ISSUE NO. 6
Megan Byrne's concern for youth emerged as a camp counselor when she realized that "children's problems have no economic or social barriers" and wanted to see what she could do to enrich children's lives.
The students' work in the College Park Scholar's Advocates for Children program was rewarded July 23 when they received The Future Award at the National Press Club. They were the only student recipients in the nation.
The two sophomores attended the National Parents Day Coalition ceremony. The Lincoln, Neb.,-based group recognizes the achievements of both organizations and private citizens in improving the lives of children and families.
Kurlychek and Byrne were given small, engraved marble models of the Washington Monument. "I didn't really need an award to tell me I had done a good job," Byrne said. "I had seen it in the things kids achieve, in their smiles."
Kurlychek met First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton the day after the ceremony at a special White House reception for everyone honored by the coalition. She described the encounter as something she never would forget. It came as a welcome surprise, she said.
"It was recognition for something that I love doing anyway," Kurlychek said. "I see my work as more of a blessing to me, what they give to me and my day."
Besides the Advocates for Children Program, Kurlychek, from Edgewater, Md., has been involved with the Children's Developmental Clinic and the Toys-for-Tots charity. She sold Valentine's Day baskets and donated the profits to a local children's hospital.
She also created Easter Baskets for needy children and was a tour guide on campus for a group of students from Paint Branch Elementary School.
Byrne, from Ridgewood, N.J., aided in the creation of the adopt-a-school program for College Park Scholars, headed the same program for the Pan Hellenic Association, tutored a high school freshman and attended the Stand for Children March in Washington last June.
Both students, through the College Park Scholars, went to the State Senate in Annapolis to lobby for increased research of Ritalin, the controversial drug which has long been used to calm hyperactive children.
When asked how they thought they improved the quality of life for children, both gave similar responses. Byrne said she was trying to give the kids "someone to look up to."
Kurlychek said that "just being there as a constant in a child's life who doesn't have a constant" was one of the best things she could do for them.
Byrne, a secondary education and history major, said that a decade from now she sees herself working for the rights of juvenile criminals and juvenile rehabilitation clinics.
Kurlychek, an early childhood education major, wants to be a kindergarten teacher, a wife and a mother. "It may sound trite, but that's what I want to do," she said.
There is a quote from Charles Dickens on the front of Kurlychek's dorm room door, which exemplifies what the two are trying to accomplish: "It is not a slight thing when those, who are so fresh from God, love us."