By Maylan L. Studart
Joel-Anthoney Bossous didn’t want to open the email from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation until he received all of his college response letters. He wanted to have to make only one big decision.
But after leaving the Nassau County Courthouse after a mock trial competition on Feb. 14 and telling his parents he got the email, they asked him to open it.
That’s when the 18-year-old Sewanhaka High School senior found out he was named a Coca-Cola Scholar, a prestigious award given to 150 students annually from a national pool of 200,000 high schoolers.
“At first, I was going to wait to open [the email] with the college letters but my parents convinced me and I was shocked,” said Bossous. “I was so appreciative because out of all of the 200,000 people around the country, for me to be part of that cohort, I was definitely happy and appreciative.” He said the selection process has been a humbling experience.
Bossous was recognized Tuesday night at the Sewanhaka Central High School District Board of Education meeting in a full room of about 30 spectators. His parents and NAACP youth adviser flanked him but had to give way to people who wanted to shake his hand.
“This is a very, very special honor this evening,” School Superintendent Ralph Ferrie said as he described Bossous’ accomplishments. “I’ve known Joel for all six years he’s been in Sewanhaka and I was thankful to help support his candidacy and know he will represent us very well in whichever school he chooses to attend next.”
“I’m ecstatic,” Joel Bossous, Joel-Anthoney’s father, said after the presentation. “I’m very proud of him. I think God has been so gracious to us. So many students were so well qualified and deserving, it was only by God’s grace and tenacity, devotion and dedication this boy has that allowed him to win this scholarship and I’m grateful to God’s grace.”
His mother, Tatiana Bossous, said: “I’m flabbergasted, I’m amazed, I’m in awe. Every milestone he has I have contractions; it’s like being in labor and giving birth again.”
The 31st class of Coca-Cola Scholars will each receive a $20,000 college scholarship and join a network of more than 6,000 alumni. Joel-Anthoney is one of 150 who will fly to Atlanta to the all-expenses-paid Scholars Weekend conference on April 4-7 for “a time of inspiration, fun, and camaraderie,” according to the foundation.
Scholars will be honored at the 31st annual Scholars Banquet and participate in a Leadership Development Institute, which helps scholars develop a leadership philosophy. They may even get to tour Coca-Cola headquarters.
The winners were evaluated on leadership, academics and service, according to the foundation.
Joel-Anthoney said he is excited to go to the conference and looks forward to engaging and interacting with the other scholars. But what he feels is most important is what he will learn there to bring home to his community.
“Definitely aside from the scholarship’s monetary value and experience, I think I’d like to bring back a piece of what the foundation stands for,” he said.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation’s goal is to help make the world a better place through investment in exceptional high school students who are dedicated to leadership, service, and action that positively affects others.
Joel-Anthoney is involved in many organizations that seek to benefit different community groups. He’s active in the NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, the E.R.A.S.E Racism organization, he is an American Legion Boy State Lieutenant Governor and a music and youth leader, drummer and finance committee member of the Faith Love Praise Chuch of God.
He’s won the first prize in the Theodore Roosevelt Oratorical competition and the American Legion Nassau County Oratorical Region competition, competed in the Walt Whitman Poetry Contest and more. For his neighbors, he has helped distribute food to the needy and shoveled snow for the elderly.
“You don’t do it to put it on your resume, but you do it to help your community to make the world a better place,” Joel-Anthoney said.
He opened his email, but he is still piling up college response letters to open on a day in April.