Meet the recipients of Village Project's scholarships

Jennie Koomar

This year, Village Project (VP) was able to award three graduates from Bay Village High School each with a $1,000 scholarship. These student volunteers were chosen based on merit, past experiences at VP, and their essay responses describing the importance of VP to the community and to them personally. The scholarships were awarded to Jennie Koomar, Aden Bergstresser and Emily Terrell.

The Harrell Family Scholarship was awarded to Jennie, one of VP’s long-standing volunteers. She’s been involved with VP since third grade after her girl scout troop began a card-making competition at Westerly, which led her to start making cards regularly. Because Jennie started so young, she commented that the multi-generational aspect is a highlight of working at VP. “No matter what age or ability you have, there’s always a place for you here. In third grade, I would come after school and walk Ernie,” she recalled. “I’ve also worked with someone in the kitchen who has special needs.” 

“When I was deciding what to do for my Eagle Scout project, I knew I wanted to do something that meant a lot to me and I immediately thought of VP,” Jennie wrote. “I reached out and found that they needed a compost bin. So, I researched how to build one and set my plan into action.” 

Jennie says that her drive to give back came from working at VP. “It’s just such a loving place,” she remarked. “You walk in, and there's so many people to talk to. It’s just its own little family in there. Overall, it’s just such a positive place to be and I love it here.” 

The environment and learning experiences that VP has created is truly like no other. Aden, our second scholarship recipient, concurs.

“My time at VP has taught me that the most meaningful work is that which benefits others, and I hope to continue this legacy of service into my adult life,” Aden wrote. 

Aden began volunteering at VP in his junior year, after his grandfather had passed away from cancer. “He lived out in Huron so he didn’t get VP’s meals, but some of his friends here were using it, so I did it to honor him,” he said. 

One of the things that made his experience so special was being able to cook in the kitchen with his younger brother. “He and I started at about the same time,” he said. “We never cooked together at home, so it was nice to spend time with him.” Aden also remarked that VP was by far his favorite volunteering position, “It was really fulfilling, it felt like I was actually making a difference.”

One of VP’s greatest powers is that it spreads the volunteering bug. Emily can attest to this, as she says she has never been in a volunteering position quite like hers at VP. “(VP) helped me get into volunteering,” she said. “I did some other stuff before that, but once I started volunteering at VP, I wanted to do more.”

Emily began volunteering in the garden four years ago. The crew there is VP’s most tight-knit crew for the summer, and she is at the heart of it. “I knew about the garden because my mom was always at the garden. My neighbor would always volunteer there too, so I decided to do it with her.” 

Emily has gotten many unique learning experiences in her time at VP. “I’ve learned so much about so many different things that I feel like I couldn’t learn anywhere else,” she said. “I know so much about gardening and plants now.” 

She inherited her love of gardening from her grandmother, who she’s gardened with her whole life. “I really had a lot of fun being in the garden, especially when we saw animals,” she said. “A couple of times we saw baby bunnies in the garden.” 

The work done in the garden is very important to VP to be able to provide our clients with fresh and healthy meals. 

“We usually start by watering, and then harvesting vegetables, picking flowers, deadheading plants, and weeding,” Emily explained. The flowers grown in the garden are also given to our clients in hand-painted vases to brighten their days. 

Emily cherishes this about VP. “I feel that VP is an organization that has truly brought joy to those struggling and I am so grateful to be able to be a part of something that makes a difference. Knowing that the flowers that I cut or the beans that I pick will go to a patient in need warms my heart.” 

Being able to give back to our graduating volunteers is something that warms our hearts, and we could not be prouder of them. VP is so grateful for all the help they have given us over their busy high school years and we are so excited for their bright futures. 

Jennie will be attending Ohio University and studying communications sciences and disorders for speech therapy in hopes to be a speech therapist. “I definitely want to get involved in CREW, a Christian organization there, some intramural sports, and maybe choir,” she said. 

Aden will be attending the University of Michigan School of Engineering for engineering physics. “I’m going to try to work on the Electric Racing Bike Team at Michigan,” he said. 

Emily will be attending Fordham University and is currently undecided as to what her major will be. “In college, I really want to do some sort of volunteering,” she said. “I would love to be in a club that has something to do with the Earth, nature, or climate change.”

However, as Jennie put best in her application, “Most of all my plan for after graduation is to find myself.” Whoever our wonderful volunteers become, they always have a place at VP! 

Isabel Hinojosa

I am a student of communications and journalism at Lake Forest College in Illinois and graduated from Bay High in 2021.

Read More on Community Service
Volume 14, Issue 15, Posted 10:06 AM, 08.02.2022