By Anna Guido
One's going to Harvard. The other to the University of Kentucky. Both are athletic, artistic, intelligent - each was named class valedictorian - and share a common goal: helping others.
Vivek Ramaswamy, 17, of Evendale and Ryan Fischer, 18, of Hebron are among 50 high school seniors nationally to receive one-time $20,000 college scholarships from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, based in Atlanta.
More than 100,000 students applied for the awards.
"It's like winning the education lottery," foundation spokeswoman Jennifer Grizzle said. "It's a big deal, and to have two from the Cincinnati area is fabulous."
The application deadline was Feb. 1, and the scholarships were awarded in April. Applicants were evaluated on their academic achievements, school and community leadership and desire to succeed.
Ramaswamy, a St. Xavier graduate, said his school activities and community service may have helped garner the award, but having the right "spirit in mind" is the impetus behind his success.
"That feeling of liking what you're doing is probably the most important element in succeeding in what you're doing," he said.
His school activities include varsity tennis, president of National Honor Society, Mock Trial, Science Olympiad, India Association (co-founder), and World Affairs Council.
He plays piano and has worked as a research assistant at the University of Cincinnati Department of Psychiatry.
His community service includes tutoring and volunteering as an escort at Bethesda North Hospital.
"My service to the patients extended far beyond transporting them in a wheelchair around the hospital. Rather, my true service lay in the relationship that I was able to build with each person in that short time," he wrote in his application.
Fischer, a graduate of Holmes High School in Covington, said challenge was his driving force, but learning to allocate time wisely was key to his success.
His school activities include varsity golf, tennis and basketball, National Honor Society, Governor's Cup (state finalist in math, science, language arts and general knowledge), Harvard Book Award and Northern Kentucky University Foreign Language Festival.
Much of his community service has centered on helping children and teens through tutoring, coaching and companionship.
"Students (at Northern Kentucky Christian School in Erlanger) give me a sense of accomplishment as I see them progress in front of my eyes every day," he said in his Coca-Cola Scholars application.
Ramaswamy's college scholarships (including renewable and non-renewable funds) total $33,500. Fischer's Otis Singletary Scholarship will pay for his entire undergraduate education at the University of Kentucky, so he can use his Coca-Cola scholarship for graduate studies and other education expenses.
Both plan to study medicine.
Two Tristate students were named regional Coca-Cola Scholars in April, each winning $4,000. They are Melissa Smith of McAuley High School in College Hill and Eric Volz of Batesville High School in Sunman, Ind.
In addition, Gary Sabourin, a guidance counselor at St. Xavier High School, was named a Coca-Cola Educator of Distinction. Sabourin is one of 250 educators to receive the award. Each Coca-Cola scholar is asked to nominate the teacher who most inspired and encouraged them.
The Coca-Cola scholarship program is 15 years old and has given thousands of dollars in national and regional scholarships to more than 30 Tristate students. Nationally, more than 2,750 students have received $23 million in national and regional Coca-Cola scholarships.
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