The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Lesters Win Big From Scholarship Fund of Alexandria

In early April, two seniors— both, coincidentally, named Lester— were awarded with the largest Scholarship Fund of Alexandria (SFA) scholarship possible in a surprise event during the school day. Seniors Lester Hernandez Aleman and Lester Tercero were presented with the annual $10k (but renewable for four years) Madelyn Anderson Memorial Scholarship in front of a crowd of their mentors, faculty, school board members and more.

“I was very shocked about it,” said Tercero. “I was very happy about it, too.”

Tercero’s counselor, Azaria Miller, had told him previously to make sure to be in school on Monday for a “meeting about UVA” in order to mask the surprise.

“[I thought,] ‘Are they revoking my acceptance or something?’” Tercero said. He said he was “a little confused” upon arriving to the library and thought, “‘Damn, this is a big UVA Committee.’”

But when Jasmine Milone, SFA’s Executive Director, began discussing the organization and the scholarships it awards annually, it all began to make sense.

Lester Tercero looks up at Jasmine Milone (not pictured) as she speaks.

Tercero plans to study international relations on the pre-law track at the University of Virginia (UVA) next year. In the future, he hopes to either work in immigration or become an ambassador. 

“I’m very proud about [going to UVA],” Tercero said. “I’m considered an international student, so it was a very hard process for me to even apply, so just a school of that magnitude— it was a blessing.”

In addition to his academics, he looks forward to reuniting with friends he met at college preparatory programs like the Virginia Tech Hispanic Institute College and George Mason Early Identification Program as well as meeting new people.

“I’m a little scared,” he said, “but it’s okay.”

Lester Tercero smiles while looking at Lester Hernandez Aleman (not pictured) as they both hold their ceremonial checks.

Hernandez Aleman also plans to attend college next year in Virginia, at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Hernandez Aleman, a former host and veteran of Titan Media Alexandria, plans to major in graphic design.

Lester Hernandez Aleman will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue graphic design, which he has been interested in since elementary school.

Among the crowd of school administrators and elected officials gathered in the library were Hernandez Aleman’s mentors— including his second grade teacher, John Perlman. Perlman has been in Lester’s life for the past decade.

“He’s an exceptional kid. He’s got a great understanding of the world around him and [is] just a personable kid,” said Perlman.

“He has such a strong moral compass and integrity,” added Lisa Hawkins, a retired ACHS teacher and another mentor of Hernandez Aleman’s. “He’s been a blessing to us.”

From left, Robert Haskins, John Perlman, Lester Hernandez Aleman and Lisa Haskins smile for a group photo at the beginning of the event.

The Madelyn Anderson memorial scholarship is the largest awarded SFA scholarship. It was first awarded in 1992 in honor of Madelyn Anderson, a teacher at T.C. Williams, who passed away in 1987. Her husband, John Anderson, led the creation of the scholarship.

According to SFA, John Anderson hoped to “do something about the enormous burden put on the kids when they graduate from college.” The scholarship is meant to help students pay for all aspects of college— not just tuition but room and board, food plans, and other expected expenses. 

In 2022, John Anderson passed away. After his death, the Madelyn Anderson Memorial Scholarship began to be awarded to two students each year. In 2023, the first ever two awardees were Reema Gaal and Diyana Mohammad, while the Lesters are this year’s two awardees.

The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria is a nonprofit based on the first floor of Alexandria City High School’s King Street Campus. It awards over one million dollars in scholarships annually. Pictured from left: Albie Dickson, Rosie Wiedemer, Sarah Zapolsky, Christine Miller.

“In the case of both of these students, they were in the top 5% of applicants,” said Alyssa Samuel, SFA Director of Scholarship programming.

In addition to their strong academic standing and extracurricular involvement that is character of all SFA awardees, this scholarship has particular requirements for the recipients.

“The criteria for this scholarship is that students have financial need and GPAs between a 3.0 and 3.7,” said Samuel. “The idea behind the GPA range is to give it to a student who has a lot of need and that might not be met by another scholarship or financial aid.”

The particular criteria and required excellence for this scholarship— and, of course, the high award amount— is what makes it so special. 

“This is such a significant award, and these are students who get among the highest scores in the application review process, so we really want to celebrate them. We hope that it inspires other students who are not seniors and have this to look forward to,” said Milone.

The group smiles for a photo. From left: The group smiles for a photo. From left: Michelle Gleeson, Anayxia Rodriguez, Kevin Jahns, Lester Tercero, Alexander Duncan, Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Lester Hernandez Aleman, Tim Beaty, Ashley Simpson Baird, Michelle Rief, Jasmine Milone, Alyssa Samuel, Christine Miller

It has become somewhat of a tradition to surprise the awardee(s) during the school day. 

“This is the best part,” said Kevin Jahns, the chair of SFA’s Board of Trustees. “I love to see the students getting these scholarships. We look forward [to this] all year long. We’re fundraising and doing things throughout the year, but really, it’s all about these scholarships, so it’s just fun to see the recipients get them. In particular, these first couple kind of start the whole process, and these are our largest ones, so it’s always a great start. Always fun.”

This is the first year that the surprise was a fully-fledged gathering rather than just taking place in a classroom.

“Being able to do it in this way, in the library, we really wanted to bring together everyone who has been a part of it. You know that expression, ‘It takes a village’: [Hernandez Aleman’s] mentors were here, administrators were here, [College & Career Center and SFA staff and school board members too],” said Milone. “It really was about celebrating them with the community that supports them, so we just wanted to acknowledge that a lot of people have a hand in the success of our students.”

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