2018-2019 HTA Scholarship Winners


Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation are pleased to announce the four recipients of this year’s Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarships. The awards, totaling $15,000, are presented annually to the offspring of harness racing participants or to individuals themselves who are actively engaged in the business.

“We want to thank the 19 candidates who submitted their credentials, transcripts and reference letters,” said David Snyder, CEO of ISC, headquartered in Pikesville, MD. “The application process, which includes answering three essay questions, is quite rigorous, and our judges’ panel was impressed with the efforts put forth by these outstanding students.”

Winners of 2018-19 Academic Year Awards

SARAH BIRKHOLD, 24, Sarasota, FL, $5000. The second-year grad student at Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, TN secured her third consecutive top prize award from HTA’s six-person selection committee. She ranked 18th out of 122 in her first-year class with a 3.94 GPA. Tuition, room and board, books and lab supplies exceed $57,000 at the highly competitive school. Sarah plans to practice in the field of equine lameness and rehabilitation and has remained actively involved in harness racing.  She interned at Scioto Downs last summer with Dr. Barry Carter (Firethorn Equine Services, Lancaster, OH) and at the county fair in Greenville, OH with Dr. Chris Gilbert (Darke County Veterinary Services). This summer she joined her father George, an owner-breeder, and her Aunt Mary, an owner, trainer and amateur driver, to watch their three and four-year-old horses compete at Hilliard and other tracks in Ohio. While at home she also has shadowed Dr. William McGinty, a partner in Sarasota Equine Associates, who specializes in infectious diseases, preventative medicine and the diagnosis and treatment of lame horses. Upon graduation, Sarah’s goal is to obtain the certifications she desires and join her mentors in working at Saratoga Equine.

Sarah Birkhold

SYDNEY ELIZABETH TROTTO, 18, Springfield, VA, $5000. Ms. Trotto, a 4.3 GPA honors graduate of West Springfield High in Fairfax County, will be a nursing major this fall at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. She is the daughter of veteran trainer and Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association Vice-President Greg Trotto and his wife Debra, a teacher who met Greg at her first job as an employee of Rosecroft Raceway’s marketing department. Sydney amassed a solid academic record in largely AP and Honors coursework. She was a district and regional MVP in varsity volleyball (second team all-state), leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, member of the American Sign Language Club and its honor society, inductee into the National Honor Society and a yearbook editor. In a letter brimming with praise, her Honors US History teacher included such references as “how seldom it is [to have] a student the caliber of Sydney…a serious learner…wrote one of the finest document-based question essays I have ever read [demonstrating] hard work and intellectual ability…kind and considerate…doesn’t complain…congenial…comfortable in her own skin, and has a quiet confidence that is unusual for a student her age.”

Sydney Trotto

JESSICA HALLETT, 19, Margate, FL, $2500. Jessica is a two-time recipient of the Snyder Scholarship, having been awarded a $1000 grant before she entered Ft. Lauderdale’s Nova Southeastern University last fall. Daughter of John and Michelle of the Hallett Racing Stable, Jessica has continued to be heavily involved with harness racing on weekends and during summers. She is renowned for her energy and work ethic. She paints statues, lawn jockeys and race bikes; writes regularly for Harness Link; grooms and paddocks for the Hallett, Hennessey and McNichol Stables in Florida and New York; and has accumulated certifications in First Aid, CPR and AED. (Lifeguarding is next on her to-do list during the fall or spring semester.) Jessica earned 34 credits and a 3.5 GPA her freshman year at NSU. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Biology and Behavioral Neuroscience. A participant in numerous extracurricular activities, Jessica was selected for the President’s 64, an elite group of student leaders who serve the NSU President and CEO in advisory and public relations capacities.Jessica Hallett

KATELYNN EICK, 18, Farmingdale, NJ, $2500. Another academic superstar, Katie compiled a cumulative GPA of 5.0, graduating near the top of her Howell High School class in the Freehold Regional District. Except for two B+’s in her junior year AP US History and AP Calculus classes, there was nary a sub-A grade in her AP and Honors-laden transcript. She excelled in field hockey all four years, serving as captain and winning the Rebel Pride Award in 2017. Katie was also a member of Student Council for four years and earned induction into National Honor Society. She worked eight hours a week throughout high school as a farmhand at a horse farm. Since 2013 she has been a participant and volunteer at the Harness Horse Youth Foundation summer camps, rising to a teacher in that organization’s Leadership Program. Bob Heyden, a fellow HHYF volunteer and a 2013 inductee into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame Communicator’s Corner, penned an effusive letter of recommendation, describing Katie as “knowledgeable, cooperative, reliable, attentive, sharing…[she] was special right from the start.” Katelynn is enrolled this fall at Rutgers University’s Bachelor of Science degree program, majoring in Animal Science with a focus on equine science. She is the daughter of Floyd Eick, an electrician, and Jennifer Eick, a homemaker.

Katelynn Eick

Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation have made 224 grants to 152 students since the scholarship fund’s inception in 1973. A total of $840,950 has been awarded. The program remains one of the cherished legacies of deceased double Hall of Famer Stan Bergstein, the longtime Executive Vice President of HTA, and International Sound founder Harold Snyder, who died in 2015. HTA Scholarship Committee members Tom Aldrich (Northfield Park), Charles Lockhart (Dover Downs), Chris McErlean (Penn Gaming), Rick Moore (Hoosier Park) and Jason Settlemoir (The Meadowlands) are deeply grateful for the financial support of ISC CEO David Snyder and his family.  Their generous endowments continue to enrich the sport and touch the lives of harness racing families.

Posted in News, Press Releases | Comments Off on 2018-2019 HTA Scholarship Winners

2018-2019 HTA Scholarship Announcement


Harness Tracks of America and David Snyder, President of International Sound Corporation, are pleased to announce the renewal of the Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarships for the 2018-2019 academic year.  The annual program offers $15,000 in scholarships for post-secondary education to daughters and sons of licensed trainers, drivers, caretakers, management personnel, or young people themselves who are actively engaged in the harness racing industry. Three $5,000 grants are customarily awarded every year.

Interested candidates can retrieve brief instructions and an official application form by clicking here, or by contacting Scholarship Committee Coordinator Heather McColloch, [[email protected]],c/o Northfield Park, 10705 Northfield Road, Northfield, OH 44067, 330-467-4101, ext. 2204.  Deadline for application submissions is June 25, 2018.

Since being inaugurated in 1973 by the late HTA Executive Vice President Stan Bergstein, 219 grants totaling $825,950 have been awarded to 149 college and advanced degree students.  The Snyder Family and International Sound, providers of racetrack and sport facility video, graphics and audio services to over 100 U.S. and international clients, have been the primary benefactors of the fund.  Patriarch Harold Snyder, who died at 91 in 2015, started his career as a television repairman, founding ISC in 1959 with his wife and surviving widow, Marcia. Today, the business is the largest of its kind in the racing industry.

Contact Information:

Heather McColloch

c/o Northfield Park

330-467-4101, ext. 2204

[email protected]

Posted in News | Comments Off on 2018-2019 HTA Scholarship Announcement

2017-2018 HTA Scholarship Winners


Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation are pleased to announce six recipients of this year’s Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarships. The awards, totaling $17,000, are presented annually to the offspring of harness racing participants or to individuals themselves who are actively engaged in the sport.

David Snyder, CEO of International Sound and HTA’s Scholarship Committee Chair, emphasized the difficult task confronting the selection panel: “Twenty outstanding students applied, all of whom merited aid. We decided to add funds and expand the number of grants to six from the customary three. The need is so great that any measure of assistance helps in these times of spiraling tuition.”

Winners of 2017-18 Academic Year Awards

LYNDSAY HAGEMEYER, 25, Clarksville, OH, $5000. The daughter of Scott and Cindy Hagemeyer, she is in her first year at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. A 2015 cum laude graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Lyndsay earned a BA degree majoring in Psychology with a minor in Biology.  She made the Dean’s List 12 times at UC and was a Psychology Student of the Year.  She is firm in her career goal of becoming an equine and large animal vet: “I chose OSU because I can remain active in Ohio harness racing and assist with the care of Standardbreds at the university’s hospital.” While taking a year off to work full time as assistant manager at the Hagemeyer Family Farm, Lyndsay remained heavily involved in her church, the Warren County Farm Bureau and the 4-H Horse Club. She also has been a dedicated volunteer for the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association the past two years as an ambassador to Equine Affair and the Ohio State Fair.

Lyndsay Hagemeyer

SARAH BIRKHOLD, 23, Sarasota, FL, $5000. She, too, is in her first year of vet school at Lincoln Memorial College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate TN, located on the TN/VA/KY border in the Cumberland Gap. She is the daughter of George and Cindy Birkhold, and her family has owned, bred and raced Standardbreds for over 60 years. An Animal Sciences major and cum laude grad of the University of Florida last December, Sarah was active in extracurricular and mentoring roles. She was president of the Gator Collegiate Cattlewomen, Treasurer of Block and Bridle, an Equine Sciences teaching assistant and a leader in the campaign to prevent decoupling of racing and gaming at Florida’s racetracks. An ambitious sort with an entrepreneurial bent and plenty of experience working for herself and at part-time jobs, it did not take Sarah long to land a gig in Harrogate. “While searching for housing, I familiarized myself with the town and met the owner of the local Ewing Stockyard,” she wrote in her essay. “After talking for about an hour, he offered me a position to help him palpate cows before the weekend sale. I plan to help him as much as I can when I move so I can get as much experience as possible.”

Sarah Birkhold

MAJA BOWN, 20, West Orange, NJ, $2500. Maja is a Nutrition and Wellness major who will earn a BS degree at the University of New Hampshire next spring, after which she intends to complete a fifth year in New Jersey to earn a nursing degree in an accelerated program. She is a solid B+ student who has worked throughout high school and college as a groom, waitress and leasing assistant for a property management company. Her parents, John and Nancy Bown, were Standardbred trainers and caretakers who worked side-by-side in their stable at Saratoga Harness and Gaitway Farm in New Jersey. In 2007 both died just six months apart. The pain of that experience helped spur her interest in nursing. “With both my parents being sick, my sister and I had a lot of great and not so great nurses to deal with,” she wrote. “I want to have a positive influence with patients and their families.” Maja’s affection for harness racing and fond memories of being with her parents at the barn remain undiminished. When home, she often goes to Gaitway Farm where her parents trained and where she assists in the stable of Donna and Jim Marshall. She also volunteers annually for special events at Freehold Raceway, whose Director of Racing, Karen Fagliorone, had this to say in a letter of recommendation: “Maja was forced to mature and take on responsibilities much sooner than most children. I’ve been privileged to watch her grow into a strong, confident, hard-working young lady and could not think of a more deserving applicant.”

Maja Brown

JACK BUMANN, 18, Woodhull, IL, $2500. Jack is a freshman, and member of the golf team, at Illinois Central College in East Peoria, having graduated as salutatorian in his high school class of 25. Just a partial list of his achievements there is staggering: class president grades 9-11, National Honor Society, four-year GPA 3.96, varsity letter track 9-11, varsity letter golf 9-12 (low scorer and MVP all four years and fifth of 142 in five states invitation-only Midwest Elite Golf Tournament), Marine Corps Senior Male Distinguished Athlete Award, IL H.S. Assoc. Concert Band Solo/Ensemble Awards 9-12, and Western IL U. Marching Band Champion Soloist 10.  Mr. Bumann’s charitable endeavors are equally impressive. He initiated a proposed legislative change permitting an excused absence during school hours when a student plays Taps at the funerals of deceased veterans and active-duty armed services members, a community service he has performed numerous times.  The bill was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on August 16, 2016, with Jack by his side. The accomplishment led to interviews and features on him in state-wide media, including NPR and the Chicago Tribune. No surprise, then, when he was selected for the 2016 “Youth Trumpet and Taps Corps Founder’s Award” given to the top high school senior volunteer nationwide.  Jack is the son of Shannon and Christine Bumann. His maternal grandparents, Sam and Sandra Hodgett, raced Standardbreds for 37 years in Illinois and Iowa. Sam still drives the starting car at several county fairs and Jack goes with him to trumpet the Call to Post, another deed that he has performed for many fairs, including the State Fair in Springfield.

Jack Bumann 2

JESSICA HALLETT, 18, Margate, FL, $1000. Jessica is enrolled as a dual degree pre-law/pre-med major at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale. A graduate of Deerfield Beach High School’s International Baccalaureate Degree Program, she ranked 20th in her class of 545 with a weighted GPA of 5.3. She captained the varsity softball team, played soccer, ran cross country and was a member of the French, Science and National Honor Societies. For the last two years Jessica participated in the Broward Sherriff’s Office Explorer Post, which teaches young volunteers police and legal procedures as well as self-defense. Within six months of joining she was promoted to Sergeant and three months later to Lieutenant. Recently she joined the Sheriff’s Office Fire Cadet program which offers basic firefighter and paramedic skills. As the junior member of Team Hallett, the Standardbred stable consisting of parents John and Michelle and brother Jonathan, she has done it all around the barn and paddock. To attain her IB degree, Jessica had to complete a personal project that involved learning a new skill and documenting the process.  She sought out a local artist who taught her how to airbrush and Jessica then parlayed her new skill into designing and painting signs, race bikes and helmets.  Brian Sears and Wally Hennessey are among her clients.

Jessica Hallett

RAY COTOLO,18, Harrisburg, PA, $1000. Following four very productive years in which he amassed a cumulative GPA of 3.8, ranked 18th of 272 in his class and earned induction into the National Honor Society, Ray will be a freshman this fall at Elizabethtown College pursuing a BA. His major of Communication Studies builds upon his high school extracurricular experiences in Thespian Society Dramapalooza Shows, four years of Concert Band and regular stints on the Falcon Broadcast Channel. A precocious, inventive and extremely witty harness handicapper and commentator, young Cotolo has free-lanced for the Hambletonian Society (starting at age 10!), USTA, Twin Spires, US Racing, North American Harness Update and American Turf Monthly. “By 2011,” he explained in his essay, “I was itching to do more work within the industry, but also aware of the lack of positions for an 11-year-old writer and handicapper. That was when I started my own blog, The Racing Inquirer, where I wrote up recaps near minutes after races and offered handicapping advice ranging from Pick-4’s to contenders in the North America Cup.” In her recommendation letter, Moira Fanning, Director of Operations for the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown, extolled Ray’s character, work ethic and passion for harness racing: “Time and time again he has impressed me with his manners, maturity and grasp of any situation he is presented with.  He shows up in a suit and tie and looks to fill in wherever needed and can usually do anything I ask him to do twice as fast as I can. His parents should be extremely proud of the young man they have raised.”  Ray is the son of Kristen Cotolo and noted turf journalist Frank Cotolo.

Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation have made 220 grants to 150 students since the scholarship fund’s inception in 1973. A total of $825,950 has been awarded.  The program remains one of the cherished legacies of deceased double Hall of Famer Stan Bergstein, the longtime Executive Vice President of HTA, and International Sound founder Harold Snyder, who died in 2015.  HTA Scholarship Committee members Tom Aldrich (Northfield Park), Charles Lockhart (Dover Downs), Chris McErlean (Penn Gaming), Rick Moore (Hoosier Park) and Jason Settlemoir (The Meadowlands) are deeply grateful for the continuing financial support of ISC CEO David Snyder and his family.  Their generous endowments have enriched the sport and touched the lives of harness racing families over many decades.

Ray Cotolo

Posted in News | Comments Off on 2017-2018 HTA Scholarship Winners

2016-2017 HTA Scholarship Winners

Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarship awards totaling $15,000. The annual funding program, eligible to sons and daughters of harness racing participants or individuals actively engaged in the sport themselves, was launched in 1973 by Stan Bergstein, the late HTA Executive Vice President for nearly 60 years. Three outstanding students will each receive a $5000 grant to assist in their post-secondary educational careers.

“We had a bumper crop of determined and accomplished applicants for the 2016-17 school year,” noted David Snyder, Chairman of the Selection Committee. “The costs of a college or advanced degree continue to climb, and the committee had a difficult task separating 22 very worthy candidates. Nearly all of them demonstrated strong academic skills, financial need, generous volunteer and community service participation, and energetic part-time employment experiences.”

This year’s Harold Snyder Scholarship recipients are:


SARAH MARIE BIRKHOLD: A 22 year-old Animal Sciences major at The University of Florida in Gainesville, Ms. Birkhold will graduate in December and plans to pursue a Veterinary Medicine degree at either UF or The Ohio State University. She earned a 3.89 GPA during her spring semester and just days ago learned that she aced her summer session Physics 2 Lab class.

Throughout high school and college, Sarah worked part-time as a tax preparer, rental property manager and assistant in the George Birkhold Stable, where she helped break and train yearlings. Last year she started a small business painting and tiling cow heads and painting old saws that she finds in antique shops. “It’s definitely nice to earn some extra money doing something I love,” she wrote in her essay submission, adding, “I have not yet had to borrow money/loans, but I will have to for graduate school.”

Birkhold currently serves as President of Gator Collegiate Cattlewomen and Treasurer of Block and Bridle and recently received the Outstanding Service Award from the Biotechnology Alliance of Suncoast Biology Educators. She was a teaching assistant, lecturer and grader for the Animal Nutrition course spring semester and will serve in that capacity again for the Equine Enterprise Management class this fall.


JENNE’ VENIER: Ms. Venier, 18, graduated in June from Eastwood High School in Pemberville, OH. Enrolled in a demanding college prep curriculum, including Biology 2 and Anatomy & Physics post-secondary classes at the University of Findlay, she finished with a cumulative GPA of 3.99, earning all A’s and two B’s. She just started fall semester classes at Lourdes University near Toledo, pursuing a degree in nursing.

A National Honor Society inductee who earned the Most Valuable Player award on the Eastwood Varsity Golf Team, Jenne’ was involved in numerous charitable endeavors throughout high school, including Wood County Special and Youth Olympics, Food Pantry, Sharing Hands and blood drive volunteer. The award-winning chalk artist and painter garnered impressive endorsements attesting to her character and work ethic, including lengthy and sincere letters of recommendation from her high school English teacher and Key Club advisor, youth pastor and the Wood County Prosecuting Attorney. Jenee’ is the daughter of owner-trainer-driver Dan Venier and owner-groom Cheryl Venier. They own and operate a family farm in Pemberville.


MICHAEL FAHY: Fahy, 23, is a repeat recipient, having won the same $5000 grant amount last year after achieving a sterling undergraduate record at southeastern Ohio’s Marietta College. He is the son of harness horse owners William and Moira Fahy, who race at The Meadows in Washington, PA.

Michael is now in his second year at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where he will graduate in spring 2017 with a Master of Arts advanced degree. He is majoring in U.S. National Security Policy. Michael served as a Legislative Affairs Intern for the U.S. Department of State during his second semester and is currently employed as an Analyst Intern at the federal Government Accountability Office. “I have been tasked with auditing the U.S. Department of Defense regarding their efforts to adapt their infrastructure to the effects of climate change overseas,” he wrote. “This topic is very politically salient and has exposed me to the deep depths of the government bureaucracy.”

The obvious skills of articulateness and diplomacy Mr. Fahy demonstrated in his scholarship essay are matched by his continuing academic prowess. He currently boasts a 3.67 GPA at Georgetown after earning all A’s and one B+ in such rigorous subjects as Grand Strategy/Military Operations, Energy and Security and U.S. Defense Budgeting and National Security.

Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation have made 214 grants to 146 students since the scholarship fund’s inception. A total of $808,950 has been awarded. The program remains one of the cherished legacies of double Hall of Famer

Bergstein and International Sound founder Snyder, who died in 2015. HTA Scholarship Committee Members Tom Aldrich (Northfield Park), Charles Lockhart (Dover Downs), Chris McErlean (Penn Gaming), Rick Moore (Hoosier Park) and Jason Settlemoir (The Meadowlands) are deeply grateful for the continuing financial support of Marcia Snyder, Harold’s widow, and son David. The Snyders’ generous endowments have enriched the sport and touched the lives of harness racing families over many decades.


Posted in News | Comments Off on 2016-2017 HTA Scholarship Winners

2015-2016 Scholarship Winners

Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation are pleased to award scholarships totaling $15,000 for the 2015-2016 academic period.  “This year’s winners were selected from a pool of exceptionally talented and ambitious applicants,” stated David Snyder, President of International Sound and Chairman of the HTA Scholarship Committee.  “The cost of higher education today is staggering, and we are privileged to be able to help families in our sport who have reared and nurtured these promising youngsters.”

This year’s awards have been re-named the Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarships in honor of the late founder of International Sound, a 50-plus year-old company which provides video, graphics, sound and surveillance systems to a world-wide client list of over 100 racetracks and sporting venues. Three students will each receive $5000 grants to further their studies in demanding coursework at a trio of highly regarded universities:

John Paul McDermott Jr., 20, of Lyndhurst NJ spent his four years of high school at the rigorous Bergen County Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology.  He was accepted at the University of Florida Gainesville, where he is now a junior major in Business Administration specializing in pre-law and leadership minor.  He is a First Year Florida Peer Leader responsible for teaching a one-credit course to assist freshmen with the transition from high school to college.  John currently holds an eye-popping 3.9 grade point average and, upon graduation, intends to complete his Masters in International Business, attend law school and prepare for a career in cross-border mergers and acquisitions.

John’s parents, John and Nancy McDermott, have owned Standardbreds for 28 years, stabling between seven and thirty head at tracks in FL, NJ, PA, and NY and racing all over North America.  John Jr. still spends summers working at the barn back in Jersey, and his duties over the years “have grown from cleaning water buckets and feed tubs to becoming a [licensed] co-trainer for the stable.”   “While I do not expect to make a career in harness racing,” McDermott continued in his essay, “I do plan to remain involved with it in the future in whatever capacity I can – perhaps as an owner, or making use of my business degree to find ways of ensuring the long-term survival and success of the sport.”

Michael Fahy, a 22-year-old native of Washington, PA, is a first-year graduate student enrolled in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program in Washington D.C., ranked #1 for international relations policy careers by leading news magazine Foreign Policy. He is pursuing a Master of Arts majoring in U.S. National Security Policy. A 2015 Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude graduate of Marietta College (OH), Fahy majored in Political Science and Asian Studies.  He was the Outstanding Student in Chinese Language and treasurer of the Student Government Association for three years.  Michael graduated with a stunning cumulative GPA of 3.95, missing a 4.0 only because of a few A minuses on an otherwise perfect transcript.

Fahy’s academic prowess was balanced with real-world experience in government affairs and politics.  Besides several unpaid internships in China and Marietta, Michael landed salaried positions in college and during summers as a Regional Security Officer for the Department of State at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, China, Deputy Finance Director for OH House Representative Jennifer Garrison’s 2014 Congressional campaign, research assistant for Marietta College’s Political Science Department Chair, and legislative intern for PA State Representative Jesse White.  Heady stuff, indeed, for the former teenager who started his career working in food service for McDonald’s and small bakeries.

Michael’s parents must be exceedingly proud of their successful son.  The HTA Scholarship Committee members certainly were when they read these excerpts from the closing paragraphs of his essay submission:

“My parents live and breathe harness racing.  Since their teens and early twenties, my father and mother have worked as grooms, trainers, and owners at various racetracks around the United States.  My father, Bill Fahy, is a very accomplished harness horse driver who held the world record for nearly a decade with Jenna’s Beach Boy.  Together, he and my mother, Moira Fahy, train and own a stable of horses at the Meadows Racetrack in Washington, PA, where they have worked for nearly two decades.

Over school breaks in the summer and winter, between jobs and internships, I took the time to work for my parents in the mornings.  Since childhood, I’ve loved being around the horses with my parents, even if that meant cleaning stalls and getting stepped on by horses.  I’ll always hold these and other harness racing memories, such as winning the concluding race of a Harness Horse Youth League camp and watching my family’s horse, Applecreek Hanover, win a big race in Canada, close to my heart.  For me, my roots in harness racing are much more than childhood memories.  They form a central component of my family’s lifestyle, one that has helped shape and define my attitudes on life, work, and personal values.”

HTA’s youngest award recipient is Amber Nicole Robinson from Bishopville, MD.  The 19-year-old Psychology major with a 3.4 GPA is back for her junior year at Lynchburg College in Virginia, where she is Vice President of Community Affairs for Kappa Delta Sorority. Amber is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree and eventually a Masters in Social Work and Clinical Psychology.    She was a 2013 graduate of Stephen Decatur High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society, choreographer of the show choir, and a four-year member of the field hockey team, ending up as senior captain and winner of the sportsmanship award.

Amber’s self-stated career goal of positively impacting “people’s lives who have been diagnosed with a life-changing disease or disorder” developed as a result of “what I consider a gift.”  At 13, she was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration which causes progressive vision loss, and is today legally blind.  The summer after the diagnosis, her parents, branch bank manager and Ocean Downs harness driver Ray Robinson, and  Morrisville University associate degree holder and Standardbred trainer Carolyn Robinson, bought Amber her first horse, Silver Duck.  “Being around him and working with him made me not feel different or at a disadvantage,” she wrote in her essay.  “He did not know that I was struggling with my disease. He just knew me as his caretaker.”

Besides grooming at the barn, Amber has held 30-hour-per-week jobs during summers and other busy times as a hostess and ice cream scooper and an expeditor in a barbeque restaurant.  Her work ethic, talent and determined spirit augers well for achieving the dream she expressed in the closing words of her essay: “I want to help change as many lives as I can by giving people hope that they can succeed and still be ‘different.’  Overall, my diagnosis of Stargardt disease has been a challenge, but it has also been a blessing because it has shaped me into the person I am today.  I am so thankful for the love and support of my family, friends and even my horses for helping me accept my disease and make the best of it.”

Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation have made 211 grants to 144 worthy students since the scholarship fund’s inception in 1973.  A total of $793,950 has been awarded.  The program remains one of the cherished legacies of longtime HTA Executive Vice President Stan Bergstein and recently deceased International Sound patriarch Harold Snyder. HTA Scholarship Committee Members Tom Aldrich (Northfield Park), Chris McErlean (Penn Gaming), Jason Settlemoir (The Meadowlands), Jeff Smith (Hoosier Park) and Charles Lockhart (Dover Downs), are deeply grateful for the financial support of Marcia Snyder, Harold’s widow, and son David. Their generosity has enabled the continued funding of higher education opportunities for the sons and daughters of harness racing families.

Posted in News | Comments Off on 2015-2016 Scholarship Winners