RICHMOND — Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Lemons presented $10,000 checks on Thursday to 11 Virginia high school seniors chosen for best exemplifying qualities of leadership.
The winners of the 20th annual Harry F. Byrd Jr. Leadership awards — with one student chosen from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts — were selected for demonstrating “academic accomplishment, excellence of character, qualities of leadership, and devotion to duty.”
The students were presented their awards during a ceremony at the Supreme Court Building in Richmond.
Byrd, a former U.S. senator, presented the awards beginning with the first in 1994 and continued until 2010. He died July 30, 2013.
Attaining the award was a tough task for the 11 students.
Each year, the admissions office of the University of Virginia sends a letter and application to public and private high schools throughout the state, seeking one candidate from each.
The names of about 300 high achieving students are then presented to a committee of college deans, which reduces the list to 33 — three from each congressional district.
The students are separately interviewed over a two-day period, and a committee of 11, with Lemons as chairman, selects the 11 winners.
1st District: Sandra Edwards-Thro (York High School)
2nd District: Stephen Tang (Princess Anne High School)
3rd District: Alan Parsons Booth (Hampton High School)
4th District: Ellis T. Cofield III (Southampton High School)
5th District: Sean Means (Monticello High School)
6th District: Caleb Douglas Gum (Turner Ashby High School)
7th District: Natalia Celeste Bell (Douglas Southall Freeman High School)
8th District: Ann Marie Bryan (George C. Marshall High School)
9th District: Rehan Khalid Razzaq (Graham High School)
10th District: Jason Shao Cui (Langley High School)
11th District: Christina Onianwa (Potomac Senior High School)
“Among the many aspects of the legacy of Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. is the creation of leadership awards that bear his name. Each year 11 students, one from each Congressional district, are selected for this honor,” Lemons said.
“The selection committee is always impressed by the extraordinary accomplishments of these young people. While there is remarkable diversity among the award recipients, there is one thing they all possess — a demonstrative record of service and leadership in their communities.”
The funds for the scholarships come from an endowment established by Byrd at U.Va.
While the teens are free to use the funds as they please, they are encouraged to further their educational goals or invest the money in a way that will help start their careers.
This year’s selection committee members were: Frank B. Atkinson, attorney; Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, president, Shenandoah University; Michael N. Herring, Richmond commonwealth’s attorney; Justice William C. Mims, Supreme Court of Virginia; Mildred Fletcher Slater, attorney; Charles B. Walker, vice chairman, retired, Albemarle Corp.; F. Blair Wimbush, vice president-real estate, Norfolk Southern Corp.; Harry F. Byrd III, president Orchard Management Co; Thomas T. Byrd, president and publisher, The Winchester Star; and Beverley B. Byrd, retired professional photographer and owner of kbexoticvillas.com.