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In Events on May 7, 2015 - 10:26 am

2015 Maryland Awards Banquet

The 19th Annual Carson Scholars Banquet in the state of Maryland celebrated the bright and talented 178 new and 248 previous scholars!

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The event was held at Martin’s West, where families, friends, educators and sponsors came to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our future leaders! Jennifer Gilbert, Emmy Award winning television news anchor at WBFF-TV, kicked off the event as the Master of Ceremonies.

Jennifer GilbertThe ballroom was set up elegantly with shimmering chandeliers hanging from the low-lit ceilings. The round tables throughout the room were occupied by proud families and educators who anxiously waited for the scholars to join them. As soon as the Procession of the Nobles by Rimsky-Korsakov began, first the new, then the repeat scholars marched in double-file lines into the ballroom.

When the scholars were seated, Dr. Ben and Candy Carson took the stage to congratulate the scholars on their amazing achievement. Mrs. Carson was eager to announce and present the first award of the night, the Power of Excellence Award. Wynton Marsalis, Grammy Award winning musician, was the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards for both jazz and classical records; and he repeated the distinction again in 1984! This award was given to an individual for demonstrating excellence in his career and becoming a positive role model. While Wynton Marsalis, escorted by scholar Alden Tonkay, walked up to receive the award, scholar Kallie Blakelock impressively played a trumpet fanfare.


Nikky Matola2015 Carson Scholar, Nicky Mottola, approached the stage to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Nicky is a 5th grade student from Myersville, Maryland who wants to be the president of a pharmaceutical company. After the pledge, Jennifer Gilbert called forward Sydnae Becton for the evening’s blessing. Syndae is a 4-time Carson Scholar from Potomac, Maryland. She is in 8th grade and is an aspiring anesthesiologist.

During dinner, the room was filled with marvelous music on the piano played by Kara Poling, accompanied by her mother, Mary Poling. Kara is a 2015 Carson Scholar who is in 7th grade at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School. She is a member of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra and most recently, received honorable mention in the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition.

After dinner, Jennifer Gilbert presented striking information about how CSF started off with 25 winners and now more than 6,700 students have been awarded scholarships in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. More impressively, she explained that CSF has paid out over 3.6 million dollars in scholarship awards and there is an alumni network of over 3,200 Carson Scholars already making a difference in the world. Attendees then sat and watching the Alumni Video featuring Carson Scholar Alumni.

MEGANSpeaking of Carson Scholar Alumni, Megan Rosenberger took the stage next. Megan is currently a 3rd class midshipman in the U.S. Naval Academy. She is a political science major who aspires to obtain a degree in environmental policy. In 2012, Megan was awarded the President Obama’s Environmental Youth Award, United States Miss Teen Eco 2012 and Miss Teen Earth Pennsylvania 2012. She launched her own nonprofit, Barrels by the Bay, which brings awareness to the annual United Nations World Water Day, March 22, while educating individuals within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed about water resources. She gave an inspiring speech to the young scholars.

To introduce Dr. Ben Carson to the stage, 2015 Carson Scholar, Damon Smith took the podium. Damon is a 7th grade student from St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School and hopes to become a doctor. Christen Dodson, 7-time Carson Scholar, escorted Dr. Carson to the stage. Then 5th grader, Tananda Haulley escorted Mrs. Carson to the stage.

Toby 2Dr. Carson presented his next award for the night, the Sonya Award. This award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the drive, determination and commitment, and perseverance of his mother, Sonya. After presenting a biographical video of the amazing accomplishments of this individual, Dr. Carson was pleased to present the Sonya Award to the amazing Toby Orenstein! Toby Orenstein is the founder and artistic director of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. For over 40 years, CCTA has educated through the arts by creating theatrical experiences that inspire thought, action, creativity and change. Toby not only helped to create great actors, but also great people who give back to their community.

long 2The next award of the night, the Lifetime Achievement Award, was given to a person who throughout their life has positively impacted society with innovative ideas, accomplishments and philosophies of encouraging others and giving back. Another biographical video played up on the large screens around the ballroom. When the video stopped, Dr. Carson asked Dr. Donlin Long to come forward to accept the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Donlin Long is a distinguished professor of neurosurgery emeritus at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Dr. Long founded the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurosurgery and Department of Clinical Neurosciences. He served as the Chair of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins for 27 years and stepped down to his current positon to devote his time to research, education and patient care.

Agre 2The final award of the night, the Trailblazer Award, was given to an individual with a pioneering spirit who has positively impacted society with his innovative ideas. He is involved in multiple global issues and has a desire to help cure third world diseases. This honoree’s biographical video played on the screen and was followed by his introduction. Dr. Carson presented this award to Dr. Peter Agre, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Director of Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. In 2003, he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovery of the aquaporins, a family of water channel proteins found throughout nature.

Mrs. Carson came to the stage to acknowledge and thank all of the educators, guidance counselors, administrators and superintendents in the audience. Mrs. Carson and Dr. Carson then recognized the amazing volunteers and staff that make the CSF mission possible. Dr. Carson then delivered his keynote address speaking of his poverty-stricken formative years and how he overcame many obstacles to become a success in school and his career. He also challenged not only the scholars, but everyone in the audience, to THINK BIG!

Ben and Candy

During Dr. Carson’s closing remarks, he spoke about CSF’s second mission, the Ben Carson Reading Project, which encourages independent reading in schools across the country. After his remarks, the attendees, turned once again to the big, hanging display screens to view a video about Dr. Carson’s new children’s book, Anything Is Possible, which is now available to purchase!

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for arrived! Jennifer Gilbert took the stage once more to honor the new and repeat 2015 Carson Scholars! As students names were called, pictures appeared on the giant display screens, while the students would stand with pride. After all of the names were called, and there were quite a few of them, “Impossible Dream” played while attendees were asked to light and wave their glow sticks in the air to celebrate the scholar’s accomplishments. The night was filled with smiles, awards, food, families, and most of all, our Carson Scholars! Congratulations again!

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Click here to view the entire photo album for the 2015 Maryland Awards Banquet.

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