Broadneck High School graduate Lorissa Honarvar thought she wanted to be an engineer, until her work at the Cisco Center in Severna Park altered her plans.
“It changed my life, working with these kids,” she said. “All of them have their own stories.”
At the Cisco Center, she worked with kids ages 2 to 18, many of whom had autism, developmental disabilities, speech/language disorders, or learning disabilities.
That work gave her new skills that she was able to use in her personal life.
“I have a little cousin with autism,” she said. “He has been nonverbal his whole life, and I was able to communicate with him.”
Honarvar decided to pursue a career in speech pathology with a minor in special education. A $5,000 scholarship from the Anne Arundel Retired School Personnel Association (AARSPA) is going toward her first semester of tuition this fall.
She was one of four 2023 AARSPA scholarship recipients, along with students from Crofton, Chesapeake and South River high schools.
“I have to get a master’s degree, which is six years of school,” she said. “… I think [the scholarship] is a great opportunity for people going into education.”
AARSPA partners with Scholarships for Scholars each year to make the funds available.
Scholarship applications for 2024 recipients are now being accepted. To be considered, students must plan to pursue a career in education and write an essay. The AARSPA committee considers volunteer activities, participation in honor societies and other clubs, and sports.
AARSPA started its scholarship initiative in 1998. Matilda Barckley has been the chair since 2013. She taught for 39 years: three in Delaware and 36 at Rippling Woods Elementary School in Glen Burnie.
Of the scholarship committee members, one was a principal, one was a counselor and Barckley was a classroom teacher, so the former educators feel they each bring a different background to the decision-making process when choosing who should earn scholarships.
“We all have different ideas, perspectives and things we look for,” Barckley said.
The educators enjoy giving back to the next generation whether those students become counselors, classroom teachers, administrators or speech therapists.
“Once they get a taste of high school and have a desire to teach, I feel it's only right to help them pursue their dreams,” Barckley said.
The deadline to apply for a scholarship is February 6. For more information, visit www.scholarshipsforscholars.org.