2019 Finalist Bios

Artemis Bowman is the finalist from The Renaissance School. Artemis is the daughter of Jennifer Cui and Clayton Bowman.  She is an accomplished violinist who is Principal Second Violin with a string ensemble, or as she likes to put it, leader of the “second fiddles.”  Artemis says the second violins are the “underdogs of the orchestra” viewed with an arched eyebrow by the lofty first violins, so they are often uninspired.  As their new leader, Artemis inspired them.  She spoke with each second violin, resolved disputes between stand partners, and practiced hard pieces so her section played with mastery and confidence and helped win the District Assessment.  She brought that same hands-on leadership as captain of her fencing team. Artemis has fenced for 10 years. But it’s one thing to be an accomplished fencer, another to lead the team through injuries, broken foils, and low morale.  Now, she strives to improve both individually and as a fencing coach.  As for the future, Artemis is tempted by the prospect of a career in either the military, diplomacy or science.  

Rowen Breen of Murray High School.  Rowen is the daughter of Elizabeth Herlevsen.  Rowan is a gifted artist and musician who plays three instruments–the piano, the guitar, and the cello.  In fact, her cello teacher of ten years, Andrew Gabbert, is one of the most influential people in her life.  Rowan says Andrew is the reason she loves the cello and might one day be a music teacher herself.  She says he taught her to be patient and kind even through difficulty.  And she’s endured a lot of difficulty.  She says she has persevered by choosing love over bitterness and finding inspiration in teachers and mentors who took an interest in her.  Rowan’s belief in the value of love in the midst of adversity is no casual thing. She says everyone craves love and belonging and she admires leaders who stubbornly extend unconditional love even in the face of hurt and rejection.  In addition to sharing her music, Rowan has served as a volunteer at art camp and with the Boys and Girls Club and works at the Crozet Creamery. She’s interested in one day working in art therapy, music therapy or as a school psychologist.

Sarina Cooper of Western Albemarle High School.  Sarina is the daughter of Camille Cooper and Kirk Schroder.  Sarina cares so much about water and the environment that when she was only a 4th grader she spoke before City Council against a proposed dam.  Years later, when she noticed the ground behind the greenhouse at Western was compact with clay from new construction, she and her friend Anna designed and built two rain gardens there.  Large and deep holes were dug and filled with native plants and loose soil to absorb water. Now, she loves seeing fellow students relax and study by the rain gardens. Sarina is a serious scientist and environmentalist who is president of the math and science honor societies at Western and a volunteer for a number of local watershed management projects.  She’s also helped UVA scientists monitor acid rain in mountain streams.  Sarina aspires to a leadership role at an organization like the EPA where she would promote social justice issues while making a difference for the environment.

Mriganka Mandalof Albemarle High School.  Mriganka is the daughter Arabinda and Mahua Mandel.  Mriganka has worked for 4 years on scientific research projects as an intern at the University of Virginia.  After her grandfather died of cancer and the adverse effects of chemotherapy, Mriganka redoubled her research efforts to help cancer patients.  In the lab, she discovered a protein on lung cancer cells that could be used as a therapeutic target.  She published her findings in the “Journal for Immuno-therapy of Cancer”.  After running in the 4-miler in support of breast cancer survivors, Mriganka was inspired to raise money for free mobile mammography screenings across Virginia.  She made and sold beaded bracelets and donated all the proceeds toward the screening device.   Mriganka also loves to knit.  She revived the Albemarle High School Knitting Club—growing membership to 75 members.  She taught knitting and crochet lessons and organized winter donations of blankets, booties, scarves and hats for both the Ronald McDonald House and the Louisa County Animal Shelter so both people and animals could stay warm.

Katherine Define from St. Anne’s Belfield School. Katherine is the daughter of Lynn and Bill Define.  Katherine is captain of the field hockey, squash, and lacrosse teams at St. Anne’s and President of the Honor Council.  She’s a champion horseback rider and an outspoken champion of horse safety who has spoken nationally on behalf of putting microchips in horses to help with their recovery after natural disasters and following outbreaks of contagious diseases.  She was part of a four-person team representing Virginia that won the Eastern National Horse Competition in Kentucky.  Katherine and her horse partner named “Prize” have won several prizes including a national award for the most outstanding horse in a division. She interned last summer at the Blue Ridge Equine Clinic and saw how surgical vets still rely on manual instruments. Katherine hopes to one day design advanced surgical tools, develop 3-D printing of horseshoes, and A-I software for faster speed training and make a difference in the equine world she loves.

Emily Garciaof Miller School.  Emily is the daughter of Lidia and Emilio Garcia.  Emily was just 13 when she researched and chose to attend Miller School because her own small town in North Carolina lacked a good public school system. She’s a talented writer, actor, and leader in the drama program. Emily took it upon herself to learn three parts (including her own) to help two new students in their roles after other cast members left.  Memorizing lines for three characters paid off in a successful opening night.  Emily edits the literary magazine and won two writing awards, including Miller School’s most outstanding research paper of the year.  She believes that small writings can have big impacts, saying “I believe a positive impact on a few can lead to a positive impact on many.”  Emily’s dream is to help Spanish speakers in this country learn English. She would also like to start an organization helping people who plan on moving to America gain a better understanding of English before they come. 

Carla Betancourtof Monticello High School.  Carla is the daughter of Guadalupe Garcia and Lauro Morales-Bravo.  Teachers call Carla a “dream” student– gifted, witty, kind and conversant in English and Spanish.  But her start in grade school was hard.  She was born in the US, but moved to Mexico at age 1, so when she returned to the States at age 6, she didn’t speak any English. Although learning English was a struggle, you wouldn’t know it from listening to her mastery of it today.  Carla is a teacher in the Children’s Ministry at her church and captained the front ensemble of Monticello’s marching band. Her group captured first place percussion winning “high drums” at the Cavalcade Competition in October.  Carla is interested in a career in the medical field and has worked at UVA’s Emily Couric Cancer Center preparing surgical supplies for operating rooms, translating for families and doing internships in pediatric orthopedics and making casts. She also plans achieve a longtime dream of starting an organization to teach English to members of the area’s immigrant community of all ages.

Emma Johnson of Tandem Friends School.  Emma is the daughter of Nancy Hiles Johnson and Roger Johnson.  Emma is a gifted writer with a poet’s soul.  She says Tandem has taught her the pillars of Quakerism and the central belief in “kindness and wisdom with kindness always first.”  At the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop she found soulmates who loved Kerouac and Salinger and poetry as much as she does. Emma has served on the school senate and on the Quaker Friends and Diversity Councils.  She has been captain of the soccer and cross-country teams and helped foster a community of runners with sleepovers, inside jokes and a passion for running.  But she’s most proud of her growth as a student of French, especially after a trip to Provence where she was so engrossed in the culture she even dreamed in French!  Emma’s not sure if she’ll be a poet or professor or politician, but she wants to help girls be “unapologetically themselves” and to live a life of kindness and wisdom, with kindness always first.

Adelyn Murrie of Covenant School.  Adelyn is the daughter of April and Daniel Murrie.  Adelyn is a member of the debate team and attended the Governor’s School for the Humanities.  She is an avid reader and active in theater and music.  Last year, Covenant staged the play South Pacific, which deals with themes of race and racism.  Inspired in part by an A.P. History course she had just taken, Adelyn felt the school could do more to address race.  The director agreed, and together they launched a school-wide dialogue where many people shared their experiences as students of color attending a mostly white private school. Adelyn also stepped up when she witnessed some instances of sexual harassment by male students.  As a result, administrators held a meeting for young women to air their concerns. Through this leadership and personal growth Adelyn has battled the debilitating effects of Lyme Disease, which has caused her lots of suffering and down time.  In fact, it recently flared up again, forcing her to postpone her first year of college. Yet, she’s proud that precisely through this time of her most pain, she’s become more concerned about justice and empathetic to people around her.  

Zyahna Bryant of Charlottesville High School is the winner of the Emily Couric Scholarship of $30,000.

Zyahna is the daughter of Zeneida Howard and the granddaughter of Vizena Howard. Josh Scott, one of the judges for this scholarship, has always said one of his measures of leadership has been thinking of the winner as a woman he might someday read about in The New York Times.  Well, Zyahna Bryant has already been featured in the Times, The New Yorker, Forbes, Vice News, PBS, CNN, National Geographic, and BET not to mention local news outlets. She received the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for her advocacy work and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center student prize.  

Zyahna is an activist, organizer and author, who works to connect students of color with resources to overcome barriers to achievement.   As a freshman she founded the Black Student Union at Charlottesville High School and helped initiate the petition to consider the place of Confederate monuments in the Charlottesville community.  In the 10thgrade, she interned at UVA’s Carter Woodson Institute, where she researched the roots of racism.   

Her leadership hasn’t come without cost.  It was hard in the 10thgrade when she was thrust into the media spotlight. And she endured withering blame from some quarters when the heavily armed alt-right marched in Charlottesville bringing hate and violence. 

In her insightful book, Reclaim,a collection of her poetry and essays about the experience of Black girlhood, Zyahna talks about the shock she felt as a 12-year-old over racial injustices, like the not-guilty verdict after Trayvon Martin was gunned down.  She also writes about how much strength she draws from her mother and grandmother and many other supportive black women.  Zyahna will attend her dream school in the fall–the University of Virginia–where she will pursue sociology and continue her organizing on-grounds.