AHS Senior to Receive Prestigious Harry Byrd Jr. Leadership Award

AHS Senior to Receive Prestigious Harry Byrd Jr. Leadership Award
Posted on 01/19/2024
AHS senior Riley Spangler (right) has been named one of 11 recipients of the prestigious Harry F. Byrd Jr. Leadership Award. This photo was taken at a Jackson River Governor’s School awards ceremony last year. At left is Teresa Ellison of the governor’s school board and Eddie Graham, executive director of the governor’s school.  Riley is an honor roll student at Alleghany High School and Mountain Gateway Community College. (AHPS Photo)

An Alleghany High School senior is one of the recipients of the statewide Harry F. Byrd Jr. Leadership Award for 2023-24.

Riley Spangler, 17, of Covington has been named a winner of the award, which comes with a $25,000 scholarship. Winners are chosen from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts based on “academic accomplishment, excellence of character, qualities of leadership and devotion to duty.”

Spangler is the winner from the 6th Congressional District, which covers the west-central portion of the state including the Alleghany Highlands, the Roanoke Valley and much of the Shenandoah Valley.

The award was established in 1995 by Byrd, a newspaper publisher who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate from 1965 to 1983. Byrd resided in Winchester. He died in 2013. He succeeded his father, Harry F. Byrd Sr. as a U.S. senator. Harry Byrd Sr. also served as a Virginia governor. 

The University of Virginia Foundation administers a trust for the Byrd Leadership Award. Harry F. Byrd Jr. established the award in hopes that its recipients will choose to remain in Virginia for their higher education. However, there is no requirement for a recipient to enroll in a Virginia college or university. There is also no restriction on the use of the award.  

Riley is an honor roll student at Alleghany High School and Mountain Gateway Community College. She is a part of the Jackson River Governor’s School program at Mountain Gateway, and she will  graduate this year with an associate’s degree from the community college. At AHS she is involved in the Student Council, the Beta Club, the National Honor Society, and Youth in Government. Riley is a Girl Scout, recently earning her Gold Award for the Student Summer Enrichment Program. She plans on attending a four-year university to study political science, hoping to work in the national government in public policy.  

Each September, the Byrd Foundation sends a letter to public and private high schools in Virginia seeking nominees. Spangler was nominated by AHS Principal Derek Cantrell. 

“Riley Spangler’s receipt of the Harry F. Byrd Jr. Leadership Award is a testament to her outstanding academic abilities, strong character, and exceptional leadership skills. She has consistently demonstrated a deep commitment to excellence and service, embodying the very best of what Alleghany High School stands for. We are incredibly proud of her achievement,” Cantrell said. 

The foundation receives approximately 300 applications each year, and a screening committee narrows the field to 33 finalists. The screening committee is composed of deans of admission from the University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary, Washington & Lee University, and Virginia Tech. Three finalists are selected from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts. 

The finalists are interviewed by a selection committee over the course of two days. This year’s interviews were conducted on January 11-12 in Richmond. The committee selects eleven winners. Cantrell was notified on January 15 that Spangler is one of the winners. She will be presented with her award on February 1 in Richmond. 

“I am so honored and blessed to have received this scholarship. It is truly such a great gift that will have a substantial impact on which campus I will be attending in the fall. I am beyond words and beyond thankful,” Spangler said.

Alleghany High School is part of the Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Division. AHPS was formed in July 2022  through the merger of Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center. The school division is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. It serves approximately 2,700 students.

AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools, and on Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available at www.ahps.k12.va.us.
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