Four years of bake sales, coin drives and fund-raising dinners have paid off for Magothy River Middle School in Arnold, which met a challenge from renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson to raise $15,000 in endowment funds for a college scholarship rewarding high academic achievement and community involvement.
Magothy River's teachers and 812 students raised more than $16,000 toward the Carson Scholarship, which provides annual $1,000 college scholarships to students throughout the region.
Carson's foundation will provide an additional $10,000 to fully endow the scholarship at Magothy. That means the school is guaranteed at least one scholarship a year for one of its students and the opportunity to apply for one more.
Fifteen other schools are fully endowed, but that is through private benefactors, said Trish Fallon, director of the scholarship program.
"I think you are going to be an inspiration to other schools for many years to come," Carson said of Magothy's efforts during a speech at the school yesterday.
Carson and his wife, Candy, began the Carson Scholarship program in 1994. It awarded 180 scholarships last year.
Every school in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia receives one application a year. Most of the recipients are from the mid-Atlantic region, though there have been recipients from other parts of the country.
The theme of Carson's talk yesterday was "Think Big," a theme he said has guided him through his successful professional career and is the title of one of his three motivational books. He also urged students to recognize the privilege that their school and community provides and use it to build knowledge, achieve success and help others.
"You have tremendous facilities and teachers," said Carson. "You have no excuse not to be successful."
He told the students about his background growing up poor in the slums of Detroit, where as a child he watched too much TV and acted out in school.
"I was a walking TV Guide," he said, prompting laughter. "That kind of information and 50 cents might get you a can of soda, but not much else," he said.
Carson credited his mother, Sonya, who was at the event, for making her children read two books a week and write book reports on them although she could not read. She got her GED and then went to college afterward.
It was reading that led in large part to his success, he said.
"I began to know other things that other kids didn't know," Carson said. "I went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class in a year and a half. I began to enjoy learning and the difference that it made."
Carson became head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33 and is considered a leader in the field.
Dee McCreary, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Magothy who led the fund-raising effort and has taken her students to hear Carson speak since 1994, said the surgeon has motivated her students to pursue goals they might not have thought possible.
"I think sometimes kids don't know what they can do," McCreary said.