By Brielle Kirk as published in the Winter 2014 edition of Octorara Outlook, Octorara High School’s student newspaper.
Over the course of their high school careers, students think of where they will be after leaving high-school. Will they end up in college and if so, where? For so many there is no available assistance with college admissions, but Gerry Lenfest offered much help when he set up a scholarship supporting rural school students who work exceptionally hard: the Lenfest Scholarship. Octorara is part of this scholarship program that is offered to rural schools in the greater Philadelphia area, awarding around 24 scholarships per year to students from 14 schools in the area. Octorara has been involved in the program since 2005 and 25 Octorara students have received the scholarship.
The application process consists of three stages in which students write a series of essays followed by an interview. The program not only offers a substantial amount of money, but the experienced board also offers help on essays and other parts of the college application process. The process of choosing the new scholars will start very soon, as the first round of applications will be due February 1, 2015.
We would like to highlight some of the scholars from Octorara that have received the Lenfest Scholarship.
We asked the scholars three questions:
1. Where are you now?
Joe Mattis (Class of 2013): “I am a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. I am planning on majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics with a minor or double major in computer science.”
Mackenna Woodring (Class of 2009): “I am currently in graduate school at Temple University, where I am getting my Masters in Social Work” She is also a graduate research assistant and interns at a behavioral heath center where she provides mental health therapy to 12 clients per week.
Hannah Gajari (Class of 2011): “I am a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m majoring in linguistics and minoring in Hispanic studies.”
Marie McClure (Class of 2009): “After graduating from Octorara, I attended Villanova University for Nursing. I graduated in 2013 and have been living in Philadelphia, where I work as a nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). I work in the pediatric intensive care unit and love it!”
2. How has Lenfest affected your life? Is there something specific that makes you treasure the opportunity?
Joe Mattis: “Lenfest has helped alleviate some of the financial burden of college. They were also very helpful in the college selection and application process. They tried to push me towards challenging schools that they thought would be a match for me.” Joe also commended the Lenfest Community weekend that brings together all Lenfest winners for a weekend in the summer.
Mackenna Woodring: “Lenfest has greatly affected my life. For one it helped me go to the university of my dreams: Boston College. Arguably even more important than this, however, it has provided me with a network of support and connections that I take with me wherever I go. The great thing about the Lenfest Foundation is that they actually live out the motto they tell us at every community weekend: You are a Lenfest Scholar forever.”
Hannah Gajari: “Lenfest has changed my life. I am so grateful to have a college experience that is free from financial stress. Not only has the organization helped me afford my college education, but it also has helped me learn practical skills such as interviewing, essay writing, and networking. Finally, I am inspired to offer to others the same kindness and generosity that Lenfest has shown me.”
Marie McClure: “Lenfest made it possible for me to attend Villanova: a college which I fell in love with immediately but could never have attended without financial help. I will always be grateful for the Lenfest Foundation’s help in achieving my dreams of being a CHOP nurse.”
3. What advice would you give our readers?
Joe Mattis: “In college, make sure you branch out and try things that you are not sure you will like. I made a mistake by focusing very narrowly on something that I thought I wanted to do and used that to guide my course selections freshman year. Take classes that are interesting to you, not ones that you think will look good or help you get a job.
Mackenna Woodring: “One word of advice I have for those entering college: never be afraid to ask for something that is not immediately offered to you. Scholarships are a perfect example of this. There is always money hiding somewhere in universities, and it is always worthwhile to do some investigating to find these opportunities.
Hannah Gajari: Hannah took the chance to quote Teddy Roosevelt:“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dustand sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Marie McClure: I would tell readers to challenge themselves by taking classes that are outside their comfort level and are truly interesting to them. At the same time, however, students must balance the many aspects of their lives: academics, clubs, athletics, self-care, etc. This is the challenge of life, and it is so present in college as students are suddenly in control of their day to day activities for the first time.
As an ending note I will attempt to answer my own questions as well as I can at this part of the process. I am very grateful for the opportunity that I have been offered, but for me it was less about the money, although it is greatly appreciated, and more about the experience. It has helped me prepare for applying to college. From writing essays to dealing with deadlines the experience has been helpful. The main advisor has provided me with help that ranges from essay revising to school suggestions. My advice to underclassmen is: APPLY! Although grades are a large part of the process, Lenfest, looks at much more than your grades.
Like Hannah, I would like to leave you with two quotes, both by Michael Jordan: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can›t accept not trying.” and “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go throughit, or work around it.”
There is nothing to lose when it comes to Lenfest and some of the many rewards reaped are shown in thesuccesses of those above.