twelve 11th grade girls from Harford County high schools were honored Saturday at the 26th annual Judith Resnik Mathematics/Science Awards luncheon at Harford Community College.
Sponsored by the American Association of University Women Harford Branch, the luncheon recognizes Harford County's outstanding junior class girls who excel in math and science.
One female junior from each public high school in Harford and John Carroll School was recognized for her work in school and achievements in the field.
Anne Heidenreich, chairperson for the AAUW Harford branch, explained the significance of the award to the honorees and other luncheon guests.
She told the story of Judith Resnik, an AAUW member and the second American woman in space for whom the event is dedicated to. In 1986, Resnik lost her life in the horrific Challenger explosion, along with her fellow astronauts aboard.
Since the tragic event, the Harford Branch of AAUW has held the award luncheon in her memory.
Each junior girl was presented with a certificate and was introduced by an AAUW member.
Jasmin Madrigale, from Aberdeen High School, was introduced by member Karen Gyolai.
"She's the 11th grade top-achieving female in math and science," Gyolai said. Jasmin hopes to become a pediatrician and is on her school's wrestling team, only the second female to do so at Aberdeen.
Mariel Gaviola, from Aberdeen's Science and Mathematics Academy, "comes from a family of high achievers," said her introducing AAUW member Peggy Diamond. Three years ago, Diamond also introduced Mariel's sister at the luncheon.
Mariel's favorite subject is chemistry. She is a member of the school's tennis team and a member of the Spanish National Honor Society.
Xuan Bui, from Bel Air High School, is a Vietnamese-American whose parents came to the United States 20 years ago.
Taking four advanced placement classes, Xuan was described as constantly demonstrating a passion and appreciation for math and science.
Kourtney Rutkowski, from C. Milton Wright High School, is first in her class with a 4.5 GPA. She's also a member of the National Honor Society, wants to major in biology in college and eventually hopes to go into veterinary medicine.
Having already achieved enough credits to graduate, Kourtney is waiving her senior year of high school and will attend Harford Community College in the fall, with plans to transfer to UMBC the following year.
Mariah Balmaceo-Criss, from Edgewood High School, is enrolled in the school's the International Baccalaureate Program and loves anatomy, chemistry, biology and math.
Mariah wants to become a neurosurgeon. She is a member of Edgewood's academic team, has been on the honor roll every semester and is a member of the National Honor Society and the French National Honor Society.
She says her greatest accomplishment so far is being a counselor at Harford Glen Environmental Center because she was able to help children of all different backgrounds.
Fiona Puglese, from Fallston High School, was described as thoughtful and considerate and a huge Ravens fan.
Although her favorite subject is U.S. history, Fiona wants to become a doctor.
When not at school or writing for Fallston's newspaper, Fiona also volunteers at the Fallston branch of the Harford County Public Library.
Marisa Giro from Harford Technical High School was introduced by AAUW member Pat Hogan.
Marisa loves "being in the laboratory," Hogan said, and has been on the honor roll throughout her high school career.
At Harford Tech, Marisa is focusing on exercise science to be a sports technician. She's also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Both of Emily Caron's parents are in the science field, so it's no surprise that the junior from Havre de Grace High School loves calculus and has attended the space camp at Johns Hopkins University.
Emily is also first in her class, a member of the National Honor Society, is running for NHS president and is the vice president of Havre de Grace's student government.
Emily, who participates in marching band, volleyball and the swim team, is torn between two paths for her future: attending pharmacy school, either to be in research or sales, or becoming a lawyer.
Shane Boulware, from Joppatowne High School, is taking full advantage of her academic opportunities.
She will be taking AP calculus and French 2 next year and wants to be a pediatrician because she enjoys helping others.
Havre de Grace resident Claire Zurkowski attends John Carroll and has a great enthusiasm for math and science, especially problem solving.
She hopes to attend a college out west, majoring in architecture so she can combine her passion for math and art.
Samantha Verzi, from North Harford High School, was described as talented, intelligent and engaging young lady who attributes her success in school to her family and school.
Samantha takes AP biology, honors U.S. history, Spanish 3 and body building. She's also a part of Best Buddies, an organization that pairs a person with someone with an intellectual disability, plays on the varsity soccer team and is on the bowling club.
Amy Bednarek, from Patterson Mill High School, also has a number of extracurricular activities, including National Honor Society, French National Honor Society, secretary of the school's French club and serves as class treasurer.
Amy loves soccer and was the captain of the varsity team. She's also on the distinguished honor roll and is working toward the Gold Award in Girls Scouts, her project being a summer soccer camp for mentally challenged students.
In college, Amy hopes to continue playing soccer and wants to major in physical therapy for sports injuries.
After the awards presentation, guest speaker Dr. Sabra L. Klein gave a talk on the unique immune responses in women.
The topic of Klein's talk was something she has studied for quite some time.
She explained several reasons why women typically live longer than men, how hormones affect a person's immune system, why women clear infections better than men and, adversely, why women develop autoimmune diseases more frequently than men.
Klein is an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a published author of more than 75 journal publications and book chapters and the 2010 recipient of the Society for Women's Health Research Medtronic Award for Science Contributions.
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Klein told her audience she is "very supportive of women in science and math," and said she was "completely floored" by the achievements of the young women honored Saturday afternoon.