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Dorseyville student among region's 37 Carson Scholars

Tawnya Panizzi
| Monday, March 20, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Vivian Shao
Vivian Shao

Vivian Shao is laser-focused in class, passionate about her studies and a role model to her peers, according to Dorseyville Middle School staff.

So they weren't surprised to learn the eighth-grader is among 37 Pittsburgh-area students to be named a 2017 Carson Scholar. She is one of 483 nationwide.

“Vivian brings a strong desire to learn each and every day,” said social studies teacher Matt LaPatka. “I consider her a professional student in the way she carries herself.”

Founded by Ben Carson, neurosurgeon and secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the scholars program recognizes talented and dedicated students who are committed to making a difference in their community.

“It's exciting to be honored as a Carson scholar,” said Vivian, 13.

Her favorite subjects are “anything related to STEM” — science, technology, engineering and math, she said.

The Blawnox resident is a member of First League Girls of Steel, a competitive robotic engineering team sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University.

“I get to see and use machines and tools that most people don't get to see,” Vivian said. “Competing our robots is extremely fun. We fulfill the purpose of empowering women and girls in the pursuit of STEM by exemplifying female success in robotics.”

Even as a young teen, Vivian recognizes the importance of females participating in traditionally male-dominated fields.

“Robotics and technology will gradually become our future,” she said. “We need more girls and we need diversity in STEM.”

Carson Scholar winners will be honored April 8 during a celebration at Heinz Field. Winners will receive a $1,000 college scholarship.

Dorseyville teachers were quick to support Vivian's nomination.

Quest teacher Mimi Loeffler said Vivian exemplifies the spirit of a Carson scholar.

“She is a mature young lady who is kind to all and has a curious mind,” Loeffler said.

Language arts teacher Andrew Shaw said Vivian is driven — “a true independent thinker that puts her passion and energy into all aspects of her written work.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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