Two Palmyra graduates recipients of new scholarships

Zamel Robinson, with mother Ana and sister Zoraya, received the Dr. Clarence B. Jones "I Have a Dream" Scholarship for male students committed to advocacy and public service.
Zamel Robinson, with mother Ana and sister Zoraya, received the Dr. Clarence B. Jones "I Have a Dream" Scholarship for male students committed to advocacy and public service. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 15, 2013

Rebecca Hill, 18, quietly persevered through the death of one parent and the illness of the other.

Zamel Robinson, also 18, is driven to help those in need.

These two young people, who graduated from Palmyra High School on Friday night, have been selected as the recipients of two new scholarships created in honor of two 1949 alumni of their school.

The $500 scholarships are being sponsored by the Dr. James Still Preservation Trust, named for the 19th century self-taught herbalist and healer known as the black doctor of the Pines. Great-great-granddaughter Valerie Still, a former basketball professional and author, heads the trust and was a speaker at Palmyra's graduation. She lives in Palmyra.

Hill is receiving the Gwendolyn A. Ricketts Resiliency Scholarship, an award for female students who are single mothers or are being raised by single mothers and who have overcome hardship. It is named for Valerie Still's mother, who raised 10 children and died in 2010.

Robinson is being awarded the Dr. Clarence B. Jones "I Have a Dream" Scholarship, given to male students committed to advocacy and public service. Jones, 82, was a confidant of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and is credited with writing several paragraphs of his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Palmyra principal Joseph Martin said both are highly deserving students.

"Rebecca is someone who has really pushed herself and tried hard," Martin said. "She also is someone who has endured through tough times and challenged and persevered."

"Zamel," he said, "is an overall good-hearted kid who does the right thing. I think he's going to be a mover and a shaker."

"I just like to help people out," Robinson said. "When I see somebody in need, I like to step up and help."

That includes people at school and taking it upon himself to clean up around Beverly, where he lives.

A lover of history, Robinson, who wrote for the school paper, said he was thrilled to be given a scholarship named for the man who helped pen King's famous speech. A baseball player who helped Palmyra win its division this year for the first time since 1976, he plans to study mass communications at the University of Bridgeport.

Hill's father died of liver failure when she was a freshman. He had hepatitis, she said. Her mother is a survivor of breast cancer and a brain aneurysm who is disabled. But she is also her daughter's strength.

"I wouldn't be here without her," Hill said.

Hill is strong, too. Even in the saddest times, "I tried really hard not to let it show," she said.

When she was little, she preferred playing to studying. "Now I focus a lot more on school," she said.

A soccer cocaptain who served on student government, she is going to Richard Stockton College.

Winning a scholarship took her by surprise.

"I don't categorize myself as standing out from others," she said. "But it's pretty awesome others thought so."


Contact Rita Giordano at 856-779-3893, rgiordano@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @ritagiordano.

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