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Maryland Young Leaders Awardee Ilka

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Maryland Young Women Leaders Honoree

Ilka Tona
12th Grade, Middletown High School, Frederick County
Nominated by Paula Langley, School Counselor

Ilka was born in Rwanda, and has lived in three different countries – Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the United States. In 2016, her family immigrated to the United States, settling in Maryland. Ilka is currently a senior at Middletown High School, and she has been very involved in academic and extracurricular activities.

Ilka has made it her mission to expose herself to the most rigorous coursework possible. As a freshman, she was one of 17 students to take Advanced Placement (AP) US History. She was also the only freshman to take French 4. During her time at Middletown High School (MHS), Ilka has taken and has excelled in 11 AP courses. She is also enrolled in two Frederick Community College math courses. Ilka is ranked third out of 258 students; her GPA is a negligible 0.021 less than the first ranked. Her quest for knowledge is not limited to the instruction she receives; she is constantly reading non-fiction and fiction. Ilka is the only MHS senior to have accomplished the “Maryland State Seal of Biliteracy” in her junior year. This award recognizes students who excel in language learning, which is measured by rigorous proficiency assessments. Ilka is highly proficient in both English and French.

Ilka is a strong, passionate, empathic leader at MHS. She serves as President in three MHS academic organizations, while leading her peers with kindness and purpose. Ilka is enthusiastic about making a difference in the world. Working as the President of Key Club has been most important to her because she directly impacts her local community. She leads other members with volunteer projects, such as Relay for Life, Salvation Army and Kiwanis fundraisers, making blankets for the Linus Project, and food and book drives. Additionally, Ilka volunteers with her family at their church.

The most impressive item on her resume is Ilka’s neuroscience internship with the Johns Hopkins University NIMH Center for Brain Sciences. Ilka successfully completed the arduous application and was accepted as an intern in the competitive summer internship in 2022. Ilka researched various topics in neuroscience, but she was also able to choose a subtopic of interest to research. Ilka focused on how trauma reshapes the brain. She focused on the neurobiological and chemical imprints of trauma in victims. The program emphasized collaboration and team building, and solidified Ilka’s interest in majoring in neuroscience on a pre-medicine track, hoping to go to medical school and specialize in neurology.

She is the leader of many organizations and is a model student. In addition to her leadership at MHS, she has recently been appointed to the County Council Immigrant Affairs Board, where she serves as a student representative. She is a strong advocate for immigrant youth. She actively recommends policy to support the Frederick County immigrant community. Ilka is currently working as a junior volunteer at Frederick Health Hospital. Ilka is a talented and creative. She gardens, paints watercolors, writes, studies art history, reads, knits and crochets. She loves life and believes in the beauty of everyday experiences and discovering new, artistic endeavors. She also has love for Formula One racing.

“To live authentically and unapologetically is to be free.”- Ilka Tona

Maryland Commission for Women
51 Monroe Street, Suite 1034
Rockville, Maryland 20850