Former LCHS students awarded PA Head Start scholarships - Luzerne County Head Start
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Former LCHS students awarded PA Head Start scholarships

May 28, 2024

Two former Luzerne County Head Start students set to graduate high school and pursue post-secondary education received awards from the Jeff Koppel Memorial Head Start Scholarship Fund in partnership with the Pennsylvania Head Start Association.  

Bara’a Kamal of Kingston and Emily Jacien of West Wyoming were named winners of the fourth and final Jeff Koppel Memorial Scholarship during PHSA’s Annual Membership Meeting on May 22. Established in 2021 to honor Jeff Koppel’s life and valuable contributions to the Head Start community, the scholarship recognizes Head Start graduates with outstanding academic and personal achievements, along with strong leadership and initiative.

Since its inception, the fund has awarded nine scholarships totaling $22,000 to Pennsylvania Head Start alumni. Sharon Koppel, Jeff’s wife and best friend, told the scholarship recipients: “It matters the kind of person you become. Jeff lived a life that mattered. With this scholarship, we hope we can pass on a bit of Jeff’s spirit and legacy to you.”

Both students also received LCHS Alumni Scholarships at the agency’s 59th Anniversary Luncheon on May 13. 

Bara’a, a senior at Wyoming Valley West High School, earned a $3,000 Jeff Koppel Memorial Scholarship. She also received the $2,000 Benco Family Foundation Scholarship from LCHS. Bara’a attended the LCHS Edwardsville Center, where Cindie Zupancic was her teacher. She plans to study mechanical engineering at Wilkes University.  

Bara’a said that as a future Arab woman in STEM, she hopes to challenge herself and societal stereotypes while increasing representation for others like her. Ultimately, she wants to become a voice for young women in marginalized communities. These ambitions, she noted, originated from the foundation of being a Head Start student.  

“This chance introduced my 4-year-old self to academic and social skills, both of which are crucial for success. It assisted in developing my cognitive and emotional abilities as well as fostering creativity and critical thinking,” she said. “Being able to interact with my peers at such an early age allowed for strong socialization principles to be established. My accomplishments throughout primary and secondary school can only be attributed to the smooth transition that was cultivated in Head Start.”   

Bara’a serves as president of the Student Council, co-president of Black Youth in Action and lead representative of the All Over the World Club. She’s also a member and past vice president of the National Honor Society. Bara’a participates in Future Business Leaders of America, where she was a state qualifier by placing fourth in the region for cyber security, and the Wilkes University IEEE Engineering Olympics. She also competed with the Pennsylvania Math League. 

Outside of school, Bara’a stays active in her community as a senior volunteer for the SCHOLARS tutoring program. She’s also participated in the Al-Noor Islamic Academy Girls Youth Group and University of Scranton High School Scholars. Additionally, she works part time at Jo-Ann Fabrics.  

Emily, a senior at Wyoming Area Secondary Center, earned a $2,500 Jeff Koppel Memorial Scholarship. She also received the $1,000 Luzerne County Bar Association Charitable Foundation Scholarship from LCHS. Emily attended the LCHS Pittston New Street Center, where Lynn Meizanis was her teacher. She plans to study architecture at Thomas Jefferson University. During her architecture career, she hopes to incorporate environmental sustainability into her designs and increase the availability of high-quality, yet affordable housing.  

Emily said Head Start provided the foundation for her success in school and in life while preparing her to overcome future challenges. “I believe that the Head Start scholarship will help finance my college education, putting me in a position to make my plans to help others a reality,” she said.  

Emily is a member of the National Honor Society and Drama Club and spends her free time drawing, crocheting, painting and making ceramics. She’s also participated in volleyball and archery. She previously attended Business Exploration Camp and Architecture Camp. Her volunteerism includes helping at the Wyoming Area Children’s Produce Market, donating items to charities and decorating Daley Park in West Wyoming. She also works part time at Gerrity’s Supermarket. 

By Brooke Williams, Community Advocate