ALBANY -- Albany High School seniors Molly Cohen, Thalia Tom and Nora Rodriguez have been awarded $1,000 scholarships by the Albany Educational Foundation.

The foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, awarded the scholarships thanks to a grant from Wells Fargo Bank.

Rodriguez, who will attend Northeastern University in Boston, has been learning American Sign Language and wants to continue her ASL studies in college, as well as have a second major. Rodriguez has been taking two ASL courses at Berkeley Community College each semester for the past two years.

"I started learning ASL in my sophomore year of high school in order to fulfill the foreign language requirement of most colleges (and) universities, but I ended up falling in love with the language and wanted to continue taking classes," she said. "After I finished ASL II, I decided that I wanted to get more serious about my studies."

Rodriguez said she has received her certificate of achievement for completing the ASL program, earning a total of 30 credits.

"What's cool is that it has not only been academically and personally rewarding, but it will also put me ahead a bit in my major (skipping some of the introductory courses) once I arrive at Northeastern," she said.


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Rodriguez also volunteered with preschool and fourth grade classes at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, getting there via a combination of BART and walking -- a commute that takes about 75 minutes.

"I've had the chance to work with such amazing students and teachers that the experience has been well worth it," she said.

Rodriguez said she will be the first in her family to attend college.

Cohen will attend the University of Oregon and is still thinking about her major.

"I'm undecided so I'm going to see where it takes me and just take classes," she said.

School wasn't always easy for Cohen. She has dyslexia, first diagnosed when she was in elementary school.

"School when I was little it was pretty difficult," Cohen said. "Elementary school and middle school was challenging. I was struggling with reading, so I was going to a tutor for that."

However, she said she has always done well in the end through perseverance.

"I've always pushed myself really hard," she said. "I have really high expectations of myself. I always did really well in school."

Cohen has been an avid and successful softball player, making the varsity team as a freshman at Albany High and also playing on travel and rec league teams. She will spend the summer coaching players in the Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League. Cohen also played tennis at Albany High.

Cohen has two mothers and a sister who is a sophomore at Oakland School for the Arts.

"I'm very excited to start my new adventure but I'm also a little bit nervous to leave everything behind since I've been in Albany since kindergarten," she said. "It'll be a change, but it'll be a good change."

Tom will attend UC Davis, where she hopes to study Biology and English. Her plans are to become a pediatrician.

"English has always been one of my strengths but helping people is my passion," Tom said.

Awards are nothing new for Tom. Last year, she was named the Youth of the Year by the Albany Chamber of Commerce and honored with a spot in the parade during the Solano Stroll.

Tom has served as the co-editor in chief of the Albany Cougar student newspaper and has been an active participant in Albany High's Associated Student Body, including serving as president.

Tom said she plans on keeping busy at UC Davis.

"I want to continue student government and student journalism with associated students, the Aggie, (intramural) soccer, mentoring students from local high schools," she said.

Tom is the middle of five children.

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