SCHOLARSHIP FUND GALA 35 Celebrates 2021 Scholars, Raises $450K for Scholarships

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SCHOLARSHIP FUND OF ALEXANDRIA ‘GALA 35’ RAISES $450,000 TO HELP SEND TITAN STUDENTS IN NEED TO COLLEGE

Alexandria Community Rallies Virtually to Support Students of “Generation Resilient”

2021 SFA Scholar Mikias Elias, recipient of the $40,000 SFA Collis Warner scholarship that will take him to study at the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech next fall. Elias addressed the audience during the SFA Gala 35 Live Stream event on April 24, 2021.

ALEXANDRIA, VA April 27, 2021 —The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria held its 35thAnniversary Spring Benefit Gala and Auction — GALA 35 –  virtually on Saturday, April 24th to support college scholarships for Alexandria students in need. The SFA’s second virtual gala raised over $450,000 for scholarships. The event was broadcast live from Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota, a presenting sponsor of the Gala along with MGAC, owned by TC alums Mark and Cindy Anderson.

More than 400 dinners, cocktails and swag bags were handed off to sponsors and supporters who joined a Sponsor Cocktail Party and Gala 35 Main Event. The event was emceed by SFA Board Member Kimberly O’Donnell and included musical entertainment, a silent auction, the presentation of “Portrait of Success” awards to three past SFA scholarship recipients, an address from a 2021 SFA scholarship recipient, tributes to the Class of 2021 SFA scholars, tributes to the legacy built by 35 years of scholarships, and the Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota grand prize raffle drawing. Since 1986, The SFA has awarded more than $17 million in scholarships and helped send more than 5,000 Alexandria students with financial need to college. Catering for the event was provided by sponsor Erin White and Mindy’s Catering.

Priscilla Goodwin, SFA Board Chair said, “We are extremely grateful to the Alexandria community for the incredible outpouring of support we saw on Saturday night.” Goodwin continued, “There is great need among the students, and especially this year with COVID-19 economics disproportionately affecting our students and families who struggle financially. All funds raised will go directly to support their college dreams.”

T.C. Williams graduating senior and recipient of the $40,000 SFA Collis Warner scholarship Mikias Elias addressed the gathering on behalf of the Class of 2021 SFA scholars. Elias who is a member of the crew team and an honors student at T.C. and is being raised by his mother after the passing of his father, shared, “I couldn’t be more grateful. This scholarship brings great relief to my family knowing that college won’t be a financial struggle for us. Just this past week, I found out I was accepted into the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. This scholarship will make my education at Virginia Tech possible.”  Elias also offered, “On behalf of the Class of 2021 Scholarship awardees, I’d also like to say we are all relieved to know that we have financial support, and we are so proud that you believe in us.“

Former Titan Principal John Porter with Portrait of Success Award Winners Dr. Patrice Green (L) and Dr. Merkeza Grant (R), along with 2021 SFA Scholarship Winner Mikias Elias, recipient of the $40,000 Collis Warner Scholarship.

Former T.C. Williams Principal and Alexandria community activist John Porter was on hand to speak to the legacy of SFA scholarships over 35 years.  He described SFA scholarships as “building the bedrock of the Alexandria community over the past three and a half decades,” in helping bright young students afford college and get their start in life.  Porter handed out the SFA’s annual “Portraits of Success” awards, which recognize past SFA scholarship recipients who have gone on to achieve great personal and professional success. This year’s Portrait of Success award winners, who share a common commitment to community and to giving back, included Dr. Merkeza Grant, an emergency room physician and Class of 2001 graduate, Patrice Green a leader in community empowerment in Philadelphia and Class of 2001 graduate and Todd Sandoz a financier, major SFA scholarship supporter, and Class of 1989 graduate. (Biographies of each awardee follow below.)

SFA Executive Director Beth Lovain talked about the great need for scholarship funding and her extraordinary pride for the Class of 2021. “We are so grateful for this amazing night and for all of our sponsors. The need for scholarships in this community is great. Each year we have to turn kids away because we simply do not have the funds to help all of our students in need, especially this year with the economic fallout from COVID wreaking havoc on families that already struggle financially.” Lovain added, “But what I want to convey most is my overwhelming pride in our 2021 scholarship recipients. They are truly Generation Resilient. Through all of the adversity and through all of the challenges of COVID and 2020, they have remained poised and focused, their college dreams will not be pushed aside. We are so proud to honor and celebrate them and their remarkable achievements and resilience tonight!”

The evening culminated with the drawing of the Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota grand prize raffle winner. The winning ticket was selected by Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and his wife, Titan alum and former SFA scholarship recipient and Portait of Success Alex Crawford-Batt.  Winner Jennifer Dargue, 20-year veteran TC biology teacher and JV field hockey coach will choose between a brand-new Toyota RAV-4 or $25,000 in cash for her prize.  In addition to donating the prize, Jack and John Taylor also purchase 50 raffle tickets each year to support SFA and donate the tickets to teachers. Dargue was a recipient of one of those donated tickets.

Gala 35 was Co-Chaired by Kate Bertles Hennigan and Cassandra Sullivan and the Gala 35 Silent Auction was chaired by Dorene Pickup and was staffed by volunteers, many of whom have supported the Gala since its early beginnings.

The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1986 that partners with ACPS to provide scholarships and financial aid advising to Alexandria City Public School Students. For more information or to make a gift to support scholarships, please go to www.alexscholarshipfund.org.

 

SFA 2021 Portraits of Success:

Dr. Merkeza Grant

Emergency Medicine Physician

Kaiser Permanente Advanced Urgent Care

T.C. Williams Class of 2001

B.S., Biology, Cornell University, 2005

D.O., Philadelphia College

of Osteopathic Medicine, 2009

 

Dr. Merkeza Grant is a proud TC graduate who says she feels fortunate to have gone to our high school. In particular she credits the Scholarship Fund with being an extraordinary organization that shows how much it cares about TC’s kids. Dr. Grant remarked, “Our community cares so much about our kids that we have the Scholarship Fund. I don’t know of any other high school that has something like it.” Merkeza says that she does not come from a wealthy family, and when it was time to go to college, knowing that she had the extra money from her William Euille scholarship meant so much to her. In a recent conversation she recalled,“It was so helpful to know that someone cared and thought I’d do well.” Merkeza also received renewal scholarships from the Scholarship Fund during her college years.

Merkeza did, in fact, do well. She was a star student at TC who went on to study biology at Cornell University. From Cornell, Merkeza went on to medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and graduated in 2009. Dr. Grant has spent her career as an emergency medicine physician and currently works at Kaiser Permanente Advanced Urgent Care in Northern Virginia. Dr. Grant credits her parents for nudging her toward medicine along with her natural love for science and her fascination with medical television shows.

Dr. Grant said that like many people, she wanted a career where she helps others. For her, medicine was the answer. At the end of the day, it’s comforting for her to answer the question, “Who did I help today?” Merkeza feels that making her desire to help others into a daily quest feels like an achievable goal. To explain what she likes about her career in medicine she says, “It’s different every day, and it challenges me every day.” When asked about how the pandemic has changed her job she replied, “The pandemic challenges all of us in healthcare to quickly adapt and overcome new and changing obstacles. Even so, it has given me a renewed sense of why I love what I do, helping people in need and doing what I can to give them hope that we will all get through this together.”  She also truly enjoys meeting people from different backgrounds and being able to help them when they are in an emergency situation.

Merkeza fondly recalls the volunteer work she participated in as a highlight of her time in medical school. She was able to travel to Mexico on a medical mission trip, she did relief work in New Orleans after Katrina, and she volunteered at an amusement park in Florida for children with chronic illnesses.

The foundation of Dr. Grant’s life now are her career and dedication to family. Merkeza has a busy household which includes her husband, their three young children, and Merkeza’s parents. In her rare spare time, she and her family enjoy hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors in general. Merkeza’s parents are from Ethiopia, and she makes an effort to speak Amharic with her own children as much as possible.

Merkeza moved to Alexandria from New Orleans when she was in seventh grade. As a new student at Hammond Middle School, she will never forget how her science teacher, Ms. Ireland, took her under her wing and made her feel welcome. In fact, Merkeza and Ms. Ireland are still in touch, and Merkeza is grateful to have had such a caring teacher who encouraged her.

When she recalls her high school years at TC, Merkeza fondly remembers volunteering with the Youth Service Coalition, the Alexandria Police Athletic League, playing on the tennis team, studying Spanish, (She received the Spanish IV Award), and her classes in TV production. She was a very involved student who was also a member of the Key Club, National Honor Society, and the Math Honor Society.

Dr. Grant believes in the mission of the Scholarship Fund and is now a financial supporter of the SFA. In a recent conversation, Merkeza mentioned several times how very proud she is of having gone to T.C. Williams High School.  The Scholarship Fund congratulates Dr. Merkeza Grant on her many accomplishments and on making her hometown proud.

 

Patrice GreenProgram Officer, Inclusive Economies

Program Officer, Inclusive Economies

Surdna Foundation

T.C. Williams Class of 2001

B.A., Political Science

University of Pennsylvania, 2005

M.G.A., University of Pennsylvania, 2007

 

Patrice Green is a dynamic former Scholarship Fund recipient who exemplifies the Titan spirit. She believes in hard work, determination, and dedication to community.  Patrice is an Ivy League graduate who has dedicated her life to serving her community. When she applied to the Scholarship Fund in 2001, her counselor, Maria Muhtadi Roach, wrote of Patrice, “She has an unparalleled work ethic and unbridled energy”. This assessment of Ms. Green remains true today. In speaking with her, it is clear that she is a person who is deeply committed to the causes she believes in and that she brings a highly productive energy to her work and volunteer activities.

Patrice is a Program Officer for Inclusive Economies at the nonprofit SURDNA Foundation in Philadelphia. The foundation’s mission is to support just and sustainable communities. Patrice knows that neighborhoods are rebuilt with the people who live there and know their neighborhoods best. For more than ten years in both the nonprofit and government sectors, she has worked to transform economically distressed communities by building innovative cross-sector partnerships. Patrice served as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Liaison to the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. This program leads community engagement to revitalize neighborhoods via job creation, leveraging private investment, increasing economic activity and educational opportunities, and reducing crime. Not only does her work benefit individuals in the community she serves, but she has led the way on reimagining what it means for federal staff to engage in community partnerships.

Patrice was a standout at TC who served as class president, a member of all three choirs, and was a founding member of the TC Step Team. Her interest in her local community was evident as a teen as she was also a founding member of the Alexandria Youth Council and a youth representative on the City Youth Commission. She was recognized for her dedication to Alexandria as the youth recipient of the Community Service Award from the Alexandria Commission on Women. Patrice fondly remembers many teachers at Hammond Middle School and TC, especially Michael Diggins who she says, “…embodies the spirit of Titans giving back to the community.”

Patrice was raised by a single mother who instilled in her the importance of service to others. In her family, it was not an option to ignore the needs of her neighbors. Another value that Patrice’s mother held was the necessity of education for her children.  Patrice remembers that going to college was expected of her as well as finding the means to finance her education. Patrice applied to more scholarships than colleges. With the help of the Scholarship Fund and a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania, Patrice earned her B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in American Politics. She then went on to receive her Masters in Governmental Administration with a concentration in Public Finance, both from the Fels School of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

While a student at Penn, Patrice was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, where she served as Finance Secretary and Historian. She was also the vice president of the W.E.B. Du Bois College House Council. Her outstanding volunteer work while in college earned her the Public Service Award awarded through the Fels School. Patrice continues to volunteer and serves the alumni chapter of her sorority helping to build mentoring programs. She is on the board of We Are All Educators, which supports career development for young people in Maryland and DC.

Patrice credits the Alexandria and TC community with setting her on her life path. She has a deep appreciation for the diversity of our city and school and feels that she grew up on the cutting edge of a cultural change that accepted and appreciated the benefits of living in a diverse community. She says, “Going to TC gave me the opportunity to see diversity at play. It was in Alexandria that I first saw how a city benefits when all folks come together to solve problems”. She brings this spirit of working together to her work today.

Patrice was the recipient of the William Euille Scholarship and was also awarded SFA renewal scholarships. She credits the Scholarship Fund with creating and expanding opportunities for her. Patrice says, “I don’t know any other place like TC. There is this village, and the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria is part of this village that is there for you. I’m really grateful for the experiences I had at TC, and the SFA scholarship felt like the crowning jewel.”  She is happy that she is now in a place where she can give back, so for the past several years she has been thrilled to be a financial supporter of the Scholarship Fund. Once a Titan, always a Titan. The Scholarship Fund is delighted to honor this outstanding Titan!

 

Todd Sandoz

Managing Director and Co-Head of Equities

Barclays Investment Bank

T.C. Williams Class of 1989

B.A., Economics, Yale University, 1993

 

TC grad Todd Sandoz is a superstar.  The son of a beloved ACPS teacher, Sandy Sandoz, Todd went from being our 1989 Staci C.L. Bradley Scholarship recipient to an SFA scholarship creator and donor. His English teacher, Patrick Welsh, wrote of him in his letter of recommendation to the SFA, “Here then is a rare young man – scholar, blue chip athlete, and a genuine delight. He is a sure bet to excel in college and whatever career he chooses.” Not only is Mr. Sandoz in the midst of a stellar career in the securities industry, he is also a most generous donor to the SFA. He has never forgotten the importance of spending his formative teen years at T.C. Williams High School, so he created and funds the Class of 1989 Scholarships.

Todd credits his time at T.C. Williams with giving him a unique foundation in academics and an appreciation for cultural and economic diversity. He says of his time in high school, “Looking back on my time at TC, the caliber of teachers that I had, the broad curriculum, and diverse nature of the student body shaped my perspectives. TC was an outstanding high school experience.” Todd especially fondly remembers his crew coach Ed Cannon, American Civ teachers Ms. Darren and Ms. Hand, Mr. Welsh (English), Larry Trice, his physics teacher Dr. Patel, the legend that is Mr. Kokonis (mathematics), and Mr. Kaplan (chemistry). Todd feels that his teachers and the academic offering at TC prepared him well for his college career.

Todd studied economics at Yale University and received his B.A. in 1993. He loved taking advantage of the broad range of classes at Yale, immersing himself in the study of subjects such as Mandarin, history, African American Art and art history as well as economics, where he studied with Yale Endowment CIO and economics professor, David Swensen.  Todd considers himself fortunate to have landed a job at Citadel, a hedge fund based in Chicago, right out of college, at a formative time in the development the hedge fund industry. The experience provided him with an intense and comprehensive introduction to the financial industry.

Todd had never before been to Asia when his next job with Credit Suisse took him to Hong Kong for nine years. He reveled in the excitement of living for the first time in a foreign culture and took advantage of that time to travel extensively in North Asia, Greater China and South East Asia. He recalls the memories of being there for the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China, and the Asian financial crisis in 1998, the SARS epidemic, as well as the financial boom accompanied with the dotcom era and the wave of Chinese privatizations in the early 2000s. Todd’s work often took him to Japan and it was there that he met his wife, Nobue.  He and his wife had two sons, David and Jack, while living in Hong Kong.  Todd feels that period gave him a deeper appreciation for different Asian cultures and mindsets.

Todd and his family relocated to New York at the end of 2005, where he continued to work for Credit Suisse. While there he delved into equity share trading and he was involved in the early days of electronic trading. In 2011, Todd and his wife relocated their family to London where he moved into the Fixed Income department with responsibilities for global foreign exchange and short-term rates. Todd and his wife chose to send their boys to English Prep schools to fully immerse them in life in England. He was delighted to watch his boys learn to play English football, rugby, cricket, and participate fully in school life.  During school breaks the family travelled to many destinations in the UK (including the Olympic events in Glasgow), Continental Europe, Turkey, and Greece.

2015 saw Todd and his family move back to New York. Unfortunately, Todd soon suffered a significant health issue. Looking back, he feels both lucky and unlucky to have had this health problem. He says, “It changed my worldview. In the early part of my career there were no boundaries, I was constantly busy. I now make the effort to consciously prioritize what’s important and focus on being present in the moment.”

Todd joined Barclays Investment Bank in 2018 and is currently a Managing Director and Co-Head of Equities. In his free time, he loves attending his sons’ sporting events, and he is an avid practitioner of martial arts. Todd currently trains in Brazilian Jujitsu, is a black belt in Aikido and has practiced boxing, and kick boxing. He is also an avid outdoorsman, enjoying fishing, skiing, hiking, and bird hunting.  Todd is involved with the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he is on the board of Columbia’s recently established Climate School. While working with Columbia in 2016, he advocated for and sponsored projects where Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientists experimented with changing the way they stored, analyzed, and modeled earth science and climate data using cloud capabilities and parallel computing. Todd sought to bring advanced approaches in data science that were being used in financial markets to help scientists with the challenge of dealing with the vast amounts of data being gathered by their instruments, with the goal of developing much more accurate and complete climate models. He is also on the Advisory Council for the Yale School of Forestry and has sponsored a similar data science project to analyze El Niño and La Niña modeling at Yale.

On an annual basis, Todd generously provides five four-year scholarships through the Scholarship Fund. In his ideal world, all academically motivated TC kids would have the funding to be able complete a four-year college education. He passionately believes that higher education opportunities are critical to equity, transformational with regards to economic opportunities for families, and help to enable individuals to be in a position to fully contribute to society.  Over the years Todd has funded scholarships for an astounding 70 students throughout their college years!  He is incredibly thankful to be able to work with the Scholarship Fund on this shared ambition.  He is focused on helping kids get to college and hopes maybe he can inspire others to do what they can to help kids’ college dreams come true.