By Anna Guido
One's going to Harvard, the other to the University of Kentucky. Both are athletic and artistic. Each was named class valedictorian, and they share a common goal - helping others.
Ryan Fischer, 18, of Hebron, and Vivek Ramaswamy, 17, of Evendale, are among 50 high school seniors nationally to receive one-time $20,000 college scholarships from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation in Atlanta.
More than 100,000 students applied for the scholarships.
"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 scholarships were awarded in April. The application process was extensive and involved rigorous interviewing. Applicants were evaluated on their academic achievements, school and community leadership, and desire to succeed.
"Some of the nation's top college admissions directors, education leaders, business leaders and at least two previous Coca-Cola scholars were on the panel of judges," Grizzle said.
Fischer, a graduate of Holmes High School in Covington, said challenge has been a driving force, but learning to allocate time wisely was key to his success. "I'm always up for a good challenge and competition - I'm hypercompetitive," he said. "But if you know how to allocate time and use it wisely, then you've got a big aspect of life mastered."
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); Student Council; School Play; 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. His father, Rick, a national sales manager, said his son demonstrates uncanny self-discipline and matches it with a work ethic that rivals business executives.
"He is a young man of his word. If he tells you he will do something, check it off," Rick Fischer said.
Ramaswamy, a graduate of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, said "that feeling of liking what you're doing is probably the most important element in succeeding at what you're doing."
His school activities include: president of National Honor Society; Mock Trial; Science Olympiad; co-founder of the India Association; Math Club, French Club, Student Council and World Affairs Council. He also plays piano and varsity tennis, and has worked as a research assistant at the University of Cincinnati Department of Psychiatry. His community service includes tutoring and volunteering as a patient escort at Bethesda North Hospital. Geetha Ramaswamy, Vivek's mother and a geriatric psychiatrist, said her son has done everything on his own, without prodding, and is willing to help anyone who asks.
"If you can give back to people, that is the best gift you can give to yourself and others - that is what we have stressed to him," she said.
In addition to the Coca-Cola scholarships, Fischer and Ramaswamy both are recipients of many other scholarships and accolades, including National Merit Scholarships and 2002 Cincinnati Youth Collaborative Golden Galaxy Awards.
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 UK. He plans to use his Coca-Cola scholarship for graduate studies and other education expenses.
Both plan to study medicine.
The Coca-Cola scholarship program is 15 years old and has given thousands of dollars in national and regional scholarships to 82 Ohio high school seniors, including 30 Tristate students. Nationally, more than 2,750 students have received $23 million in national and regional Coca-Cola scholarships.
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