Announcing the 2019 VSMF National Scholarship Winner, Caroline Peterson from Unionville High School in Kennett, PA! Out of all the applicants from around the country, Caroline was the clear choice, embodying Vicki’s spirit and passion for education. Upon learning she won the scholarship, she said, “I was super surprised to say the least, mainly because it was the national scholarship, so I knew the Vicki Soto team must have been choosing between wonderful candidates for this prestigious award. It was quite hard to wrap my head around everything and I got teary eyed before I went up to get my award.”
Sharing a little of Caroline’s passion for education, she said “In my senior year of high school I participated in Teacher Leadership Academy, which is a dual enrollment program offered to seniors in high school interested in a career in education. Students have the opportunity to participate in three seven-week field experiences interning with teachers in local classrooms. The curriculum covers material from three college level education courses. Eligible students may obtain nine transferable college credits from Delaware County Community College. Throughout the year, I student taught in a first grade classroom, a fourth grade classroom, and a second grade classroom because I for sure want to be an elementary school teacher. My favorite rotation was first grade because they were always so curious and excited to learn new information. The way that children respond to you is magical because they trust you and go into each day looking forward to something, whether it be learning a new math fact or simply interacting with others.”
In addition to Caroline’s enthusiasm for teaching and her impactful application essay, unbeknownst to us prior to applying for the scholarship, Caroline had met Vicki. Before Vicki had an assigned classroom of her own, she was the go-to substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. “This award is so much more than an award to me, because not only have I known about this scholarship for a long time, but I actually had Vicki as a substitute many times when I went to Sandy Hook Elementary and my younger sister Jessie, had her as her first grade teacher in 2011, a year before the shooting. Knowing that Vicki’s family thought I was one of the best candidates to represent her makes me emotional because I know that they are placing their trust in me to carry on Vicki’s legacy to live, laugh, and love. Vicki lived such a bright and colorful life – she brought smiles to people’s faces and all the children loved her. I remember thinking to myself “I hope that Miss Soto is our substitute today” any day my teacher would be absent, and I hope that my future students think of me how I thought of Miss Soto – with complete admiration. I will never stop being inspired by my teachers, professors, family, students, colleagues, and I will take the lessons that they have all taught me to help me grow into the teacher and woman that I know I can become.”
This fall, Caroline is planning to attend the University of Delaware majoring in Elementary Education.