At the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa on Sunday, May 7, the Polish Heritage Society of Philadelphia awarded seven scholarships to outstanding young people of Polish descent.
Teresa G. Wojcik
The scholarship program of the Polish Heritage Society in Philadelphia is an expression of the organization’s commitment to the development of future leaders by supporting their scientific activities.
The President of the Scholarship Committee, Dr. Teresa G. Wójcik, hosted the ceremony during which seven young people were distinguished and honored for outstanding academic achievements and commitment to lifelong learning. The scholarship committee includes: Diana Blichasz, Marie Hejnosz, Debbie Majka, Peter J. Obst and Dolores Szymanski.
“Once again this year, I am impressed by the academic achievements, activities in social work and extracurricular involvement of our scholarship holders,” said Dr. Wójcik. “Despite their unique individual biographies, our fellows have several things in common: they are highly motivated, determined and have a strong work ethic. They challenge themselves and take advantage of the opportunities offered to them. They set high standards for themselves. They have engaged in significant work as volunteers and in service to the environment. They are involved in sports, music and all sorts of clubs.”
Before presenting the scholarship recipients, Dr. Wójcik appreciated the contribution of their parents and families. She said that behind every successful student are loving parents who are their first teachers and who lay a strong foundation on which young people can grow and who instill in them an appreciation of their Polish and Polish-American identity.
This year’s scholarship holders of the Polish Heritage Society in Philadelphia are: Ava Barton, Gabrielle Kruczkowska, Matthew Jarek, Michael Kowalski, Sophia Majkut, Nikola Pasterczyk, Alicja Szyszko.
Ava Barton is a student Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, Delaware. Specializing in digital media, she has created dozens of films, some of which have won international acclaim; among others At the Anim Arte Film Festival in Brazil, her animation won the main prize, and the feature film was included in the official selection of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, the largest youth film festival in the world. Ava intends to attend Elizabethtown College where she will pursue business and journalism as the basis for her documentary filmmaking coursework. Science teacher Avy wrote: “It’s very encouraging for a teacher when students give their best not because their grade depends on it, but because they want to learn skills that they can use – Ava is the latter type of student. Teaching children like Ava inspires you to be the best teacher you can be.”
Gabrielle Kruczkowska is studying at Tufts University in pre-medical with a focus on biopsychology and biomedical sciences. She has participated in several STEM-related programs, serving as a research istant for biomedical and surgical research at the Boston Leadership Institute. Jis a graduate with honors of the Polish School of st. Jan Kanty, she was also involved in the activities of the Polish Scouting ociation in Philadelphia. In her letter of recommendation, her high school biology teacher wrote: “Gabriella’s performance in my cles has been remarkable. She is one of the most motivated students I have met so far.”
Matthew Jack graduated from Council Rock High School South, where he actively participates in the music program as a member of the school’s award-winning marching, concert and jazz band. For 11 years he attended the School of Polish Language. st. Jan Kanty and won the award for the highest score on the LOTE exam (language other than English). In addition to earning a spot on the Distinguished Honor Roll each semester, Maciek holds a second degree black belt in taekwondo. In the fall, he will start studying at Cornell University. In a letter of recommendation, his Spanish teacher from AP (advanced course) wrote that Matthew “serves as an unofficial ambador of Polish culture in our cl” and that he is “a rare student who excels in science, sports and music.
Michael Kowalski graduated from Franklin Towne Charter High School in Philadelphia, and attended Manor College Dual Enrollment as a junior and senior, earning college credits as a high school student. As an honors student, Michael used summer breaks from high school to attend STEM programs at Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, and Jefferson University. He was actively involved in the community of St. Wojciech as a volunteer and altar boy. He also attended the School of Polish Language. st. Wojciech, where he ped his final exams in Polish. He will start studying civil engineering at Temple University in the fall. His math teacher wrote about him: “Michael showed me that he is an exceptional student who loves math and the whole process of learning. He is focused like a laser and has a brilliant, sharp mathematical mind with the ability to think logically and intuitively.”
Sophia Majkut In will graduate from Villa Joseph Marie High School in Holland this year. She was awarded the title of AP Scholar with Honor, which is awarded for outstanding achievements at the university level in AP (advanced studies) exams. She will study business at the University of Pittsburgh. Her social studies teacher wrote, “Since I met Sophia, she has proven to be a serious athlete and an excellent student – one of the most impressive.”
Nikola Pasterczyk completed her sopre year at Lehigh University, where she won a trust fellowship and is majoring in molecular biology. As a freshman, she started working at the university’s SEA PHAGES laboratory, studying the genetic characteristics of viruses to discover how scientists can combat antibiotic resistance. Nicole is a certified paramedic. She was selected to serve as the United Nations Youth Representative for an Australian NGO that provides medicines for children with chronic conditions in disadvantaged areas. In March, she attended the United Nations conference in New York and spoke on behalf of the organization. Her application essay and resume provide evidence to support her recommendation teacher’s claim that Nicole has “an engaging personality and natural intelligence.”
Alice Szyszko she graduates with honors from Central Bucks South High School, where she was a member of many honor societies, including the National Honor Society, the Science Honor Society, and the Computer Science National Honor Society. At her school, Alicja initiated a social action called “Project Linus” to create blankets for children in need. In addition to her academic work, she was involved in a horse riding club in Bucks County, where she currently serves as president. She plans to study mechanical engineering at Penn State University. Her chemistry teacher called Alice “an amazing young woman – the kind of student you wish you had in your cl.” In addition to being kind and caring, she is focused on hard work.”
Each of the honorees received a check for $1,500 and a briefcase filled with literature on important Polish topics. Dr. Wójcik, speaking about the importance of preserving and promoting Polish culture, encouraged young people to cultivate Polishness and turn it into action. “You all wrote beautifully in your essays about pride in your Polish heritage and how much you value your Polish identity – Polish culture, traditions and customs,” she said. – I want to encourage you to take this pride with you to college, to share it with your friends. Join Polish community organizations like ours to turn your words into action. Support Polish celebrations in your local community. You are our future – the future of Polonia.
In conclusion, Dr. Wójcik referred to the words of Pope John Paul II from a speech addressed to the youth of Gniezno on June 3, 1979: “Remain faithful to this heritage! Make them the basis of your upbringing! Make them an object of noble pride! Preserve this legacy! Multiply that legacy! P them on to the next generations!”
The Polish Heritage Society in Philadelphia is committed to developing interest in Polish heritage and culture, as well as spreading awareness of the achievements of Poles and the Polish community around the world, especially in the United States. The annual granting of scholarships is a long-standing tradition of the organization. Information on the website:
Dr. Teresa G. Wójcik is an ociate professor of education and chair of the Department of Education and Counseling at Villanova University. She is a former scholarship holder of the Polish Heritage Society in Philadelphia. Dr. Wójcik is the co-founder and co-president of Eagle-Ozel Educational and Cultural Exchange, Inc.