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1st Koontz scholar a 'mold-breaker'

June 23, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Tracy Collins didn't know anything about former Washington County teacher Sherry Koontz when she applied for the scholarship established in her memory.

But she has been told she shares some of Koontz's admirable qualities - like her gumption - as well as her alma mater, South Hagerstown High School.

"I was told there was a lot in common between me and Sherry," said Collins, 18, whose interest in drawing houses in eighth grade blossomed into plans to pursue a career in architectural drafting.

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Collins, who graduated from South High this month, said she plans to use the $500 scholarship to help pay for her first year at Hagerstown Junior College, which offers a specialized science engineering program.

Adair Eves said she and fellow scholarship committee members saw a definite likeness between Collins and the popular Hagerstown native, killed in an automobile accident in Anne Arundel County, Md., on Sept. 28, 1996.

"Both, we believe, are probably mold-breakers," Eves said. "Tracy is interested in a profession not traditionally held by women. Sherry didn't particularly conform to any mold."

Koontz was willing to try new things, seeing life as series of opportunities, said friend Donna DeLucia, who is on the scholarship committee.

"Tracy knew how to capture opportunity through hard work and initiative," said DeLucia, who taught with Koontz at Surrey and Sharpsburg elementary schools. "That was Sherry. In her initiative of effort, she would ... have people follow her."

Koontz - 46 when she died - had been a leader in fighting for what she believed in, including women's rights and the interests of teachers and students, said Eves, who started teaching with Koontz at Surrey Elementary School in 1994.

Koontz taught first grade at Surrey Elementary for three years, then taught kindergarten for nine years at Sharpsburg Elementary before being elected president of the Washington County Teachers Association.

After finishing her second two-year term in 1991, Koontz left the Washington County school system to take the job of UniServ director for the Frederick County Teachers Association. She was living in Columbia, Md.

Learning about Koontz and seeing how loved and respected she was has made winning the scholarship even more meaningful, Collins said.

"It's an honor for me to be the first recipient," said Collins, who said college was looking "pretty iffy" without additional financial assistance.

The Sherill H. Koontz Memorial Scholarship Fund was established following Koontz's death in hopes it would provide at least one scholarship annually in her memory.

The scholarship is open to female South High students with demonstrated financial need.

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Committee members hope to build the Koontz scholarship fund with a benefit golf tournament at Black Rock Golf Course on Aug. 14.

Nongolfers may attend a buffet picnic at the Funkstown American Legion following the event.

For more, call Linda Ezolt at 301-791-1490 or Mary Ann Veitch at 410-995-6226.

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