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Thirteen high school and college students were awarded scholarships by the Enlisted Spouses' Club on May 17.

The club allocated about $14,000 in scholarships to help the young people further their pursuit of higher education. The scholarships are given annually to children of active-duty, retired and Reserve military personnel.

Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas was the guest speaker at the recognition ceremony held at Argonne Hills Chapel Center. The colonel encouraged the students to "go into what you love and believe in and work hard."

To qualify for a scholarship, the winners were required to complete an application, send a school transcript and write an essay based on one of three selected topics.

The club manages the post Thrift Shop and uses its proceeds to fund scholarships, as well as the ESC involvement in National Night Out and other community endeavors.

Susan Renninger, the scholarship committee chair, advised the students to try to make good choices as they go through life. She said it was important for them to remember not to harm others, to be disciplined and to lead by example.

"You might not be able to change the world, but you can make a difference in someone's life," Renninger said.

Recipients are selected based largely on their service at school, church, the community and their participation in sports.

"We like them to be like us and get involved in the community," Renninger said.

Erich Jonas Kestler II, a graduate of Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, received a $1,500 scholarship to cover one semester at Howard Community College.

"I'm very happy," Kestler said. "It covers most of the tuition. It's a lot of help. It's really a very big break for me."

Kestler, who completed the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps program at his high school, plans to major in civil engineering and perhaps become an Air Force pilot.

"Flying has always interested me. I think it would be really cool," Kestler said.

Laura Lewis, a senior at Meade High School, received a $500 scholarship to attend Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

"I'm very grateful and very ecstatic to get it," said Lewis, 18, a member of the high school Key Club and National Honor Society.

She has also worked with Happy Helpers, a nonprofit group that helps the homeless in Baltimore, for about two years.

Lewis, who also received a full-tuition scholarship for college, plans to enroll as a dual major in nursing and law with a minor in Spanish. She aspires to become a pediatrician and a lawyer practicing malpractice law.

During his address, Thomas told the students about the book "Outliers: The Story of Success," by Malcolm Gladwell, and the author's research on factors that make a person successful in life.

Gladwell developed the "10,000-hour rule," claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

In closing, the colonel told the students that hard work and dedication will make all the difference in their lives. "Opportunity plus hard work equals success. College is the opportunity. Your efforts will determine how far you go from here," Thomas said.

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