MAKING THE GRADE
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:14

Rachel Clayton of Dundalk High is celebrating her third time as a Carson Scholar. photos by Nicole Rodman

Four local students earn Carson Scholars honor

by Nicole Rodman

Founded in 1994 by famed Baltimore neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and his wife Candy, the Carson Scholars Fund recognizes students across the country for achievement in academics and community service.
    Awarded to students in grades four through 11, the Carson Scholars Fund provides $1,000 scholarships to more than 500 student winners each year.
    Students who have been named Carson Scholars once are eligible to win again, though they do not receive additional scholarship funds.
    Each student winner earns a trophy, medal and plaque for their school.
    Among Dundalk students this year, four local youngsters have been named Carson Scholars.
    Of these students just one, Jacob Swink, is a first-time honoree.
    Local students Rachel Clayton and Emily Poist have each received the award three times while Lesley Sprouse is in her sixth year as a Carson Scholar.
    Whether first-time winners or repeat recipients, these four students are in a class by themselves.

Jacob Swink brings glory to Eastwood


    Jacob Swink doesn’t get what all the fuss is about.
    According to his mother, the Eastwood Elementary Magnet School fifth-grader was pleased, yet modest, when he found out he had been named a Carson Scholar.
    “He’s very modest, so he doesn’t get why everyone is making a big deal,” Nicole Swink explained last week.
    According to Jacob, who spoke with The Eagle at his school, “I was really happy and I was excited” upon finding out he had won the prestigious award.
    “I thought it was pretty cool,” he added calmly.
    In his last year of elementary school, Swink says his favorite subjects to study are science and mathematics.
    “I like science because you never know what’s going to happen, and I like math because you can figure anything out with math,” he explained.
    When he’s not in class, Jacob continues to explore his interest in science and mathematics.
    He is a member of the school’s Science Club as well as the Mind Tools computer programming club.
    While he is still very young, Jacob hopes, one day, to pursue his interests with a career in technology.
    “I probably want to take after my dad and be a technician,” he explained, adding, “I like figuring out what things do and I love technology.”
    In addition to his dad, Jacob says he looks up to his fifth-grade teacher, Kristin Cunningham, as well as Science Club advisor Richard Wright.
    “Ms. Cunningham has helped me a lot,” he said last week, noting, “she challenges me a lot.”
    As for Wright, Jacob explained that he “helps me with science.”
    While Jacob is more modest about his success, his mom is more willing to trumpet his achievements.
    “I’m extremely proud of my son,” she said last week.
    For Jacob, however, one of the most important things about winning the Carson Scholars award was bringing it back home to his soon-to-be closed school.
    As Nicole Swink explained, when Jacob found out he was nominated for the award he “said he would like to win it for Eastwood so they can go out with a bang.”

Rachel Clayton’s Hollywood plans
    Dundalk High School 11th-grader Rachel Clayton has big plans for the future.
    A special effects enthusiast, she hopes one day to be creating, rather than just watching, the big screen special effects that dazzle audiences.
    Though her plans are ambitious, Clayton is well on her way as a three-time Carson Scholar.
    Profiled in The Dundalk Eagle as a first-time winner back in 2006, Clayton was a fourth-grader at the time of her first award.
    After winning again in 2007, Clayton has been named a Carson Scholar for the third time this year.
    Now in 11th grade, Clayton keeps busy with a variety of classes and clubs.
    “I’m in calculus now. I really like math and science and I really like my English class as well,” the well-rounded student explained.
    Aside from her challenging array of classes, Clayton spends much of her time serving as president of both the Dundalk High Student Council and her junior class.
    She is also hoping to join the National Honor Society later this year.
    While she notes that these clubs “take up a lot of my time,” Clayton likes to unwind at home by reading, writing and watching mystery shows, especially those produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
    A successful scholar for many years, Clayton attributes much of her success to her mother.
    “My mom definitely pushes me to do my best in everything,” she explained last week.
    She also points to her English teacher, Jane Dulin.
    “Initially I thought she was harsh but then I realized she’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had,” Clayton said.
    Already looking at life after Dundalk High, Clayton plans to major in computer science at Virginia Tech.
    With a degree in computer science, Clayton hopes to one day create special effects for a variety of Hollywood movies and television shows.

For Lesley Sprouse, sixth time’s the charm


    Though Lesley Sprouse has been named a Carson Scholar six times now, she remains humbled and excited by the honor.
    According to Kim Damaroda of the Carson Scholars Fund, as a six-time Carson Scholar, Sprouse is in an elite class among already elite students.
    Out of the more than 5,000 students who have been recognized since the Fund began nearly 20 years ago, just 44 (including Sprouse) have received the award six times or more.
    “It is quite the accomplishment,” Damaroda explained.
    When informed of this fact by The Eagle last week, the Sparrows Point High School 11th-grader sat in stunned silence.
    She finally managed a “Wow,” adding, “That’s new information. I’m so honored.”
    And despite the number of times she has earned  the honor, Sprouse is still affected each time she hears the news.
    “I still get just as excited,” she explained last week, adding, “I called my grandma and told her about it and she was just as excited.”
    While she has accomplished much in the last six years, Sprouse is not content to rest on her laurels.
    “I feel like winning [the Carson award] year after year has ... pushed me further with my success academically,” she said, noting, “It’s more motivation to me.”
    A talented artist who is interested in science and math, Sprouse hopes, one day, to combine her passions in one career.
    While she is considering a career in architecture, she recently read an article noting that architects just out of college have  high unemployment rates.
    Nonetheless, her interest in the aesthetic as well as the technical keep her interested in the field.
    After high school, she plans to attend the Community College of Baltimore County to take care of some her basic credits while deciding on a major and four-year college.
    Whatever her major, she does plan to stay in-state, perhaps attending University of Maryland, College Park.
    Meanwhile, at Sparrows Point, Sprouse stays busy as a member of the school’s lacrosse team, National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society.
    She is also an accomplished martial artist, having studied jujutsu for nearly a decade.
    Beginning classes in second grade, Sprouse now holds a brown belt.
    Though her drive contributes to much of her success, Sprouse also credits her grandmother for keeping her focused.
    “She’s the one pushing me with good grades and the Carson Scholars Fund,” she noted.
    And while she acknowledges her parents for their support, Sprouse holds a special place in her heart for her grandma.
    As she explained, “I just want to make her proud. She’s a strong lady.”

For Emily Poist, the sky’s the limit


    For Parkville Middle School and Center for Technology seventh-grader Emily Poist, the future is bright and the possibilities endless.
    A Dundalk resident, Poist attends Parkville’s technology magnet program, where she studies mass communication.
    Profiled as a first-time winner in a 2011 edition of The Eagle, Poist is now celebrating her third straight year as a Carson Scholar.
    “It’s really exciting,” she said of her latest win last week, adding, “My parents are really proud of me. I’m happy they pushed me to do my best.”
    In school, Poist enjoys her language arts, Spanish and world cultures classes.
    While she admitted that “math is not my best subject” she did note that “I still like it.”
    Outside of the classroom, Poist plays softball and is a member of the Girl Scouts.
    Now in her seventh year as a Scout, Poist has earned the organization’s prestigious Bronze Award and is working on her Silver Award.
    Humble despite her achievements, she credits her parents for giving her the drive to succeed.
    Asked who her role models are, she said, “Mostly my mom,” (“and my dad too,” she quickly added),  “because she’s always been there for me and tells me to be the best that I can be.”
    While still young, Poist hopes to one day become either an elementary school reading teacher or a doctor.
    She also plans to stay involved with the Girl Scouts, hoping one day to become a leader.
    Of her experience in Girl Scouts, Poist noted, “I like community service and helping with projects.”