This year’s cohort of Bucklew Scholars comes to West Virginia University with a few common goals, most notably an education that will allow them to search for solutions to what they see as the world problems their generation will be faced with overcoming.
The Bucklew Scholarship is given to 20 high-achieving West Virginia students accepted to the University and qualifies them to be considered for a Foundation Scholarship, the highest academic scholarship the university awards.
The variety of their experiences brings them to WVU with a broad scope of talents and achievements. Among the 20 high school seniors, two already are published authors and one has her own business. They are musicians, bakers, dancers, runners, actors, readers, hikers, poets, knitters and volunteers
While no theme or definition easily lends itself to the group as a whole, their access to a world of information has allowed them to see a world in need, both at home and far away.
Breellen Fleming from Wirt County High School is already an entrepreneur with her own online business, designing business cards and logos, and also commissioned traditional artwork. She sees art as economic development and believes that it could help retain students who leave West Virginia after college graduation.
“I want to be one of the people who create space for the kids who want to stay here,” Fleming said. “I want to help local art communities thrive around the state. I want West Virginia to have those opportunities. There’s so much good art around the state; we really need to bring that to light.”
Staying in West Virginia and providing healthcare topped the list of career goals for Hedgesville High School’s Nicholas Miller, Molly Powney from Parkersburg High School, Noor Dahshan from George Washington High School in Charleston and Jessica Miller from Scott High School in Boone County
Nicholas Miller, who plans to major in biochemistry, then go on to medical school, said he wants to be a surgeon who works in rural areas, but also to travel with Operation Smile, to repair cleft palates. He’s been involved in politics through Inspire West Virginia, registering students to vote.
“I want to go into rural areas to provide health care,” Miller said. “I also want to go into politics after I’m a doctor.”
Another biochemistry major, Powney plans to go to medical school to become an obstetrician/gynocologist and practice in an area that has a low population of female doctors.
“I’m really interested in gender equality,” Powney said. “I’m horrified that all the OBs are male. I want to be someone (patients) can talk to.”
Dahshan takes a different healthcare route in her goal of becoming a psychiatrist and helping address attitudes about mental health.
“Mental health has always been a taboo topic,” she said. “It needs to be seen as a disease.”
Although she was born in Oklahoma and lived in Saudi Arabia for two years, West Virginia is now “home” for Dahshan.
“West Virginia has given so much to me it would be wrong of me not to give back,” she said. “The sense of family and community – I always feel safe here. Sometimes I feel like I’ve never lived anywhere else. West Virginia becomes your life. I’ve always felt like I belong here.”
“I’ve had big dreams since middle school,” Jessica Miller said. “I’ll probably stay here and do rural medicine. There’s not great access to healthcare.”
West Virginia won’t keep all of them, however.
Quinn Hopen from Braxton County High School, Larissa Tyree from Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley and Adam Craig from Wheeling Park High School want to carry their WVU experiences farther afield.
Hopen wants to earn her degree in biochemistry with a women and gender studies minor so that she can work with Doctors Without Borders.
“I’d like to travel with them as a medical volunteer and go to Sri Lanka, specifically to help women and children,” Hopen said.
Tyree wants to specialize in infectious diseases and work on HIV/AIDS research with Doctors Without Borders in South Africa.
“I want to major in biology with an emphasis on genomics,” Tyree said. As for her current destination, WVU—“I’ve been looking forward to it my whole life.”
With an eye on foreign service work through the Peace Corps, Craig decided he’d stay close to home to work on his undergraduate degree in international studies.
“WVU has been an important part of my life since I can remember,” Craig said. “WVU has always been the obvious option. Football games were the best experience; you could feel the spirit and the family this creates.”
The University and the scholarships are family traditions for some of the scholars, like Sarah Cokeley from Ritchie County High School and Zach Gilpin from Morgantown High School.
Cokeley’s Mountaineer legacy begins with her grandfather, who was on the wrestling team and continues with her father, who was the Mountaineer in the early 1980s. Two of her sisters were Bucklew Scholars and one of those, a Foundation Scholar.
“WVU really lives up to its name,” Cokeley said. “I can’t wait to be part of that. It’s a great atmosphere and educational opportunities you just can’t find anywhere else.”
Cokeley plans to major in industrial engineering, “putting the pieces together” for whatever problem she’s dealing with.
WVU is practically home for Gilpin, whose father is also a WVU alumnus.
“It’s the family thing to do,” Gilpin said. “I like the Honors College inside the (University). I didn’t want to go to a small school, but that has a small school feel with a lot of support.”
For others, like Jessica Hogbin from Hedgesville High School, it was love at first sight when she came to WVU in 7th grade with the Governor’s School for Math and Science.
“I loved every single thing about it,” Hogbin said. “I loved being in the labs, I loved being in the classroom. I knew since then I wanted to be here.”
A history major, Hogbin said winning a WVU Foundation Scholarship would allow her to spend a semester abroad, traveling to Italy to focus on the country’s medieval history and to learn about the culture.
Alyssa Rittinger from Winfield High School and David Gainer from Elkins High School looked at other schools, but decided on the state’s land-grant University.
Rittinger was determined to go out of state to college— until she attended a Mountaineer football game.
“I realized how much it has to offer me,” said the senior, who wants to go into the legal field. “Since then, I’ve known this is where I want to go.”
“When I visited other colleges, I was comparing them to WVU,” said Gainer, who wants to major in biochemistry and develop the use of stem cells in generating artificial organs. “It’s home; it’s the first thing."
Research is important to Miriam Demasi from Wheeling Park High School and Meagan Dougherty from Berkeley Springs High School.
Demasi wants to work with Engineers Without Borders. She’s already developed building materials from waste paper, fly ash and lime that will withstand an earthquake, and she’s intent on recycling and repurposing what others discard.
She plans to be a biochemistry major, and wants to advance the science behind organ and limb development.
Dougherty looks forward to the opportunities she’ll have at an R1 research institution, where she plans to pursue a career in medicine, beginning with a degree in biochemistry.
“I definitely want to go to med school and become a physician,” Dougherty said. She’s choosing between orthopedics, pediatrics and anesthesiology, and leaning toward the latter because of her love for chemistry.
Getting her undergraduate career started as a Foundation Scholar would be validation for Georgia Beatty, who wants to show that her hard work at Weir High School has paid off.
“I cared about something and it’s going to help me, but it’s also going to help other people,” said Beatty, who wants to be a journalist. She’d like to write about politics, and also travel. “If that leads me into politics, so be it.”
Beatty has a long game plan that concludes with a Ph.D. in English Literature and teaching at a university.
Clay-Battelle’s Abby Sine plans to study mathematics, and would like to join Beatty in an academic career at the university level with a Ph.D.
“I think WVU would be a good place to work,” said Sine, who “fell in love” with the campus when she was younger.
Bucklew Scholars are academic achievers, but they aren’t all work and no play.
Joseph Sullivan’s sense of humor has inspired some unique chemistry experiments. He and a friend took the bismuth out of Pepto-Bismol, then carried the metal around in a plastic bag.
“I have a healthy affinity for chemistry,” he said. “I like to try to learn new things.”
The Hurricane High School senior wants to make science accessible to others and admires Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson for doing that.
Sullivan plans on a mechanical engineering degree that will evolve into a career in the aerospace field.
Will McNeil is an Eagle Scout who’s written a book about treating others with kindness and respect. “Me First: A Modern Day Fable about Service, Scouting, and Self-Esteem” features an eagle who thinks only of himself and finally learns that treating others with respect makes him happy, as well.
From University High School in Morgantown, McNeil plans to major in wildlife and fisheries resources, and would use his Foundation semester abroad “down under.”
“I would like to study the wildlife in Australia,” he said. “It would be such an honor to be a face and a representative of WVU.”
Grace Bannister often finds herself in the Logan High School theater in her spare time, either on stage or behind the scenes. She’s even managed the theater company.
Bannister wants to study anthropology and would use her semester abroad in the Andes Mountains, amid the Incan ruins.
Eventually, she’d like to be an immigration attorney, or maybe delve into politics.
“I wrestle with that,” she said. “I really want to help people and I feel like it’s the most direct way, through immigration reform or education reform.”
The Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship is named after WVU’s 20th president and is valued at $32,000; providing its recipients with more than $8,000 per year over four years to be used toward educational costs. All Bucklew Scholars have qualified for the Honors College at WVU, and the scholarship can be used in addition to the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.
The Foundation Scholarships, which will be announced May 16, are awarded to five Bucklew Scholars.
The scholarships are part of the University’s comprehensive awards program and are supported, in part, by the WVU Foundation, the private non-profit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of WVU.
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