New annual award totaling $4,000 honors college-bound Harlem high school seniors who succeed in school and help the community through service.

Christian Myers-Roach struggled a bit when he started high school at Thurgood Marshall Academy. But before long he found his footing_rooted in a desire to help people in his community and a growing talent for leadership and inspiring others.

His hard work and potential impressed the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, which honored Myers-Roach with its first college scholarship. He’s using the $1,000 renewable award to help finance his education at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

“Christian is a diligent and zealous individual who has overcome a great deal of struggle,” Thurgood Marshall Academy math teacher John D. Johnson said in recommending Myers-Roach. “He realizes that college is an opportunity for him to be successful and return to the community to give back. Christian’s commitment to excellence and wanting to ‘better himself’ are exemplified through his willingness to go above and beyond what is required of him.”

Community service is one of the criteria for the MMPCIA scholarship, and Myers-Roach sets a great example of that. While in high school, he volunteered with the Brotherhood-Sister Sol, a Harlem-based organization that helps empower black and Latino youth to develop community leadership skills. As a member of the group’s Liberation Program for youth activists, he worked to help identify issues affecting the community, establish goals for creating change and develop plans to address those issues.

He also traveled abroad with the group_first to Ghana to work in community development programs in rural villages, then to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and last summer to Brazil.

“Chris stood out from his peers because of his keen insight and analysis of how community issues are connected,” said Cidra M. Sebastien, an associate director of the Brotherhood/Sister Sol. “He impressed his peers and staff with his global lens and his thoughtful support of other youth during work-related challenges and personal crises.”

Myers-Roach, she said, is an “inspiring and compassionate leader,” a “quiet storm whose character and leadership are admired.”

For Myers-Roach, the election of President Barack Obama was particularly inspiring. “Since his election to the highest position in the country, I have thought about my life and the things that I want to achieve in the future,” Myers-Roach told the MMPCIA. “I have raised goals because I sincerely believe that getting a good education can make a big difference in shaping my future.”

He added: “Listening to his speeches has made me realize that I have options to choose from, that if I am dedicated to reaching my goals and willing to work hard I stand a good chance of being successful in my life.”

Myers-Roach says it’s taking some time to get adapted to the demands of college, especially in courses such as pre-calculus. But he’s particularly enjoyed his American history studies, which most recently covered the period from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

He hasn’t decided what he might want to do after college_but he’s pretty sure it needs to be something that involves being out and working with people, rather than sitting in an office.

He has some advice to the young people of Harlem:

“I would say just don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “Stay focused in school. There’s time you can have fun, but you have to separate fun from the times when you need to be serious and just try your hardest.”