Black Dirt Scholarships announced

Warwick. Amelia Brown heads for Princeton and Neuroscience. Erin Eicher will study cartooning at the School of Visual Arts. Sophia de Jong will be at SUNY Oneonta studying physical therapy.

| 05 Jul 2022 | 12:26

Three Black Dirt Scholarship winners were announced recently by Pine Island Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber awards three scholarships of $1500 each to students who demonstrate a commitment to and involvement in community volunteer service or community work experience. Applicants are evaluated on their character and level of dedication to the service of others.

This year’s winners are:

Amelia Brown

Amelia will attend Princeton University, where she will pursue a course of study in neuroscience. She is a member of National Honor Society and served as Student Government treasurer, 2018-2022. She has worked as an unpaid intern at Hackensack University Medical Center and as a lifeguard at American Pools and WVHS, where she was CPR/AED Certified. She has been awarded the Sojourner Truth Award for Creative Arts (2021), the University of Rochester Frederick B Douglass & Susan B. Anthony Award (2021), the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (2021), the Director’s Award for Orchestra (2021), and the Orlowski Science Research Scholarship Junior Award (2021).

Amelia is an acclaimed violinist and concertmaster and co-founder of Hudson Valley Ebony Strings. A self-employed violin teacher, she offers private lessons.

In her essay, she said, “When I give to the community, whether that is through playing my violin at the library or volunteering at a local soup kitchen, I am giving people the gift of comfort and happiness. When someone receives that gift, they are, in return, giving me a renewed sense of satisfaction and contentment with life.”

Erin Eicher

Erin will attend the School of Visual Arts, where she plans to achieve a BFA in Cartooning. She took a three-week college program during July of 2021, a live figure drawing class, a class about traditional inking, and a class about comic making. By the end of the three weeks she had created and printed an eight-page graphic novel, available to read on her website, As a senior project she created a 12-page graphic novel that she self-published in June 2022.

Erin is a member of the National Honor Society and has tutored students after school and at lunch. She also is a member of the Meister Singers and Treble Choir, which caroled around the Village of Warwick during the winter, performed as a pre-show to the Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and with the Yale Whiffenpoofs, the world’s oldest a cappella group. Erin has received the RIT Innovation and Creativity Award, the PTA Reflections Award-States Level, and the Lower Hudson Region Media Arts Teachers Association President’s Award.

In her essay, Erin wrote, “Following graduation from the School of Visual Arts, my career goal is to write and illustrate graphic novels that benefit my community. I want to make a change in young kids’ lives parallel to how my favorite author/illustrators have helped me grow as a person, as well as an artist. I aspire to be the-incentive of young budding artists, just as my favorite authors have for me. Additionally, I believe that successful people recognize that the unique similarities and differences in community members benefit the entire community, and I intend for my artwork to be inclusive.”

Sophia de Jong

Sophia will pursue a course of study in physical therapy at SUNY Oneonta. As an honor roll student at S.S. Seward High School, Sophia was active in a wide variety of programs. She was a contender for the HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth) New York East Leadership program, President’s Award recipient, High School and Middle School Student Council. Meanwhile she helped to organize dinners, thrift shop, events at Sugar Loaf Church; she recorded basketball games and the Game Book at school sports events; she helped set up and cleaned up after school dances, Tricky tray events, and school games; and she helped teachers in class.

In her essay, Sophia wrote “To me, success is all determined by character. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Steven Spielberg as well as countless others should be recognized for their ability to realize that they were more than the life they were given. That the bad days did not define them. Their passion and character drove them to take the extra steps in life and turn themselves and their passions into something greater. Each of these individuals had a vision and stopped at nothing to make that dream come true. I believe that even if they failed at creating something they still tried which is beyond admirable. This is one of the biggest aspects of a successful individual. This is the best lesson to take away from individuals like them as they are proof of just what success is.”

Since its founding in 1961, the mission of the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce ( has been to promote prosperity in the business community, support and enhance the uniqueness of the region, and to enrich the lives of all residents through community spirit and cooperation.