Scholarships double

The Baltimore Sun

David Black raked in a $150,000 full-ride scholarship to his first-choice school, Virginia Military Institute. The Annapolis High School graduate, who just returned from training at the school, said he couldn't wait to head back for the start of classes in three weeks.

Black, 17, and several hundred other members of the Annapolis High Class of 2008 were offered scholarships totaling $6.2 million, double last year's figure and ranking it third among Anne Arundel County's 12 public high schools. Severna Park High was first with $8.5 million, followed by Old Mill High with $8.2 million.

"We all kind of wanted to prove that Annapolis High School isn't that bad a school," said Black, who plans to be in the Marine Corps after he graduates from VMI. "The teachers are really great."

Overall, the county's 2008 senior class received $47.7 million in scholarship offers, a record for a graduating senior class, county school officials announced Tuesday. That is nearly $5 million more than the then-record $42.8 million offered in 2006 and $12 million more than last year.

Black suggested that Annapolis High's success might result from the International Baccalaureate program, a demanding academic program that encourages students to be inquisitive. The school graduated its second IB class this year.

This also is the first year after a reorganization in which all personnel had to reapply for their jobs. The hotly contested reorganization among teachers drew negative publicity and a feeling among students that they had to show the school's real potential, Black said.

Principal Don Lilley said he has noticed the extra drive from students, parents and staff members.

He said the increased scholarship dollars could be attributed to a number of factors. The school instituted a "counseling corner" in the cafeteria where students can consult with guidance counselors more frequently. A college intern worked with students and gave them pointers on applying for scholarships. Local businesses and community organizations stepped in to offer scholarships. And parents took on a more active role.

"Because of the economy, with less money to go around, you had more parents involved," Lilley said.

The county's higher scholarship amount could be partially attributed to a personnel change at high schools, said Gayle Cicero, coordinator of school counseling. Each high school hired a registrar last year to handle paperwork, such as transcripts for scholarship applications. This gave guidance counselors more time with the students, she said.

"I can't even explain how helpful it has been to have a registrar," said Vicki Wuest, chairwoman of the counseling department at Severna Park High School.

Wuest said counselors had more time to reach out to students and coach them on scholarship opportunities. As in previous years, counselors went to classrooms and made presentations about new scholarships. They included new information during morning and noon announcements. Counselors also made queries, then called parents to let them know whether their children might be eligible.

The school also held a scholarship and financial aid workshop for parents in the fall and spring.

"We really try to reach out here and target the students who qualify," Wuest said.

The annual senior study released this week - of 5,179 graduating seniors, 4,806 responded - found that 45 percent planned to attend four-year colleges or universities, 10 percent more than last year, and that 33 percent planned to attend a two-year colleges.

Black is continuing a military tradition in his family. His grandfather is a 1945 graduate of VMI. Black's father and two cousins graduated from the Naval Academy.

Black, who will play lacrosse for VMI, said, "I'm really excited to go."

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