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Wednesday, 26 March 2014 14:48

Quartet of local students among Carson honorees

by Nicole Rodman

Each year, the beginning of spring brings the promise of warmer days and a gradual end to the cold and snow of the long winter.
    The season also brings with it the annual announcement of which students have been named Carson Scholars.
    This year, four local students have renewed their status as Carson Scholars.
    The Carson Scholars Fund was founded in 1994 by famed Baltimore neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and his wife Candy.
    The purpose of the fund is to recognize students across the country for excellence in both academics and community service.
    Students in grades 4 through 11 are eligible to become first-time scholars, while students in grades five through 12 can renew their status as Carson Scholars.
    Repeat scholars must maintain their grades and service activities in order to receive renewed recognition.
    All student winners receive a medal and a trophy for their school. First-time scholars also earn a $1,000 scholarship.
    This year, the Carson Scholars Fund recognized 510 new and 704 returning scholars across the country.
    Locally, middle schoolers Emily Poist and Jacob Swink and high school students Lesley Sprouse and Santina Mitchell have been recognized as repeat Carson Scholars.
    All four, along with other honorees from across the Mid-Atlantic, will be honored at an awards banquet at Martin’s West in Woodlawn on April 6.
A young woman of many talents
    Though she has won three times previously, eighth-grader Emily Poist was in disbelief when she got the news that she was again being recognized as a Carson Scholar.
    “It was really surprising,” she told The Eagle last week. “I didn’t believe it at first. It was so exciting.”
    Although she is a Dundalk resident, Poist is a student in the technology magnet program at Parkville Middle School and Center for Technology.
    In school, Poist favors language arts. In fact, she  plans to become a language arts teacher when she gets older.
    Outside of the classroom, Poist stays busy as a member of the yearbook club and her school’s chapter of the National Junior Honor Society.
    She also plays rec council softball and is a longtime member of the Girl Scouts.
    Poist dedicates most of her  spare time to her true passion — writing.
    “I like poetry and I write short stories,” she explained. “When I’m bored, I  just sit down with a pencil and pad of paper and write whatever comes to my mind.”
    Now in her last year of middle school, Poist is aiming for the environmental science magnet program at Sparrows Point High School next year.
    An accomplished student, Poist points to her parents as her biggest inspiration.   
    Of her mother, Poist said, “She always pushes me to work my hardest.”
    “My dad is always there for me too,” she added.
    Now a four-time scholar, Poist plans to re-apply for the award next year.
    Of her status as a Carson Scholar she concluded, “I feel like it makes me unique.”

Swink stays busy
    Jacob Swink does not let any grass grow under his feet.
    Driven to succeed, sixth-grader Swink excels in each of his classes at Holabird Middle School.
    Outside of the classroom, he stays busy playing after-school intramural sports and participating in the Holabird pop band and on the quiz bowl and Vex Robotics teams.
    In addition to his school activities, Swink is a member of the Boy Scouts and plays rec council baseball and flag football.
    Though Swink stays busy, he has not let his extracurricular activities get in the way of being named a Carson Scholar for the second year in a row.
    “It made me feel like I should be proud of myself,” Swink said of the award. “Getting it a second time makes me feel like I can do everything.”
    Asked about his biggest sources of inspiration, Swink quickly pointed to his parents and older cousins.
    “They tell me to stay on task and don’t get into drama and stuff,” he explained.
    It is advice Jacob Swink has taken to heart.


The future is bright
    Seven-time Carson Scholar Lesley Sprouse, a senior at Sparrows Point High School, is in an elite class among an elite group of peers.
    Among the 270 repeat scholars in the state of Maryland this year, just six students, including Sprouse, have earned recognition seven times or more.
    Though she has gotten the news many times now, for Sprouse, hearing that she has won the award never gets old.
    “It was still exciting,” she said.
    She added, “It was probably the most exciting because it was the final opportunity to win. I was really excited.”
    With graduation just months away, Sprouse has already been accepted to the University of Maryland.
    She plans to double major in studio art, with a concentration in graphic design, and marketing.
    After college, Sprouse hopes to go into graphic design and eventually become an art director.
    “I knew I wanted to do something involving art, but I wanted to focus on something that would give me a career,” she explained.
    In her last year at Sparrows Point, Sprouse has particularly enjoyed her studio art and economics classes.
    In addition to her high school classes, Sprouse also takes classes at the Community College of Baltimore County.
    Despite her full courseload, Sprouse also finds time to participate in her school’s chapters of the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society.
    Outside of school, Sprouse practices yoga and works at the Yogi Castle frozen yogurt shop at Canton Crossing.
    Driven to achieve, Sprouse credits her grandmother for much of her success.
    “She’s always pushed me to receive good grades,” Sprouse explained. “She’s really been an inspiration.”
Excelling in and out of the classroom
    When Santina Mitchell and her mother got word that she had been named a Carson Scholar last year, they both broke down and wept.
    This year, they were even more excited.
    Mitchell — who won the award for the first time as a student at Middle River Middle School last year — is now a freshman at Sparrows Point High School, where she is a student in the school’s environmental science magnet.
    At Sparrows Point, Mitchell keeps busy with a variety of classes, clubs and sports.
    In the classroom, Mitchell enjoys her math and Spanish courses the most.
    “I’ve always been great at math,” she said, noting, “I always like putting things together, like a puzzle.”
    In addition to her coursework, Mitchell serves in the student government as treasurer of her class.
    She is also a member of the school’s junior varsity softball team.
    Outside of school, Mitchell works at her mother’s water-ice business, John’s South Philly Water Ice on Eastern Avenue in Middle River.
    While her mother was getting the business off the ground, Mitchell volunteered her time — making product, keeping things organized and managing the budget.
    She also volunteered as a tour guide for the Edgemere-Sparrows Point Rec Council’s Fort Howard Haunted Dungeons last fall.
    Mitchell cites her mother as her main inspiration to succeed.
    “She keeps pushing me to do whatever I can to the best of my ability,” Mitchell noted.
    She also credits her middle school teacher, Kathryn Graybeal, for helping her with her application for the Carson Scholars Fund Scholarship last year.
    It was that award, Mitchell said, that has given her the confidence to pursue all of her dreams.
    “Ever since I won that scholarship, it gave me an overload of confidence to be able to do anything I wanted to do.”