Davidson Young Scholars - 2014 Ambassadors

The purpose of the Ambassador Program is to foster learning and civic engagement through community service, volunteerism and leadership in highly motivated and mature Young Scholars. The following group represents the 2014 class of Young Scholar Ambassadors. Please take a moment to learn about their service projects, in their own words.

Name: Benjamin
Age: 13
Lives in: Boise, ID
Project Title: The Catalpa Quartet
  In Boise, we are fortunate to have one of the nation's top musical education programs. We receive outstanding instruction from elementary level through high school. In addition, there are several programs in place to help financially disadvantaged students with music. These include the "Orchestra Buddies" program and the “Orchestra Closet.” These are for students who cannot afford private lessons or concert attire. The only link missing is the instrument itself. It is true that students can rent from the school district, however, these instruments are commonly not in good condition. A student wishing to advance their musical abilities would benefit by renting a quality student instrument from another source. In fact, I know from personal experience that the rental of an instrument costs a hefty $54 a month. This is a large sum for anybody let alone one on a tight budget. I formed a musical quartet that performs to raise money to address this issue.

The Catalpa Quartet is comprised of four 8th grade students from North Junior High. The members of the Quartet have been friends since 3rd grade at Collister Elementary, located on Catalpa Drive. The Quartet is dedicated to raising funds to aid financially challenged music students with instrument rentals and costs associated with playing an instrument.

I decided to take action on this issue when I realized how much music means to me but also how much of a financial burden it can be on any family. This was especially apparent when a fellow student had to tape his instrument together.

In my free time I enjoy spending time with friends, family, and my puppy Mia who shares my love for adventure. I enjoy staying in shape and exercising which includes running and strength training along with seasonal sports such as Nordic skiing and cycling.

Name: Fez
Age: 12
Lives in: Clive, IA
Project Title: Site for Smiles and Smarts
  I believe that providing education to poor and orphaned children can uplift them (and their future generations) from poverty, and bring them hope for a better life. My project focuses on raising awareness and funds for a school in the slums of lslamabad, Pakistan. The funds I raise will help pay for the tuition and school supplies of these students. Many of them have no family and are forced to work on the streets of lslamabad.

If I can successfully achieve my goal of raising tuition and school supply funds, I hope to also raise money to provide a breakfast meal for these students every morning when they arrive at school. Through my project, I want to make a positive difference and impact in the lives of children who are my age and living half way across the world - through the gift of education.

I have always felt a strong connection with my country of heritage, Pakistan. I have studied a lot about Pakistan's history, its creation, past leaders and the current problems of the country. While I don't live in Pakistan, I really want to do something that will make a difference in the lives of Pakistani children who don't have a chance to seek an education like me and my classmates.

About 6 months ago, I learned about a school in a slum community outside lslamabad, Pakistan and all the great work this school is doing to provide education for poor children. I want to raise funds for the school, so that children can receive free education, which will take them away from working on the streets and give them skills and careers, and a chance to rise from poverty. I think projects like this can make a great difference for an entire community.

In my free time, I enjoy reading action and adventure books. I also have fun playing video games on my Playstation 4. Lately, I have picked up "Bollywood" Indian dancing. My interests also include Tae Kwon Do, swimming and piano, which I enjoy passionately. But, most of all, I love wrestling with my dad in the living room!

Name: Gianna
Age: 15
Lives in: Stockton, CA
Project Title: Row All Stockton
  Rowing has many benefits: it is a major form of exercise and thus leads to good health, aids the development of sportsmanship, teamwork and social skills, and is a source of college scholarships. Even though Forbes magazine, for many years, voted the city I live in, Stockton, the “most miserable city in the US” in part due to it’s low socioeconomic level, it does have one upside: the beautiful Delta that runs through it. Unfortunately, most people cannot take advantage of our Delta or the various benefits of rowing because it is an expensive sport. My solution to this problem is to form a foundation that, through fundraising and grants, offers scholarships so that ALL deserving teens can enjoy the benefits of living in Stockton. These scholarships will also benefit the sport of rowing as a whole by increasing the diversity of a sport with a historical lack of African American, Latino, and Asian athletes. Scholarships will encourage people of all ethnicities to take up rowing. In turn, rowing can provide scholarships for college. Attending universities and obtaining an education is the best way to move up in society, and will reduce the risk of gangs, drugs, violence, etc, that Stockton is so famous for.

I have been rowing since I was in 8th grade and plan to continue throughout high school. It has become an important part of my life, and has benefited me in so many ways. I wanted to share my enthusiasm of the sport, so I encouraged all I encountered to give it a try. Whenever I tried to recruit people, I was met with the same response: “It’s too expensive”. Many students seemed interested until they heard the price. I want all teens to be able to reap the benefits rowing and living in Stockton, regardless of their ability to pay. This is what inspired me to take action.

I enjoy activities such as hiking, skiing, snorkeling, camping, and relaxing at the beach. In my free time you can often find me goofing around with my friends, playing with my two dogs, watching movies, and reading and writing fiction.

Name: Kimberly
Age: 17
Lives in: Bellevue, WA
Project Title: Go Figure
  Go Figure is a project designed to boost mathematical interest in middle school and junior high school students. Not only is math becoming increasingly important in an ever more technological world, but it also has a playful and elegant side that is too often overlooked. A lot of students see math as dull and difficult, and this mindset can artificially sway students who are on the fence about math. My goal is to promote an alternative approach: one that celebrates the beautiful side of mathematics and provides a path to learning the invaluable lessons – such as analytical thinking and creative problem solving – that it teaches.

I really only started seeing the beautiful side of math in middle school, when I started participating in math competitions. In my contest preparation, I ran into elegant math concepts I hadn’t encountered before, and I really enjoyed exploring them. Around the same time, I saw my friends starting to like math less and less, and I thought it was sad that they were turning away from it just as things were getting interesting. Over time I read more about the non-math culture in the United States and the way most students see math, and I wanted to do something to change this mindset. When I attended a Julia Robinson Math Festival in my area and saw volunteers helping students explore beautiful math problems, the atmosphere galvanized me to get involved in showing students that there’s a lot to like about math.

When I’m not working on Go Figure, I can usually be found reading with my cat, tap dancing, or doing number puzzles.

Name: Madison
Age: 12
Lives in: Burlington, NC
Project Title: NC Youth Rock
  Here in NC, 16 and 17 year olds had the ability to pre-register to vote so they could be automatically added to the voter rolls when they turned 18. This was done through civics education programs in high schools and at the DMV. This opportunity was taken away from NC’s youth. I want to restore this opportunity for the young people of my state and see it expanded to young people across the nation.

I want to encourage young people to pay attention to what’s going on in America and realize they have the ability to stand up and take action. I also want to encourage our leaders to remember that when they speak, young people are listening and that as leaders, they have a responsibility to consider our interests and an opportunity to model the qualities of positive leadership.

My state passed a new election law, and included in that law was the removal of the ability of 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote. When debated in the State Legislature, one Senator argued that pre-registration was “confusing” and later the Governor’s office called it a “bureaucratic burden.” I believe the young people of this country are capable, not confused, and that encouraging higher voter turnout among young people is not a burden, but an investment in our future.

I’m involved with local community theater groups, and enjoy working behind the scenes as well as on stage. Like most teenagers, I enjoy video/computer games and social media. I’m a huge nerd who is also into fashion, which makes me kind of unique. My dog, Wookie, is usually by my side and I’ve trained him to be an AKC Canine Good Citizen because even dogs have a responsibility to building a better America. We also have a beagle, a rabbit, and a tortoise in our family.

Name: Nina
Age: 14
Lives in: Arlington Heights, IL
Project Title: Raising Ecological Awareness through Herbaria
  My project seeks to utilize herbaria for teaching the general public about native plants and designing native plant gardens. Volo Bog State Natural Area has a fairly comprehensive wetland herbarium and last summer several Volo Bog volunteers, including myself, started another herbarium to encompass prairie and woodland species. An herbarium is a collection of dried and pressed plants mounted on a sheet of paper. They are generally used to identify plant species or learn more about plants. However, they can also be used to design native gardens, among other things. Sadly, these priceless resources are rarely utilized. Through my project, I hope to promote awareness about herbaria, as well as the importance of native plants in general. We are losing native plant species due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and many other factors. If we lose our native plants, we will also lose our native birds, insects, and mammals that rely on plants for food and shelter. Native gardens are fragments of precious native habitat.

I hope to promote herbaria through a series of programs at Volo Bog, and incorporate my project as part of my local network of plant enthusiasts.

I have been volunteering at Volo Bog for several years, but I only started working with the herbarium last year. Seeing that very few people used the herbarium made me sad and I wanted to expose a wider audience to our herbaria.

In my free time I enjoy reading books, learning more about biology and botany, volunteering at nature preserves, playing piano, and Irish dancing.

Name: Parker
Age: 15
Lives in: Bellevue, WA
Project Title: Quantum Spot Academy
  The mission of Quantum Spot Academy is to provide the inspiration, resources, and environment for students to develop an interest in physics and explore it for fun. By means of videos and a website with additional resources, I will introduce the basics of contemporary physics concepts like quantum mechanics, relativity, and the standard model. I hope to foster a love of physics and, more generally, a love for learning.

Ever since I was very young I have wanted answers to life’s biggest mysteries. Almost by accident, I stumbled upon physics and was delighted by the clarity that it provided. I quickly developed a passion for physics and wanted to share it with other people. I gave a talk at my homeschool coop about antimatter, which was very well received. That experience sparked the initial concept of my project, which was then matured and clarified as I prepared for being part of the Ambassador Program.

Physics is a useful tool and a foundation for technology, but physics is also a way of thought. It sharpens one’s understanding and builds a methodology of analytical and abstract thinking. To me, physics is much more than a set of models; it is the ultimate effort of humankind to understand our observations of the universe. Physics represents all that is certain, all that is possible, and all that we can be. It has inspired me and it is my sincere hope that it inspires others as well.

When I’m not developing Quantum Spot Academy, I can be found learning about physics, playing the piano, eating frozen mangoes, listening to Great Courses lectures, juggling, programming in Python, and talking to people.

Name: Stephanie
Age: 12
Lives in: Puyallup, WA
Project Title: Iris Athletics
  Project Iris Athletics is a community service project that raises money/receives donations for athletic equipment, primarily track and field and training equipment, for team Aithon in Grand Bay, Dominica. The Peace Corps built the track and field facility for team Aithon, but they are lacking most equipment they need to compete. My goal is to ensure that team Aithon has all basic equipment for a fully functioning track and field team.

After visiting the 2012 Summit and learning about the Young Ambassador program, I became excited to start. I collaborated with my teacher, Mr. Gonzales, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Dominica and found out about team Aithon. I love sports, especially track and field, so when there came a chance to help other people express their love for it as well, I just couldn’t pass it up.

In my free time I enjoy: wrestling, running, playing on my phone, hanging out with my friends, shopping, dance, cheer, reading and art.

Name: Umar
Age: 9
Lives in: Hillsborough, NJ
Project Title: Share the Care
  Share the Care provides funds for medical care in hospitals around the world. Started in 2011, this non-profit organization has raised over $1,900 for medical needs in Africa and South Asia.

Healthcare is important; without it we would not be where we are in civilization. Without it, we may be like the Martians in H.G. Wells’ book, “The War of the Worlds”; all of our machinery unmanned, our factories shut down, and the human race in turmoil. Even though this is extreme, developing countries around the world, such as those in Africa, lack the proper equipment to treat diseases and illnesses, while in the United States, we have all of that equipment. Once I found out about the horrible conditions in a small rural clinic in Uganda, I decided to help improve the conditions. 3 people sleeping in a hospital bed? Not right. No electricity? Not right. Very little medicines and equipment? Not right. I went to friends and family, telling them about these horrible conditions and asking for donations to help these very poor and suffering people in a faraway land in which there are very limited medical resources. In total, we collected $1,200 for this cause. We helped get fetal dopplers, finger clip sensors, and a few more pieces of equipment for this clinic.

After this, I found out about a hospital in Pakistan that treated poor patients who had cancer for free. They needed donations for PET scanners, so we raised about $200 for this cause.

Currently, we are raising funds for a small hospital in rural India. I am to help at least a few poor patients get the better life they deserve

In my free time, I enjoy reading books, playing the piano and building with Legos. I also like to play tennis and, in summer, ride my bike and do water sports, but what I like best is helping people!

Name: Christine
Age: 13
Lives in: Bethlehem, CT
Project Title: Classics for Kids
  Classics Corner is designed to inspire children ages 3-10 with a passion for classic literature, which is currently jeopardized, since pleasure reading of any books is decreasing at a rate of 12% per decade. Remedying this is accomplished by introducing children to age-appropriate literature for 20-45 minutes, followed by a short Socratic discussion about literary elements such as protagonist, setting, etc., concluded by an interactive dramatic activity that enlivens the selection and makes the words relevant and tangible. Classic literature, when properly appreciated, effects academic enthusiasm, excellent writing skills, emotional intelligence, character development, and a broadened sense of perspective.

Ever since I could read adequately, I have loved the classics and instinctively felt the benefits mentioned above. After beginning to research literature, the current lack of it, and the benefits it gives, I realized the truth of Dana Gioia’s, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, words, “It is no longer reasonable to debate whether the problem exists. The nation needs to focus more attention and resources on an activity both fundamental and irreplaceable for democracy.” Try to imagine a world with only the very worst and simplest of modern books in it, a world where the great words of Shakespeare, Plato, Dickens, Austen, Chaucer, Tolstoy, and others were ignored, forgotten, and finally erased forever. Imagine a world with no Winnie-the-Pooh (except disturbing contemporary cartoons of him), no Alice in Wonderland, no Black Beauty, no Little Women, no Anne of Green Gables, and no Frankenstein. Literature (whether for children or adults) is the bedrock of our society. It gives the mind passion for study, fills it with beautifully worked phrases that spill over through mouth and pen, presents it with the ever-present conundrums that have puzzled generations, and brings such countless and inestimable benefits. Readers become leaders.

In my free time, I read classic literature, knit, crochet, garden, play outdoors, and practice piano and Irish dance.

Name: Alexia
Age: 16
Lives in: Santa Rosa, CA
Project Title: Latin for the Living
  Latin for the Living is designed to provide new learners with the information they need to learn about the Latin language and ancient culture. This project focuses on developing curriculum, creating activities, and establishing a forum for participants to engage with one another. Latin instruction has been removed from community colleges and many high schools, but the study of Latin still has enormous implications for those wanting to contribute to the humanities and sciences. Latin also serves as the foundation of English, so a strong understanding of Latin enhances the understanding of English.

This project was conceived after generously being given the opportunity to study Latin with Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth (CTY). My teacher, Joseph Kurz, revealed how exceptional instruction can allow everyone to master a difficult subject. Everyone who wants to have the opportunity to learn Latin should be given that chance. By providing a website with free resources, some of the existing barriers to learning Latin will be removed. My personal interest in learning Latin was fostered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where I realized that I could have a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s plays. I am eternally thankful to everyone I met at OSF and all of the scholars and practitioners who visited OSF to deliver Festival Noon lectures.

In my free time, I enjoy learning about Shakespeare, reading, swimming, ice skating, cooking and visiting art museums. I hope to return to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

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