As it happens each spring, this year the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation rewarded select local high school students with scholarships that will help them achieve their dreams.
But this year, there was a new component. The Paul Donskov Legacy Scholarship was awarded for the first time, joining the John H. McConnell Scholarship and the High School Hockey Scholarship in going to a deserving student.
Gahanna Lincoln senior Thomas Giles won the inaugural Donskov scholarship, while Grove City Christian's Molly Murage claimed the McConnell award and St. Charles hockey player Sam Carey captured the High School Hockey honor.
Bios of each winner follow.
Molly Murage, John H. McConnell Scholarship
In a time where diversity has moved to the forefront of just about every discussion of American life, Murage played a key role in helping open some eyes at Grove City Christian.
Attending a small school with just under 700 students, Murage saw an opportunity to make a difference during her high school career by becoming an organizer for the Diversify Our Narrative campaign, which helps teachers to educate students about race, racism and anti-racism in America through books and curriculum.
"It was amazing to see how much we could make an impact, even changing the curriculum a little bit just to include more diverse people of genders and races," Murage said. "It meant a lot, and I also know it meant a lot to the students who went there who felt like they were being represented somehow in school where in the past it didn't seem that way. It was a way for me to help other students have a voice and feel like they were included."
Murage also helped initiate a version of the Rotary International's Interact Club at her school, allowing more students to feel like they had an avenue to make a difference and serve the community. It's clear that as she went through her high school career, she became more confident in her ability to make a difference with both her words and actions while giving back to her community.
"Freshman year, I would say I wasn't really like that at first, but finding things I wanted to fix really drove me to want to become a leader," she said. "I heard other students complain about some of the same things I believed were wrong, so I felt like I had to become a voice for my other classmates and help improve the school so other students coming in felt like they were going to the right school and feel like they could also step up and become leaders as well."
In addition to those extracurricular activities, Murage served as a mental health counselor at her school, was on student council and served in chapel leadership. That's not all, as she participated in Spanish Club, Drama Club, National Honor Society and Ruling Our Experiences while playing volleyball and serving as a basketball cheerleader.
She will now attend Ohio State University's main campus and major in international relations, with help from the scholarship that goes to a high school senior who shows character, leadership and work in the community.
"For the longest time ever since I was little, I always wanted to go to Ohio State," Murage said. "That was my first choice school since I was maybe 7. I've always been a big Buckeye fan, so it just happened to work out that they have a really good program in my major too."
Samuel Carey, High School Hockey Scholarship
This year's high school hockey scholarship went to a veteran player on one of the most successful Columbus prep teams in recent years at St. Charles.
Carey was a member of the Cardinals the last three seasons, including this past year when the team finished first in the Capital Hockey Conference during the regular season, placed second in the Blue Jackets Cup and also was a regional finalist in the OHSAA tournament.
"It's been one of the greatest parts of my high school experience," he said of his years with the Cardinals' hockey program. "Just hanging out with the guys in the locker room and messing around before practice and then working hard together during practice, thinking back on the games, looking forward to big games on the weekends. It's been so much fun."
Having put the work in over the years, starting when he played street hockey with his brother as a kid, left Carey excited to receive this year's scholarship. The scholarship honor is given to someone who has shown a dedication to the game as well as high character and overall achievements in high school.
"When I got the email, I was really excited," he said. "I thought it was really cool. It's an honor to be honored by the Blue Jackets, an organization that I look up to as a hockey player in Columbus."
In addition to playing, one of Carey's biggest ties to the game is his work with CCYHA's Special Hockey program, as Carey volunteered over the last three years each week teaching kids with developmental disabilities the basics of skating and the game of hockey.
He also spent three years as a member of the school's engineering team and was treasurer of the Fishing Club. Carey is a member of the National Honor Society, a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, earned National Latin Exam Awards three times, and served as a tutor at St. Charles.
He plans to study biochemistry and pre-med at Boston College.
"We went and visited and looked around the city and we had a great time," he said. "That's really what set it apart for me. I wanted to be separate from the city and have a college campus but also be able to go into the city and be able to experience all the things it has to offer."
Thomas Giles, Donskov Legacy Scholarship
As we detailed a few months ago, the Donskov scholarship was created this year after the passing of Paul Donskov, a local hockey legend who helped grow the game in so many ways during his three decades of serving as a coach and administrator in central Ohio.
So it's fitting that the inaugural winner of the award is Giles, someone who has worked with the Donskov family while growing his game as a standout at Gahanna Lincoln.
"It was definitely cool," he said of earning the scholarship. "I was really proud. I have been around the Donskovs for a while. I went to a couple of their camps growing up, and they have always been really good to me and everyone around the city and really helped make everyone feel like part of the family. I am really proud to have that be a part of my life going forward, too."
Giles is a worthy winner, and not just because he wore the "C" as captain of the Lions team this past season after serving as an alternate captain the two years prior. He has also played tennis in high school and previously played baseball and golf. Away from sports, Giles was a member of the school's marching band and has participated in National Honor Society, DECA, We The People, March For Our Lives and Chess Club.
In addition, Giles served in Habitat for Humanity and the Boy Scouts of America, and his Eagle Scout project had a Gahanna flair, as he worked to lead and oversee the construction of a new victory bell at the high school, replacing a dilapidated metal pole with a polished brick pedestal.
"It's been important to me," he said of giving back to the community. "With hockey, the sport itself has given me so much, and I've been able to develop my leadership skills and work as a team. With everything I do -- scouts, band, tennis and everything like that -- each of them has given me their own benefit and skills that I have been able to develop. It's been important to me to be able to give back to the younger individuals in each of those organizations and help them have as much of a positive experience as I did."
Next up, much like Murage, Giles will attend Ohio State University where he plans to study physics and engineering.
"I have always grown up around Ohio State," he said. "Both of my parents went there and a lot of my family before them, too. There were a couple of other schools I applied to, but it was always my No. 1 choice."