United Community Ministries awards scholarships to local high school grads

Valencourt recipient and family

Harry Wood, attorney for Mrs. Valencourt’s estate, and recipient Zulemy Loza, 2017 graduate of West Potomac High School, with her parents. (UCM picture)

United Community Ministries has selected four recent high school graduates as recipients of the Valencourt Scholarships for 2017.

Angela Gallegos is a 2016 graduate of Bryant Alternative High School who was also a 2016 Valencourt Scholarship recipient. She is studying early childhood development at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has maintained a 4.0 GPA while working full-time during her first year, according to UCM. She is on track to graduate from NOVA next year with an associate’s degree.

“I want to be a positive role model for my son, showing him that with hard work and an education, anything is possible,” Gallegos said in a UCM press release.

Zulemy Loza, a 2017 graduate of West Potomac, will pursue a degree in social work or criminology at George Mason University. Loza is a volunteer for UCM, and a sergeant in the Fairfax County Police Explorer’s program, where she was awarded the “If Not Me, Then Who…” medal from the Travis Manion Foundation earlier this year.

“UCM has helped me to learn that developing a connection with the people who you are helping is important,” Loza said.

Keara V. Perez is 2017 graduate of West Potomac, where she earned a certification as a Clinical Medical Assistant. She plans to pursue a nursing degree at Northern Virginia Community College. In addition to attending high school full time, she also completed a paid internship with Fairfax County Public Schools where she learned information technology and business skills.

Ana Villalobos is 2017 graduate of West Potomac High School and will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University, where she will study to become a dentist. Villalobos is an active volunteer, organizing various activities in her community. She will be the first person in her family to graduate high school and attend college, and also received a Battelle-UCM Scholarship in June.

The Valencourt Scholarships have been awarded by UCM each year since 2015. They’re made possible through a bequest from the estate of Lois Valencourt, a former Richmond Highway area resident and UCM volunteer who died in 2013. Students from Mount Vernon, West Potomac and Bryant are eligible to apply.

“Education means higher wages over a lifetime and is a key connector to financial independence,” UCM Executive Director Alison DeCourcey said in a statement. “We are grateful to Mrs. Valencourt for her commitment to education. Her generous gift continues her legacy and means students and their families can achieve financial independence and self-reliance.” She told the students: “We congratulate you and your
families on your accomplishments. As you embark on the next chapter of your educational paths, we wish you continued success.”