Berryville, VA, May 11, 2021 – Created to recognize the student with the most leadership potential from Clarke County High School’s Class of 2021, the Clarke County Education Foundation (CCEF) is pleased to announce the first ever nominees for the Rosemont Leadership Award. The Rosemont Leadership Award is the CCEF’s newest and largest scholarship to date, with the recipient receiving a $10,000 award. The scholarship models the Star Leadership Award, a scholarship from the Byrd Family of Newspapers, which was given locally for many years and was discontinued in 2018. The award will be presented June 6th, 2021 at CCHS’s Senior Recognition Night, which will be held virtually this year.

“When the Star Leadership Award ended, it left a huge gap in the recognition of students in the senior class each year. Not only was the scholarship a huge help financially to one student, but it gave students in the graduating class something to aspire to and was truly such an honor to even be nominated.” said Executive Director of the CCEF, Beth Williams. 

Biff Genda, owner of Historic Rosemont in Berryville, approached the foundation with the idea of starting this new scholarship. He offered to donate $5,000 toward the scholarship each year in exchange for the CCEF matching that amount, making the scholarship a total of $10,000 annually. He also generously offered to open Rosemont to the foundation for its annual gala, free of charge, to assist the foundation in its fundraising efforts. 

The scholarship is being judged by a 4-person committee of local community members. This year the committee members are Johnny Milleson, retired president of the Bank of Clarke County; Gwendolyn Malone, a retired Clarke County Public Schools teacher; Tony Roper, Clarke County Sheriff, and Lauren McKay Cummings, executive director of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.

The teachers and staff of Clarke County High School voted on the top 4 leaders from the Class of 2021. A point based system was then used to select the final 4 nominees.  Those nominees are (in alphabetical order): 

Isreal Terrence Preston, Jr.

Isreal Terrence Preston Jr. is in the 12th grade at Clarke County High School. He will be attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute after graduation to study statistics and hopes to one day become a data analyst. Before that step in his life, “he just wants to graduate high school and do well in the organizations he is a member of.” He is a lay reader, an acolyte, and a member of the vestry at Grace Escipopal Church. At school, he participates in the Clarke County Screaming Eagle Marching band and Indoor drumline while also being the President of the National Honor Society. In June of this year, he expects to be considered for his Eagle Scout Award. He is overall an energetic person who loves to teach and help others.

Maria Sonoski

Maria moved from Loudoun County to Clarke County six years ago. Throughout her high school years, she ran on both the Track & Field and Cross Country teams. Besides running, Maria loves cooking, being crafty, and serving the community. This summer, she started a service project sewing face masks to donate to those in need. “As for academics, this school has given me endless opportunities in the field of health sciences. Not only have I challenged myself by doing clinicals and learning skills for a nurse aide certification, but I also serve as the fundraising chair for our HOSA organization.” said Maria. She is a first-generation college student, and will be going to the University of Virginia in the fall to study nursing.

Ben Thompson

Ben has ​enjoyed being an active member in his school and community while growing up in Clarke County. Before coming to Clarke County High School, Ben attended Powhatan School in Boyce and played many seasons of Clarke County Youth Sports. At CCHS, he has been involved with numerous student groups and teams, including Scholastic Bowl, FIRST Robotics, JV and Varsity Baseball, National Honor Society and InterAct Club. As a member of the Scholastic Bowl team, he has helped the team appear three times in the state tournament and has served as team captain this past season. He also played a key role on the FIRST Robotics mechanical team, building the robot and operating it in competition. He has taken on many community service roles, including being a project manager for InterAct Club (CCHS’s community service club) as well as organizing multiple community service projects such as a local river cleanup. Academically, he has challenged himself by pursuing an IB Diploma, advanced summer coursework, and math competitions. In his free time, he enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing and hiking. After he graduates, he plans to attend Virginia Tech University as a member of the Honors College to study mechanical engineering and pursue a career in automotive engineering.

Hannah Ventura

Hannah moved to Clarke County six years ago, and in her words, “throughout my time here I have taken advantage of every opportunity possible.” As a student athlete she balances rigorous academics and sports throughout the school year. She has been a member of CCHS’s Cross Country team for four years, serving as team captain and a varsity runner. Hannah has also competed as part of our school’s Track and Field team. She is a member of the National Honor Society and DECA chapter, this year serving as the CCHS DECA Chapter President. She has also competed at the international level for the DECA club. Through her involvement in business CTE classes and DECA, she has learned more about the field of business and developed her interests. In the fall, she will attend the University of Virginia, majoring in commerce where she has been selected to join the commerce cohort as a first-year student. Hannah is a first-generation college student.

The Clarke County Education Foundation, established in 1991, is an independent public charity dedicated to promoting, expanding, and augmenting the educational opportunities for students and staff in the Clarke County Public Schools, by generating private support and involvement to enhance these publicly-maintained services. The CCEF has provided more than $2.8 million in student scholarships, teacher grants, system demonstration grants, and donor-defined projects through a combination of fund-raising and endowment income since its inception.  For more information visit

For more information regarding this scholarship, The Rosemont Leadership Award, how to donate to this fund or information regarding the CCEF, please contact Beth Williams, Clarke County Education Foundation Executive Director, at 540-955-6103 or

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