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Updated: MCA honors 'Teen Character Awards' recipients

Accolades were bestowed during McLean Day celebration
The McLean Citizens Association gave four local students Teen Character Awards on May 20, 2023, during the 25th annual award ceremony at McLean Day at Lewinsville Park. Pictured (from left) are MCA president Scott Spitzer; award winners Alex Abraham, Sebestian Herbolsheimer, Kasim Khapra and Tatum King; Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville); and MCA Youth & Education Committee chairman Jim Beggs.

[Update 5/22: Awards were presented on May 20; photo of recipients has been attached.]

The McLean Citizens Association will give four local youths Teen Character Awards in the 25th annual award ceremony at McLean Day on May 20 at 3 p.m. at Lewinsville Park.

Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), School Board member Elaine Tholen (Dranesville District) and MCA president Scott Spitzer will present the awards.

The awards honor teens who demonstrate outstanding character. MCA will recognize teens who have, on their own and without compensation, helped out in their neighborhood or community.

This year’s awardees are:

Alex Abraham, a McLean High School junior who has volunteered at Share of McLean for several years. Abraham helps stock the food pantry, delivers bread donations from Giant, provides support after major food drives and assists during distribution days.

His supervisor at Share wrote that Abraham always is on time, proactive, enthusiastic and hard-working. She often relies on him to lead new volunteers because he is an inspiring role model for other teens.

For the past two years, Abraham has taken over responsibility for running an annual coat drive for Virginia Hospital Center. He worked with Dynamic Gymnastics and Vinson Hall Retirement Community to advertise and run coat drives within those businesses, and coordinated with Chesterbrook Elementary School to reuse items that were never claimed at its lost-and-found area.

He also arranged a neighborhood coat drive via advertising on a neighborhood list serve to collect coats and winter accessories. Through his efforts this year, Abraham was able to collect about 250 new and used coats for all ages, and more than 150 winter accessories, for the hospital’s pediatric unit.

Sebastian Herbolsheimer, a Langley High School senior who last year offered to join the McLean Volunteer Fire Department as a volunteer EMT, but the department had no vacancies. Instead, he was accepted by the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, where he has contributed an average of 66 hours a month.

An Eagle Scout, Herbolsheimer also serves as Junior Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 1916. These activities demonstrate caring, trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, respect and citizenship, his nominators said.

Kasim Khapra, a Potomac School sophomore who is founder/CEO of the non-profit MyPy Coding. The organization aims to bring equitable access to a computer-science education by removing all associated barriers, including cost, approachability and accessibility. It accomplishes this by providing free, online one-on-one coding lessons to students in grades 2-8.

Khapra’s initiative targets children from underprivileged backgrounds in Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and beyond. MyPy Coding started during the pandemic, when a family friend asked Khapra to teach her fourth-grader how to code via Zoom. Soon, he was teaching multiple students and recruited friends with coding skills to tutor.

Khapra developed a curriculum and methods to make coding approachable, rewarding and fun. Most MyPy tutors are former students, which the organization encourages as a way to “pay it forward” for this free experience. The initiative reflects Khapra’s selflessness, generosity and creativity, nominators said.

Tatum King, a McLean High School junior who has volunteered for the last six years with the McLean Little League Challenger program, which provides an opportunity for children with special needs to play baseball. This year, she has served as Field Manager, the most significant role that can be performed by a teen.

From 8 to 10 a.m. each Saturday during the spring and fall seasons, King explains how Challenger games will work for her 11- to 12 year-old group, what the buddies’ roles and responsibilities will be and how buddies should keep special-needs players safe.

She also is responsible for organizing players, ensuring special-needs players are safe and managing the game, including calling players to the plate, keeping buddies on task and handling other situations that come up on the field. The special-needs students have an opportunity to play a sport that only is available to them because the special-needs league exists.