Northfield, OH — Harness Tracks of America and International Sound Corporation are pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Harold and Marcia Snyder Memorial Scholarships. The awards, totaling $15,000, are bestowed annually to the offspring of harness racing participants or to individuals themselves who are actively engaged in the business.
“We were once again presented with an outstanding pool of students all of whom had diverse and impressive credentials,” commented David Snyder, Scholarship Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ISC, headquartered in Pikesville, Md. “After careful consideration our selection committee was able to come to a consensus on four accomplished awardees: two previous recipients, one past applicant and one first-time candidate. We congratulate all and wish them much success in their academic and career pursuits.”
Winners of 2019-2020 academic year awards are as follows.
Jonathan Hallett, 22, Orlando, Fla., $5,000. A graduate of Deerfield Beach High School who racked up a cumulative 4.9 GPA taking rigorous coursework weighted toward math and science, Jonathan enrolled at the University of Central Florida in 2015. He is now a senior there and has continued to amass a laudable record (3.7 GPA) while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, a minor in Computer Science and a Master’s in Material Engineering. The BS to MS program, which adds master level courses in the junior and senior years, means that Jonathan will have just one additional year after attaining his undergraduate diploma — unless, as he put it in his essay “I make the decision to strive forward with my PhD.”
His academic success already afforded him the opportunity to attain a job working as a researcher at UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics, a world leader in the science of lasers, LED’s, LCD’s, optical fibers and imaging systems applied in industry and medicine.
And despite the demanding schedule, Jonathan has been honored for his community service as a volunteer at animal shelters and Habitat for Humanity.
“Harness racing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” wrote Hallett. “I have always loved [it]….”
Since adolescence Jonathan has spent every summer based at Tioga Downs, traveling up and down the East Coast for stakes and overnights with the Hallett Racing Stable. Winters the family was back home in South Florida at their Pompano Park base. Parents John and Michelle and sister Jessica, a Snyder Memorial Scholarship recipient herself in 2017 and 2018, can be very proud of this exceptional young man.
Sarah Birkhold, 25, Sarasota, Fla., $5,000. Currently in her third year of veterinary school at Lincoln Memorial University in Cumberland Gap, Tenn., Sarah last year became the first applicant since the scholarship program’s inception in 1973 to earn a top award three times. She has now done it again for the fourth consecutive year. Her academic chops remain impressive. She has maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.9 (all As, two Bs and one C in 31 different specialized courses), good enough to move her up one notch in class rank, 16th of 117.
Besides attending conventions of the Florida and National Beef Cattlemen’s Associations, as well as the Student American Veterinary Medical Association Conference, Sarah stays heavily involved in university organizations as an officer in the Society for Theriogenology (reproductive systems of animals) and the Food Animal Club, whose members share feeding shifts for 60 head of cattle and 20 horses at the school’s farm.
Birkhold’s devotion to harness racing and her profession shines through numerous passages in her application essays, which she annually updates with fresh perspectives and new experiences: “Sadly, this is my last summer off from school before I start my life of clinical rotations and finally as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine,” she wrote. “I know I may not move back home once I graduate, so I have been sentimental. Every morning and evening I help my Dad take care of our 25-horse stable. We are currently breaking two yearlings, racing three horses and training a 2-year-old colt. I bred one of our mares back…we are anticipating three foals next year! Reproduction and lameness initially sparked my interest because those topics were always a focus in our barn. The joy my Dad gets sharing his passion is what makes me the happiest. I feel so motivated to specialize in equine lameness because I want to share that same feeling of accomplishment my clients would feel overcoming a challenge with their horse.”
Kent Beattie, 25, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, $2,500. A former resident of Fredericton, New Brunswick, where his parents still reside, Kent was a 2015 Bachelor of Science Honors graduate of The University of New Brunswick who majored in Medicinal Chemistry and earned a 3.9 GPA. He is now a solid A-/B+ student completing his final year at Charlottetown’s Atlantic Veterinary College, a 12-month clinical stint with no opportunity to earn income from summer employment.
Kent is determined to continue his family’s four-generation involvement with harness racing as a vet. Licensed to train at age 13, and drive at age 14, he has been active as a part-time groom, trainer and occasional driver, most recently at Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park. His great-grandfather trained and drove full-time in the 1950s and ‘60s, his grandfather judged at Fredericton Raceway for many years, and both his uncle, who operated a public stable, and father, a director on the boards of the Fredericton Horsemen’s Association and Horse Racing New Brunswick, trained and owned Standardbreds.
Kent does manage to engage in several mind-clearing downtime activities. “I played saxophone in the high school concert and jazz bands and was on the basketball team,” he stated. “Since beginning university I have had to give up competitive basketball, but I still enjoy playing my saxophone and shooting hoops in the gym.” Future clients take note. Horses appreciate a relaxed vet.
Sydney Trotto, 19, Springfield, Va., $2,500. Sydney is now in her sophomore year at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Another repeat recipient of this scholarship, she has already earned 42 credit hours as a Bachelor of Science candidate majoring in Nursing with Chronic Illness as her minor. JMU has an extremely competitive nursing program ranked #1 in the state, and Sydney is flourishing there. She earned all As and two A-s (3.943 GPA) her freshmen year, resulting in two consecutive semesters on the 3.9 or above President’s List. She is an active member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and the campus Intervarsity Christian Ministry.
A compelling letter of recommendation from JMU Instructor Colleen Watson began with this assertion: “I had the pleasure of having Sydney in Elementary Statistics…a notorious course because of its high unsuccessful rate (DFW, *drop, fail, withdrawal). Sydney ended up absolutely excelling and finished third out of 171 students. Top three is extraordinary.”
Watson continued: “I had a student with a disability that required a note taker. I asked for volunteers, which often is a long process. Sydney immediately signed up, receiving no compensation in any form, and due to confidentiality, would never know who she was helping. A note taker must attend every class, take detailed and neat notes, and then upload them to the disability site. As a future nurse, she is already displaying the compassion and maturity that will help her succeed and thrive in her career. She exemplified work ethic, academic prowess and kindness, and this deserves to be rewarded beyond an A in my class.”
Trotto is the daughter of harness horse trainer Greg Trotto and his wife Debbie, a teacher in the Fairfax County Public Schools. The couple also has a son, Gregory Jr., 20, who attends George Mason University in Virginia.
The HTA and International Sound Scholarship Program to date has funded 228 grants to 154 students. A total of $855,950 has been dispensed. The endowment is one of the most consequential legacies of deceased double Hall of Famer Stan Bergstein, the longtime Executive Vice President of HTA, and International Sound founders Harold and Marcia Snyder, who died in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
It endures because of the sustained commitment of ISC CEO David Snyder and his family, as well as funding assistance from Jeff Gural, owner of The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. Their generosity enriches the sport and positively impacts the lives of harness racing families across multiple jurisdictions. HTA Scholarship Committee members Chris McErlean (Penn Gaming), Rick Moore (Hoosier Park), Jason Settlemoir (The Meadowlands) and Tom Aldrich (MGM Northfield Park) are deeply grateful for their support.