Ninth Annual Scholarship Competition
We are pleased to recognize our 2008 scholarship winners. If you wonder, “Does homeschooling actually work?” or "Will my children truly be ready for college?” these inspiring Sonlight graduates give ample evidence to respond with a resounding “yes”!
Because we seek to encourage personal excellence and quality education—and ultimately, to transform the world— we take great pleasure in acknowledging and supporting students who exemplify academic excellence, leadership, character, mission-mindedness, a heart for learning, creativity, and spiritual depth as they prepare for their future.
Sonlight awards $82,000 over the next four years to these Sonlight Scholarship Finalists.
All of the hard-working, talented applicants for this year’s scholarships have completed at least four Sonlight History / Bible / Literature programs (including high school levels up to graduation).
Several of these students have very high test scores (one has a perfect SAT score and several had 35 on the ACT). All of the students have exceptional character, are active in their communities, and represent the cause of Christ exceedingly well. We are proud to award each of these students with four-year scholarships to help them attend the college of their choice. We'd like to introduce this year's winners to you here.
$20,000 Scholarship Winner: Phillip Sweigart
Phillip Sweigart, of Oman, won this year's $20,000 scholarship ($5,000 annually). Phillip has been a "Sonlighter" since Pre-K—13 years ago—completing well over eight History / Bible / Literature programs.
Two major distinctives set Phillip Sweigart apart and determine his path: the fact that this 17-year-old has achieved fluency in Arabic through diligent study and 15 years of living in Oman, and the fact that he’s determined to use his language skills and knowledge of the Middle East, not simply for the lucrative positions he might pursue, but also to serve the Arab world—the very place that’s been his home and among the people so close to his heart.
His essay, “In Search of a Cause” dealt with his desire to strategically use his God-given abilities and circumstances for the Kingdom. He hopes “through God’s help to shine His light into the world’s darkness.” He plans to pursue a strong university Arabic program to help him prepare for further service.
That’s right—further service. He has already been active in serving others by leading the worship band at his church, he taught English as a second language in Lebanon, tutored students in Algebra and Chemistry, painted houses and shared the Gospel in India, and still found time to serve as a Student Council Representative and member of his varsity basketball team.
Winners of $10,000 Scholarship ($2,500 annually)
Rachel Spoelman of Malaysia, a National Merit Commended Scholar, plans to attend INTI International University College in Malaysia and then Kettering University in Michigan. She plans to study engineering and continue to refine her writing skills. Her goal is to become a published author, and she currently has four titles in the works.
Rachel is a passionate performer and profuse author who is dedicated to Christ and gifted at living cross-culturally and learning new languages. She excels academically both in the arts and the sciences; she’s performed in numerous plays, served as a Bible and Missions teacher at her church, competed in forensics, and plays piano.
Jacob Springer of Huntsville, TX, plans to study civil engineering with a liberal arts focus at Texas A&M University. He’s a National Merit Commended Scholar who’s made significant impacts in the areas of competitive speech and debate; American Legion Boys State; and counseling, leading recreation and lifeguarding at Trinity Pines Conference Center.
He’s encouraged over 300 children to love to read through literary promotions he organized for every third grader in his city.
Whether he is leading a young man from summer camp to Christ or leading his forensics and communication team to a national qualification, Jacob is a natural leader and public speaker who effectively articulates his goals and values.
Eunice Wong of Malaysia exemplifies maturity, ministry-mindedness and creativity. She plans to draw on her talents in piano performance and songwriting.
Eunice wants to one day produce music that will inspire people to rediscover the love and awesomeness of God. She hopes to combine “skilled song-writing, cutting-edge technology and God’s anointing to create a new sound of worship that will draw people to him.”
She is an active leader in her youth ministry and church: she wrote and co-directed a play involving 40 young people and starred as the main character;she also served as a pianist, violinist, song-writer, worship leader, vocalist and dancer. She taught a workshop on prayer at a national conference, led a children’s ministry in her second language, and achieved high honors in piano competition.
[Since the announcement of our scholarship winners, Eunice Wong has decided to decline her Sonlight award and to enter into a short-term missions service program at this time, rather than a college program. We at Sonlight are excited for Eunice to follow God's call into missions and offer her our support in prayer.
Because the Sonlight scholarship is designed specifically for college programs, the scholarship committee met to determine another winner for the $2,500 award. We are excited to announce that the worthy recipient of this scholarship is Elizabeth Clevenger. Please see her bio below.]
Elizabeth Clevenger from Carpi, Italy, seeks to bring God glory through her life, including her plans to become a professional musician. She's played the flute for seven years and uses that gift in her church's worship band.
She's actively served as a translator for mission groups and a tutor for those hoping to learn English. She's demonstrated a consistent witness with coaches and fellow athletes on her volleyball team, fellow musicians, teachers, and neighbors. She plans to major in music at Calvary Bible College.
Winners of the $4,000 Scholarship ($1,000 annually)
Sonlight also awards a group of scholars with a $1000 scholarship for each year of college. All of these winners will make a mark in the world and continue on the path of life-long learning.
Bethany Carlson of Clinton, MI, is an academician ( a National Merit Commended Scholar with a 35 on the ACT) as well as an artist. A lover of languages, she has pursued some level of knowledge in Spanish, Latin Hebrew, Arabic, and even Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
A mission-minded leader in her youth group, Bethany plans to attend a university with an Arabic program and senses God's call to overseas missions. She's performed in Fiddler on the Roof, played clarinet and percussion in an honor band, started her own jewelry-making business, and served on service projects from feeding the homeless to organizing a March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Joshua Coleman of Augusta, GA, is a National Merit Finalist and a gifted mathematician who scored above the 99 percentile on the SAT. He volunteers as a counselor for his church's Summer Adventure Day camp, draws and paints with an assortment of media, and began a ministry of reconciliation for young men from his church. He plays the guitar and piano, acts in musical theatre, plays for a competitive soccer club, and has won state and national awards in Math, Science, Mythology and Latin competitions.
Josh recently won Georgia's State Science Olympiad at Emory University by "thinking outside the box" to create a robot that could efficiently maneuver the competition's course. His team was the only one to successfully complete the tasks in the time allotted.
He's served Hurricane Katrina victims and people of the Philippines through construction, working in an orphanage, and sharing his testimony. He plans to pursue the fields of math and science in college, with the goal of investing in helping people through medicine or engineering.
Spencer Kyle Johnson of Signal Mtn.,TN, is a "renaissance man" who has performed in numerous theatre performances, served as director, producer, and actor of two short films, excelled as a competitive pianist, and participated in community service projects for causes from Muscular Dystrophy fund-raisers to youth leadership training. He is a member of Photographic Society of Chattanooga, president of ESA National Homeschool Honor Society, and a published writer. As captain and attorney of a nationally-winning Mock Trial team, he won "Best Attorney" multiple times and presented speeches at his city's Bar Association, participated in interviews for radio, television, and magazines, and received a letter of recognition from his U.S. congressman.
As an Eagle Scout, he planned and executed a project to create a lending library for an underprivileged Christian school in the Appalachian Mountains, including coordinating and organizing the 3,300 books donations. Kyle is an international traveler who attended the Oxford University Round Table lectures in Oxford, England and has served on a mission trip to the Czech Republic. He plans to attend Houghton College in NY to pursue a career as a professor in higher education, with an international focus.
Jay Kinard of Signal Mtn., TN, is proficient in conversational Spanish—a tool he's used on many mission trips to Latin America. As an Eagle Scout, he's earned over 50 merit badges from community service, life skills and civic involvement and served as a Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Scoutmaster. He's active in his youth group, serves as lead vocalist and guitarist for a youth band at his church and leads music for children's Sunday School and his church's family camp.
He serves as a tutor and mentor for a 5th grader,teaching him outdoor skills and serving as a male role model in his life. Jay competed regionally in Mock Trial and was awarded Outstanding Novice Attorney. He is a competitive swimmer, ultimate frisbee player and ballroom dancer. He plans to attend Lee University in Cleveland,TN, to major in Biology with a career in dentistry in mind.
Nathan Kinard of Signal Mtn., TN, is an accomplished competitive pianist with superior ratings in numerous state auditions. As an Eagle Scout, he's a regular volunteer in service opportunities, from clearing a tree from the house of a needy family to refurbishing a local historical site in his hometown, and he has represented the Cherokee Area Council before the state legislature.
He's served on several mission trips to aid Hurricane Katrina Victims, as well as a ministering in Nicaragua through translation, teaching children, and construction. He's a parliamentarian for the ESA National Honor Society and a regional and national champion in Mock Trial competition. An active member in his youth group, he also serves as a synthesizer for both the youth and adult bands, accompanies the Children's Choir, plays at nursing homes and is a member of his church's family camp music team. Nathan interests for the future revolve around law, physics and music. He has applied to Yale, Harvard, Vanderbilt and Emory.
Erin Tillson of Gainesville, FL, is a songwriter with a knack for working with money. Erin plans to attend Houghton College in New York and become a certified public accountant. She is an accomplished scholar with a 35 on her ACT. She plays guitar and piano, is a member of a mandolin ensemble and a basketball team, and has performed in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
She has made significant impact in her work for Classical Development Services International, a Christian, non-profit organization that provides teacher training and administrative support for Northern Iraq schools. Among her accomplishments during her three years in Iraq, she managed a database of almost $500,000 tuition payments, conducted student selection testing ( she even kept her cool as she tested the self-control of 150 preschoolers), and substitute taught 9th grade honors Algebra. She has a heart to work with teenagers suffering from eating disorders and depression, and loves to use her gifts in music to express herself and bring God honor.
Andres Vargas of Durham, NC, has grown up in Spain, landed a perfect score on his SAT, earned National Merit Scholar status, and plans to attend North Carolina State to pursue a career in Engineering.
He served as a summer volunteer at Duke University's Durham Regional Hospital, mentors children in AWANA, plays guitar for Sunday School and kid's clubs at his church, does yard work for widows, and provides technical support for church worship services. He has a talent for digital photography and arranges power point presentations for his family's mission presentations on their stateside furloughs.