2016 Academic Merit Award Winners

On May 5, 2016, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Scholarship Fund bestowed the 2016 Academic and Art Merit Awards on 22 high school seniors – all of which are children of Foreign Service Employees. Recipients receive $2,500 as winners and $1,000 as honorable mention winners. The prizes total $45,250 this year.

AFSA received a total of 117 applications in this year’s competition.

Below you will find short biographies on the Academic Merit Award winners and honorable mentions.

Click here to view the Art Merit Award winners, the Community Service Award winner, and the Best Essay Award winner.

For more information on the AFSA Scholarship Program, visit www.afsa.org/scholar.

Academic Merit Award Winners - $2,500

Adele Birkenes — daughter of Robert Birkenes (USAID – FS Active Duty) and Suzanne Polak is graduating from the NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand. While in school, she was involved in Student Council, Model United Nations, and 2Develop, a group dedicated to development projects in rural areas. Adele plans to attend Vassar College majoring in biology.

Isabella Blackman — daughter of Brian Blackman (State - FS Active Duty) and Allison Blackman (State – Civil Service) is graduating from James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia. She is a member of the National Science Honor Society, the Octagon Club of Vienna, and Buddies Club. Isabella will attend University of Virginia majoring in biology.

George Christensen — son of Darin Christensen (State – FS Active Duty) and Elizabeth Christensen is graduating from the Radford School in El Paso, Texas. He is a National Merit Scholar, a Level II National Latin Exam Silver Award winner, and the founder of the Robotics Club. George plans to attend Brigham Young University majoring in physics.

Kyle Dominguez — son of Stacy Pearce (State – FS Active Duty) and Daniel Dominguez is graduating from American School of London in London, England. He has participated in his high school’s Cross Country team, Math Club, Female Empowerment Club, and Recycling Club. Kyle will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology majoring in engineering and computer science.

Agnes Ezekwesili — daughter of Nestor Ezekwesili (State – FS Active Duty) and Ogugua Ezekwesili (State – FS Active Duty) is graduating from The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. She is serving as Club Head in the Africa Club and Science Olympiad and played on her school’s Basketball team. Agnes will attend University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Samir Fierro — son of Jose Fierro (State – FS Active Duty) and Sharon Fierro is graduating from Millennium High School in Goodyear, Arizona. In high school, he was president of the National Honor Society and Model United Nations. He was also a member of a volunteer group called Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program. Samir plans to attend Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College majoring in physics.

Helen Froats — daughter of Daniel Froats (State – FS Active Duty) and Silvia Froats (State – Civil Service) is graduating from McLean High School in McLean, Virginia. She has a particular interest in math, natural science and social science along with being involved in theatre productions. Helen is a Mu Alpha Theta Math Honors Scholar. She plans to attend University of California, San Diego majoring in biology

Dylan Galt — son of Ambassador Jennifer Galt (State – FS Active Duty) and Frederic Galt is graduating from the International School of Ulaanbaatar, in Mongolia. His love for mathematics has led to working with college professors to research mathematics and theoretical physics. He also plays 1st chair tuba in the Festival Symphonic Orchestra. He plans to attend Brown or Princeton University majoring in mathematics.

Riena Harker — daughter of Bradley Harker (FCS – FS Active Duty) and Megumi Harker is graduating from the International School of Beijing in Beijing, China. She is interested in psychology, orchestra, literature and history. She won the Elliott Bay Regional Competition for her violin performances and shared that passion for music by giving violin lessons to orphaned children at Sun Village during her high school junior year. Riena will attend Middlebury College majoring in geology or earth science.

Peter Huson — son of Tim Huson (State – FS Active Duty) and Anne Braghetta (State – FS Active Duty) is graduating from the Country Day School in San Jose, Costa Rica. He is the co-founder of Finesse Media Design, a web-design company specializing in website development and modern web-design. During his sophomore year, Peter was the president of his school’s Bike Club. Peter will attend Brown University majoring in engineering.

Karl Keat — son of Stephen Keat (State – FS Retired) and Dr. Josie Keat is attending Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. There he co-founded the Digital Arts Studio Club to address the shortage of art-oriented clubs. His passion for science led to an internship at the National Institutes of Health in the Computational Genomics Unit. Karl will attend University of Edinburgh majoring in computer science.

Sarah Scroggs — daughter of Patricia Scroggs (State – FS Retired) and Stephen Scroggs is graduating from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. She has been recognized as a National Space Club Scholar and received an internship with NASA. Additionally, she founded the X-Stem club, where she worked to promote math, sciences and technology education. Sarah will attend Cornell University majoring in engineering.

Rachel Silverman — daughter of Robert Silverman (State – FS Retired) and Young-Mi Silverman is graduating from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. She participated in Model United Nations and founder and president of iEarn, a non-profit global, youth network. She is a gifted musician and has studied both the clarinet and piano. Rachel plans to attend Princeton University with an undeclared major.

Alessandra Youth — daughter of Marta Youth (State – FS Active Duty) and Howard Youth is graduating from American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua. Alessandra was a member of the Debate Team and Model United Nations, and participated in community service clubs like Interact and Abandoned Children Club. She also participated in a number of sports. Alessandra will attend Fordham University majoring in computer science.

Academic Merit Award - Honorable Mention Winners - $1,000

Agnes Goldrich — daughter of Ethan Goldrich (State – FS Active Duty) and Maria Bywater Goldrich is graduating from Cornwall Central High School in New Windsor, New York. She has held positions with Youth in Governments and studied Hebrew. Agnes also volunteers at Chabad of Eastern Orange County, New York and worked in the Health Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Agnes plans to attend Cornell University majoring in biology.

Maria Turner — daughter of Conrad Turner (State – FS Active Duty) and Susanne Turner (State – FS Active-Duty) is graduating from Pechersk School International in Kiev, Ukraine. Maria was captain of the Varsity Girls Soccer team and was a coordinator for Djerela Center Project which hosted events for individuals with Down Syndrome. She also participated in orchestra playing first violin and won second place in a Kiev violin competition. She will attend University of Pennsylvania majoring in engineering and business.