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Minnechaug senior named region’s first Coca-Cola Scholar

May 29, 2014 |

Casey Lu Simon-Plumb makes bug spray and repellant from native ingredients during her time with Wilderness Emergency Medicine Program in Belize.
Photo courtesy of Casey Lu Simon-Plumb

By Katelyn Gendron

HAMPDEN – Casey Lu Simon-Plumb will be the first to tell you she’s not your average high school senior at Minnechaug Regional High School ’14; rather, she believes her unique upbringing is what’s made her Western Massachusetts’ first ever Coca-Cola Foundation Scholar.

“I’ve had an a-typical upbringing so I never saw myself as fitting in [to some kind of mold] … I live in Hampden, I’m Jewish, and live in a mostly Christian community. I was adopted from China when I was 11 months old and I have two mothers,” she explained. “I feel that a lot of these separate parts are my identity, not just one part of me [defines me].

“My parents [Janet Plumb and Suzanne Simon] have always encouraged me to believe that anything is possible,” she continued, crediting them for her decision to apply for the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation’s annual scholarships.

“Coca-Cola Scholars are a remarkable group of leaders with a steadfast commitment to educational excellence, leadership and service to their schools and communities. Casey exemplifies exactly what it means to be a Coca-Cola Scholar with her work as founder of the Eco Club at Minnechaug High School and her work as a Wilderness First Responder with the Wilderness Emergency Medicine program in Belize. She’s served with diligent leadership throughout high school on the student council, as an officer in the National Honor Society and as a contributing member of several other organizations, all while maintaining a 4.0-plus GPA. We are excited about watching Casey become one of the brilliant leaders of our future,” Ericia Ward-Williams, program manager, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Inc., said.

“The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation supports more than 1,400 college students each year, with annual scholarships of $3.4 million through two nationally recognized programs on behalf of the Coca-Cola System. Scholarship recipients excel academically and in service to others. Most Coca-Cola Scholars share a passion for social justice and many have overcome tremendous challenges to pursue their dreams,” according to information released by the Foundation.

Simon-Plumb is the only student from Massachusetts this year awarded the Foundation’s four-year achievement-based $20,000 scholarship. She joined more than 140 scholars from 43 states in Atlanta, Ga., for a weekend-long series of events last month, which included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a guest speaker at Coca-Cola Scholars Banquet.  

“All 150 scholars from around the nation were flown down to Atlanta’s Coca-Cola headquarters and we participated in many events including leadership development, surrounding the theme of the weekend, which was vulnerability, and how we can connect with others to better our community,” Simon-Plumb explained. “I’m not a huge political buff but just the way she talks about how she came from Birmingham, Ala., and she didn’t let anyone tell her no [was inspiring].” 

When asked what it meant to her to be one of the scholars, Simon-Plumb replied, “You have to be a semi-finalist, a finalist and then a scholar. When I kept making it through the rounds I couldn’t believe it. It’s based on community service and leadership and they take a very holistic view of people.”

She credited her mothers for instilling within her the value of community service. Simon-Plumb volunteers with many school clubs and community organizations including the nonprofit Link to Libraries in East Longmeadow, Heartland Golden Retriever Rescue Foundation in Knoxville, Tenn., among others.

“Casey has been a Link to Libraries youth advisory board member for over five years. Her ability to motivate and inspire others is far more mature than her young years. She is a wonderful student, daughter, and board member. We are honored to have her work with our organization and give great praise to her parents and sister, Abby [Lu Simon-Plumb],” Susan Jaye-Kaplan, president of Link to Libraries, said.

Simon-Plumb said she chose to devote her time to the literary nonprofit because she “an avid reader.”

“We don’t realize sometimes in Hampden and Wilbraham how privileged we are and that others don’t have books or access to libraries. Literacy is the foundation to any education,” she added.

When asked what her plans were for the scholarship monies and her higher education, Simon-Plumb responded, “I’m going to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. I’m majoring in neuroscience and environmental science and looking to go pre-med.

“This is a premier education and I know it’s a place where everyone is so supportive and is there for learning. It’s not just a pit stop [on the way] to graduate school or to their jobs. They really want to try and give you a perspective,” she added.

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