Neshaminy graduate Kelli Kowalick didn’t have time for the common teenage ailment known as “senioritis.” She was too busy finishing her final year of high school on the highest note possible.
Whether she was balancing 12 advanced placement courses, trading her lunch period for an extra class, serving as co-captain for the girls soccer and basketball teams or volunteering with the Langhorne Chapter of Days for Girls International, Kowalick thrived at everything she put her mind to.
And her hard work is paying off.
Recently, Kowalick received the Rotary Club of Shady Brook’s Phil Huber Memorial Scholarship – a $2,500 cash award, as well as a certificate of accomplishment and recognition. The club’s annual award was renamed this year in memory of Rotarian Huber, whose family’s generous donation helped increase the value of the 2020 scholarship.
During a socially distant ceremony, Kowalick was presented with the award as her parents Robin and Greg, and Huber’s wife Kathy, proudly watched.
“I’m so honored to have received it. It’s such a great award,” Kowalick said, thanking the Huber family. “It was so nice to meet them. I am so humbled.”
All Neshaminy seniors were eligible to submit a scholarship application, which asked them to detail their academic, extracurricular and community service accomplishments. Kowalick’s endeavors set her apart from her fellow applicants.
In school, Kowalick finished first in her graduating class with a 4.68 weighted GPA. In addition to taking dual-enrollment classes at Gwynedd Mercy, she was a member of the National Honor Society, the Future Business Leaders of America, the Interact Club (a Rotary-affiliated organization), Model UN and the French National Honor Society.
She was also a four-year varsity letter winner on both the girls soccer and basketball teams, and was named to the first All-SOL team in soccer and second All-Bucks County team in basketball.
Outside of school, Kowalick’s activities were focused on Days for Girls International and its Langhorne Chapter, for which she aided in making reusable menstrual care kits that were distributed to girls worldwide in less-developed countries, and locally where the need existed. Each kit provides three years of sustainable products, sparing environmental waste and allowing young girls to spend additional hours in school that they would have otherwise been forced to miss without such supplies.
“With my schedule, I’m super busy with sports, so Days for Girls really allowed me to do stuff at home, do it on my own time rather than having to go somewhere. It allowed me to have more access to things,” Kowalick said. “And doing community service really makes me feel good, especially with Days for Girls. I feel like I’m empowering other girls in other countries.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Days for Girls converted its operations to making masks for essential workers and locals. The organization made more than 22,000 masks and donated 300 masks weekly to several hospitals, including St. Mary Medical Center.
On a daily basis, Kowalick ironed fabric, traced and cut masks, drove to pick up supplies and delivered the finished masks. Over the last two weeks, she delivered 100 masks to the African Family Health Organization in Philadelphia.
With the Interact Club, Kowalick helped make blankets for homeless teens, baked cookies for holiday baskets, made Christmas boxes for children in Africa, wrote “thank you” letters to military veterans overseas and pulled together Disney gear for a student the club sponsored to visit Walt Disney World last year. And when a school crossing guard was struck by a car, Kowalick inspired the club to put together a care package for him.
Simultaneously, Kowalick worked two part-time jobs. She was a youth party host at the Newtown Athletic Club, where she guided activities, served food and cleaned up for parties; and started her own tutoring business to assist middle schoolers in math several times a week.
In the fall, Kowalick plans to attend Tufts University and enroll in the School of Engineering, where she will pursue biomedical, environmental or mechanical engineering. Potential career plans include simplifying reconstructive surgery (she was born without an ear and has had five procedures); working with renewable energy sources to get rid of fossil fuel usage; or becoming a Disney Imagineer and designing roller coasters.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I have a lot of options, so I’m just going to explore when I get to college and see what I like best.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org