Several young women from Harford County public high schools received the Judith Resnik Award for excelling in math and science during the 23rd annual Harford County American Association of University Women, or AAUW, Educational Foundation luncheon held at Harford Community College April 25.

One eleventh grade female student from 12 different Harford County high schools received the award. These 12 students not only stood out by earning high grades in their math and science classes, but also were actively involved in extra-curricular and community programs. A few students even had special ties to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Shirley Moore, the luncheon chair, welcomed the audience and congratulated the students on receiving the award commenting that their hard work and dedication to their studies had contributed to their success.

She told the audience the history and reason for the award luncheon.
"The Resnik Award was named after U.S. astronaut Judith Resnik, Ph.D., and an AAUW member, and was the recipient of a 1975 Educational Foundation American Fellowship, enabling her to complete her doctoral studies in electrical engineering at the University of Maryland," Moore said. "Resnik was the second American woman in space but she died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

"AAUW was founded to break through barriers and to encourage educational and professional pursuits of women," she said.

Each award recipient was introduced by their chapter sponsor and then given the award while mentioning their individual achievements, noting that many of them were involved in academic clubs that cultivated their love of science and math.

Retired Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead, executive director for leadership development for the Praevus Group, and former commander of the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and Schools, was the luncheon's guest speaker. One of the 104 women to enter the second class of the United States Military Academy that included women in 1977, Halstead became the first female from the USMA to be promoted to general officer rank, and the first female chief of Ordnance for the Army.

Halstead told the audience that those who received the awards have great potential.

"You have already made great contributions," she said. "You are well-rounded, participating in many activities demonstrating academic as well as music and athletic talent and volunteering. You are already accomplished. What you are already doing is making a difference in your community, and to change our world."

Halstead noted that there were many people in attendance showing support for the students, including Family members, friends, teachers, counselors and community leaders.
"Their presence alone says that youth are important to our future, what you are already doing is making a difference," Halstead said. "You are already seizing opportunities to change other people's lives, not to mention your own."

Halstead challenged the audience to keep setting goals, and to keep setting the bar high, while at the same time maintaining integrity.

"Talent is a gift, but character is a choice," Halstead said. "All of these young ladies have great talent, what you do with it, how it shapes your character, is what is really important.
"A true judge of character is who you are when no one is watching, which is a tough rule to follow, especially on I-95," she joked.

Halstead concluded that part of success is perseverance, not giving up, keeping a positive attitude and seeking knowledge.

"Knowledge is not just in school, it is the person sitting next to you, on your life journey. Knowledge is all around you. I personally believe that the day you stop learning is the day you stop living."

APG award recipients

A few of the award recipients had special ties to APG in the form of mentorships or parents who work on post.

Alexandra "Sasha" Wrobel, from Fallston High School, said that she had a full-time paid internship at APG, working at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine during the summer after her sophomore year.

"I researched the effect of toxic industrial chemicals on people," Wrobel said. "I think I would like to study medicine in the future, so it was good exposure to that field. I would like to work there again this summer if the funding is still there."

Heather Cook, a junior from Havre de Grace, said that she attended the Gains in Education and Mathematics and Science program, or GEMS, last summer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. This program allows students an opportunity to participate in a paid internship over the summer in an Army laboratory learning the real life application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Cook said she is thinking about continuing her studies in chemical engineering.

"[Working at ARL] was an enjoyable experience that gave me experience working in a real science lab," she said.

Erin Nicole Benton, a Harford Technical High School student who was recognized for her project that benefitted patients in a local hospital, was excited about hearing her news.

"I am surprised that I won this award," she added.

Her father, Don Benton, who works for the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency on APG, said that he was very proud of her.

"She is always working hard and looking forward to the future," he said.

Another student, Chelsea Gaviola, from Aberdeen High School Science and Math Academy, said that she will be working with a mentor, Dr. Douglas CeraSoli at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, during her senior year, while she works on her capstone project.
"I am really looking forward to working with him during my senior year," Gaviola said.

Harford County representatives in attendance included Harford County Councilman Richard Slutzky, Harford County Director of Government and Community Relations Roxanne Lynch, and Pat Skebeck, superintendent of Harford County Public Schools, and others who were present to show their support for the mathematics and science scholars.

For more information about AAUW or to join the Harford County branch, contact Sheila Allen, sallen@harford.edu or call 410-836-9935.


Award Recipient High School
Avanti Patel ............................................................. Aberdeen High School
Chelsea Gaviola .................................... Aberdeen Science and Math Academy
Melisa Marie Navin .......................................................... Bel Air High School
Heather Lee ..................................................... C. Milton Wright High School
Chantel Harrison ....................................................... Edgewood High School
Alexandra Theresa Wrobel ............................................. Fallston High School
Erin Nicole Benton .......................................... Harford Technical High School
Heather Cook .................................................... Havre de Grace High School
Yu Jin Kim ................................................................... John Carroll School
Nichole Murphy ...................................................... Joppatowne High School
Jessica Boegner ................................................... North Harford High School
Stephanie Zalesak ................................................ Patterson Mill High School

Page last updated Mon May 18th, 2009 at 14:17