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Maryland today | 19 seniors honored as Merrill Presidential Scholars


As an elementary education major, Jennifer Lopez ’06 singled out her first-grade teacher for being an influential mentor and even inspired her to spend hours pretending she was teaching her own class.

Lopez, who honored teacher Mary Lee at a 2005 ceremony for a new program called the Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars, later became a teacher herself.

Now she’s helping close the loop on a tradition of mentorship as the recipient of today’s 19th Annual Merrill Scholars Honor, where a UMD student will thank her for teaching him how to enjoy reading in her fifth grade class.

A total of 19 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars will recognize K-12 teachers and UMD faculty who have guided, inspired, coached, tutored, and challenged them on their academic journeys. The program awards $1,500 scholarships, which are awarded in the K-12 teacher’s name to another student in that school district who will be attending UMD the following school year.

“The late Philip Merrill created this program to create a community of scholars, faculty members, and K-12 teachers who recognize the importance of teaching and mentoring the next generation” , said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “We are grateful for a program that celebrates invaluable mentorship and for the many teachers who have a lasting impact on the lives of our students. »

The program also highlights the achievements of senior graduates, who are selected by university colleges and schools. The scholars’ internships and research work range from tackling climate change to tackling global disparities in mental health.

Scholar Joanna Hung, a student at Honors College Design Cultures and Creativity, helped launch a pilot college-readiness program for high school students with Down syndrome and redesigned the curriculum for Girls Talk Math, a camp UMD summer school for high school girls. Another researcher, Brian Tinker, is midshipman first class in UMD’s Naval ROTC program, studies lunar particles, and is an undergraduate lecturer at the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

“The accomplishments of these students are a testament to the power of teachers and mentors in an academic journey,” said William A. Cohen, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies. “The Merrill Presidential Scholars Program creates an important legacy of teacher excellence – from K-12 through middle school – that leads to outstanding student achievement.”

Lopez (née Dodge) was among the second cohort of UMD Merrill Scholars, who are selected by colleges and schools offering major undergraduate programs.

“I remember wondering if my first grade teacher would come for the ceremony, if she would say, ‘Jenny who? “, Lopez said. “But now I realize that she wouldn’t have missed it. It’s one of the greatest gifts for a teacher to say, ‘I remember your class and what you have counted.”

Nick Bailey ’23, a double major in operations management and business analysis as well as marketing, said the same about Lopez, who taught him at Westbrook Elementary in Bethesda.

“I remember reading the most books I’ve ever read in my life during those class times, and also how she pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Bailey said.

He was particularly touched by an assignment at the end of the fifth year: each student had to write a letter to their future self. Lopez saved the letters and sent them to his students when they graduated from middle school three years later.

“They were asking questions like, ‘Are we on the iPhone200 now?’ or ‘Did you do this travel team?’ But they were also writing about their goals for themselves,” Lopez said.

The letters also served as a reminder that their elementary teacher was always thinking of them, reminding them of what they could accomplish, Bailey said. “She cared about every student.”

The Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars for 2022-23 are:

Alexia Ayuk (Operations management and business analysis)
Teacher mentor: Renetta Herndon-Cintron, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Olney, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Pamela K. Armstrong, Department of Decision, Operations and Information Technology

Nick Bailey (Operations Management and Business Analytics, Marketing)
Mentor teacher: Jennifer Lopez, Westbrook Elementary School, Bethesda, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Mary B. Harms, Department of Marketing

Janna Chapman (Environmental Sciences and Technologies, Geographical Sciences)
Teacher mentor: Kristyn Madeja, Broadneck High School, Annapolis, Md.
Faculty mentor: Thanicha Ruangmas, first year of experience in innovation and research

Kyra Cromwell Roseau (Fire Protection Engineering)
Mentor Teacher: Rita Pascale, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Bethesda, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Isman, Department of Fire Protection Engineering

Aimee Dastin-van Rijn (Economy, Theatre)
Teacher mentor: Victoire D’Agostino, St. John’s International School, Waterloo, Belgium
Faculty Mentor: Stacy Kosko, Department of Government and Politics

Logan Dayter (geographical sciences)
Teacher mentor: Lauren Gardenbelle, South Carroll High School, Sykesville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Sinead Farrell, Department of Geographic Sciences

Fred Angelo Garcia (Physics, Astronomy)
Mentor teacher: Yolanda King-Davis, Oxon Hill High School, Oxon Hill, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Massimo Ricotti, Department of Astronomy

Maanasa Gurram (Biological Sciences)
Mentor Teacher: Mary Jane Sasser, River Hill High School, Clarksville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Najib El-Sayed, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

Joanna Hung (Math)
Mentor teacher: Harrison Toy, Robert Frost Middle School, Rockville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Dana Grosser-Clarkson, Center for Mathematics Education

Sterling Mullenix (Linguistic)
Mentor teacher: Jenny Mey, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Bethesda, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Jeffrey Lidz, Department of Linguistics

Kuburat Oladiran (Psychology, Criminology and Criminal Justice)
Mentor teacher: Michelle Snape, Northwood High School, Silver Spring, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Heather Yarger, Department of Psychology

Deborah Omotoso (Family Science)
Mentor teacher: Dana Shieh, Bishop McNamara High School, Forestville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Scott Roberts, Department of Psychology

Pravalika Palavarapu (Psychology, Sociology)
Mentor Teacher: Bryce Coon, Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Nicole DeLoatch, Department of Sociology

Bradley Polkowitz (Operations Management and Business Analytics, Marketing)
Mentor Teacher: Cindy Bravaco, Colts Neck High School, Colts Neck, NJ
Faculty Mentor: Joseph Bailey, Department of Decision, Operations and Information Technology

Rachel Robin (Government and Politics, Communication)
Mentor teacher: Daniel McKenna, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Jaclyn Bruner, Department of Communication

Racheal Ssentongo (Aerospace Engineering)
Mentor teacher: Jack Stansbury, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Jarred Young, Department of Aerospace Engineering

Brian Tinker (Aerospace Engineering)
Mentor Teacher: Andrew Milcic, Severna Park High School, Severna Park, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Jarred Young, Department of Aerospace Engineering

Katelyn Wang (Kinesiology)
Mentor teacher: Danielle Borgia, Mount Hebron High School, Ellicott City, Md.
Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Brown, Department of Kinesiology

Hanna Zakharenko (Journalism, Information Sciences)
Mentor Teacher: Warren Hynes, Westfield High School, Westfield, NJ
Faculty Mentor: Adam Marton, Philip Merrill College of Journalism