BOARDMAN, Ohio -- They might be only 17 but in their 17 years these seven high school seniors have taken on challenges that would daunt most of their peers and overcome adversity.
Victoria Armour, Brea Brazzon, Bridgette Kelly, Mary Kenney, Christian Parks, Caleb Roth and Martin Strong, this year’s winners of Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial Scholarships, will head for college this fall, each helped by an $8,000 grant they received Thursday at the 17th annual scholarship luncheon at Antone’s Banquet Center.
They share, as Bob Hannon, CEO of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, noted, “the quality of persistence.” Their brief bios also attest to all being individuals of the highest character and their maturity, something their guidance counselors, teachers and principals emphasized in addition to working hard at their studies.
Hannon was emcee of the luncheon.
Kelly, a student at United Local High School, was also the recipient of the Donald P. Pipino Memorial Award.
The $56,000 awarded this year brings the value of the scholarships the memorial foundation has awarded over 17 years to more than $600,000.
In her brief remarks, Denise DeBartolo York, daughter of Edward J. DeBartolo Sr., called yesterday “a very, very special day for all of us.” The seven were chosen because they, more than any of the other 400 who applied for the scholarships, she noted “have overcome unimaginable hardships,” such as a parent abandoning the family, the death or disability of a parent, and the parent who was the breadwinner losing his job.
All took part-time jobs to help support themselves and their families as they were diligent in their studies, were involved in extracurricular activities and were liked by their schoolmates.
“You’re the best human beings we could find,” DeBartolo York said in explaining why these seven were chosen. “You have proven you can rewrite your life’s story.”
The Business Journal sat down with three of the recipients to learn some of their “life’s story.” Christian Parks, a senior at Liberty High School, was absent because she was in Columbus participating in a horse show.
Parks intends to major in criminal justice at Youngstown State University after graduating from Liberty High School. There she maintained a 3.2 average and participated in 4-H horse shows, was captain and president of the drill team and received a Grand Championship Sportsman nomination.
Tori Armour, a senior at Austintown Fitch High School who maintained a perfect 4.0 average, hopes to become a veterinarian. She will major in biology and take a pre-veterinary curriculum at The Ohio State University.
Her parents divorced when Tori was young. “It’s been just my mom and I,” she says, since she was 8.
Her mother has held two to three part-time jobs ever since and this past year Tori worked as a kennel attendant at Come Stay and Play Pet Resort on South Raccoon Road. She’s worked many “odds-and-ends and summer jobs [including] cutting grass.”
At Fitch, Tori was in its honors program, inducted into the National Honor Society, elected secretary of her class and participated in the school’s RDE program – Reading Discussion Enrichment. One of her favorite books is Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca.
Among her volunteer activities was working at the Gleaners Food Bank, 94 Pyatt St., in Youngstown.
In high school, Tori became close to Dr. Renee Waters, the vet who treats her pets -- two cats and a dog -- and the doctor has allowed Tori to be her shadow as she’s treated the animals taken to her clinic.
Mary Kenney will attend Johnson University, a small Christian college in Knoxville, Tenn., after graduating from South Range High School where she maintains a 3.89 average.
At Johnson University, Mary will study human services (social work). She visited the campus last September and determined it best.
Her father was disabled in a tractor accident about a year ago, she says, which has put a cramp in the family income. She is the youngest of five children.
At South Range, Mary has been active in extracurricular activities: National Honor Society, band, soccer, track, Key Club, student council and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Martin Strong has maintained a 3.9 average at Boardman High School – in ninth grade he got a B in geometry – where he has been in the math club, Spanish club, science club, physics Olympics (he and his partner came in fourth in the area competition) and Key Club.
His goal is to earn a doctorate in physics and teach at the university level and get students as involved with physics as he is.
Martin’s father was out of work for some time before rejoining the workforce as a materials supervisor at Comprehensive Logistics, a supplier to General Motors Co., That layoff hit the family finances hard, leading Martin to work at two part-time jobs, in the garden department at Home Depot and as a research assistant to physics professor Michael Crescimanno at YSU.
“Physics is just so interesting,” Martin marvels, and his work with Crescimanno, who focuses on optical physics (lasers), made his choice to attend YSU easy. “Dr. Crescimanno is my role model,” Martin says. “He always says, ‘I don’t know [the answer to a research problem]. We’ll learn this together.’ ” So Martin has often traveled to YSU after school lets out in Boardman to work with him “learn this together.”
The winner of the Pipino Memorial Award, Bridgette Kelly, has maintained a perfect 4.0 average at United while working as a nanny and keeping a busy extracurricular schedule: National Honor Society, student council, editor of her high school paper, show choir and concert choir, among others.
Brea Brazzon intends to earn a degree in nursing at Kent State University after graduating from Niles McKinley High School where he’s maintained a 3.3 average. Besides working two part-time jobs, she’s a member of the National Honor Society and played on the girls’ basketball and softball teams.
Caleb Roth, who’s earned a 2.9 average at LaBrae High School, will attend the Trumbull Campus of Kent State University this fall to study communications. Besides volunteering in his 4-H Club, Caleb works at a part-time job, played on his school’s soccer and basketball teams and participated in mock trials. His guidance counselor writes highly of Caleb’s speaking ability.
Many of the earlier DeBartolo Memorial Scholarship recipients have stayed in touch with DeBartolo York, keeping her posted of their progress, inviting her to their college graduations, graduate school graduations and weddings. All have graduated from college, she says.
Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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