For four years, four recent graduates of Oakland Mills High School have volunteered much of their time to various organizations. But only recently did they find out how much they had in common.
In May, the Columbia Association awarded Ethan Fingerman, Karen Keczmerski, Kimberly Raschka and Maya Thompson $1,000 each for their volunteer service. The money is to be used toward their college tuition.
For the past five years, the Spear Family Community Service Scholarship Award has honored four graduating seniors of Columbia high schools for their volunteer work in the county.
Ann Scherr, a spokeswoman for the Columbia Association, said the association's board of directors looks for winners who will likely continue their volunteerism in the future.
"It is odd that all of the recipients are from Oakland Mills High School, but they represent three villages," Mrs. Scherr said.
At least 25 candidates a year vie for the scholarship, but the four winners say performing community service could be made more attractive to students.
"I think a lot of county students are involved in community service, but if it could be offered in a fun way it would catch on more," said Ethan Fingerman, 18, who lives in the Talbott Springs neighborhood of Oakland Mills.
Maya Thompson, 17, a resident of Wilde Lake, agreed that community service has a negative connotation to some youths.
"If it's presented to them and they won't have to seek it out, they'll involve themselves," she said.
Kimberly Raschka, 18, who lives in Owen Brown Village, said awareness is a problem.
"I don't think most kids my age are aware of what they can do," she said. "The idea of giving up time and not being paid turns them off."
Not so for this bunch.
"Once you're involved, you're hooked," said Mr. Fingerman, who will attend Yale University in the fall and possibly study genetics.
He's getting a start on the sciences this summer with a paid internship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, where he is studying calcium channels.
Besides his internship, Mr. Fingerman said he is still giving his time to his volunteer groups.
hile in high school, he participated in at least four volunteer organizations, including Students Helping Other People, Oakland Mills Peer Leadership Program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education and the county Drug and Alcohol Abuse Advisory Board.
As the only teen-ager on the advisory board, Mr. Fingerman persuaded his colleagues to make his participation count for more by granting him and future youth members a voting position. His term expires in September.
He was co-captain of his school's math team and a member of the "It's Academic" team. During his senior year, he became student body vice president.
Miss Thompson will use her scholarship money at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. She plans to become a researcher.
The Columbia Association award honored her for dividing time between Jack and Jill of America Inc., a service organization for mothers and teen-agers, and Black Student Achievement, a program that provides cultural activities in state high schools. Miss Thompson was also her senior class president.
Miss Keczmerski, 18, a resident of Oakland Mills Village, has been involved with the Appalachia Service Project for three years, spending part of her summer vacations in Kentucky and Virginia repairing residents' homes.
This summer, she has already spent a week in Virginia helping to renovate a house.
While in high school, she played on the field hockey, lacrosse and indoor track teams, and sang in the school choir.
Her secret for time management? "I just did it," Miss Keczmerski said.
She will attend the University of Maryland College Park to study fire protection engineering.
Miss Raschka, 18, will attend the College of Charleston in South Carolina and study marine biology.
Because she was so busy with school before she graduated and was volunteering at the Savage Volunteer Fire Station, she opted to relax this summer in New Zealand.
Two years ago, a firefighter talked her into joining an emergency medical technician class.
"I didn't know what I was getting myself in," Miss Raschka said, but she did concede that the firefighter sparked a latent interest.
"When I was in the fifth grade, my father was in a really bad car accident. He was hit by a drunk driver," she said. "Basically the seat belt and the state trooper saved his life. I wanted to be able to do what that state trooper did."
She has been a member of the volunteer Fire Department for 18 months and has been riding the ambulance every Thursday for the past year.
"Being an EMT is like being a paramedic, but I can't do as much. I can't administer drugs, or [use] shock paddles, but I can administer CPR and deal with bleeding," she said.
"I can deal with gunshot wounds and stabbings. I haven't yet, but I'm sure they will come."