Tronfeld West & Durrett is happy to announce the winners of our 2022 Step by Step Scholarship! Click on each of the names below to view the winning applications and learn more about the winners:

Madelyn Boger

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Madelyn’s Winning Submission

When I was ten years old, I found out that my father had a congenital heart defect. I watched anxiously as he was hospitalized, and learned that he would be undergoing surgery. This was a disheartening time for my family, but the nurses at VCU Medical Center supported us throughout the entire process. During my days at the hospital, I carefully observed every action the staff took; their caring nature combined with their skilled knowledge made me confident that my dad would be okay. My sister and I had played doctor at home, with our little plastic stethoscopes and pretend thermometers, but nothing could compare to watching medical professionals take care of our father in real life. I knew almost immediately that I would pursue a career in nursing.

Since my family’s time at VCU Medical Center, I was inspired to apply for an internship opportunity at my own pediatrician’s office; I wanted to help bolster the welcoming atmosphere that I had always experienced as a patient. This is a major goal of mine within the nursing profession. I know that I can be a comforting, positive presence in families’ lives. Even with COVID-19 affecting the world as I knew it, I persevered and landed my spot as a student intern. I know that I will always face challenges; however, I am a very driven individual. When I set my mind to something, nothing can get in the way. This scenario succeeded in demonstrating that I am able to accomplish the goals I set for myself, no matter the circumstances. During my internship, my interest in nursing grew exponentially. From sitting in on check-ups to working in the COVID-19 tent, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined.

I believe that my desire and determination to give back to my community was instilled in me at a young age by my parents. My mother is a Special Education teacher and my father is a Henrico County firefighter, so I grew up watching them help others every day. You can imagine how much I still look up to them. Although my parents’ jobs are obviously quintessential to our community, the employees are widely known as grossly underpaid. This scholarship would be incredibly helpful to my family attempting to pay for my higher education. In addition, I have a younger sister going to college two years after me. My family will have to attempt to pay her tuition as well as mine. I know I will do good by my community by becoming a nurse, I just need the knowledge and skills to get there. This scholarship would help me get one step closer to my dream.

Back in December, I was accepted to my dream school: the University of Virginia School of Nursing. I entered high school knowing exactly where I wanted to go. I held a 4.5 GPA throughout my four years at James River, I filled my schedule with rigorous AP and Dual Enrollment courses, and I worked hard to make a connection with every teacher I had. I rowed on my school’s varsity crew team, ranked first in the state of Virginia in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, served as vice president of the National Honor Society, as well as tutored and mentored freshmen. Furthermore, I held a part-time job as a restaurant host (in addition to my pediatric internship described earlier), working approximately 20 hours per week. How I managed to do all of this: I am genuinely not sure. What I do know is that I worked very hard to get into UVA, and I know that the education I will receive there will make all my hard work well worth it.

Within the next 5 years, I will receive my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Within the next 10 years, I plan to receive my Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) and become a registered Nurse Practitioner. Within the next 20 years, I hope to be well established in my profession, helping members of my community every day. I look forward to the day I will be caring for patients in a professional setting, and I hope to show them the confidence and devotion that I’ve witnessed from the nurses that have come before me. While my father’s sternotomy scar has faded, my memories from the hospital have not. I will always remember when my passion for becoming a nurse was sparked, and I know that this scholarship can help make my passion a reality.

Madelyn’s Comments on Winning

“This is so exciting, and means so much to my family and I.”

Alese Bullock

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Alese’s Winning Submission

I possess an entrepreneurial spirit and am a natural leader. Being a leader is not easy. Leadership requires zeal, tenacity, and consistency; factors that set leaders apart from non-leaders. My mother over the years has quoted John C. Maxwell “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” These words have stayed with me and I strive to live by this leadership principle every day.

Though my mother was a single parent of three by age 20, I am thankful for her early onset of knowledge and wisdom. She instilled the importance of leadership, community, positively impacting the lives of others through service, and continues to encourage me to build a strong educational foundation to pursue my dreams, break down barriers, beat the odds, and to be my own leader. Knowing the way and governing life as a student determined to excel has assisted in developing much of the foundational stamina that I possess to be a leader. I am motivated to make history within my family as the first female to attend college in pursuit of post-secondary education.

I aspire to be a master chef and restaurant owner. I will achieve my goals by demonstrating the nine elements of leadership, hard work, and successfully completing curriculum requirements at a 4-year university. I will enroll in a Business Management degree program to better understand methods for success in establishing and maintaining a business. Following completion of a Business Management degree I will enroll in a culinary program to further my culinary experience. In addition to opening a restaurant, I will utilize my business management and culinary experience to address food disparities and increase access to quality food in low socioeconomic communities to promote healthy lifestyles and nutritional self-care.

My experiences have presented opportunities for me to witness other great leaders and entrepreneurs in action. I have learned that being a leader is more than just being admired; it’s about taking action, being of service to others, and making a difference. I serve as student body spokesperson and am actively going the way by championing and advocating for youth success and regularly seeking out involvement and initiatives aimed at fostering a thriving school environment and community.

I show the way by demonstrating nine integral elements that mirror great leadership: 1) Being honest and moral allows me to build trustworthy relationships with others. 2) Seeking out knowledge to remain insightful and receptive to new approaches of leadership. 3) I am future driven. I routinely set goals that build on the core values of successful organizational structure 4) I am a positive role model and inspire others to grow their leadership potential. My participation in the Delta GEMS mentorship program has helped strengthen my leadership qualities and created a platform for me to become a role model to other students. I sought to establish this mentee relationship in order to be connected to mentors interested in helping young professionals work toward success by creating an inspirational and growth centered environment supportive of my future goal and vision. 5) I offer motivation and encouragement by being supportive and building confidence in a manner that stimulates growth in others. 6) I have always remained true to my commitment to leadership by being fair, accepting of everyone, and welcoming the differences of others. I begin my day on the premise of spreading positivity and am known in many different settings by peers, teachers, and fellow community members for this attribute. 7) Exhibiting courage, perseverance and strong will, even in the face of obstacles, 8) Using sound judgment to make good decisions, and 9) Maintaining creative and ever changing approaches to thinking, planning, and developing new ideas contribute to my ability to lead.

In addition to knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way on my path to leadership and entrepreneurship, I also understand the value of a strong work ethic and consistently work hard to demonstrate this principle. It is important to me to perform to the best of my ability, take initiative, and utilize many of the skills that I have developed to be successful and become established in business. My level of determination and self-motivation sets me apart from my peers.

I acknowledge that my path to entrepreneurship will not be an easy journey. There are significant gender gaps and instances of gender inequality in the culinary profession. Less than one quarter, approximately 24 percent, of restaurant owners or executive chefs are women, making the culinary profession a male majority. Overcoming this statistic will be a challenge I face. I will overcome this challenge by advocating for change in settings lacking diversity and equal opportunities.

Financial challenges related to costs associated with starting a business may also be a factor that impacts my goal attainment. To overcome this challenge I will participate in financial education programs and money management seminars to ensure I am knowledgeable about ways to make sound financial choices and take initiative to explore financial options in support of my career endeavors. I believe that financial education is an important factor in enhancing financial well-being. Leaning on this foundational principle and my commitment to the path of financial maturity I recently began participating in a finance focused education program, Financial Fortitude, that has helped me set and define financial goals, develop a plan to achieve these financial goals, and put my financial plan into action.

Receiving the Tronfeld West & Durrett Scholarship would change the course of my life, both literally and figuratively. As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic the savings intended to satisfy my college expenses have been exhausted and has greatly impacted the ability to recover from this financial setback. At present this monetary deficit threatens my ability to continue my educational endeavors. Receiving this scholarship will afford me the opportunity to continue on the path of academic excellence and assist in closing the financial gap standing in the way of my educational pursuits and dream to attend college.

Alese’s Comments on Winning

“I am honored to have been selected to receive the 2022 Tronfeld, West & Durrett Step By Step Scholarship. Thank you for making this scholarship opportunity possible and for believing in me. Receiving this scholarship unlocks the door to my future and gives me the freedom of choice. With this scholarship I am able to attend the university of my dreams, Hampton University, where I will study Business Management and dive into the world of entrepreneurship. I am truly grateful for Tronfeld, West & Durrett’s commitment to student success.”

Ryan Cumbie

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Ryan’s Winning Submission


Hi my name is Ryan Cumbie, I am an 18 years old high school senior at Amelia County High School. Along with being the valedictorian of my class, I attend the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia as a STEM student. This upcoming May I will be graduating from both schools with an advanced high school diploma and an Associate of Science degree. As a STEM student I enjoy all things math and science related, and have chosen to pursue a career in engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

At the Governor’s School I work with a group of seniors on a research project that involves designing and engineering a device scuba divers can wear while diving that will take in the water surrounding the diver and turn that water into breathable air through a process called electrolysis. Currently the project still has a relatively small scale, but our data that we’ve collected has proven to us that our project is possible with a larger scale, and could revolutionize the way scuba divers breathe underwater. In college, everyone in our current research group is planning on continuing this project with a larger scale since we will have more materials and help available to us then. In college, I also plan on continuing this research project, and start another one that focuses on developing synthetic nerves and muscles that can be used to treat Duane’s Syndrome. Duane’s Syndrome is a congenital and non-progressive type of strabismus due to abnormal development of the 6th cranial nerve. It is characterized by difficulty rotating one or both eyes outward or inward. I was born with this condition, and it currently affects about 1 in 10,000 people worldwide. This goal of mine is very important to me and I look forward to starting it in college.

While I enjoy these research projects and learning academically, I also have a passion for serving in my community through extracurricular activities. In the past I have volunteered through my local church’s vacation bible school, and I have volunteered to package meals for those in need through an organization called Stop Hunger Now. I also volunteer through my school and serve on the Amelia County Public Schools Health and Wellness Committee along with being the student liaison to the school board. This past year, I noticed there was a dire need in my community for soccer coaches through the Amelia County Parks and Recreation Center. At the time I knew little to nothing about soccer and its rules, however I wished to serve the community that has shaped me into the person I am today. So I taught myself the rules and basics of soccer and became a volunteer soccer coach for a U6 team. Along with becoming a volunteer soccer coach, I also became a referee since there was also a shortage of soccer referees in my community. Being a soccer coach and referee has taught me that the youth of the community are one of the most important things one can put time and energy into developing and growing them up. They are the future of the community and it’s important that there are people who help them grow and understand the world around them and how to interact with others. Coaching this team brings a great amount of joy to me knowing that I am helping the youth learn important life skills and lessons such as teamwork, communication, respect, and proper sportsmanship. I plan on continuing to coach and be involved in my community while in college and even after college.

I have many goals for the future while I am in college and even after I graduate. The first of my goals is to continue my research projects and start new ones. I also plan to participate in internships, work studies, and volunteer during college. I wish to gain as much professional and real world experience as I can before entering the workforce. I also have a goal of starting a career either right after I graduate college, or even before I graduate. While I start building my professional career after college, I wish to volunteer in my community and start programs that will help students from elementary to high school who deal with family issues or financial issues better their academic abilities and prepare them for college. This goal of mine is important to me because I am being raised in a single parent household. My parents got divorced while I was in middle school, and since then my two younger sisters and I have been raised by our single father who is struggling financially to raise all three of us and run his own small business in Amelia. Having this familial issue means that unfortunately I have to bear all of the financial burdens that come with college, and cannot count on financial support from my family. Being selected for this scholarship would mean that some of financial burden is lifted off of my shoulders, and allows me to focus on developing myself both academically and as a person. Instead of worrying and stressing out over the debt I will be in during college, this scholarship would allow me to focus more on my research projects, succeeding academically, and starting my volunteer work and future programs that I plan to start in the future.

Ryan’s Comments on Winning

“Getting this scholarship means the world to me, I am from a single parent household so I have to bear all of the financial burden that comes with college. Being selected for this scholarship means that I can focus more on my academics and have less stress over my college debt.
This scholarship will influence my education and career aspirations by having me be more willing to completely focus on my education and future research. With less financial burden I will be more outgoing in my education and future job search knowing I can be less stressed over college debt”.

Adam Willis

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Adam’s Winning Submission

I have always believed the only barrier between any individual and success, is the necessity of determination. The only barrier separating any successful individual from greatness however, is the necessity of empathy. Taking the second point to heart, I have always desired to take part in a career where I can work to uplift the most disadvantaged members of society and positively impact the communities around me. Coupling these ideals with my interest in public policy, international relations, and political ethics, it became apparent to me that a career in law and politics is the best way to bring my dream to fruition. Through participating in a long career of community service and constantly seeking out academic challenges, I am confident that I have both determination and empathy in spades. These qualities will allow me to use my legal and political understanding to emerge as a powerful voice of the people.

Being raised by a retired paramedic and current nurse, the importance of supporting others was instilled within me at a very young age and had a monumental influence on my beliefs. As I have advanced through my academic career, I have strived to relate my passion for service to my studies and extracurriculars as often as possible. From completing service projects as a member of the Boy Scouts of America to volunteering as a swimming coach through the Special Olympics Organization to instill a passion for swim in all athletes, serving my community is at the forefront of my heart. Most recently through an internship, I have worked with the Virginia Poverty Law Center to give impoverished families the support they need by advocating for more progressive policies on the state level and working directly with families to take advantage of social programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Through working with the Virginia Poverty Law Center, I have received a firsthand experience of how legislation impacts communities in a practical sense.

My chosen courses at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School have provided me with a strong foundation for my future career. Classes such AP American Government, AP Comparative Government, and We the People where I have studied how constitutional philosophy interacts with modern issues, have awarded me an expansive and in-depth understanding of the ways in which American institutions interact to confront policy issues. Additionally, I have explored these topics in my free time through completing a month-long internship with a Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, where I was able to sit in on court sessions and study how laws can be utilized to benefit both the victim and the accused. Along with my continued passion for law and politics, another constant in my academic career has been my captivation with a variety of unrelated subjects. Courses such as World Religions taken through VCU and AP Psychology have allowed me to increase my understanding of society and cultural values, which has in turn allowed me to take a more humanistic outlook in my main areas of interest.

As a college student, I intend on continuing to expand my academic horizons and contributing to the communities I become a part of in meaningful ways. I intend to dual major in public policy and international relations, so that I may foster the skills necessary to craft policy that is effective domestically and internationally. Furthermore, studying these topics will allow me to cultivate critical leadership skills, such as working through cultural barriers and perceiving problems from perspectives different than my own. I also plan to continue studying the humanities through my electives. By taking courses such as cultural studies and courses that focus on the exchange of stories, such as creative writing courses, I will be able to better connect with the people I aim to serve.

Finally, I intend to continue engaging with my future communities, through either academic based community service classes if available, or through school organizations, specifically those that seek to aid impoverished individuals.
While I am still in the midst of making my decision on what college I will continue my studies at, I am certain that with the support of Tronfeld West and Durrett, I will be able to choose the option that will ensure my future success in achieving my goals. By Tronfeld West and Durrett placing their confidence in me, I will be able to choose to attend a university based more on the academic freedom it awards its students, the possible connections I could form, and the magnificence of their law and politics program, instead of the cost of tuition.

Following my graduation from college, I will enroll at a law school where I can develop my technical understanding of legal codes and further solidify my understanding of the philosophies behind them. Upon graduating from law school, I will utilize the experiences I have gained through my internship with the Virginia Poverty Law Center to work as a public benefits attorney. This will allow me to become acquainted with the problems facing disadvantaged members of society and satisfy my desire to serve my community. I will continue to work as a public benefits attorney for five years, before running for public office. As a public official, I believe I can generate the most positive change by drawing from my academic studies and career experiences to form policies that improve the standard of living for all people. I plan on starting at the state legislative level and seeing how far my passion will take me regarding future positions.

As someone who is interested in working in the fields of law and politics, the most imposing challenge that I will likely encounter is the volatile atmosphere that political polarization has generated. To overcome this, I intend on validating the experiences that have resulted in the opinions of those I disagree with and maintain a calm composure during discussions. With Tronfeld West and Durrett’s support however, I know I will flourish in spite of any adversities I may face, and make my career plans a reality.

Adam’s Comments on Winning

“Thank you so much for selecting me as a recipient of the Step By Step scholarship. It is truly an honor to receive your support and I am excited to share my academic journey with you. I sincerely hope that during my time at college, I am able to rise above your expectations to further express my gratitude for the choice you have made.
In terms of what it means to win this scholarship, knowing that my educational plan is supported by such a reputable law firm has given me newfound confidence in my ability to accomplish great things while attending college. Furthermore, with Tronfeld, West & Durrett’s support, I will be able to maintain a healthier balance between my studies and working, allowing me more time to delve deeper into interesting topics, participate in more extracurricular activities, and further serve my community. Being selected as a winner of the Step By Step scholarship has also encouraged me to take classes on a variety of subjects through my elective courses, so that I may exit college with a robust education, ready to take on whatever comes next.”

Matthew Woldeab

Matthew’s Winning Submission

Supporting Essay:

My goal is to channel my passion for mathematics and the sciences into solving real world problems by generating clean affordable electricity from solar energy.

This is personal. Some years back I visited villages in Eritrea, East Africa, that had no access to electricity whatsoever. This means people have no access to modern technology and all the advantages it brings. Unfortunately, this is the norm rather than the exception in many parts of the developing world. What’s sad is the fact that countries like Eritrea, have an average solar irradiance of 6.0 kWh/m2 and yet they are starving for energy. I want to help these and other communities to take advantage of the free solar energy they have in their hands. I want to make a difference.

The photovoltaic cells found in today’s typical solar panels convert about 18% to 23% of the light that passes through them into electricity; nearly 80% of possible energy is not utilized. This is what’s putting the cost of solar panels beyond what every low income family can afford. My dream is to cut the cost down by coming up with more efficient means of converting solar energy. I think nanotechnology can bring a breakthrough in this.

Exploring a spectrum of leading-edge solutions and novel techniques for creating solar cells with high efficiencies and lower manufacturing costs is my dream research area. I want to work on the next generation of photovoltaics with increased efficiency, reduced cost, and improved reliability. I want to do research in efficient solar cells that can be used in solar-powered tablets and laptops like solar-powered calculators of today.

My college education in electrical engineering would help me get into programs that would give me the opportunity to work with solar cells and conduct research on efficient energy generation and storage devices.

Before all this, however, I have to overcome my financial difficulties. I lost my father five years ago and my family went down from a happy and vibrant middle income household that used to spend its vacations overseas, to a household with no income other than my late father’s savings and social security benefits. On top of this I have a nonverbal autistic sister that’s totally dependent on my mother’s care 24/7.

This has left me with no means to attend the colleges of my choice even though I am accepted. I am applying for this scholarship, hoping it will help me get closer to the amount I need to afford the program I desire.

I’ve been through adversities and went through rough times, but if I get the financial means I am ready to make a change and pursue my goal of making a positive impact on the world by working on free and accessible solar power.

The past five years were tough. My dad’s death has bruised me and left me with scars: emotional as well as with my grades. However, it has also changed me, it has made me more resilient. Adversity might have affected my school performance, but I am determined that it does not define me forever. I have found strength in a tough situation. I am more determined to take the negative events of the past and turn them into positive to help needy communities like myself wherever they might be. I now have a different perspective on life. I am ready to study hard, earn my engineering degree, and be of help to my community and the world at large.

I’m confident that I will succeed in college. I am passionate and will do whatever it takes to achieve my life’s dreams. Of course I don’t have financial means to pay my way through college, but I am hopeful that by reading my essay you will empathize and will help me with the scholarship. Given the opportunity, I will prove to everyone that I am worthy of getting a dream education to prepare me to serve others. I am determined to bounce back and leap past the obstacles and challenges my dad’s death threw at me and work hard to successfully pursue my engineering studies.

I have found strength in a tough situation. I am now ready and more determined to take the negative events of the past and turn them into positive. I now have a different perspective on life. I am ready to study hard, earn my engineering degree, and be of help to my family and my community.

Thank you for understanding and your help.