The Ninth Annual Awards Banquet
Heinz Field, since 2001 has been the home of Pittsburgh Steelers Football heroes! However today, the football hall had no footballs…
The air was filled with excitement as 75 first-time and 76 repeat Carson Scholars, along with parents, guardians, educators and volunteers gathered in the East Club Lounge. Classical music by a string quartet from Duquesne University provided lovely background music as guests arrived.
Sally Wiggin of WTAE-TV, Channel 4, has not only graciously served as emcee for the Pittsburgh Carson Scholars for several years; she has been with the ABC-affiliated television station as reporter and anchor for over 30 years! She opened the program with a very warm welcome, and announced the procession of the 2013 Carson Scholars. Students from 4th grade to 12th marched up the middle aisle double file and split at the podium to the majestic strains of the stately Procession of the Nobles by Rimsky-Korsakov, as they located their seats.
When the music subsided, 2013 Carson Scholar Emily Laurore, an 8th grade student at Coudersport Junior/Senior High School approached the podium, and with a voice as clear as a bell, led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Then the blessing was earnestly given by Central Catholic High School 11th-grade student, Brendan Connolly, who prayed in thanks for faith, friends, and of course the fabulous food!
A gourmet lunch was served, with each table sporting a patriotic combination of red, white & blue balloons, tethered by coordinating ribbons to weighted centerpieces. And the program continued with Ms. Wiggin sharing a brief history of the Carson Scholars Fund, both nationally and locally. Seventeen years ago in 1996, 25 scholars were honored in Maryland as compared with the more than 5,600 scholars today that now exist in all 50 states!
In Pittsburgh 8 years ago, 20 students received awards at the first ceremony. Since then nearly 750 exceptional students have been honored. And the Pittsburgh Chapter has a unique distinction in its success at retaining students from year to year. In the history of the Carson Scholars Fund, only 4 students have ever been recognized 8 times. Three of those 4 students are from Pittsburgh! They were all present and stood when Ms. Wiggin called their names:
- John Micklo
- Logan O’Brien
- Goda Tacijones
And John and Logan as 11th graders still have another year to go. So they each have the distinct possibility of being the first scholars ever to win 9 times!!
These successes of the Pittsburgh Chapter are all due to the vision, dedication and perseverance of Dr. Al Costa, with the extremely capable help of his team at Costa Land Co.
Dr. Costa thanked Sally Wiggin for her continued support and for the dedicated and hard work the ladies of Costa Land Company put into making the event such a success.
As a world traveler, he meets a lot of people. But Dr. Costa noted that the people who are the most successful and who are really happy are the ones who help others. He illustrated this idea with a story of a young man at a prestigious high school. This young man just so happened to notice when the athletic uniforms were being distributed, that another young man was too big in stature to fit the standard issue uniforms. The school policy was that any oversized uniforms had to be purchased out of pocket by the student. So after the tall student slowly and sadly walked away, with a too-small size large uniform since he couldn’t afford to pay the extra fee, the first young man who was next in line purchased an extra-large uniform even though he himself was only medium-sized. Of course the distributor of the uniforms questioned him about it, but he assured them that this was what he needed. With the too-large uniform in hand, the first young man caught up with the taller one and said, “Hey, I got the wrong size, can I switch with you?”
The young man who purchased the uniform on behalf of the taller one is Dr. Costa’s son, Alfonso. And Dr. Costa only heard about it much later from one of the teachers who witnessed this generous gesture. It just goes to show you, that by being a giving role model, others witness what you do and will do the same. He concluded with, “This is the main principle of the Carson Scholars Fund: By lifting scholars up as role models, your classmates and schoolmates will start to emulate you, and make the world a better place, because you are doing so. Keep up the great work!”
Christina Costa, the daughter of Dr. Al Costa was then introduced to present the Rosalia Clark Award. Established several years ago by the Costa family and Wachovia Bank, this award celebrates the life and memory of Rosalia Costa-Clark, a true humanitarian who epitomized generosity and a caring spirit with her kindness and zest for life. The award is given to a Pittsburgh Carson Scholar who demonstrates the qualities of Ms. Clark. This year the award went to 5th grade student, Jessica Sedano, of Pittsburgh Whittier K-5, who enjoys art, playing the violin & reading. Jessica’s love for animals motivated her to organize a successful humane society fund raiser.
Alumni speaker, Zachary Hudak is a 2-time Carson Scholar and is currently a junior at Duquesne University studying finance. Zachary shared that being a Carson Scholar enhanced his life experience, motivating him to graduate high school early. The Carson scholarship gave him a commitment to service and pursuit of a well-rounded education. He ended with congratulations to his scholar-colleagues and said he expects great things from them!
Dr. Costa and the Dr. and Mrs. Carson returned to the stage to honor another local hero. The 2013 Leadership Award was presented to Todd Brice, President & CEO, S & T Bancorp, Inc. for demonstrating leadership in his life through innovative practices, initiation and implementation of creative ideas, and ultimate success.
Prior to Dr. Carson’s keynote speech, Jessica Karsten, wife of Pittsburgh Pirate Jeff Karsten made a surprise announcement. After attending a Ben Carson Reading Room opening in Baltimore, she and her husband have decided to sponsor the first Ben Carson Reading Room in Pittsburgh!
As Dr. Carson congratulated the scholars and those who helped them attain their success, he made the comparison with his own life, how in his younger years he was the opposite of the students honored today. Under his mother’s guidance, he was able to turn his life around through her reading program. His imagination began to explode, as he traveled places he had never even dreamed of. He was taking advantage of the incredible 3-pound organ we call the brain. The brain remembers everything you ever saw or read, can process 2 million bits of information per second, and has such a capacity that you could never overload it. In fact, if you learned one fact per second, it would take over 3 million years to begin to challenge its capacity!
As the scholars lined up to receive their awards, two videos were screened: the first showcased the Ben Carson Reading Room project, and the second was the PSA for the Fund that has been airing on TV stations across the country.
Each scholar came forward as Ms. Wiggin called their name; Dr. Costa, Dr.Carson and Dr. Loyacona shook their hands and presented each with their certificates, while Candy gave her signature congratulatory hug.
As the “Impossible Dream” played over the speaker system to signal the end of the event, scholars proceeded to the bleachers outside for the group photos. It was a great afternoon for all!
Special thanks to the ladies of Costa Land Co, who outdid themselves again!
To view more photos from the event, visit our album on Facebook.
All a-Buzz at the Bossa Nova!
For the 9th consecutive year, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Carson Scholars Fund has held its annual fund raiser at the Brazilian-dance-inspired Bossa Nova restaurant. And it was a huge success yet again!!
The eclectic blend of old and new created the perfect backdrop for the 200+ revelers of all ages. With the central circular bar featuring a bronzed sculpture of a bucking bull (with a sentimental red heart!) and the cozy nooks around the perimeter to provide ambience for those who prefer to relax at a table, there was still plenty of room to mingle and schmooze.
And there were plenty to schmooze with! Jerome Bettis "The Bus" led the Steelers charge of a strong line-up, including these Steelers greats:
- LaMarr Woodley
- Charlie Batch
- Casey Hampton
- Lawrence Timmons
- Ryan Mundy
- Mike Adams
Sports anchor for KDKA-TV Bob Pompeani, emceed the program with his usual wit and panache. He was followed by Pittsburgh Chapter Founder and President, Dr. Al Costa who thanked all for coming. Dr. Costa gave a brief history of the chapter and how it has mushroomed from awarding 20 scholars in its first year (2005) to now having recognized and rewarded nearly 700 scholars! The continued success of the chapter means that nearly 100 new Pittsburgh students are honored every year. He also gratefully acknowledged many of the attendees who had been supporters from the beginning of the chapter's existence and have continued throughout the years.
Dr. Costa then introduced Jerome Bettis who spoke on the importance of education and high academic achievement, as well as his commitment to encouraging students to develop themselves to be the best they can be.
Next up was Dr. Ben Carson, the co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, another long-time close friend of Dr. Costa’s. Dr. Carson talked about the importance of getting behind these future leaders of America and encouraging them so that they serve as role models and inspire their peers to do their best academically as well.
The silent auction item prices rose as the evening unfolded, but even more impressive were the live auction items where golf with Jerome Bettis sold for $6,500! He even agreed to two dinners for 6 for $5,000 and more! All funds raised directly support the Pittsburgh chapter.
Very special thanks go to the ladies of the Costa Land Co, capably led by Sarah Piccione and Samantha Hirshberg, who spent so much time and effort making sure the whole event ran smoothly and efficiently. Thanks to their dedication, it is guaranteed to be an evening filled with fun every single year!
Pittsburgh Prowess Prevails!
Check out this video from the 2010 banquet!
To read more updates from the Pittsburgh chaper, click here.