By Marianne Weaver
Prince William Living recognizes greatness within our community: organizations giving back and individuals making a difference. We introduce you to 10 graduating high school seniors, who are well on their way to becoming extraordinary adults.
Matthew Cinnamon is a senior at Forest Park High School in the Information Technology Program, specializing in computer science, and leads four teams competing in FIRST Robotics, VEX Robotics, SeaPerch Underwater Robotics and ZERO Robotics. He is also the top-ranked programmer on the computer science team and competes in the American Computer Science League.
“Matthew has motivation and passion to succeed, but he desires to help those around him become better and attain success as well,” said his mother, Karen Cinnamon. “Not only has he led his VEX robotics teams to the world championships four years running, he has spent an inordinate amount of time, both after school and in the summer, mentoring and leading younger kids, so they can reach that same passion and success.”
For this volunteer work, he was recognized with the Congressional Award Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress bestows upon a youth civilian. He was also recognized as a 2018 Coca-Cola Scholar, an honor awarded to 150 students who not only excel academically, but are also actively involved in their schools and communities.
And he’s an Eagle Scout from Troop 43, based in Manassas. For his Eagle Scout project, “Matthew organized and led the largest storm drain labeling project held to date in Prince William County,” said his mother. “He led a team of 43 volunteers that labeled 350 storm drains and distributed information to 800 households to raise awareness of urban runoff and household pollutants and their link to water pollution in our watersheds.”
Camryn Claude is a senior at C. D. Hylton Senior High School, where she is the senior representative on the student committee in the Center for International Studies and Languages (CISL).
“Camryn is very passionate about art and studying French,” said her mother, Alenda Claude. “She is the president of French National Honor Society and a member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, Debate Club and Drama Club, all while maintaining a 4.525 GPA.”
Claude participated in the Prince William All-County Arts Festival throughout high school, winning the Award of Excellence ribbon in 2015 and 2017. This year, she won the Award of Excellence for her piece entitled “Lovers’ Bridge,” a depiction of The College of William and Mary’s Crim Dell Bridge. In 2017, Claude participated in the Creative Arts Showcase at Chinn Park Regional Library and was the high school first-place winner in the category of pen, pencil, pastels, charcoal and markers for her piece “A Portrait in Black and Blue.”
Since 2013, she has volunteered at the Independent Hill Neighborhood Library. “Camryn is a very energetic and civic-minded individual, who has provided a high level of service and enthusiasm in her work at our library,” said her supervisor, Melanie Erhart. “She interacts well with patrons of all ages and
brings a great sense of service to her community in her work.”
She has been a Girl Scout since elementary school and has worked on numerous community service projects.
In 2017, she participated in an exchange trip to Dijon, France, and plans to study international relations and linguistics in college.
Amy Freeze is a senior at Potomac Senior High School.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Amy Freeze throughout her high school career,” said nominator Julie Ericson, Potomac girls’ varsity lacrosse head coach. “She has shown how dedicated she is to her studies by achieving A’s in advanced courses, becoming a role model on her sports team, and spending countless hours serving the Prince William County community.”
Ericson noted that Freeze is especially dedicated to making sure kids know how to swim and stay safe in the water.
In addition to swim coaching, Freeze has worked many years feeding the homeless at the
Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center. In 2017 she raised more than $3,000 for the American
“It is comforting to know there are still high school students who want to make a difference for the younger generation,” said Ericson. “It is inspiring to know that she cares about the community and all who live in it. She brings joy to me and others around her.”
Amber Ignatowski is a senior at Potomac Senior High School in the Cambridge Programme, an international pre-university curriculum and examination system that can be tailored to students’ interests and abilities.
She is a member of the National Art Honor Society, Relay for Life Team, DECA and Girl Scouts. She was recently awarded the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists Award of Excellence, which recognizes outstanding grades, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of science and technology.
“Amber Ignatowski knows how to give back to her community,” said Karen Hammack, who has been her Girl Scout leader for 13 years. “Amber has been participating in service to Greater Prince William since kindergarten.”
Along with her troop, Hammack said Ignatowski has sorted food for a local food bank, prepared and served meals at a local homeless shelter and participated in a weekly reading and homework helper program for the children living there. She also planted trees in new subdivisions to control probable erosion.
Ignatowski received the Girl Scout Silver Award for a project which focused on rubbish and trash problems along Panther Pride Drive and the three schools located on that road, all of which she attended. Hammack noted that the project allowed her to “see [an issue], create a solution, and solve a problem for
places that made an impact in her life.”
During the last five summers, Ignatowski also volunteered at Locust Shade Park for Ports of Prince William Day Camp, which serves between 150 and 200 campers annually.
Addison Keele is a senior at Forest Park High School, where she is a PWCS Gifted Education Scholar. In her Gifted Education Multidisciplinary Seminar (GEMS) class this year, she conducted an independent research project on the multiverse, parallel universes, and interdimensional travel. She is a member of the Molly Gill Chapter of the National Honor Society, the Literati Chapter of the National English Honor Society, and the Forest Park Chapter of the National Spanish Honor Society. She also holds the position of secretary for the Spanish Honor Society and is an active participant in Key Club and the Black Student Union.
“Addison divides her time between focusing on school work and giving back to her community,” said her mother, Veronica Keele. “Addison inspires others by sharing her experiences and the influences in her life.”
Outside of school, she contributes to the community by tutoring weekly with the homework club at Henderson Elementary School. Through the honor societies, she is a co-curricular peer tutor for English and all levels of Spanish.
Each summer she volunteers as a Big Sister Helper for the younger dancers at her dance studio. In the winter, she volunteered for Breakfast with Santa, a day filled with games, activities, free pancakes, and gifts for those who cannot afford to have a great Christmas. She has also participated in several drives
for the ACTS Community Shelter. In addition to donating books, canned goods, and pet food, Addison helped package and transport the goods to various shelters.
Irma Gonzalez Medrano
Irma Gonzalez Medrano is a senior at C. D. Hylton High School, where she participates in the Center for International Studies and Languages program.
“Irma is the definition of a quiet leader and has made an impact through her volunteer work,” said Michaella Beatty, school counselor at Hylton. “Irma has reaffirmed for me why I chose the profession of school counseling.”
Gonzalez has served as an assistant teacher for children, newborn to age 5. According to Beatty, she has played a vital role in expanding the creative learning experience of the kids with whom she works, from putting on plays to taking them apple picking, while leading them with patience and kindness.
“As an ESOL student, Irma is an example of a hard-working teen,” noted Beatty. “She is brilliant and works extremely diligently in her classwork. She will be the first in her family to go to college and has already been accepted to a university. Through Irma’s volunteer efforts with young children, she is giving them a wonderful example of how hard work pays off.”
Madison Rudd is a senior at Potomac Senior High School, where she is enrolled in the Cambridge Programme. She is a member of the National Honor Society, part of a Relay for Life team, and a Panther Pack mentor who helps freshmen students get acclimated to high school. She also works at Locust Shade Park.
For the last two years, Rudd has been a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, volunteering at least 20 hours a month to show kids at local elementary and middle schools how to play their instruments properly and read music.
“It is no secret that the music and arts programs have suffered in school districts due to budget constraints,” said nominator and coach Ericson. “Madison has helped show these kids that music
builds their imagination and intellectual curiosity. She engages them, so they enjoy playing their instruments. Madison has helped them understand that having some form of music in their lives will only help their overall academic performance.”
In 2017, she raised money to take a mission trip, spending a month in Indonesia teaching kids ages 6-10 how to read and write in English.
“Her positive impact on her classmates and teammates is extraordinary,” said Ericson. “Her endless dedication to kids in this community while maintaining academic excellence provides a role model for kids and adults.”
Rida Subzwari is a senior at Gar-Field Senior High School, where she is president of the Key Club International, Student Activities Council, Model United Nations and the Women’s Leadership Club. She works with the “Rise to Run” campaign, which is designed to empower women and girls to run for political office.
“Rida is a ‘take-action’ girl! She is a problem solver,” said Hammack. “She is involved in a program called Champion’s Closet, which helps families of Gar-Field High School that are below the poverty level have access to food, clothing and school supplies.”
Hammack, who has been her Girl Scout leader for a decade, said Subzwari has volunteered at the local ACTS shelter, reading to young children and helping them with homework, as well as preparing and serving meals there. She also has volunteered for several years at Prince William Forest Park, assisting with the Heritage Days Program and cleaning trails during National Trails Day.
Last summer she attended the Virginia Summer Residential Governor’s School for the Humanities, and this summer she plans to help develop a school for impoverished children in inner-city Lahore, Pakistan.
“Rida has a social conscience,” said Hammack. “Each of these contributions has helped make some area of Prince William County a little bit better.”
Emily Renner is a senior at Osbourn High School, where she is president of the Interact Club, secretary of the National English Honor Society and a member of the Key Club, Rho Kappa, Community Connection
Network, Outreach for GayStraight Alliance, National Honor Society, student government, and Youth Salute.
“Emily Renner truly has the heart for helping people,” said nominator Liz Witt-Lee. “Passionate about her school community, she is involved in not one, not two, but nine organizations at Osbourn High School, and has taken on a leadership role in many of them. An avid volunteer, she is also a go-getter and relishes being in a leadership role.”
After school, she works at the Morganna Animal Clinic and Boarding Kennel in Manassas. “It’s rare that someone Emily’s age really ‘gets it,’ and she truly does,” said Witt-Lee. “She understands the value of hard work, family, and caring for those who may not be as privileged. I especially love that she is so well-rounded, participating in and experiencing so many different activities. This gives her a better understanding of the world around her, and it shows in her work where her personality shines through in whatever she does.”
Makenzie Wolf is a senior at Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School and an avid participant in and leader of activities in her school, church and Girl Scouts.
At school, she has appeared on stage and worked behind the scenes for numerous theater productions. She is a member of the National Honor Society and the Sign Language Club.
As a Girl Scout, Wolf has served as a program aide for the past five summers at Ports of Prince William Day Camp. She has also prepared several meals for the homeless in Prince William, as well as contributed to “family” meals for a “sister” Girl Scout whose mother had cancer and needed additional support inside the home during extensive chemotherapy treatments.
Hammack described Wolf as “self-driven and highly motivated,” adding that she is also a very active member of her church, where she participates in the church youth group and teaches Sunday school classes.
“I met Makenzie when she was in the third grade and a student at Mary Williams Elementary School,” said Hammack. “I have watched Makenzie grow and develop into a beautiful, confident young lady. It has been a joy and a pleasure to work with her in the scouting program. I know she will do many great things with future opportunities.”
Marianne E. Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.