Sonlight students exemplify academic excellence, creativity & servanthood
Congratulations to our 2013 Sonlight scholarship winners! Like so many Sonlight students, they have a heart for learning, exhibit exceptional character, are active in their communities, demonstrate leadership skills, are creative, cultivate spiritual depth and are well-prepared for the academic rigors of college.
What part does a Sonlight homeschool education play in the past successes and future goals of these students? All have completed at least five Sonlight History / Bible / Literature programs (including high school-level programs). Their exceptional talent, along with an eagerness to follow God's leading, make it a joy for Sonlight to invest in their continuing education.
Sonlight has awarded $968,500 since we began the scholarship program, and will award $92,000 over the next four years to these 13 winners. We look forward to seeing all God does in and through them as they take what they've learned - through Sonlight and their homeschool experience - into college and the world beyond.
$20,000 Scholarship Winner
($5,000 each year)
Adam Springer of Huntsville, TX, might well be considered a developing Renaissance man - scholar, speaker, debater, performer, outdoorsman, worship and Bible study leader, missionary and future engineer.
His resume reveals an individual accustomed to setting and attaining goals. Academically accomplished, he's a National Honor Society member, National Merit® Finalist and Scholar, scored 34 on the ACT, and will graduate high school with approximately 40 hours of college credit.
Equally effervescent in numerous theater productions, as well as a force-to-be-reckoned-with on both local and national speech and debate circuits, Adam has also given his time and talents in more than 1,300 hours of service to his community.
Adam has been studying with Sonlight since 2004 and says he's prepared to pursue the "one goal that is most important to me" - to make disciples of all nations, one relationship at a time.
First anticipated stop: Texas A&M, where he'll study civil engineering and join the Corps of Cadets, one of the top ROTC programs in the nation.
$10,000 Scholarship Winners
($2,500 per year)
When her family moved half a world away from their Illinois home and everything she found familiar, Sarah Duffer of Mongolia had no idea what God had in store for her in a country where power outages are frequent, temperatures drop below zero for nearly half the year and foreigners aren't always welcome.
During this life-changing journey, she turned loss to gain and discovered her calling, too.
Capable, helpful, trustworthy, thankful, compassionate, leader and individual of integrity - these by all accounts describe the young woman (and Sonlight student of nine programs) who assists with kids' clubs, an AIDS orphanage and other community projects; lends a lovely soprano voice in the Mongolian worship services; gracefully manages the family household when called on; and is a tenacious team player on the volleyball court, soccer and baseball fields, too.
"Ever since I was a little girl," Sarah writes, "I've wanted to follow in my maternal grandma's footsteps by becoming a nurse." Even as she makes plans to attend Central Illinois College to fulfill her dream in the hometown she left nearly a decade ago, she considers how she'll be able to help those in need again one day soon.
A Sonlight student since 2006, Rachael Reeves of Monticello, MS, has involved herself in a spectrum of extracurricular activities: Southern Mississippi Youth Orchestra, The Quivering Pen, Institute for Cultural Communicators, USA Triathlon Southeast Region junior team, Upward basketball coach, Forerunners cross country, Generation Joshua student action team, weekly volunteer at Hattiesburg Cancer Center and Lawrence County Nursing Home, and more.
After once teaming with her dad to build a canoe, Rachael concedes that the vessel soon sported scrapes and gouges from "less than expert piloting." She offers the analogy of the Master Builder who patiently shapes our lives (not unlike the persistent pushing and planing of rough boards) to endure life's storms.
An aspiring journalist, Rachael read The Greatest Generation, and afterward conducted interviews with local elders to preserve their stories. "I hope to give my generation a glimpse of the incredible accomplishments of the people we often brush off as simply 'old,'" she writes. Rachael plans to attend Mississippi College this fall.
Whether playing with a Rubik's Cube or predicting the reaction of hydrochloric acid with ammonia, Sara Simpson of Russellville, AL, delights in solving problems - particularly when she can create and implement solutions to benefit others.
An academic standout and National Merit® Finalist who scored 2230 on her SAT, Sara is headed for either Auburn University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she'll earn the chemical engineering degree that will enable her, among other things, to find cost-effective, efficient ways to provide clean drinking water to peoples with limited access.
Having studied Sonlight's globally inclusive curriculum since kindergarten (her favorite: level 200, History of the Christian Church) and having also lived in East Asia for the past nine years, Sara has a heart for missions. Through prayer and practice, she seeks to follow the "still small voice," and most recently flew unaccompanied to a limited-access country, where she shared her faith in coffee shops, taught English in slum schools and encouraged local believers.
"With confidence, I rest ... and wait in anticipation ... No matter where He leads, I will proclaim His name," says Sara.
From a young age, Ellie Williamson of Honduras immersed herself in Sonlight books. God called Ellie out of introspection and gave her a powerful voice, which she wields with a passionate pen, composing poetry, short stories, devotions, blogs and more. She'll continue making her literary mark this fall in Taylor University's Professional Writing Program, through which she has already published two book reviews and a devotion.
The daughter of pioneering missionaries in rural Honduras, Ellie wears many hats: she co-teaches a toddler class, leads girls' Bible study, has served as a camp counselor, speaks at churches (and on Honduran cable TV) and more. Fluent in Spanish, one of her favorite roles is translating for summer work groups and medical teams from the U.S.
A lover of music, Ellie seizes every opportunity to expand her musical repertoire, from taking voice lessons while on furlough, to composing music, to teaching herself to play piano and guitar so she can accompany her family in their ministry.
Her life's ambition? "I want my legacy to be a trail of footprints that lead straight to Him."
$4,000 Scholarship Winners
($1,000 each year)
Sonlight will additionally award these eight outstanding students a $1,000 scholarship for each year of college, up to four years:
Lydia Cupery of Turkey has a number of irons in the fire. In addition to a rigorous academic program and a transcript that includes AP* coursework, this National Merit® Semifinalist has worked as a private English tutor since age 12, with students ranging from younger children to adult professionals. Fluent in Turkish, she also tutored peers in math and science. She's involved in a startup import/export company, enjoys cooking Turkish food for large groups and has played volleyball with a professional club.
Lydia has a love for her country, education and business. She plans to combine and pursue these interests when she heads off to Calvin College, where she'll double-major in business and education with a science concentration.
An entrepreneur at heart, several business ideas are already playing through her mind as she contemplates her return to Turkey after completing her education. In a country where fewer than one in 10,000 people are believers in Jesus, Lydia is excited to share her faith and set an example, as she aspires to run an honest, profitable Christian company or perhaps start a school. The possibilities are endless, her goals are focused: Wherever the future leads, this young servant-leader confirms, "I want to bring glory to God."
Justine Maeurer of Austin, TX, has seen her name roll in the credits at the end of a movie. As a budding filmmaker, she does it all: writes, edits, composes original music and directs. Several of her short films, including "Not One of Us" have received accolades (Best Lighting, Best Narrative and Best of Festival, Thorn Crown Film Festival for Young Christian Filmmakers).
Justine has been a Sonlight student from her early years (10 History / Bible / Literature programs), where her imagination and creativity first began to emerge. Her theater endeavors include roles where her performance "bordered on professional level" (Queen Aggravain in "Once upon a Mattress"), according to one critic. An accomplished musician, Justine plays the piano and viola, and is a member of multiple choirs and an orchestra group. She is on the audio/visual team and participates in the puppet ministry at her church.
Passionate about cinematography, Justine will attend the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she sees herself joining the independent Christian filmmaking community whose mission is to redeem the arts for Christ. "My life's goal," affirms Justine, "is to make films that honor God, spread the Good News of the Gospel and strengthen the faith of believers."
Hannah Messerschmidt of Holland, NY, has always known she would one day be a teacher. As an eighth grader, she taught piano lessons. The year after, she volunteered to give softball pitching lessons to younger athletes each summer. She organized a weekly peer Bible study in her home. Now headed to college where she plans to major in music and communications, this National Merit® Finalist and Dean's List student (with 33 college credits) has her sights set on teaching at the post-secondary level.
A lover of music, Hannah plays the flute, piano and violin, participates in youth orchestra, performs with the Western New York Fiddle Kids and sings with the Holland Community Choir. She's also a ballet dancer, plays and umpires softball and finds time to work at a local restaurant.
Whatever she puts her hand to, Hannah's infectious enthusiasm is evident, as is her spiritual maturity. A National Bible Bee contestant the past four years, she has memorized 800-1500 verses each year. Hannah's mom calls her disciplined daughter a "walking Bible reference," but most importantly notes that Hannah has a thirst for knowledge, loves to search the Scriptures and exudes "the joy of the Lord."
Deeply rooted in the land he's called home nearly from birth, as well as the country of his passport (USA), CJ Pine of China likens himself to a bridge with ties to both shores.
CJ's family has used Sonlight® curriculum since he was in kindergarten. He notes that his interest in law and government was bolstered by his recent study of Biblical Law, as well as involvement in Model United Nations (MUN) conferences, which fostered other emerging passions - research, public speaking and international politics, to name a few.
An AP* Scholar with Distinction and National Merit® Semifinalist who scored 2250 on the SAT, he has applied to several college programs and hopes to pursue a career in justice and peace studies or international studies/global affairs. CJ is confident that in God's strength, his generation can make a difference on the world stage.
CJ's international upbringing, gregarious nature, and commitment to peacemaking and reconciliation have paved the way for inter-religious dialogue that promotes mutual understanding and respect. He desires to obey the two greatest commandments - to love God and neighbor - and in so doing, bring people from different backgrounds together to love and serve Jesus.
If one word could describe Olivia Reel of Tishomingo, OK, that word might well be creative. She teaches crafts at Vacation Bible School; knits and sews quilts and blankets for missionaries; makes pillows and throws for nursing homes; plays piano, flute, oboe, piccolo, hand bells and chimes; has won awards at the Texas State Fair for china painting and the list goes on. She once used her artistic talents to throw a party and apply temporary henna tattoos to tell Bible stories to Hindu refugee women!
"I have seen God's healing power ... and am eager to be part of it," reflects Olivia. She hopes to develop her gifts of encouragement and hospitality at Oklahoma Baptist University, where she will study counseling or family and community services, paired with a multicultural ministry minor, should God open the door to overseas missions.
Olivia and her mother co-lead a Bible study for mothers and daughters. They recently studied the book of Ruth and learned about the Hebrew word hesed, describing God's attributes - love, mercy, grace, kindness, goodness, loyalty and faithfulness. Says Mom, "Olivia's gift to the Lord is showing hesed to everyone in her path."
Jessica Shaklee of Stillwater, MN, completed every Sonlight® History / Bible / Literature and Science, along with the better part of every Language Arts curriculum, kindergarten through twelfth grade. The National Merit® Finalist, who scored 2300 on the SAT and 35 on the ACT, maintains a cumulative 3.97 average (high school and college course work) and has earned 20 credits at the local community college.
Music has played a key role from an early age. She joined the children's church worship team in third grade, continued to use her musical gifting on the youth worship team and was subsequently invited to join the adult worship team. She has graduated from all seven volumes of the Suzuki Piano School - an accomplishment not easily attained - and has also earned state honors as a concert pianist.
A spirit of volunteerism pervades her life, particularly in children's ministry. She has been the lead teacher for the two- and three-year-olds class at church for four years and has also served the past four years as lead junior counselor at Bible camp. This past summer she embarked on a missions trip, where her desire to learn the Hungarian language spoke volumes of her respect for the Gypsy (Roma) children with whom she shared her faith.
Jessica's interest in science, particularly biology, will lead her to study biochemistry in pursuit of a Ph.D. and career in research. Citing Proverbs 16:9, "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps," she resolves, "My aspirations come second to God's commands."
Nathaniel Sweigart of Charlottesville, VA, likes to engage non-Christian friends in discussion of the life-changing books he's encountered - especially C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity - since starting his Sonlight education in prekindergarten days.
Growing up in a country geographically and culturally removed from the U.S., Nathaniel's outgoing personality and people skills have taken him on many a memorable adventure: he lived with an Omani family and helped a local veterinarian deliver camel calves; on a missions trip where he was half the age of team members, he worked with orphaned children and, being adept at language acquisition, was able to converse in Albanian with a man at an airport coffee shop by trip's end; he also studied Arabic for several years, went on to hone his skills at an international school and now interacts with locals and in the Orthodox church his family attends.
A gifted student who excels in math and the sciences, Nathaniel scored a perfect 800 on the Math-2 SAT-II (and near-perfect scores in physics and biology, as well). As he considers college options, he confirms that his long-term goals reach beyond earthly existence. "The fundamental principles on which I base my life ... if they are to make a difference ... must store up riches in heaven." How? "Love God and love my neighbor."
Emily Vivanco of Mexico is a girl who dreams big. The eldest of five and daughter of church-planting missionary parents, she has been raised to know that she can do anything if God is with her and that with God, all things are indeed possible.
Her bicultural, bilingual background - Mom is an American and Dad is from an indigenous group in southern Mexico - gives Emily a unique perspective and opportunity to serve. Her translation skills are highly regarded by U.S. missions teams that come to work alongside her family's ministry. Gifted in public speaking, she prepared and delivered her first sermon in Spanish at the age of 12. This past year, she went to Peru on a missions trip and even raised enough support to sponsor two fellow team members - an act of kindness that provided a life-changing opportunity for her friends. A natural athlete, Emily's involvement in basketball, tennis and soccer has provided yet another avenue of outreach to share the Gospel message.
She considers her after-college dreams: to construct a new building for her church, start a publishing company and publish the books she wants to write, make Christian-themed movies with her siblings and open a recreation center to challenge and encourage teens.
Emily has completed every Sonlight® program from B through 400, is currently studying History / Bible / Literature 500 and wants to pass her love of learning to future generations of Mexican youth, to let them experience "the magic of stepping into the pages of a good book." Echoing the lyrics of a contemporary Christian song, she seeks God's guidance in what lies ahead: "You lead, I'll follow. Your hands hold my tomorrow ..."
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