Posts Tagged ‘University of Maryland’

Sabrina Shah 2013Sabrina Shah intends to create a safe and healthy future for developing children. With the financial assistance of a $3,000 Jackson Casey Fund/ThanksUSA scholarship, Sabrina is completing her final year of undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Since 2009, Sabrina has received ThanksUSA scholarships totaling $12,000. In just a few months, she will earn degrees in both Psychology and Media & Communication Studies.


Sabrina’s interest in psychology began early. She often read articles or watched videos that focused on the subject. When she enrolled in an AP Psychology class in high school, Sabrina realized that she wasn’t merely learning facts; she truly understood and enjoyed every psychology lesson that was being taught.

After exploring several disciplines, Sabrina decided to focus on developmental psychology. Even as a teen, she was starting to realize that “troubled” students were the result of their environment.

Kinza & Sabrina Shah

Kinza & Sabrina Shah

Sabrina is most interested in combining her majors to study the effects of media on the social development of children. Through her studies and research, she has realized that media can be used to promote focus and learning in the classroom.

One of Sabrina’s most fascinating research projects involved pediatric cancer patients. Her team created virtual reality helmets that patients wore during treatments. Watching positive imagery produced a calming effect that distracted the young children during painful or scary treatments. Sabrina believes that the use of such media can actually alleviate or prevent psychological trauma.

Though she is always eager to experiment with, and learn from, different fields of psychology, Sabrina reports that she always returns to developmental psychology. Like most enthusiastic students, Sabrina belongs to groups and clubs that enhance her learning experience. She is member of the UMBC Philosophy Club and the Psychology Honors Society (Psi Chi), and has participated in the Model UN since high school.

Besides study related activities, Sabrina devotes much of her time to charitable organizations. She is most involved with Challah for Hunger, which raises funds to fight hunger and poverty through the sale of homemade challah bread.

As she nears graduation, Sabrina is preparing to continue her education, possibly at Cornell University, with the intention of earning her PhD in Developmental Psychology. With such dedication to both her major field of study and helping others through her charitable work, Sabrina is likely to impact many lives.

I think it’s important to note that Sabrina is not the only successful collegiate in her family. In 2006, her older brother, Zain, received a $5,000 ThanksUSA scholarship for his studies at Brooklyn College. Zain is now pursuing a career in computer engineering. Younger sister, Kinza, is off to a great start at Towson University where she is majoring in Speech Pathology.

Sabrina, her mother Tasneem, and sister Kinza

Sabrina, her mother Tasneem, and sister Kinza

As Sabrina prepares for graduate school, Kinza is preparing to apply for a 2013-2014 ThanksUSA scholarship. Applications will be accepted between April 1 and May 15, 2013, and potential applicants are encouraged to register for a reminder.

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This week I am happy to introduce University of Maryland: College Park sophomore, Rachel Sebastian. Rachel has received consecutive ThanksUSA scholarships totaling $6000, including a $3000 ESA Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship for the 2011/2012 academic year.

Rachel Sebastian

A music education major with a concentration in musical performance, Rachel’s current long-term plans including teaching at the k-12 level. “Last year I had the opportunity to observe many music classes all around the DC area,” says Rachel. “I enjoyed each of the unique experiences that the different classes provided. The general music classes that I observed in the elementary schools piqued my interests the most. The classes are high energy and the students are constantly engaged. The teachers have freedom to teach from a variety of musical concepts in creative ways. I love the excitement and joy that young children bring to music, and I think that elementary general music would be the most fun job I could have,” Rachel adds.

Since Rachel speaks so passionately about teaching music to young children, I felt compelled to ask her about funding cuts to programs such as music education. She responded, “Music, as well as many other arts programs, is certainly a vital part to a quality education. Music engages the brain and the body in a way that no other subject can. I have read numerous studies that prove that music enriches child development not only by increasing cognitive abilities, but also by building social and critical-thinking skills. From my own experiences, I have observed that children truly blossom through the expressive and creative outlet that music provides, whether in a general music, band, orchestra, or choir class.”

Rachel’s concentration in music performance will provide her with the necessary training and applied lessons to be a professional French Horn performer. In addition to her studies, Rachel is also devoted to many causes on faith-based organizations on campus including Terps for Life, the Navigators, the Catholic student association, and the University of Maryland chapter of Catholic Daughters of America.

On Monday, November 14th, Rachel, and her family will join ThanksUSA at DAR Constitution Hall for the ThanksUSA Benefit Concert to celebrate our military families. Rachel’s father, Commander James Sebastian, has served with the United States Coast Guard for nearly 25 years. During his service, Rachel has lived in nine different homes and says the experience has taught her to be flexible. She has developed many long-distance friendships and feels that she adjusts easily to new or different situations. She also notes the closeness of her family saying, “My family is incredibly supportive and I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

Speaking of her family, Rachel’s older sister, Rebekah, received a $1500 ThanksUSA Scholarship in 2006 for her studies at Louisiana Tech. Rebekah completed her undergraduate studies in 2009 and is currently attending physical therapy school at the University of Delaware.

The ThanksUSA team is proud to have assisted both Sebastian sisters with their educational pursuits and we look forward to following the progress of Rachel’s undergraduate studies. We close this week’s Scholarship News blog with a few words from Rachel to the ESA Foundation and all ThanksUSA supporters:

“This scholarship money has been such a blessing to me! I am now attending a college that I could never have even imagined myself attending. Every once in a while I look around, astonished at my school, classes, professors, and extremely talented classmates and I am in awe that I have the privilege to attend a school that I am so in love with. I will be able to graduate from the University of Maryland debt-free with experience and knowledge that will help me to get a job as a music teacher.”

Be sure to check our Facebook page next week for photos and concert highlights!

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Since graduating from High School, Jennifer Benecke knew that she wanted to pursue an undergraduate degree. Though her academic journey may have been delayed, Jennifer is currently in her final year of studies at the University of Maryland. This busy mother, military spouse, full-time student, and volunteer has been awarded a $3000 Sam V. Suplizio/ThanksUSA Scholarship to complete her BS in Psychology.

Jennifer and Dominick Benecke

When Jennifer was setting academic and career goals, she really wanted to be a Physician’s Assistant. At the time, she and husband, Chief Petty Officer George Benecke, U.S. Navy, were stationed in Hawaii and there were no PA programs of study. Jennifer decided to take the pre-requisite coursework that could later be applied to a PA degree. One of those courses, psychology, immediately piqued her interest and observations in her daily life inspired her to pursue psychology as a major.

Jennifer and her son, Dominick, would ride the city bus and one of the designated stops was the VA hospital. Instead of seeing proud men and women who should be treated with honor and respect, Jennifer witnessed ill-treatment and disregard.

Both she and George have very clear values and always try to give back to their community and help others. She realized that if she shifted her educational focus to psychology, she could pursue a career that would specifically allow her to assist military veterans.

Jennifer lost her father earlier this year and knows that he would be especially proud of the career path she has set for herself. “Earning this degree and giving back to the military community honors my father’s own service to the US Navy…some of the happiest times in his life,” she adds.

If you congratulate Jennifer on her academic accomplishments, she will be quick to credit the loving support of her husband. She says that he “really stepped up” with encouragement and extra household chores. They both learned to prioritize and not over-schedule. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you try to do everything. Time management is critical”

The family honed their time management skills to ensure that she could attend school full-time. She’s careful to match her academic schedule with her son’s elementary school schedule and makes sure that he sees her completing homework. “It’s so important to set educational standards and seeing my planning and dedication makes him strive to be the best.”

The ThanksUSA team wishes Jennifer continued academic success. We’re comforted knowing that our deserving American Veterans will have such a caring counselor.

“This scholarship is so special to me because it is the final piece to completing a dream I have had since graduating high school. Without this scholarship I would not have had the means to finish the last year of my bachelors degree.”  – Jennifer Benecke

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This week’s featured scholarship recipient is Lynn Iles, the recipient of a $3000 John Coffey/ThanksUSA scholarship. This dedicated military spouse and mother of two beautiful daughters, will graduate this May from the University of Maryland. Lynn’s experience as a military spouse started a bit later than most, but she quickly embraced military life and I think her story will serve as an inspiration for many:

“My husband, Charles, did not join the Army until he was 30 years old and has been in for 7 years. We never intended it to be a career, but a tool for him to finish his degree. What happened surprised both of us – we loved the military life and decided to make it his career. I can’t imagine us doing anything else. Prior to him joining the Army I was an executive assistant at a Wisconsin hospital and had planned on continuing my education in hospital administration. What happened when he joined the Army was a blessing. I was able to stay at home with our oldest daughter with number two on the way. I also found my groove as a military spouse and found I really enjoyed volunteering with military family programs.”

In addition to volunteer work at her daughters’ school and the family church, Lynn has volunteered extensively within the military community. She has served as the Master Trainer and Volunteer Program Manager at Fort Belvoir’s Army Family Team Building Program, participated in local and mid-level Army Family Action Plan conferences, and has served as a Family Readiness Group leader and treasurer.

The Iles family credits the military with allowing Lynn to complete her education. Lynn explains, “When my husband joined the Army, we had enough financial stability for me to stay home with my girls. When I started thinking about returning to school in 2005, I learned that there were many scholarship and grant opportunities for military spouses pursuing higher education. I can say without a doubt that I would never have gone back to school if my husband had not joined the military.”

Lynn has become so passionate about helping her military neighbors, that she is planning her career around military life. “When I started back at school in 2005, I wasn’t quite sure which direction my career path would take. As a newer military spouse I did know that we would move around frequently and I may not always find the “perfect” job or career. Business Administration seemed like the perfect degree program to cover all my bases. What time has shown me is that I am passionate about working with military families and hope my degree combined with my volunteer experience will give me the opportunity to have a career doing what I love,” says Lynn. As the Iles prepare for a December PCS, Lynn has made arrangements to take substitute teaching courses this summer. She plans to teach during the fall semester leading up to their move.

Lynn also has some words of encouragement for fellow military families. She advises, “I know that it sounds cliché, but there are so many opportunities for military family members pursuing higher education. The task may seem daunting at first, especially if you are only taking one class at a time, but it will come. You cannot finish if you never start. You never know when an opportunity may arise to help your degree progress. I was very fortunate that my school offered experiential learning class which I earned 28 credits for my volunteer training and volunteer leadership experience. That class knocked 9 classes off my degree plan. Then I was awarded this scholarship and was in a financial position to complete my degree ahead of schedule. Thanks to ThanksUSA I am graduating in May of this year!”

Congratulations, Lynn, and thank you for your wisdom. The ThanksUSA team looks forward to following your achievements and wishes you all the best at your next duty station!

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