Five college-level students from the Fort Lee community received financial assistance for their higher education expenses through the 2020 Scholarships for Military Children program.

Mary Cyckowski, Conor Helmick, Chanelle O'Neal, Zane Ruzicka and Martin Steiner are the recipients of the $2,000 awards. The program is administered by the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation and is funded by commercial vendors partnered with the Defense Commissary Agency.

Scholarship selection is based on academic performance, participation in extracurricular activities and quality of writing in an essay of 500 words or less. The local students are among 500 others from military families across the U.S. who received equivalent grants for the upcoming school year.

The following is information about each awardee:

Mary Cyckowski lives in Chester and is a 2019 graduate from W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax. She is a general engineering major at Virginia Tech. In high school, she was a member of the National Honor Society, Student Government Association, FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Team and the Society of Women Engineers. In addition, she was an elementary school tutor. Her father, Lt. Col. Andrew Cyckowski, is an instructor at Army Logistics University.

Conor Helmick lives in Mechanicsville and graduated from Atlee High School in 2018. He is a computer science major at Liberty University. In high school, he was a member of the National Honor Society, the Cross Country team, the Beta Club, the band and was a Boy Scout. His father, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Helmick, is in the National Guard and works at Joint Force Headquarters, North Chesterfield.

Chanelle O'Neal lives in Colonial Heights and is 2020 graduate of the city’s high school. She will attend Christopher Newport University and plans to major in Biology. She was a member of the DECA, Beta and Key clubs, the National Honor Society and a student ambassador. Her father is retired Sgt. 1st Class Clifford O’Neal Jr.

Zane Ruzicka lives in Midlothian and graduated from the International Baccalaureate Program at Midlothian High School in 2019. He is a behavioral decision sciences major at Brown University in Rhode Island. He was a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish and Rock Climbing clubs, a math tutor and technical crew tutor. His father, retired Lt. Col. Matthew Ruzicka, works at DCMA here.

Martin Steiner lives in Chesterfield and graduated recently from James River High School. He will attend the University of South Carolina. He was a member of the National Honor, Model United Nations and Mu Alpha Theta Honor societies. Additional information and a photograph was not available for the student.

“In this, the 20th anniversary of the scholarship program, we were pleased once again with the overall quality of the applicants,” said Fisher House Vice President James Weiskopt, a retired Army Public Affairs colonel. “We received a total of 4,851 applications from 225 commissaries.”

He said the foundation had modernized the entry process over the past several years, and that contributed to the successful outcome this time in the face of social distancing and other restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This was the second year the entire application process was done online,” he noted.

The program recognizes the contributions of families to the readiness of the fighting force and celebrates the commissaries' role in enhancing military quality of life. Applicants must be planning to attend or already a full-time student at an accredited college or university. 

The stores where ceremonies would normally be held to honor scholarship awardees had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions as well, noted Marye Dobson, DeCA’s scholarships program liaison. “These are uncertain times with social distancing being the best safeguard for our patrons, so store celebrations could not be held this year.”

For the full list of this year’s winners and other details, visit