Silver Spring, Maryland — On September 11, 2001, 11-year-old Asia Cottom was headed to California.

She had been selected to attend a National Geographic Society ecology conference with other talented young students from around the country. Tragically, terrorists hijacked Cottom’s plane and crashed into the Pentagon. No passengers survived.

“My mind can’t even fathom where [Asia] might be right now,” said Michelle Cottom, Asia’s mother. “Education was her thing, so the boundaries are endless.”

Asia’s parents quickly created a scholarship fund in her name to provide financial assistance to college-bound students.

The Asia SiVon Cottom Memorial Scholarship Fund has raised about $75,000 for more than a dozen students since 2002.

Recipients receive a financial award their first year of college, in addition to other forms of assistance throughout their time in school.

“It’s not just a scholarship, it’s not about money,” said Clifton Cottom, Asia’s father. “It’s about family. I think we try to put family in everything we do.”

The scholarship and family support is helping young students like Lawrence Pulliam.

Pulliam, 19, attends Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. He is enrolled in the college’s computer gaming and simulation program.

”[Asia] was a joyous person, liked to smile, liked to have fun,” said Pulliam, who grew up with up with her. ”[She] always put a smile on my face.”

Pulliam said he is determined to make the Cottom family proud by excelling at his schoolwork.

”[The scholarship fund] is an opportunity for others to get an education and improve the quality of their lives,” Pulliam said. “I think it’s a great way to honor a life lost by helping others.”

Pulliam said he hopes to finish up his time at Montgomery, before transferring to University of Baltimore, where he will pursue a bachelors degree in digital simulation and entertainment.

“I’m laying my foundation here [at Montgomery College],” Pulliam said. “I’m not done. [The scholarship] drives me to work hard.”

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