County seniors' hard work pays off; 12 students who toiled out of limelight get $1,000 Comcast awards


They're not valedictorians or the star athletes. They're the students who have worked hard and steadily over the past four years.

Yesterday, perseverance paid off as 12 Anne Arundel County high school seniors became the first beneficiaries of a local scholarship program established by Comcast Cable. The students -- one from each county high school -- received $1,000 toward their college education.

"It's not the straight-A student from freshman to senior year who receives this award, but rather the student who struggled early and worked so hard, and by senior year can be recognized as a scholastic hero," Sharon Stallings, a vice president and general manager with Comcast, said at the award ceremony at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

Scholarship winner Matt Hutchison, a senior at Severna Park High, said he plans to put the money toward his tuition at Towson University as he pursues a career in musical performance.

"Since I was old enough to remember, my mom said I was going to have to pay my own way, so whatever I can get is a big help," said Hutchison, who plays guitar, piano and banjo.

The lanky 17-year-old took a leading role in musical activities at Severna Park High and was assistant director of the school's annual Rock and Roll Revue for the past two years.

"He was my right arm," said Sam Scalzi, revue director and Hutchison's guidance counselor. Scalzi suggested Hutchison for the Comcast scholarship.

"He's a good student but not a 4.0," Scalzi said. "He fits the bill for what they're looking for."

Comcast officials said the scholarship program seeks to honor those students who may have been overlooked by traditional academic or sports scholarships. The cable company has made a five-year, $60,000 commitment to Anne Arundel County students.

Accompanied by proud parents and teachers, the award recipients mingled at yesterday's ceremony with Comcast staff and elected officials.

"It's a tribute to your perseverance and your willingness to keep going when it's not easy," County Executive Janet S. Owens told the scholarship winners." She said the award made her think of one of her two sons -- the one who had struggled in school.

"This weekend I found out that he got a 3.6 in business in his freshman year in college," she said.

"Your investment has paid off," county schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham told the students. "I'm just so proud of all of you."

Comcast began its scholarship program in Baltimore County in 1992. In addition to Anne Arundel students, the company is also recognizing seniors in Calvert, Charles, Prince George's, Howard and Harford counties this year.

"As Comcast Cable has expanded across the region, so has the program," said Kirstie Durr, a spokeswoman for Comcast. The Philadelphia-based company moved into Anne Arundel in the past year through its acquisition of Jones Intercable Inc.

Recipients are selected by a panel of teachers and administrators.

Scholarship recipient Mathew Contee of South River High School said he plans to use the money to attend Bowie State University and hopes to become a social worker.

Through high school, Contee has tutored elementary pupils at an after-school program, worked as an aide in the guidance office and served as a peer mediator, helping fellow students resolve difficulties.

"I think that's a very good match for him," South River guidance counselor Patricia Buck said of Contee's career choice. "He cares a lot about people and has worked with students who are having problems."

The other Comcast scholarship recipients are:

Kyle Acker of Annapolis High, DeVon L. Thompson of Arundel High, Carl "Tony" Klapaska of Broadneck, Melissa Warren of Chesapeake, Anthony Anderson of Glen Burnie, Derek Jones of Meade, Robert Richardson of North County, Eva Bobich of Northeast, Rykeisha Yarberough of Old Mill and Wayne Taylor of Southern High.

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