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The Rotary Club of Fairfax has awarded a two-year Global Grant Scholarship to Sophie McManus of Fairfax city. The scholarship will allow her to earn a master’s degree in conflict transformation and peace studies from the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.

The Global Grant Scholarship Program is designed to further understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries. While abroad, scholars serve as ambassadors of goodwill to the people of the host country and give presentations about their homelands to Rotary clubs and other groups. Upon returning home, scholars share with local Rotarians the experiences that led to greater understanding of their host countries.

McManus, program coordinator of external relations with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said she became fascinated with diplomacy and peace studies when she was invited to participate in the National Model African Union in spring 2011.

She studied the political instability in Zimbabwe and its effect on the entire Southern Africa Development Community. She was able to practice the analytical and critical thinking skills she’d learned and apply them to larger entities and ideas.

“The most gratifying experience was at the model, when I had the opportunity to present my case to the ‘Ambassador’ of Zimbabwe, and ultimately, won her approval of my resolution,” McManus said.

“These international scholarships are highly competitive and are usually limited to one or two awardees in our District each year,” said Verne Tuininga, New Generations chair at the Fairfax Rotary Club. “Sophie was selected because she has always demonstrated that inner drive to compete and fulfill her convictions for humanitarian service.”

While pursuing her coursework, which will take place during the 2014-15 academic year, McManus will be involved with a summer camp for youth in low-socioeconomic communities that have experienced racism, discrimination or violent xenophobic attacks.

“I’ve chosen to focus on peace studies and conflict resolution programs because I am interested in understanding the factors that lead to the issue of racism, inequality and xenophobia,” she said. “Further, I want to understand how historical racism and xenophobia is passed down through generations, political systems and societies and how this breeds violence.”

The Rotary Club of Fairfax, part of Rotary District 7610 in Northern Virginia, is a member of Rotary International, an organization of business and professional persons who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.

Potomac School leaders attend national conference

Nine students from The Potomac School networked with hundreds of others Dec. 6-8 at a Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Houston, Texas.

Hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools, the conference, now in its 19th year, is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders from around the country. Participants examine issues of social justice, develop cross-cultural communication skills, practice expression through the arts, and learn networking principles and strategies.

Attending from Potomac were Hana Ford, Sandeep Rishi, Olivia Givens, Kristin Thompson, Anna Regan Sydney Robinson, Enock Davis, Peter Brennan and Kabir Khanna. Members of Potomac’s faculty and staff participated in a concurrent People of Color Conference.

“I felt like I could share anything with any of the 1,400 participants,” Rishi said. “I had never been in a community so accepting and I made friends that I will have for a long time.”

Lorton bus driver praised in essay, poem

A school bus-riding sixth-grader at Floris Elementary School in Herndon is the reason Jim Crockett of Lorton is a runner-up in the Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year contest, sponsored by Thomas Built Buses.

The student, named Rahul, wrote an essay praising the way Crockett interacts with his young riders.

“As long as we are inside Mr. Crockett’s bus, we are free of any nervousness [about upcoming tests],” Rahul, a safety patrol, wrote. “He is a remarkable man who always keeps us cheerful.”

Rahul added that Crockett eagerly initiates conversation, quizzes the kids on schoolwork and even teaches them about the mechanics of the bus.

“He doesn’t do his job just for money; he makes the ride fun for all of us,” said Rahul, whose essay concluded with a poem and drawing.

Crockett and Rahul were honored at a recent school board meeting, where they received Thomas Built jackets and lunch boxes.

The Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year contest was initiated in 2005. Since then, thousands of children have nominated their favorite bus drivers in 90-word essays. More than 750 students from 28 states entered the contest this year.

“This contest lets us say thank you to the school bus drivers who take such good care of their cherished cargo, and to recognize their significant role in students’ lives,” said Kelley Platt, Thomas Built president and CEO.

Herndon band plays for state’s music teachers

The Herndon Middle School Symphonic Band, under the direction of Sharon Bonneau, performed for hundreds of music teachers last month at the Virginia Music Educators Association State Conference at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs.

This is the highest state honor a middle school band can achieve, according to Bonneau. The group was chosen to play for the music educators Nov. 15 after submitting a performance CD and application last spring. Student musicians began preparing in August, rehearsing after school three days a week.

Two guest conductors led the band: Richard Bergman, retired band director from Herndon High School; and Anthony Maiello, professor at the George Mason University School of Music. Bonneau performed a clarinet solo with the group.

Bonneau, a graduate of The Eastman School of Music, has been the director of bands at Herndon Middle for 12 years. Prior to becoming a teacher in Fairfax County, she was a clarinetist in the U.S. Air Force Concert Band. She has been an adjunct professor of clarinet at George Mason University since 1995.

Alexandria teens tap dance at Kennedy Center

Two 15-year-olds — Roxanne King and Kyra Smith — both of Alexandria, were selected from more than 100 dancers to be part of the Kennedy Center’s highly revered tap performance, “JUBA! Masters of American Tap!” at the Eisenhower Theater last week.

Sixteen dancers representing six youth tap ensembles from across the United States were chosen.

King and Smith are students of the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center of Alexandria and Fairfax Station. Both have been dancing with the Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble for five years; King is a founding member.

“We are so proud of Roxanne and Kyra and celebrate their selection to be part of this amazing tap show at the Kennedy Center,” said Melissa Dobbs, Metropolitan Fine Arts’ founder and executive director. “Both students are driven and dedicated dancers.”

King and Smith performed in two dances choreographed by Michelle Dorrance: "Machine" and "Waltz.” Metropolitan tap instructor Jason Janas also performed in the Dec. 7 show.