Hillel International is thrilled to announce the 2021 recipients of the Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship and the Campus Leadership Award, two scholarship programs launched in 2020 that recognize outstanding Jewish high school and college students from across North America who exemplify Hillel’s values by creating a better world through leadership and volunteerism in their communities.
The Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship provides $4,000 to two Jewish students preparing to enter an accredited college or university in the United States or Canada. The Campus Leadership Award provides $4,000 to two Jewish students who are enrolled full-time in a bachelor's program at an accredited college or university
This year, over 950 students applied for the Handeli First-Year Scholarship, and over 450 applied for the Campus Leadership Award. Applicants submitted essays on leadership, perseverance, and their personal connection to Jewish life. From an incredibly distinguished field of applicants, the Hillel Scholarship Finalist Review Committee—made up of Hillel professionals and students from across North America—selected Emma Rosman and Sarah Frank as recipients of the Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship, and Dylan Patrick and Adele Smolansky as recipients of the Campus Leadership Award.
Let’s meet our scholarship recipients!
Emma Rosman – Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship
Emma Rosman is a rising first-year at Virginia Tech, where she’ll be part of the University’s Honors College. Growing up as a Jew of Color in Arlington, Virginia, Emma was a BBYO leader, eventually becoming BBYO’s International Treasurer, a role that helped her gain experience in budgeting, programming, and fundraising, while also giving her the opportunity to spearhead BBYO’s racial justice education efforts. Emma says that her BBYO work was key to helping her weather the Covid-19 pandemic: “Contributing to greater goals and important conversations much bigger than myself gave me a sense of purpose during quarantine and within the Jewish community,” she wrote in her application.
Rosman’s application also discussed the complexity and intersectionality of her identities—American, Chinese, and Jewish, each represented by her given American, Chinese, and Hebrew names: “It wasn’t until joining BBYO in 8th grade that I was able to find a community that both acknowledged and celebrated me. Here I could define my complex identity, not through my appearance, but through my actions,” she said.
“I’m proud to be Jewish because it is a part of me that I have built for myself. My Judaism isn’t something that I just converted into as a baby, but something I continue to work for every single day. As the only Jew surrounded by my predominantly Christian classmates, and as the only person of color in a space with predominantly white Ashkenazi Jews, my successful journey has been defined solely through my leadership. The intersectionality of my race, religion, and my family’s background continues to be confusing at times, but I am proud of how far I have come, and everyday am thankful for each element of my identity.”
Sarah Frank – Handeli First-Year Student Scholarship
From Tampa, Florida, Sarah Frank is headed to Brown University in the fall. In her application, she wrote about her journey to becoming a teen author, signing a book contract at 14, and releasing two additional novels since then.
“Being a teen author gave me a platform, and I’ve used it to visit elementary and middle schools to encourage kids to read, write, and follow their own dreams. I’ve spoken to over 5,000 kids from dozens of schools,” Frank said. “Some kids come up after my talk and tell me they’re going to go write a book. Others come to tell me I inspired them to work harder on their hobby. Other kids say they’re going to start reading more. Teachers have told me that for some kids, my books are the only chapter books they’ll read. Some have told me that after my presentation, their students can’t stop writing stories.”
The pandemic launched Frank’s career in a different—yet equally impactful—direction. Last year, Frank founded a nonprofit called Simple Studies Inc., which provides 200+ original study guides, a blog with advice articles, essay editing, and study buddy matching, free of charge. “We have college application tips, tutoring for every common class, standardized testing resources, a Discord community with over 10,000 members, and daily study sessions to encourage productivity,” Frank said. With the help of over 500 volunteers from 40 countries and 40 states on 10 teams, Simple Studies Inc. has become a UN-affiliated organization and now partners with the Department of State’s Overseas Schools branch.”
Frank says her favorite part of Judaism is its focus “on the human community as a whole.”
“I love that Jews are incredibly connected to each other but, just as much, I love that Jews are connected to the world around us. One of my favorite prayers is one my grandma reads at Passover. It’s called ‘I am a Jew.’ One of the lines reads: ‘I am a Jew because in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.’ This selflessness, this inherent love for other people, is a trademark of Judaism. We are a relatively small group and yet, we are ever-present. We have compassion and empathy for other minorities, for other people, and for other nations.”
Dylan Patrick – Campus Leadership Award
Dylan Patrick of Georgetown, Texas, just wrapped up his junior year at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. There, he majors in Political Science & Global Studies and minors in Psychology, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, and National Security Studies.
“The most impactful collegiate leadership activity I've had has been establishing a new student organization, the UNL Thirst Project, that raises funds to build freshwater wells for families in developing communities,” Patrick shared in his application. “Our mission was, and is, to bring awareness to our college community of the 844 million people who lack access to potable water.”
Patrick also works to build connections to his local community, designing curricula on water scarcity for local primary and secondary school students through Beyond School Bells, an initiative dedicated to boosting Nebraskan youth's afterschool engagement.
Patrick, whose upbringing didn’t include Hebrew school or a bar mitzvah, began studying Torah at age 19. Now, he says, “being Jewish means everything.” In his application, he wrote, “To be Jewish is to have received a higher calling guiding me to dedicate my life to serving the globe’s neglected communities. Most challengingly, being Jewish means there are people who have animosities against me without knowing me; yet to be a Jew means I'm obligated to seek justice, prosperity, and peace for them and their families as fervently as for my own. For me, being lucky enough to be a Jew means my life's purpose is to heal the world, one action at a time.
“Unequivocally, to be Jewish is to use the pain of our past to paint a brighter picture of our future for everyone—Jew and non-Jew.
Adele Smolansky – Campus Leadership Award
Adele Smolansky hails from Brooklyn, New York, and is a rising junior at Cornell University, majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering & Computer Science. Smolansky draws inspiration for her leadership work from her younger sister Lara, who suffers from Rett Syndrome.
“As she cannot talk or use her hands, Lara relies on an Eye-Gaze assistive technology where her eyes function as a computer mouse,” Smolansky explains. “To make better progress in school, Lara would try to play online educational games, but playing games designed for healthy kids was always a struggle for her. With my new passion for computer science, I decided to code games to meet her specific needs. I coded a few simple games, but I soon realized that I was not technically able to accomplish my goals. After my first year at Cornell, I felt I had developed enough engineering skills to restart the project.”
Smolansky quickly built a team of people to work with and develop AI-Learners.com, an e-learning platform that helps kids with severe disabilities succeed academically by making learning easier, personalized, and accessible.
Smolansky says tikkun olam is what makes her most proud to be Jewish: “ I vividly remember how accepting, helping, and understanding the community was at our synagogue when we learned that my sister, Lara, has Rett Syndrome. Building AI-Learners was, at least in part, a reflection of that experience.”