Two years ago Marion Thomas, a local businessman and president of Diversified Engineering, started a scholarship awards program at Shepherd Elementary School in Northwest to encourage students to study math and science and to consider becoming engineers themselves someday.
Eligible for the annual award are all graduating sixth-graders who maintain a B average or better in math and science, make a project that scores high in the school's annual science fair and write an essay explaining why they want to win the award.
"These kids are from my community, and I want to see them eager to learn about an important discipline," said Thomas. "There is a real shortage of people in this industry, and I only see it getting worse. I want to promote interest in this area."
This year's first-place winner was Brian Lee, who won $300 in savings bonds. In second place was Neiman Alvarez, and in third was Aleacia Jenkins. Tiffani Smith Braswell and Ramad Speight each received honorable mentions.
This year Thomas also honored Shepherd's retiring principal, Edith Smith, with $100 and a round-trip ticket to anywhere in the United States.
Conference in Texas
Shannon Williams, a rising eighth-grader at Taft Junior High School, spent a week this summer at the Conference on Technology, in Corpus Christi, Tex., with some financial help from his church.
Shannon, who was accompanied by his woodshop teacher, was among more than 2,000 junior high school students from across the United States selected to participate in the five days of intensive workshops, sponsored by Technology Students Associated, which supplied the materials. There they designed and built a variety of projects from race cars to dream homes.
Shannon, who has his sights set on a doctorate in engineering, chose to spend three days building an eight-inch long balsa-wood bridge able to hold 50 pounds.
The cost of the conference was $600, half of which was given to Shannon by his parish, the Seymour Memorial Church in Northwest.
Track Award Presenter
Joe Walker, director of the Harrison playground in Northwest, was invited to present the awards in the track and field events at the United States Youth Games that were held last week at La Salle University in Philadelphia.
Walker, 58, said he "felt elated" by the invitation. "It is really a once in a lifetime honor -- especially coming from another city."
Walker is a District native and graduate of Cordozo High School who attended La Salle himself in the early 1950s on a full scholarship for track and field, later to be inducted into the La Salle Hall of Fame for his achievements.
Walker has been working with city youths as an employee of the D.C. Department of Recreation for 24 years. He has been director at the Harrison playground in Shaw since 1988.