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.