Ross Fellowship Recipient Grateful for Opportunities and Rights

For Immediate Release:
November 2, 2016

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134


Sherando High School Graduate Awarded Laurel Ridge’s Prestigious Ross Fellowship

Future pharmacist studies, works, and serves others

Laurel Ridge student and Ross Fellowship for Service and Scholarship recipient Mark Layden is looking forward to casting his first general election vote in next week’s presidential race. As a naturalized U.S. citizen, the 2015 Sherando High School graduate doesn’t take this right for granted.

“It’s definitely a huge honor to be able to exercise my right,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful thing, once you become a U.S. citizen, you get the rights of a U.S.-born [citizen], you can all be equal.”

Receiving the prestigious Ross Fellowship for Service and Scholarship for the 2016-2017 year is another huge honor for Mark, who was born in Thailand and came to the U.S. when he was 6-years-old. The fellowship covers the cost of Layden’s full-time tuition and textbooks for the year, as well as the purchase of a computer.  He will also receive a $1,000 stipend upon the successful completion of a year-long service learning project. Mark was one of 51 applicants for the fellowship.


“This is already an opportunity America has given me,” he said. “It would be a lot harder in Thailand.”

Only the wealthy in his homeland are able to afford a college education, Mark said.

He began his Laurel Ridge career while still in high school, earning 25 college credit hours through the dual-enrollment program.

For his service project, Mark volunteers with both the Salvation Army in Winchester and Royal Haven Nursing Home in Front Royal.  At the Salvation Army, he helps in the pantry and will work on the Angel Tree program at Christmastime.  At the nursing home, Mark assists staff and residents. He will also shadow a med tech, a valuable experience as he pursues his dream of earning a doctorate in pharmacy

Mark has kept a high GPA while also working at CVS as a pharmacy technician. He will return to his other job, at Lowe’s, during breaks from school. He’s also involved in numerous extra-curricular activities and volunteer work at Laurel Ridge, including the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the Student Government Association, and the Ambassador program. As an Ambassador, Mark does outreach for Laurel Ridge at area high schools and helps with campus tours.

He is financing his education “100 percent” on his own, so he’s especially grateful for what the fellowship is allowing him to do.

“It’s helping me focus my resources towards my career so that I don’t have to worry that much about working as much during the semester to pay for Laurel Ridge,” he said. “That way, I can spend more time studying and achieving a high grade so that I’m more competitive [with other pharmacy school applicants].”

By attending Laurel Ridge, Mark is continuing a family tradition. His older brother, Kittikun Kijbamrunglarp, spent two years here before transferring to James Madison University and earning a degree in quantitative finance this past May. His mother, Lumyai Layden, also went to Laurel Ridge, before transferring to JMU.

“So, definitely Laurel Ridge has done a lot for my family,” Mark said.

He decided while a high school sophomore that his first step upon graduating would be to go to Laurel Ridge for two years, to save money before transferring on to a university.


Mark posted this picture from Humpback Rock in Afton to his Facebook page.

“Mark’s selflessness and can-do spirit were really apparent in the application and interview process,” explains Laurel Ridge Educational Foundation Chair Emily Marlow Beck. “He believes his parents have done so much for him that he wants to be responsible for paying his own way through college.”

The Ross Fellowship springs from the generous bequest made by World War II veteran Charles Ross.  The Front Royal resident left his $1.4 million estate to the Laurel Ridge Foundation in 2013.  For more information about the Ross Fellowship, please visit

“We are so grateful that Mark can benefit from the generosity of Mr. Ross,” says Laurel Ridge President Cheryl Thompson-Stacy. “I think Mr. Ross would be pleased that someone with Mark’s character and integrity is able to further his education and serve his community because of this generous educational award.”


Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected]173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.