HomeFeaturesFranklin Towne senior earns Christa Lewis Scholarship

Franklin Towne senior earns Christa Lewis Scholarship

Mike Grubb, Director of Sports and Athletics at Philadelphia Parks and Recreation; Grace Dakuginow; Jodi Cohen-Levine, president of Lonnie Cohen Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Franklin Towne Charter High School senior and girls soccer outside back Grace Dakuginow is this year’s recipient of the Christa Lewis Scholarship, sponsored by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Soccer and the Lonnie Cohen Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Christa Lewis was a 16-year-old St. Hubert honor student stabbed to death in 1996 by a fellow teenager at a carnival in Russo Park, Torresdale and Cottman avenues.

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Lonnie Cohen was a Bustleton native who was rec leader at Hillside Recreation Center in Manayunk. He died at work in 2021.

This $1,500 scholarship is awarded in Christa’s name to a worthy female soccer player who has played youth soccer in the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Soccer League, given back to her community and exemplifies Christa’s spirit.

Grace played soccer, helped with the peewee programs and served as a summer camp youth counselor, swim instructor and lifeguard.

“We have seen her come since being a young participant to becoming a part of the staff,” said Parks and Rec Program Manager Jamie Miller, who nominated her for the award. “She’s been into soccer as long I have known her, both for Parks and Rec and for Franklin Towne. I nominated her because I strongly believe she deserved the award as she’s a natural with mentoring younger participants, always shows an initiative to help where needed and is quick to volunteer.”

A Franklin Towne student from elementary through high school, Grace plans to attend either West Chester or Kutztown University.

“I believe I was nominated for this award because I’m involved in my community,” Grace said. “And I was a pretty good role model on my high school team as an upperclassman.”

Rebecca Gilborges, the school’s vocational instructor and girls soccer coach, said, “Grace is a natural leader on the field. All of the girls look up to her. That was evident from day one. And she kept that up the entire season.”

Franklin Towne athletic director John Cepparulo said, “Grace has commendable leadership skills, which seems to inspire her teammates.” 

“I lacked confidence during my freshman and sophomore years. My junior year was a turning point,” Grace said. “I became surer of myself, whether on the soccer field, at home or in school. I know whatever I’m committing to, I will try my best.”

Kurt Bauer, her creative writing teacher, helped instill some of that confidence. 

“I earned the Writer’s Gift Award,” she said. “And I felt like I was really good at something.”

Grace, a Port Richmond resident, credits her success to the supportive network at Franklin Towne and her active participation in community service. 

“I have a lot of great mentors and teachers who have said that whatever work you put in, you’re going to get results,” she said. “Through that, I learned how to work hard, study and try my best.”

Grace’s sophomore biology teacher had previously taught her in elementary school and her seventh-grade science class. This continuity of mentorship from elementary through high school has impacted Grace. 

“Having Mr. (Nicholas) Caruso see me grow means a lot, and he’s always there for guidance if I ever need to talk,” she said. 

Grace recently became involved with Best Buddies, a program focusing on inclusivity and creating friendships between students and children with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s all about making sure everyone feels welcomed, involved and included,” she said.

Grace’s dedication to soccer, leadership and commitment to serving others embodies the spirit and legacy of Christa Lewis. Gilborges, several Franklin Towne Charter seniors and Grace’s mother attended the awards ceremony, cheering her on as she accepted the award.

“I will continue being active in my community, like lifeguarding throughout college. If Coach Gilborges ever needs a helping hand, I would be willing to help her out,” she said. ••

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