Pizza box full of dough

Winner: A Howard High senior got a pleasant surprise during a pizza break in Spanish class.

May 22, 2001|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

She may not have known how to say "pizza" in Spanish, but 18-year-old Kate Tyson certainly knew how to say "$1,000 scholarship."

"Oh, my God!" she screamed yesterday when a pizza deliveryman walked into her Spanish 6 class and, after announcing that he had a delivery for the Howard High School senior, opened a pizza box with a check for $1,000 inside.

Then, Tyson cried - in between bites of cheese pizza - as her classmates were treated to a free pizza party in her honor.

Tyson is one of 40 students in the Baltimore area to be awarded $1,000 college scholarships from the Papa John's pizza chain for good grades, community involvement, leadership, character and overcoming obstacles.

Students from high schools such as Perry Hall and Woodlawn in Baltimore County, Severn and Glen Burnie in Anne Arundel County, and Westminster in Carroll County have been surprised this month with in-class pizza parties and money for college.

Tyson is one of two seniors in Howard County to win. The other is Malya Greene at Wilde Lake High School.

As Tyson wiped her face with a Papa John's napkin, she tried hard to hide her feelings, but the shaking gave her away.

"I would've worn a better outfit," she said, complaining that no one warned her she would be the center of attention.

Tyson's parents, Dave and Jane Tyson of Jessup, had known about the award since Wednesday and had a hard time keeping the exciting news from their daughter, who's usually on top of everything - inside and outside the house, Jane Tyson said.

"The look on your face when you opened that box was priceless," said Kate's friend and classmate Aliza Sollins, 18.

"She really deserves this. She's a good kid," said her Spanish teacher, Patricia Davis.

Tyson plans to attend University of Maryland, College Park this fall, where she will major in biology or math. She hasn't decided.

"Last year, I wanted to major in math. Two years ago I wanted to be a journalist," said Tyson, who has earned enough credits at Howard Community College this year to enter in the fall as a second-semester freshman. "Ten years ago, I wanted to be a doctor. I have no idea."

In addition to taking college courses this year, Tyson also mentored children at Deep Run Elementary School, tutored a high school and a college student in math and worked part time at The Mall in Columbia. She also has studied piano for 10 years, was a cheerleader and has held several offices in school clubs.

"You never know when she's going to be at the dinner table with you," said Dave Tyson.

The application for the Papa John's scholarship sat on the Tysons' counter for a month before Kate decided to fill it out.

When she filled out the application, Tyson said, she was surprised to find how the essay portion - about obstacles that have helped shaped her personality - flowed. Tyson wrote the essay in one take, in ink, with no mistakes.

When she talks about her essay, she cries.

She wrote about a family member who, upon being introduced to her for the first time, refused to accept a Korean child as a part of the family. Tyson is adopted.

The insult made her a kinder, more accepting and empathetic person, she said.

"You just take that [kind of reaction] and you use it as a catalyst ... to know that you never want to put a person in that same position," she said.

"And my family has taught me that family is built on love. It's not built on similar physical traits. It's a bond."

Today, she says, she thanks that family member for his ignorance, because indirectly, he helped her win the Papa John's award.

Her classmates thanked her for getting them out of Spanish class early and earning them a mid-morning snack.

"That was a very good idea applying for that scholarship," said junior Ben Carlton, 17. "Thanks."

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