Six students at Charlestown's Harvard-Kent Elementary School were surprised with $1,000 college scholarships Thursday to recognize their academic effort, behavior, and leadership potential, and to encourage them to continue their good work.
"I am very honored and proud to be standing here before you to celebrate the six new Harvard-Kent scholars," Principal Jason Gallagher told the crowd of students from second to fifth grade.
Two students each from the third, fourth, and fifth grades were recommended by their teachers and chosen by the board of the Harvard-Kent Leadership & Scholarship Partnership.
"These students are the future high school valedictorians, the future college graduates, the future doctors. ... They are future leaders," said Virginia Casey Goscinak, president of the partnership.
The students awarded scholarships were third-graders Sadie O'Leary and Robin Avalos; fourth-graders Jennyfer Camacho and Amanda Chen; and fifth-graders Victor Chen and Mikayla Magee.
In addition to the scholarship, the students also received three books: a dictionary, a world atlas, and David Macaulay's "The Way Things Work."
The recipients get the money when they start college. Until then, it is earmarked in the foundation's interests-bearing bank account. They also receive mentoring and go on social and educational outings with the other winners through high school.
The school has been offering the scholarships for seven years and has given a total of $42,000 to students. Local businesses and philanthropists, including The Cozard Egleston Scholarship Fund, Diversified Automotive Inc., and R.W. Sullivan Engineering, funded the scholarships.
"This is more than just a scholarship. It's a building block for a bright and successful future," said Goscinak.
Previous scholarship winners also spoke about how they were inspired by earning a scholarship early in their education.
"When I became a leader I learned you don't get something by sitting there doing nothing, you have to earn it," Dasiah Thornton, a fifth-grade student who won the scholarship in 2010 as a third-grader, told her classmates.
"It takes a lot of time, effort, and work to stay on top," said Sophia Liu, who won the scholarship in 2007 and is now in the ninth grade at Boston Latin School.
School Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson and Mayor Thomas M. Menino also congratulated the scholarship winners, encouraged all the school's students to work hard, and discussed the importance of education.
"The most important thing we can do in government is educate our children. If we don't educate our children we have no future," Menino said.