Georgia student named first recipient of Maura Binkley Memorial Scholarship

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 11:17 PM EDT
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By: Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News

May 26, 2020

ATLANTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- 18 months ago, a shooting at a Tallahassee yoga studio left two women dead; one of which was 21-year-old Florida State student Maura Binkley.

While her life was cut short, her legacy continues on.

Like most high school graduates, 17-year-old Penelope Aballera is trying to navigate her senior year amid the coronavirus crisis.

"So, I kind of talked about how that has been affecting me and how it sucks that my dreams are being canceled," said Aballera, who will graduate from Dunwoody High School in suburban Atlanta in June.

The same school Binkley graduated from in 2015.

"It had always touched me in the way that it touches everyone who hears about it," Abellera said of the shooting incident at then-Hot Yoga in November of 2018, when she was a sophomore at DHS.

After writing a short essay about navigating life during the pandemic, Abellera and her family received some good news; she would be the first ever recipient of Maura's namesake memorial scholarship.

"I said, we don't really know what is going to happen, but the best thing we can do is to stay positive at this time," Abellera said. "I'm really honored that Maura's parents chose me."

"It's very helpful financially, but it also gives us a chance to raise awareness about gun violence and the importance of young women's voices," said Abellera's mother, Anne Whipple.

Abellera says she plans to carry on Maura's legacy by fighting back against hate-driven violence.

"I hope to be an advocate, more of the things that Maura's Voice stands for," she said.

Abellera is headed to Georgia Tech in the fall, to study international affairs and modern language.

Coincidentally, a parallel to Maura, who was majoring in German and had extensive experience studying abroad.

In a statement, Maura's father, Jeff, says, "Margret and I are very proud that Penelope is the first recipient of the Maura Binkley Memorial Scholarship. She shares a number of the interestes and ambitions that characterized Maura's approach to life. We know Maura would be so proud as well."

Abellera and her family plan to have dinner with the Binkley's once it's safe to do so later this summer.

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