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West Virginia’s young emerging leaders vie for Foundation Scholarships

collage of twenty headshots of young adults

2020's Bucklew Scholars will begin their journey at West Virginia University in various disciplines, a deep respect for cultural diversity, a passion for sustainable innovation and a desire to serve others. (Submitted photo)

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Although this year’s Bucklew Scholars will begin their journey at West Virginia University in various disciplines, a deep respect for cultural diversity, a passion for sustainable innovation and a desire to serve others unites the 2020 cohort. 

The Bucklew Scholarship is given to 20 high-achieving West Virginia students accepted to the University and qualifies them to be considered for the Foundation Scholarship, WVU’s highest academic scholarship.

The class of emerging leaders includes a pilot, the state’s top female soccer player and a 10th generation farmer who will use various academic disciplines as a lens to explore our ever-changing world and solve the most critical issues facing society. 

Biology majors, Sophia Flower from Fairmont Senior High School, Grace McCusker from Morgantown High School and Shelby Meador from Shady Spring High School are among seven scholars who share a passion for medicine.  

Flower, who altered her disdain for science during her sophomore AP Biology course and recognized her desire to work with children while serving as a summer camp counselor, aspires to become a pediatrician.

Driven to make a difference in her home state and combine her interest in science and sociology, McCusker will eventually attend dental school in hopes of improving access to oral health care for underserved populations.

Meador, whose ultimate goal is to serve rural communities as an epidemiologist, believes a degree biology will provide a strong foundation for her future graduate-level studies in public health.

Opportunities to participate in multiple mission trips have reaffirmed Bethany Knight’s decision to become a physician-scientist dedicated to innovative treatments and cures for diseases. Knight, a biochemistry major, hails from Notre Dame High School.

Propelled by a passion to serve “people from all walks of life,” All-American soccer player Emilie Charles from Cabell Midland High School will follow in her father’s footsteps as an emergency medical physician. She will major in mathematics.

Biomedical engineering majors Rushik Patel from George Washington High School and Levi Watson from University High School  and Thomas Williams, an exercise physiology major from Moorefield High School, also plan to attend medical school. 

Patel, who has established strong patient relationships while serving as a volunteer at a local family practice, will pursue his dream of changing lives with the development of prosthetics and artificial organs.

Uncertain if he will follow in his father’s footsteps a neurologist, Watson is also exploring a career where he can unite his major with the field of sports medicine to research innovations in equipment to improve player safety.

A family farmer and sports enthusiast, Williams decided to pursue a career dedicated to helping people with debilitating orthopedic injuries after his dad sustained a clavicle fracture in an ATV accident.

Jillian Blair from Wheeling Park High School, Olivia Dowler from Weir High School, Megan Skean from Cabell Midland High School and Sarah Sweeney from Spring Mills High School, aspire to attend law school. 

Blair, who wants to help bridge the communication gap between science and policy makers, will use her environmental and energy resources management studies as the path to a career in environmental law.

With a passion to serve those who have been unjustly silenced, Dowler plans to eventually serve as a human rights lawyer and teach history at a university level.

She will double major in history and world languages, literatures, and linguistics

Inspired by her stepmother’s dedication to the environment, Skean, a co-creator of an award-winning social awareness app, believes a degree in political science will provide a strong foundation for her career as an environmental lawyer. 

Sweeney, an acting major minoring in English, believes “nothing is more satisfying than portraying a character on stage.” Although she dreams of becoming a famous actress, she also plans to pursue her backup career as a civil liberties attorney.  

Many of the scholars seek careers in engineering, including Cade McMunigal from James Monroe High School, Madison Seti from Bridgeport High School and William Turman from Cabell Midland High School, who will double major in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Uncertain about his career, McMunigal is interested in the design of next-generation aircraft and spacecraft. 

Seti, who found her perfect fit in her junior physics course “while delving deeper into engineering,” looks forward to a career in clean energy technologies to help keep our planet healthy.

A private pilot and four-year cadet in the AFJROTC, Turman aspires to revolutionize the aerospace industry by leading a company that will help make aerospace more economically and environmentally friendly.

Calvin Dear, a physics major from Musselman High School who has been interested in space exploration since childhood, will start his journey to become an astrophysicist. He also plans to pursue studies in astrodynamics.

A passion for STEM and inspired by the arts, Juliet Wanosky from Parkersburg South High School is a mechanical engineering major minoring in theater and Spanish who dreams of becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer. 

Exploring a career in biomedical engineering, Davis Funk from Spring Mills High School was prepared to major in mechanical engineering until his biology course at WVU this semester sparked an interest in disease research.

Elijah Jones from Elkins High School is a chemical engineering major excited to join the research on sustainable development to help combat climate change.

Ethan Wimer from Preston High School, a civil and environmental engineering major who has witnessed the adverse effects of mining in his hometown, will research renewable technologies in hopes of bringing economic development to his community.

Rounding out the Bucklew Scholars are Alexis Helmick, a pre-veterinary major in animal and nutritional sciences from Tyler Consolidated High School and William Tobin, a computer science and mathematics double major from Fairmont Senior High School.

Helmick, who looks forward to bridging her passions for animals and research, plans to eventually pursue her DMV and open her own practice or join the research on large animal vaccine development. 

Tobin, who believes computer science is incredibly important to our evolving world, hopes to start his own machine learning and artificial intelligence company to help reduce health care costs. 

The Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship is named after WVU’s 20th president and is valued at $40,000, providing its recipients with more than $10,000 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 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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