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By Wendy Migdal
Prince William Living recognizes greatness within our community and the individuals giving back each day. The 2022 Extraordinary Teens Awards recognizes high school seniors who not only thrive and achieve, they also pay it forward. Each one has helped make Prince William a better place. These teens are truly extraordinary, and Prince William Living magazine is pleased to honor 10 of them in this month’s issue.
Despite many personal challenges, Malak Elsherbiny has found ways to use her talents to give back to the community. As a pianist, she co-directs Melodies of the Mind, an organization that gives musical performances to seniors at assisted living facilities. She recruits young student musicians to the organization, which received the 2021 Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Award from the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. In addition, she tutors underprivileged children in local elementary schools at no charge.
At Colgan High School, Malak is a member of both the Science National Honor Society and the Math National Honor Society. She also works as a pharmacy technician to gain valuable experience in pursuit of her goal of becoming a physician.
These things would be impressive enough on their own, but Malak has managed to accomplish them despite difficulties in her personal life. Her father passed away from cancer when she was in the 8th grade, and shortly thereafter, her mother developed significant medical problems. Malak’s income contributes to her family’s expenses.
“I watched this young lady cast aside her childhood and willingly embrace all the adult responsibilities of her household — from taking care of her brother, to tending for her mother, and making sure her own schoolwork got done,” says mentor Tarannum Lateef. “She has displayed a maturity and poise that is beyond her years.”
Lateef points out that Malak took on a heavy and challenging course load and maintained excellent grades while doing all of the above, and says that Malak has the grit, compassion, and academic excellence to become a physician.
As a track-and-field athlete, Jordyn Evans has contributed to Prince William in many ways. She serves as co-captain of the team and works with her teammates to develop their athletic skills. She is also an advocate for mental wellness in her teammates, having witnessed a close family member struggle with mental illness.
Jordyn mentors the youngest athletes, helping with beginning physical education and exercises for kindergartners. Her mother, Shanel Evans, says, “Jordyn is a natural leader. She inspires her coaches and teammates to prepare for success — mentally, physically, and in academics.”
Academically, Jordyn has excelled as a student in the Dual Specialty program at Hylton and Potomac High Schools in the Center for International Studies and Language and Culinary Arts Program. She belongs to the National Honor Society, with a 4.2 GPA the National Society of High School Scholars (where she is also a tutor), and is a Youth Salute Scholar.
Jordyn’s culinary skills earned her the Top Chef Award in her program and qualified her to participate in the 2022 Cook Around the World Culinary Competition in Orlando, Florida. She has put these skills to further use as an entrepreneur in the business Double Souls, which she started with her twin sister. The two provide custom charcuterie boards to area events.
Raven Evans has made her mark as a track and field athlete, both when she’s on and off the field. As co-captain, Raven has led her track team at C.D. Hylton High School to the state championships, and when forced out of competition due to injuries, she found ways to keep contributing. She joined athletic
leadership teams to help with fundraising and service efforts for athletes across the county, and she also helped provide athletic training and beginning physical education classes to preschool and kindergarten students.
“Raven has faced sports injuries that challenged her mental tenacity as an athlete, and she continued to persevere and thrive as a student, encouraging her teammates and peers to succeed,” says her mother, Shanel Evans.
Raven’s interests extend beyond the track, however. She is a dual program student at the Center for International Studies and Languages and Culinary Arts Program at Hylton. She was named Culinary Arts Student of the Year and will represent Prince William during the Cook Around the World Culinary Competition in Orlando, Florida. She and her twin sister also started Double Souls, a business that provides custom charcuterie boards for events throughout the county.
A member of the National Honor Society, Raven has maintained a 4.3 GPA. She is also a member of the Black Student Union, Student-Athlete Leadership Team, and Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America.
Riley Kotlus contributes to his community through service and leadership. As an Eagle Scout, Riley has been a senior patrol leader and has participated in many service projects in the Prince William area. Some of these include building gardens and fire pits with Serve Our Willing Warriors and helping with a fitness trail at a local elementary school. His Eagle Scout project involved organizing a community event that packed 10,000 meals and raised funds for international hunger relief.
At his church, Riley is a leader in the youth group and in the children’s ministry. He’s also attended National Youth Leadership Training. He serves as a mentor to younger teens and has worked as both a camp counselor and volunteer lifeguard.
Riley also impressively helped to raise over $40,000 for brain cancer research for the Silver Sparkles event.
While a homeschool student, Riley has also completed the requirement for an associate’s degree from Northern Virginia Community College. He belongs to the National Homeschool Honor Society, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and has maintained a 4.1 GPA. He plays football on the homeschool team, the Centurions, where he is team captain, and has worked to build the community there.
“Riley connects with adults, teens, and children, creating a sense of community that transcends age and personal background,” says friend Jennifer Mitolo. His mother adds, “Riley is always ready to do the right thing, whether it’s helping a fellow student, helping move furniture for an elderly family friend, knocking on
doors for a campaign he cares about, or making sure a new kid at church feels welcome.”
Austin (AJ) Newhouse devotes much of his time to helping veterans who have been wounded in the service of our country. He does this through the Semper K9 Assistance Dogs organization, which trains dogs who would otherwise not have a home to be service animals to wounded vets.
AJ is now training his seventh service dog. Training dogs often requires several sessions daily for a year and a half, and AJ has sacrificed personal freedom and time for this effort. His reward is to know that his work changes lives, as he learned when he received a letter from a veteran who told him that he would not be alive without the support of his “new best friend and partner.”
At Colgan High School, AJ plays varsity lacrosse and serves as the team captain. He also volunteers as a coach for younger teams in the Prince William County LAX league. In addition, AJ is a youth baseball umpire for elementary and middle school students. In all these athletic pursuits, he serves as a mentor for both skills and sportsmanship.
AJ is a member of the National Honor Society and has earned a third-year academic letter. His grandparents also testify that, “Whether it is playing games, mowing the lawn, taking trash to the dump, or just dropping by to visit, AJ still has time for his family. As grandparents, we really appreciate the love and attention AJ gives us.”
As an Eagle Scout, Ethan Morlu has held several leadership positions — including Senior Patrol Leader and Troop Instructor — that helped “hold his troop together through COVID-19,” according to his mother. He planned events and weekly meetings while simultaneously working on his Eagle Scout project, an environmental project for Lake Ridge Middle School. Ethan received the 2022 VFW Northern Virginia Regional Scout of the Year award for his service and belongs to the Order of the Arrow. He also provides leadership to younger scouts as an Assistant Junior Scoutmaster while continuing to pursue earning merit badges.
Ethan is involved in Immanuel Anglican Church as an acolyte, playing as a musician in the worship band, as a leader during vacation Bible school, and by helping with the church’s community outreach events. His
musical ability as a viola player earned him a spot on the top orchestra at his school.
As a wrestler for Woodbridge High School, Ethan became the district champion, a regional finalist (where he played the national anthem) and competed at the state level. He was the varsity B team’s co-captain while working to move up the lineup, eventually making it to the state competition.
Academically, Ethan excels with a 4.519 GPA. He is a member of four national honor societies, where he tutors other students, and was named a Provost Scholar to pursue mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech (though he may attend the University of Virginia).
Ethan’s other community volunteer activities include the ACTS food pantry, Occoquan VFW services, Friends of the Occoquan Waterway, the Hilda Barg Homeless Shelter, and more. “Ethan is a true scholar athlete, and truly a servant leader,” says his mother. “Ethan’s work ethic, deep love for God, and humble attitude are what makes him stand out as an inspiration to those around him.”
“Aditi Mukul is an excellent role model for young women in STEM,” says Susan Bardernhagen, Coordinator for the American Association of University Women SUCCESS! Conference. “Her outreach with the Women in STEM project provides opportunities for others to envision themselves in a positive way.”
Bardenhagen has worked with Aditi and her twin sister Anika since their eighth-grade team project won first place. She has witnessed Anika’s growth through the exemplary science projects she has presented throughout her high school career at Battlefield High School in the Center for Applied Sciences, Interactive and Information Technology. These projects have received accolades from professionals currently working and teaching in the STEM fields.
In pursuit of her goal to become an aerospace engineer, Aditi has participated in a five-month program with the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars, a one-week summer academy with this group and with the Women in Technology program.
She plans to attend Virginia Tech, but in the meantime, she is a leadership team member of the FIRST Robotics club, a CyberPatriots and American Computer Science League participant, and belongs to several national honor societies, including Mathematics, Music, French and Science. She is also a member of the BHS Orchestra Board.
Aditi volunteered at the Haymarket Community Library until the pandemic and belongs to the Piedmont Tsunamis Swim Team. As an 11-year member of the latter, she not only competes, but also helps others work toward and achieve personal goals in a team-building atmosphere. She is involved in community literacy.
“Maintaining her superior GPA [4.422] is a feat in and of itself; doing this with Robotics teams, Honor Societies’ projects, swim team, and completing exemplary Science Fair projects – is extraordinary!” says Bardenhagen.
Anika Mukul has not only excelled in math and science, she has used her abilities to help others to learn and advance in these skills as well. A student at the Center of Applied Sciences, Interactive and Information Technology at Battlefield High School, Anika is a member of the National Math Honor Society, the National Science Honor Society, and the National Music Honor Society.
While maintaining a 4.385 GPA, she tutors other students in several advanced math courses, as well as science and French. Anika has received a great deal of recognition and honors in the fields of science and technology. She and her twin sister have received awards for their science projects since they first began researching and presenting together in the eighth grade. Their projects have earned awards at the local, regional, and state levels. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics awarded them first place for their junior-year project on machine learning. Says AIAA regional judge Susan Bardenhagen, “Aditi and Anika impressed us with their maturity, passion, and depth of knowledge of their project’s purpose and the experimental design . . . actual rocket scientists, pilots and PhDs felt the project and presentation to be…on a college level.”
Anika was also chosen to participate in a five-month long program with the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars and with the Women in Technology program. The WIT is a collaborative program between BAE Systems and Prince William high schools.
Anika helps to get others involved in STEM education by working with the Women in STEM Club and the ILITE FIRST Robotics Challenge teams. Both organizations reach out to the community and hold events to advocate for STEM education, in particular for women and younger students.
Her interests are not limited to science, however. Anika volunteered at the Haymarket Community Library until COVID-19 halted the program. She competes on the Piedmont Tsunamis Swim Team, where she has been a member for 11 years, and she is involved in charitable events in the community through the National Music Honor Society,
Raniah Singleton is a two-time All District Outdoor Athlete at Potomac High School and competes with the Dale City “Lightning” Track Club. Just as her athletic skills have grown, so have her leadership skills.
“As Team Administrator for the organization, I have had the privilege of watching her evolve not only as an athlete, but as a person,” says Shanel Evans, Raniah’s coach. Evans says that Raniah encourages her teammates, takes initiative to lead, and helps others become leaders.
Raniah has also participated in numerous volunteer and service opportunities. She has helped with food and toy drives, track team events and fundraisers, and community events with the Dale City Civic Association. At her school, Raniah organized PWCS Strong Night, a fundraiser for the homeless shelter, and
football fundraisers. She has completed more than 30 hours of community service with the Student Community Association.
Raniah has also received an academic letter from the National Honor Society. She is a Harry F. Byrd Junior Leadership nominee and a Youth Minerva Leadership nominee, connecting youth and business leaders.
As an Eagle Scout, Jonah Todd is known for living by the Scout principles, especially kindness, courtesy, and cheerfulness. He has held several leadership positions in Scouts, and his Eagle Scout project will enrich the Prince William community for years to come. Many residents will be able to enjoy the fruits of his labors as they walk along the path he helped create with Westminster at Lake Ridge.
His comparative religion teacher, Kristina Kotlus, is especially struck with his kindness, stating that he exhibits a positive attitude and an interest in others. “We had an incident last year with some bullying, and Jonah was the person who saw what was happening and took the time to talk to both other students, encouraging the bully to stop because he knew they could act better, and taking the other student aside and letting him know that he valued them and wouldn’t let them be treated that way.”
She adds, “He could’ve just continued on with his day, but he took a stand for the right thing.”
A homeschool student, Jonah participates in the Woodbridge Homeschool Co-op and also takes dual enrollment classes at NVCC. He’s involved in both church and Woodbridge High School, where he is part of the school play. The arts are a big part of Jonah’s life. He’s involved in the orchestra and musical honor society and participates in fine arts competitions in human video and choir through his church, Chapel Springs. At church, Jonah serves as a leader in the youth group, the Source. He works to engage new youth and participates in drama there as well.
“Sometimes just being a bright light in an otherwise mask-covered world is the biggest impact, and Jonah is a bright light,” says Kotlus.
Wendy Migdal is a freelance writer who has lived in the Northern/Central Virginia area since 2000. She has written extensively for The Free Lance-Star and also works for online educational companies. Wendy enjoys traveling around the area to learn about parks, restaurants, attractions, and especially history,