Her desire to translate altruism into action landed 17-year-old Michele L. Morris a $500 scholarship named for longtime educator and former head of the principals union Joseph A. Mirenzi.
Morris, a 1991 graduate of Broadneck High, hopes to live up to the contributions made by the scholarship's namesake, who led the Association of EducationLeaders. Mirenzi earned respect from both labor and management for his fair and direct style.
"I'm really honored to receive the scholarship, especially because of the fact that it is named after such a wonderful person," Morrissaid. "I didn't know him personally, but it has a special meaning because of the things he accomplished. To be placed in the same category is almost overwhelming.
"I know what the competition was like, and I feel really special. I have other scholarships, but this one means more."
Mirenzi, who devoted 30 years to the county school system, beginning as a physical education teacher at Glen Burnie High and retiring in 1982 as director of middle and junior schools, died of a heart attack last June.
The last seven years of his life were spent as an officer with the AEL.
The scholarship was established by the Mirenzi family and reviewed by a committee of five family members.
Morris graduated in June with a 3.8 grade-point average and a list of school activities including Students Against Drunk Driving, National Honor Society, Foreign Language Club, student representative on the school's Citizen Advisory Committee and chairwoman of the StudentGovernment Association.
But work at school was only a small factor in the committee's decision. Michele is known to gather friends together for sandwich-making parties, then distribute the food to the homeless on the streets of Baltimore. She also scouts for clothing and blankets for the homeless.
"It's really important to me," she said. "I like to be involved and make decisions and initiate rather than just sit back. I feel I should be out there helping people who have it a lot worse than I do.
"I have to pay for my own dance lessons and for my education and that is something of a burden to me.
"But there are people who are a lot worse-off."
The drive to finance her education at Pennsylvania's Lehigh University led her to frequent visits to the school's guidance office, to get information on available scholarships. As a result, her first year at college is nearly paidfor through scholarships she has received from such groups as the College Women's Club of Annapolis and the state scholar program.
Butshe said the Mirenzi scholarship is one she must live up to.
"Shehad outstanding letters of recommendation," said Alice Mirenzi, wifeof the former educator.
"She is very outstanding and had performed in every aspect (service and academics). She has some of the same qualities as my husband, such as her drive and attitude toward helpingothers and her hard work. My husband was very dedicated to his work and gave 100 percent all the time. I believe she will do the same in her lifetime.
"We are hoping that his memory will live on (throughthe scholarship program). We hope to do it for the next six years ormore."
Because of the large response,the family has decided to limit applicants next year to future teachers.
Morris and Mirenzi met for the first time yesterday during a luncheon planned by the Mirenzi family.
Morris is planning to study international relations. She got a head start on that through the mentorship program at the Naval Academy and participation in the academy's annual foreign affairs conference this year.
Morris won first place in the high school division for her paper, "Dawn of a New Era," about European security.
In the fall, she'll head north for a taste of college life and a setof personal causes to fight for.