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  • Writer's pictureBeltsville News

Riderwood awards record-breaking number of employee scholarships

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

Residents raised enough money to fund 89 scholarships this year, including those awarded to Samantha McDaniel (left) and Valerie Simms. Photo at left by Chris Taydus and right by Courtney Coombs

Silver Spring, MD -- This fall, a record-breaking 89 Riderwood student employees will further their academic studies thanks to the generous support of the community members they serve at Riderwood, an Erickson Senior Living managed community in Silver Spring, MD.

Studying nursing, psychology, computer science, and business, 20 of these scholarship winners are high school seniors embarking on their college career. The remaining 69 scholarships are awarded to employees already working toward their degrees.

“We are all so proud of this group of remarkable students,” says resident life manager Fiona Divecha. “They are exemplary. The average GPA of all recipients is 3.29 on a 4.0 scale, and many of the winners will continue to work at Riderwood while pursuing their studies.”

The scholarships serve as a tangible expression of the bond that forms between Riderwood’s student employees and the resident whom they serve. The money raised in support of the Scholars’ Fund—over $261,000 this year—embodies the community’s commitment to the mission of “sharing our gifts to create a community that celebrates life.”

“Our community believes in the importance of higher education and as such is quite willing, indeed eager, to back up this view with action,” says resident Don Simonds, who serves on the philanthropy committee.

Making the grade

Of primary importance to the Riderwood community is the ability to award all eligible students who apply with a scholarship. This year, eligibility requires at least 700 hours of service. The student employees must achieve satisfactory grades and submit an application and essay.

“When it comes to my education and career goals I take it very seriously,” says 2021 scholarship winner Amilcar Morales-Lucero, who attends Montgomery College. “I plan on majoring in nursing so I can become a registered nurse and then a nurse practitioner.”

Ankitha Kollabatula, who graduated from Paint Branch High School this past spring, says she discovered her passion for nursing while working at Riderwood. “Once I came to Riderwood I developed a clear vision of my goal to become a nurse practitioner. My goal is to help people, assisting those in need, diagnosing patients, and treating people,” she says. “Working at Riderwood has had a very big impact on my life,” says Cynthia Gomes who also attend Montgomery College. “It has truly opened my eyes to ideas and principles such as dedication, hard work, and punctuality. I have learned what it means to have a job and how to keep it. Through my job as a server, I have learned and improved on my people skills and manners, but also on key ideas like teamwork and motivation.”

Lasting bonds

The generosity of the Riderwood community toward the student employees extends above and beyond the awarding of the scholarships. Each day the students and community members interact on a personal basis providing each other with friendship and support.

“Being surrounded by so much diversity, and hearing stories from the residents who grant so much wisdom, encouraged me to pursue a college education,” says Zohneseh Fopenwoh, a recent Springbrook High School graduate. “I hope to be as successful as they are.”

It’s a two-way street for the Riderwood residents. “There is joy in working with residents you have grown to love and respect,” says community member Levern Allen. “We have been able to provide ‘grandparent’ advice as well as guidance toward productive adventures. Many residents have offered tutoring when necessary or direction. Some students are entering fields I have never heard of. This year’s class is the smartest class we’ve ever had. I’m so proud to be able to give them a hand up.”

Beginning a new chapter

As the students begin a new chapter in their lives, they are grateful to the Riderwood community for their continued support and encouragement.

“Once I started working at Riderwood I realized I love helping people anyway I can,” says Tristan Ngamo, another recent Paint Branch High School graduate. “I learned the importance of teamwork and lessons that will stay with me for life. I will forever be grateful to the Riderwood residents who made this journey possible.”

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