Local scholarship hopes to help students of today become leaders of tomorrow

Carson Scholars Fund recognizes 131 students

August 19, 1999|By La Quinta Dixon | La Quinta Dixon,SUN STAFF

Sisters will be sisters: competing, fighting, wearing each others' clothes without permission. And even vying for the same scholarship.

The latter led to a small measure of tension around the Khatib family's Charles Village household recently when sisters Alwafaa, 16, Asmaa, 11, and her twin, Bushraa, each applied for a $1,000 scholarship from the Carson Scholars Fund, a program started in 1996 by Dr. Ben Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, and his wife, Cathy, to help identify and build future leaders.

Last month, the suspense ended with a phone call. Bushraa, a Roland Park Middle School sixth-grader, could not believe the news -- she and her sisters each would receive a scholarship.

"I'm happy I got the scholarship," she said, "and I am really happy my sisters got the scholarship, too."

The Khatib sisters are among 98 Baltimore City students who will receive a $1,000 Carson scholarship during a banquet at 6 p.m. tonight at the Baltimore Convention Center. Only students from Maryland, Delaware and Washington were invited to apply; this year's winners included 127 from Maryland, three from Delaware and one from Washington.

"The reason why my wife and I started the [program] is we started thinking about who are going to be the leaders of our country," Carson said. "Psychologists show that if you can get young people interested in academics early, they maintain that interest."

Winning this year was harder than ever. Competition had became so stiff that organizers changed the rules. Initially, the contest was open to students in grades 1 through 12 with a grade point average of at least 3.5. This year, organizers restricted applicants to grades 4 through 12 and raised the required GPA to 3.75.

Winners who maintain a 3.75 average can reapply annually. The award money, funded by the Carsons, the Abell Foundation, and the Jay and Carol Jean Young Foundation, is kept in a trust fund until winners go to college.

"We wanted people who were extraordinary, and when we looked at the number of people who were applying with a 3.5 or 3.6 [GPA], the number was too overwhelming," Carson said.

One student won't be daunted by the higher standards. Brittany Parrish, a ninth-grader at Montgomery County's Poolesville High School, has maintained a 4.0 grade average since before receiving her first award in 1996. Tonight, she's due to receive her fourth consecutive Carson scholarship.

"I definitely want to go to a good college, and the scholarships will help me pay my academics," said Brittany, who wants to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. "If I didn't get the [first] scholarship, I don't think I would have pushed myself."

The fund's organizers also added a Columbine memorial scholarship in honor of the students and teacher slain at Colorado's Columbine High School in April. In addition to meeting the same requirements as the Carson program, Columbine scholarship applicants must show their commitment to including their peers in school and social activities.

The first Columbine winner is Lisa Philipose, 18, a New York University freshman. The graduate of Baltimore County's Fallston High School helped start the Maryland Conference for Girls.

Carol Jean Young, a Baltimorean who knows Carson, said her family wanted to contribute $20,000 to the fund in honor of the Columbine High School victims.

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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