Abby Stapleton, a top scholar for Eastern Mennonite School’s class of 2020, received two honors this week: a $3,000 scholarship from the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Rotary Club and a $1,000 Better Business Bureau Student of Integrity Scholarship award.
The Rotary Club selects one student from each area school for their annual scholarship. Selected students exemplify the motto “Service Above Self” and are leaders in their school and community. Abby was named the top of the area awardees, and was recognized for her leadership in launching EMS’ “We Serve” club which has the largest membership of any school club and performs approximately 10 projects each year “making a difference for our school, local and international communities,” according to Abby.
“I was honored to receive the scholarship and be able to share my journey during the June 1 ceremony,” said Abby. “I could not have done everything I did with We Serve without the support of the school, and I am very grateful for that.” See text of the speech below.
Better Business Bureau Student of Integrity
Abby was also named the Better Business Bureau Student of Integrity Scholarship award winner for western Virginia on June 1 and received $1,000.
For the application, Abby responded to the prompt “Discuss a unique situation in your life in which you not only had to make a decision based on integrity but how your qualities and principles led you to that decision.” Abby wrote a persuasive essay which she “aimed towards my peers about the dangers of vaping, sharing the personal experiences of members of my family to show the destruction that addiction can cause in a person’s life.”
That award ceremony will be held June 25 at 3 p.m. to recognize 10 “exceptional students who live their lives with integrity, compassion, courage, and sacrifice.”
Setting a long-term goal of becoming a surgeon, Abby plans to attend Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, this fall. She anticipates double majoring in biology and health sciences, with a minor in medicine, health and culture, a unique minor offered at Furman.
“My hope is to continue my education following my undergraduate studies at the USC School of Medicine Greenville where I hope to study to become a surgeon. Because my education will take many years, I am incredibly grateful for all of the scholarships that I have received which will aid me in my ability to pursue my career goals.”
“Abby has been a student whose positive impact will be felt for years to come,” said Justin King, high school principal. “Abby’s work to found and support our school’s mission of ‘compassionate service in the world’ is lived out through EMS club We Serve which she started and now has the most student participation of any club in the school. Thank you Abby!”
Jodi Hertzler, college and career counselor, agrees. “Abby is an exceptional young woman who exemplifies every aspect of the EMS mission. Never one to give less than her all, Abby’s academic achievements are phenomenal, but she has demonstrated servant leadership through athletics, school government, music, and founding EMS’s largest and arguably most impactful club–one focused on both local and international acts of service. She has left her mark on our community and I have no doubt she will go on to achieve great things.”
Rotary Scholarship Award Ceremony Speech
by Abby Stapleton
The giving of hope costs nothing and yet means everything. This simple truth is what I learned on my journey to find a way of serving my world. Our mission statement as students at Eastern Mennonite High School is “faith in Jesus Christ, academic excellence, personal integrity, and compassionate service in the world.” Striving for academic excellence and maintaining personal integrity came naturally for me but our “service” never resonated with me. I struggled to find meaning as we raked leaves, washed windows and pulled weeds. I knew I could make a difference and wanted to not only find my own path to serve, but also bring my peers on that journey with me.
I founded a club called “We Serve” and worked with Charles Hendricks as President of Rockingham Rotary to gain sponsorship as an Interact Club allowing us to join in larger world efforts such as the drive to eradicate polio. The club now has the largest membership at EMHS and performs approximately 10 projects each year making a difference for our school, local and international communities.
Each project expanded my view. Struggles in our community to have food to feed a family or find healing for a sick child were difficult to imagine previously, yet hard to forget once it became personal as I saw the faces of those who struggled. Taking a few hours to prepare a meal for the Ronald McDonald House seemed little to give after hearing a mother tell what a difference it made for her when her premature baby was flown to the hospital and she followed closely behind bringing nothing. Collecting t-shirts outgrown or no longer used cost us nothing but meant everything when we saw the hope and happiness those shirts brought when delivered by a local Rotary member to Kenya.
My efforts taught me to never take what I have for granted, allowed me to build new relationships through the act of serving, and opened my eyes to the needs of my community. I am convinced that we all have a desire to serve. I needed to dig deeper and what I found is that service begins with a heart open to see the need, which leads to open hands to do the work. The shirt I designed for our Interact Club reflects this realization with hands joining to form a heart.
With a newly found passion for service, I wanted to find a way to combine it with my other passion, science, and let that guide me to a meaningful career choice. As I began my biology coursework, the workings of the living organism intrigued me and left me wanting to learn more. My initial experience in laboratory research confirmed that I enjoyed discovering the secrets of life and wanted to pursue a lifetime career in biology. After exploring marine science and veterinary medicine, I began to consider a career as a physician. Dr. Brad Moyer, an Emergency Room Physician, allowed me to shadow him and this experience showed me that medicine would be my future career. Following this experience, I attended a two-week summer camp focused on Pre-Health and Community Health related topics as a Furman Scholar at Furman University. During this camp, I was able to visit a cadaver lab and use laparoscopic tools to prod a meniscus in a cadaver knee. That day, I knew that I had found my calling — surgery,
more specifically, orthopedic surgery. I had also discovered my new community — Furman University. My career goal is to obtain an undergraduate degree at Furman University in biology, and then attend the USC School of Medicine to become a surgeon who serves my community through my career.
But this choice is not simply a career, it is my personal calling. I have seen the difference I can already make and know that with my education, my impact will be
much greater. The lifelong impact of my service journey is that opening my heart to serve has led me to a career choice that will allow my work to continue in meaningful ways. During an interview with a Rotary club panel, I revealed that due to my love of biology, I was interested in a career in medicine. One of my interviewers responded, “being a physician is one of the greatest services you can do with your life” confirming that I could combine my two passions– biology and service. I will be forever grateful to Charles Hendricks and the local Rotary community as you joined with me on my journey and I thank you for your support as I begin my undergraduate
studies at Furman in the fall.