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Northwood senior wins Byrd Award

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Cami DeBusk

Cami DeBusk, a senior at Northwood High School, has been presented a $20,000 college scholarship.

Northwood High School senior Cami DeBusk will have a lot of help toward her goal of becoming a pediatrician.

DeBusk has been awarded a $20,000 college scholarship from the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. Leadership Award program.

“I am honored,” DeBusk said of the award. “I’m really excited. I was really nervous going to the interview. I wasn’t expecting to win.”

Students chosen for the award must go to an interview in Richmond, and DeBusk said there were about 11 people in the room.

“It was very intimidating,” said the soft-spoken Saltville native. “They asked questions about how I help people in the community and how I would help in the future.”

DeBusk said she and a classmate started the Comfort Closet at Northwood High when they were freshmen. The program provides hygiene items to students in need. A cash donation from Utility, she said, used to stock the closet began the program.

“People have recently started using it,” she said. Use was limited over the past two years with students often restricted to distance learning from home. “They say it’s really nice to have something like that when you need it.”

She plans to study at Emory & Henry College and VCOM (Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine) in Blacksburg and hopes to practice in Smyth County.

“Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to help people and, ultimately, healthcare was what I wanted to do,” DeBusk said. “I really love kids and that’s mostly why I decided to be a pediatrician. Kids need someone to look up to. I think they look up to doctors. I’ve always looked up to my doctors.”

At school, DeBusk is a member of the Beta Club, FFA, student council and the Foreign Language Club. She is studying Spanish in order to be able to communicate with her patients if needed.

The Harry F. Byrd, Jr. Leadership Award is open to high school seniors who are nominated by a high school in Virginia. Students must demonstrate academic accomplishment and embody excellence of character, leadership, and good character. One winner is selected from each congressional district.

DeBusk is the second Northwood student to win the award. It was also presented to Ashleigh Danielle Waddle in 2002-03.

DeBusk’s interview in Richmond took place on Jan. 26. Recipients will be presented their awards at a ceremony in Richmond on March 17.

The mission of the program is to nurture public service, which is critical to the preservation of American democracy, by awarding Virginia’s high school seniors who demonstrate a combination of excellence of character, qualities of leadership, devotion to duty and academic accomplishment with a $20,000 award.

DeBusk said her parents, Ben and Karen DeBusk, are proud of her winning the award and excited about how it will help with her education.

“I’m really glad to have won,” she said. “This will really help with my college expenses.”

Harry F. Byrd, Jr. Leadership Award

In 1994, former U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Jr. established the award program because of his deep conviction that a strong system of public education is essential to democratic government, and that cultivating leadership among young citizens advances both education and government. It was Sen. Byrd’s hope that this award will create a desire for excellence among students; enhance student self-assurance by the Selection Committee’s vote of confidence; and provide recognition and financial assistance to students with outstanding leadership qualities.

The first awards were made in the spring of 1995. Although it was Byrd’s hope that these young people will choose to remain in the commonwealth for their higher education, this is not a requirement, and there is no restriction on the use of the award. The University of Virginia Foundation administers the trust.

Byrd spent 36 years in elected public office – 18 years in the Virginia State Senate (1948-1965) and another 18 years in the U.S. Senate (1965-1983).

At 16, Byrd entered the Virginia Military Institute and later attended the University of Virginia to study government. Born into a political family -- his father having been Governor of Virginia and a U.S. Senator --- he attended nine national political conventions, the first at 17 (Democratic 1932) and was elected to the Virginia Senate at 32.

During World War II, he served as executive officer of a patrol bombing squadron in the Central and Western Pacific as a lieutenant commander in the Navy.

In the U.S. Senate, Byrd was active as a member of the Armed Services Committee and made fact-finding trips to the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, North Africa, and Vietnam. Byrd also served on the Finance Committee, which has primary authority for all legislation dealing with taxes, trade, and Social Security. Byrd was elected to office nine times, seven as a Democrat and twice as an Independent. He is the only person in the history of the U.S. Senate to be twice elected as an Independent, and, in 1970, received more votes than the combined total of his two opponents - one a Democrat and one a Republican. He retired from the U.S. Senate in 1983.In his business life, Byrd was editor and publisher of The Winchester Star, Winchester and the Daily News-Record, Harrisonburg. He was an active member of the board of directors after his retirement in 2001 from the Daily News-Record and in 2011 from The Winchester Star.

Born Dec. 20, 1914, he died at his home in Winchester, July 30, 2013.

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