Students Beat the Odds

Students Beat the Odds

Hard Work Pays Off

On Aug. 29, 2005, Albany Royal’s life was dramatically changed.

When Hurricane Katrina hit her New Orleans home, her family fled to Sterling.

Royal was preparing for her senior year at her New Orleans school, but was forced to start a new life at Dominion High School.

"My first day there, I didn’t say too much. I was bashful," she said.

However, it didn’t take Royal long to adjust to her new lifestyle.

Her guidance counselor, Gabrielle Carpenter, said Royal truly beat the odds by making the honor roll and completing the nursing program at Monroe Technology School in Leesburg.

"She is simply a nice, nice young lady. Always polite, responsible," Carpenter said. "She has not allowed obstacles to be permanent fixtures in her life."

For that, Carpenter nominated Royal for the Beat the Odds Scholarship, initiated by the Children’s Defense Fund to help students in their efforts to attend a two- or four-year school.

On Thursday night, the Loudoun County Bar Association awarded three Loudoun County high-school seniors with scholarships at the Old Courthouse in Leesburg.

"I’ve had many stressful days, but I appreciate every second of my life," Royal said.

Royal received $1,500 for beating the odds.

THE LOUDOUN COUNTY Bar Association initiated the Beat the Odds project several years ago, with the help of the Sheriff’s Office and the schools.

The group’s committee worked with local agencies to select local students who have overcome personal obstacles in their lives and who demonstrate the drive to achieve academic success.

For four years, Dominion High School senior Sharmila Clee demonstrated her ability to achieve success.

When Clee was growing up, she and her two siblings were in and out of foster homes, Dominion High School guidance counselor Erin Norton explained.

"Despite that, she has achieved success," she said.

After years of moving around, in and out of the care of foster parents, some of whom were abusive, Clee and her brother and sister found a stable home.

"I can’t believe I’m only 18 years old," she said.

Clee accepted her award for $3,000, which she will apply to her tuition at Bradford University, where she plans on studying sociology.

"I believe no child should have to go through what I’ve been through," Clee said. "I will not allow it and I can’t wait to get started."

Loudoun Valley High School senior Jessica Suehay Izquierdo also received a $1,500 scholarship.

Eligible students must be a client or former client of Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, the Juvenile Court Services Unit, Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services or the Department of Social Services.