For the 2015 West Virginia University class of Bucklew Scholars, attending their state’s flagship university is all about opportunities – to become cardiologists and engineers, to study abroad, to discover, research, learn and grow.
It isn’t only the opportunities that WVU offers these 20 top-achieving West Virginia high school seniors in the classroom and beyond that will influence their decision about calling WVU home for the next four years. For many of these students, the prospect of using a WVU education to reciprocate those opportunities to the state that gave them roots was an integral part of their decision to join the Mountaineer family.
“I want to give back,” said Sarah Clifford, a student from Charleston’s Capital High School who hopes to capitalize upon the extensive research opportunities offered by WVU. “I want young people in West Virginia to see that this is a special state and there are opportunities to change the world right in our backyard.”
And changing the world isn’t just a distant dream for this group of determined scholars. It’s a decisive goal – one in which they firmly believe is attainable with a WVU degree in-hand.
“I chose WVU not only because it has a respected engineering program and great academics, but because I know I will be inspired to make a difference by passionate and driven people,” said Soofia Lateef, a Bridgeport High School student who has enrolled in the chemical engineering program through the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.
Lateef wasn’t the only Bucklew Scholar to cite Statler College as part of WVU’s appeal. In fact, eight of this year’s recipients – including Emily Akers of Shady Spring High School, Amanda Cathreno and John Kolar of Morgantown’s University High School, Cristin Dolan of Wheeling Park High School, Paraag Gupta of Wellsburg’s Brooke High School, Dalton Okel of Fairmont Senior High School, Peyton Panger of Capital High School and Aishwarya Vijay of Morgantown High School have declared engineering as their intended major.
Panger – like her Bucklew peers – had many options in front of her; however, she believed that studying engineering at WVU was the choice that would allow her to make the biggest impact in her field.
“I want to become an engineer to solve some of the world’s problems and reward the people and the state who helped me get to this point by making people’s lives easier and safer,” said Panger. “I visited other schools, but I felt that WVU was the best place for me to achieve my goals.”
Supported by the WVU Foundation, the Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship will enable the students, all of whom have the distinction of qualifying for the Honors College, to achieve their goals while at WVU. The scholarship is named after WVU’s 20th president and is valued at $32,000; it provides its recipients with more than $8,000 per year over four years to be used toward educational costs. It can be used in addition to the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.
“On behalf of our entire team at the WVU Foundation, I want to congratulate this year’s Bucklew Scholarship recipients. You are truly among the best and brightest high school students in West Virginia,” said Cindi Roth, Foundation president and CEO. “Donors tell us they give to WVU because they want to help students succeed and prosper. It is our hope, through this scholarship, that your future at WVU will be filled with many exciting and rewarding opportunities.”
While the students are grateful that the award will help offset the cost of college, its significance is more than financial. Especially for Kaitlyn Akers, who has the distinction of being the first student from Montgomery’s Valley High School to win the award.
“This award means everything to me,” said Akers, who plans to major in psychology and attend medical school to become a psychiatrist. “As the first person to receive this scholarship from my high school, I want to show other students in my school that hard work really does pay off.”
For some of these scholars, the significance lies in continuing a family legacy of Mountaineers. This is especially the case for Lateef, Cristin Dolan and Ahmad Haffar, all of whom were inspired to achieve by their siblings—who just happen to be former Bucklew Scholars.Wheeling Park High School student Dolan—who hopes to join the Mountaineer Marching Band and play the piccolo while studying biochemistry—was inspired by three generations of Mountaineer alumni in her family, including four older sisters who attended WVU.
“My sister (Emma) was a Bucklew Scholar in 2012, so she really pushed me,” said Dolan.
“All of my siblings have attended WVU and they believe it has been a great choice,” said aspiring physician Ahmad Haffar of Charleston’s George Washington High School, whose brother Mouaz was also a Bucklew Scholar in 2013. “My family encouraged me to apply based on their experiences.”
For Abby Gellner from St. Mary’s High School, her ambitious career goal to research autism as a pediatric neurologist and deepen her study of religion through visiting Jerusalem while at WVU also started with the influence of her siblings.
“I’m proud to carry on a legacy,” said Gellner. “My brothers graduated from WVU and encouraged me to make the most of the opportunities that becoming a Mountaineer can offer me.”
One of the opportunities afforded by becoming a Mountaineer is WVU’s study abroad program – an incentive cited by several of this year’s Bucklew Scholar recipients. That opportunity will become a reality for five of these 20 candidates, who will be announced as Foundation Scholars in May based on their interviews during the Bucklew Scholar process.
The five students selected as Foundation Scholars, WVU’s top academic honor for high school seniors, will be awarded an additional $4,500 study abroad/education enhancement stipend as part of that award.
“Experiencing a new culture for the first time would provide me with an incredible learning opportunity,” said Callan Banks, a pre-pharmacy major from Ripley High School. “I hope to return home enlightened with different perspectives about my own culture, as well.”
That sentiment was echoed by Nicole Fama from Shady Spring High School and Lindsey Keplinger from Sutton’s Braxton County High School, who both cited study abroad opportunities as influencing factors in choosing to attend WVU.
“I applied to WVU knowing there was an exemplary study abroad program that I want to take advantage of,” said Fama. “I would love to study at the Austrailian Catholic University in Melbourne; it would be an amazing opportunity to broaden my scope of knowledge.”
Some Bucklew Scholars have different, yet equally important plans for their educational enhancement stipend if selected as Foundation Scholars. Rosalynn Andrade from Beckley’s Woodrow Wilson High School and Noah LeGrand from Huntington High School hope to use the allotment to fund internship opportunities to advance their career paths—and having this opportunity was influential in their selection of WVU.
“As a political science major, I like the idea of setting up an internship with a public policy think tank or in the office of an elected official,” said LeGrand. “I am grateful for the opportunity to explore further into the application of my studies.”
For aspiring physicians like Josef Heller from Shady Spring High School and Sean Worix from Coal City’s Independence High School, their selection of WVU was influenced by the fact that there are opportunities for them beyond their baccalaureate degree.
“WVU has a medical school,” said Heller. “As someone who is studying a pre-med academic plan, that was so important to me in my college selection. If I can stay here for medical school, it means I can conduct research here and help to serve the health care sector in West Virginia someday.”
Regardless of why they chose WVU, it’s clear that all of the Bucklew Scholars believe they have the opportunity to do as much for their state as their state can do for them.
“I hope I can use my opportunities at WVU to give back to my state later in my career,” said Lateef. “That’s what it’s all about.”
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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