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Saying thank you with a bright, successful future

Scholars fund helps 20 students attend college in the fall

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June 20th, 2014
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“I am so grateful that the residents at Ponds care enough about our futures to put in so much time and money in support of the scholars fund that helps pay for college,” says Kelly Davis, a dining services employee whose grandparents Glen and Joan Lehman live at Ashby Ponds. 

Davis, a recent graduate of Stone Bridge High School, is one of 20 high school graduates working at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., who recently received a $4,000 scholarship. She will begin her freshman year at James Madison University this fall.

Since 2010, the Ashby Ponds scholars fund has raised more than $200,000, and 40 students have received scholarship awards. 

All of the students work for the community’s dining services department as servers, restaurant assistants, utility workers, and service coaches. To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must work at least 1,000 hours during their junior and senior years of high school without any adverse disciplinary actions on record, maintain at least a C average, and complete all application materials. The $4,000 scholarships are paid directly to the college or trade school of the student’s choice.

“I was thrilled when I learned about the opportunity to receive a scholarship through Ashby Ponds,” says Anna Hornberger, who like Davis will attend James Madison University in the fall. “I applied for multiple scholarships to help cover the cost of college. It was a huge weight off my shoulders to find out I had won an Ashby Ponds scholarship.”

Working hard for the money

Throughout the spring, members of the Ashby Ponds community came up with creative ways to raise funds in support of the scholars fund.

“This year, we kicked off our fundraising efforts with light refreshments and a video introducing all of the eligible high school seniors,” says Debbie Cannatella, Ashby Ponds’ administrative executive assistant. “The video also included interviews with past recipients describing how much the scholarship means to them.”

Following the video, tickets went on sale for the annual Duck Derby, one of the community’s most popular fundraising events. The tickets each contain a number that corresponds to a rubber duck. On the day of the derby, all the numbered ducks are placed in the community’s indoor swimming pool where fans move them across the water, and the first ducks to cross the finish line win prize baskets.

“It’s a fun event that gets everyone involved,” says Cannatella. “We have residents in the pool to help and lots of people come out to watch.” 

The student employees also do their part to raise money for the scholars fund, washing cars at the annual car wash, raising more than $1,000 each year. Community members frequently line up half an hour before the event begins and continue to come steadily throughout the day. 

“Ashby Ponds residents respect what the scholars do for us so much that they are willing to dig deep into their pockets and give generously to this great cause,” says community member Bernita Taylor. “The students add so much to our community and are such fun-loving and giving teens that you can’t help but love them.”

Fashion forward

This year, Bernita and her neighbor Mary Gillis organized a spring fashion show as another way to support the scholars fund. In partnership with Stein Mart department store in Leesburg, Ashby Ponds presented “Bird Boutique on Ashby Boulevard.” Amidst live piano music and singing, 11 men and 11 women sashayed down the aisle in the spring’s hottest fashions.

The 175 attendees enjoyed a seated luncheon and raised nearly $2,000 for the fund.

“We had a good time,” says Mary. “It was a lot of fun helping the models select their outfits and show them off for us.”

Ties that bind

Thanks to the strong bond between the members of the Ashby Ponds community and its teenage staff, enough money was raised to award 20 scholarships—one to every eligible applicant—this year.

“Building bonds with the residents is my favorite part of working at Ashby Ponds,” says scholars fund winner Lorena Garcia, who will attend Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall. “There are a lot of residents I enjoy talking to and getting to know. They make me look forward to coming to work.”   

Just as Ashby Ponds community members go above and beyond to support the teenagers, the teens themselves go the extra mile for those they serve.

“Working at Ashby Ponds has taught me the value of actually taking the time to pay attention to details because of the happiness it brings to people,” says Odyssey Armitage, who will begin her studies at Northern Virginia Community College this fall. “There is one resident who I know enjoys an extra glass of water at dinner. If I walk by and see her sitting down, I immediately get her an extra glass. It makes her feel special. I think it is our purpose as servers at Ashby Ponds to make every resident feel that way.”

Real world realities

For the scholarship winners, paying for college provides a glimpse of the financial realities of adulthood.

“The Ashby Ponds scholars fund is an immense help to the students and their families,” says Dining Staff Development Manager Lisa Freire. “Books alone are hundreds of dollars each year, and this scholarship can help cover these costs and much more.”

“I will definitely use the money from this scholarship toward my textbooks,” says Davis. “Because I’m a biology major, I’ll have to take a lot of lab courses, and I know those will be expensive. The scholarship will help a ton with paying for them.”

For Briar Woods graduate Alyeia Dorsey, who will start her freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University next month, the scholarship is helping make her college dream come true.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I won a scholarship,” she says. “It is so kind of the residents to help provide money for my education. I come from a family that does not have a lot of money, and anything to put toward getting a better education is something that I will always be thankful for.”

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