Collegiate Seniors Share Endowment Adventures

Five Collegiate School students shared during a special presentation today how student endowments made possible by the generosity of Collegiate families enabled them to travel and explore their individual areas of interest.
All senior girls, the endowment recipients each gave a short talk about where they went and/or what they created, and what they gained from their summer projects.

Riley Bowling, recipient of the Samuel D. Jessee Leadership Endowment Award, traveled to the Dominican Republic to take part in a mission program in the province of Hato Mayor. Her experience included building new facilities and participating in a children’s camp. Upon returning to Collegiate, Riley is using the skills gained to enrich her time with the Saturday Academy program that serves ESL students from Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School.

The endowment award and project proved incredibly impactful, Riley said.

“It taught me what it means to put others before yourself,” she said. “I have a new perspective for the blessings I have.”

Ella Ackerman, recipient of the John R. Lower Memorial Endowment Award, gained knowledge about navigation and safety in the wilderness, while she increased self-awareness, self-sufficiency and leadership skills through backpacking, camping and rock climbing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her experience is helping guide a senior year of independent study of integrating mental and physical wellness into educational curriculum. Ella plans to create a school curriculum program, including a website (, that focuses on outdoor activities, mindfulness and healthy choices to benefit teens.

“I am so grateful I got this opportunity,” Ella said. “I would 100 percent recommend it to anyone looking into it. It will change your life.”

Laura Fairlamb, recipient of the William "Bill" Reeves Renaissance Student Award, sought to further, apply and share her knowledge of the refugee crisis and its connection to Richmond. She participated in a weeklong International Relations Institute at Georgetown University, where she learned more about refugees’ backgrounds, including the conflicts they faced in their home countries, the difficulties they endured while fleeing their countries and aspects of their culture, such as religion and customs. Laura also learned more about the role of the government and NGOs in refugee resettlement. She returned to Collegiate with an expanded global view that will benefit her work with the Tuckahoe YMCA’s Strengthening Teens Academically and Recreationally (STAR) program, that assists refugee and immigrant students at Quioccasin Middle School.
“The experience was really rewarding,” Laura said. “It taught me to make sure to fulfill the need that should be addressed, not what I think the need is.”

Margaux Gaeser, recipient of the William "Bill" Reeves Renaissance Student Award, spent a week in Kiev and Zaporozhye to learn about Ukrainian culture and the Jewish community. While there, she lived with a host family and participated alongside the local organization, Active Jewish Teens (AJT), in a day of service for Holocaust survivors. Margaux plans to share her knowledge with both Collegiate and the greater Richmond community in an assembly presentation, speaking in history classes and organizing a community event with her peers with the goal of educating others about Ukraine.

“These grants offer a different way to learn about the world,” Margaux said. “You are getting out of the classroom and doing something you are passionate about.”
Azzuri Fleming, recipient of the Mary Parker Moncure Vaden Endowment Award, wanted to increase the local music scene for young artists. A musician herself, she noticed a lack of connection, networking and opportunity for youth in Richmond. Her goal was to help artists be seen and known, and to create an opportunity for them to know each other. Her project will culminate with a community event, Beats, Rhymes and Life, to be held Oct. 20 at the Six Points Innovation Center, where 15 acts of high school-aged artists will perform and foster fellowship.

“This was all a learning process,” Azzuri said. “And the process helped me embody many traits from Collegiate’s Portrait of a Graduate — being creative, collaborative, innovative, independent, inclusive, engaged, mindful, adaptable, resilient and courageous.”
All recipients expressed their gratitude for the opportunities to grow, learn more about themselves and serve their communities.

Maria Cobb, Collegiate’s director of development operations, also offered her appreciation to several of the family members who were on hand for the presentations.

“Collegiate thanks the generous families who understand the value of leaving one's comfort zone to gain a better understanding of the world,” she said.
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