Great Falls Friends, Neighbors group bestows scholarships

Great Falls Friends and Neighbors members Barbara Chen (left) and Christie Lavin (right) pose with scholarship winners Christina Gleason, Bernice Anyang and Regina O'Brien at a Sept. 14 luncheon at River Bend Golf and Country Club in Great Falls. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Great Falls Friends and Neighbors on Sept 14 awarded scholarships to eight women at a luncheon at River Bend Golf and Country Club.

The club bestowed Bette Carter Dance Awards worth $1,200 each to two students at the George Mason University School of Dance.

One recipient was Danish citizen Christina Gleason, who is majoring in dance and minoring in early-childhood development at Mason.

A former student at the Metropolitan School of the Arts and the Royal Academy of Dance, Gleason teaches ballet, tap and jazz dancing to pre-primary and elementary-school children, and also performs herself.

After graduating from Mason, Gleason plans to move back to Denmark, where she hopes to dance professionally and continue teaching, said Christie Lavin, the club’s director of scholarships.

The other Bette Carter Dance Award recipient, Madison Long, did not attend the ceremony and no further information was available about her.

The club also awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Bernice Anyang, who came to the United States two years ago and is studying business administration at Northern Virginia Community College.

Anyang has a full-time job and supports herself and her husband. She dreams of working at one of the top U.S. accounting firms and said receiving the club’s scholarship boosted her self-esteem, because the club saw potential in her, Lavin said.  

Another $1,000 scholarship winner, Regina O’Brien, spent many years as a military spouse who lived abroad, raised children and volunteered for service organizations. She now is pursuing a degree in public health at Mason.

“In her own words, our scholarship will help lessen her debt and allow her to look ahead – to dream of an even brighter future, which includes a master’s degree and a career as a public-health professional,” Lavin said. “She loves public service – as she tells us, it’s work that is done without fanfare or glory, instead it comes from a passion to help others.”

The club also awarded $1,000 scholarships to Farah Gutierrez, Amanda Gatling, Fatima Wehelie and Gwen Palmer.

Club officials chose the recipients based on their financial need,  academic standing and loftiness of their goals and dreams.

Gatling is pursuing an advanced-practice degree in prenatal care at GMU’s School of Nursing and works for Inova Loudoun Hospital’s free clinic, where most of her patients are immigrants. Having spent several years assisting in village clinics in rural China, she hopes to partner with neglected populations in Northern Virginia to improve their health.

Gutierrez works full-time at Telos Corp., is pursuing her master’s in cybersecurity at Mason and is the primary breadwinner for her husband and two young children.

Palmer, a liberal-arts student at NVCC, eventually wants to earn a master’s degree in forensic psychology, then reform the judicial system by prosecuting and exposing criminals higher up in the government. She also wants to write and publish children’s stories.

The Great Falls Friends and Neighbors Scholarship Fund is a non-profit that in 2016 established two $25,000 endowments, one each at Mason and NVCC.

The fund, run by a seven-member board of directors, during the 2017-18 school year gave out seven scholarships worth $8,500. This year marked the final awarding of the Bette Carter Dance Award, as that fund has become depleted. The award honors a club member whose family sought to recognize a dance student each year.

“We are truly blown away by the vision, intelligence and ambition of all our recipients, and are so honored to be part of their journeys,” Lavin said.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.