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Foundation Honors Outstanding Educators

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Cultural Foundation honors educators and grants 10 scholarships.

Thomas Wilkins, a longtime Reston resident, has been honored for his community involvement in the past, but the award he received last Saturday is dear to his heart.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Cultural Foundation’s 8th annual Scholarship Luncheon at the Fairview Park Marriott Hotel, Wilkins received an Outstanding Educator Award.

Wilkins, a former Best of Reston award winner and former president of the Reston Association, was honored for his day-to-day efforts to help underrepresented students and finding resources for them, said organizers.

“Dr. Wilkins is a leader in the community. He’s an absolute jewel. He’s a defender of Reston,” said Rodney Scott, chair of the scholarship committee for the Foundation. Wilkins was one of the founding members of the Foundation. Scott added that Wilkins has been a leader with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and has worked to improve minority acceptance at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a public magnet school for Fairfax County.

“He’s been committed to making a difference in the lives of young people,” said Myrtle Gallow, president of the Foundation.

When Wilkins’ 75th birthday was approaching, his family intended to throw a large celebration in his honor, but Wilkins said no. In lieu of gifts, Wilkins suggested to family and friends that they make donations to the Foundation so it could further its work for young people.

DURING THE LUNCHEON, emceed by Kojo Nnamdi, host of the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, the Foundation also honored Frank Bensinger with an Outstanding Educator Award.

Bensinger began working for Fairfax County Public Schools in 1984. For the past 16 years, he’s been principal at Forest Edge Elementary School.

“Dr. King is one of my heroes and to be honored by a group that has kept his vision and dream alive is especially rewarding and heartfelt,” said Bensinger.

Scott called Bensinger an education stalwart “dedicated to the multicultural community.”

“I’m inspired by his commitment — the way he serves young people,” said Gallow.

THE FOUNDATION also awarded 10 students throughout Fairfax County with $1,000 scholarships for college. Two students from South Lakes High School, Satchel Davis and Lotus Mary Alexander Lee, and one student from Herndon High School, Ashley King, received scholarships.

Davis plans to major in business or marketing at Old Dominion University. He said in his essay that he’d be the first in his family to finish college.

Lee, who will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall, plans to study dance education. She hopes to be an educator and administrator after college.

King, also attending Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall, plans to major in history.

The Foundation has now given $45,000 in scholarships to students from all over Fairfax County.