Students can receive Spirit of Columbia college scholarships for their efforts in the community

October 25, 2018
A student painting

Columbia Association encourages youth to volunteer and offers $2,500 scholarships to teens who have sown extraordinary dedication to community service. Pictured is a senior painting with Sophie Shen.

By Tripp Laino

When Madelyn Harris learned that many students in her community don’t have enough food to eat, she felt like she needed to take action — so the teenager launched a food pantry at Oakland Mills High School.

Harris, 18, has since graduated from Oakland Mills and is now a freshman majoring in sociology at the University of Maryland. And her education is partially supported by a scholarship she earned as a result of her community service.

Harris was one of six recipients earlier this year of Columbia Association’s Maggie J. Brown Spirit of Columbia Scholarship Award, which awards $2,500 to graduating high school seniors who have shown extraordinary dedication to performing community service.

“I’m really thankful for the award itself,” Harris said. “It’s allowed me to focus on my studies, and it’s nice not having to worry about working on top of my classes. I can focus entirely on my academics, which is wonderful.”

Harris even continued her efforts after graduating.

“I was able to work on it through August, helping with inventory in back and picking up food from the Community Action Council of Howard County,” she said. “It was so much fun, and I am so happy I got to do this. I learned a ton, and it was incredible to be able to help people. We helped over 500 people in the past year!”

Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 scholarships. The deadline to apply is March 15. Applications are available online at For more information, call 410-715-3161 or email

Another winner was Sophie Shen, 18, who graduated from River Hill High School and is now a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Shen is majoring in finance and business analytics with a minor in fine arts. She earned the award for her work with several organizations in Columbia, including Making Change, which provides financial assistance and tax prep to those in need, as well as Art for the Heart, which brings interactive visual arts classes to people in-need.

Shen’s loved art since she was a child and was a member of the National Art Honor Society chapter at River Hill, serving as treasurer and president of the organization. For her service project for Art for the Heart, she and other students visited senior homes to do arts and crafts projects, such as holiday ornaments and a 4th of July-inspired painting.

“I thought it would be a good thing to go into senior homes after I’d read about the effects of art therapy for people with memory loss and Alzheimer’s,” Shen said. “It’s a really great experience, because art means a lot to me and has helped me through a lot of tough things in my life. It’s my own form of therapy. It’s something I can go back to to relax and have fun. It meant a lot to me, because I was bringing to others what art brought to me.”

The other winners this year were Tobias Eegholm of River Hill High School, Adam Elshafei of Atholton High School, Madelyn Ives of Wilde Lake High School and Andrea Orpia of Wilde Lake High School.

The fine print

Students applying for the Spirit of Columbia scholarship award must live on CA-assessed property or have a parent/guardian who works full-time on or owns CA-assessed property. Applicants must be graduating in May/June 2019 from an accredited public, private or parochial high school, or be home-schooled in accordance with COMAR 13A.10.01. The students must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or better.

CA employees, members of CA’s Board of Directors or family members of employees or members of the Board of Directors are not eligible to receive the award.

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