Twenty incoming students win $50,000 Medallion Scholarships

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Scholarship winners were announced in May.

KALAMAZOO—Twenty freshmen have won coveted Medallion Scholarships to begin their studies at Western Michigan University this fall.

Medallion Scholarships are the highest merit-based award WMU can bestow on an incoming freshman. Valued at $50,000 each over four years, they constitute one of the largest merit-based awards in American higher education.

Eight of this year's incoming scholars received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. The remaining 12 scholars received awards that bear the names of their scholarships' donors or the individuals for whom the scholarships were established.

About the scholarship program

The 2013 recipients were announced in May. The students were selected after competing for the awards in the 30th annual Medallion Scholarship Program Competition held during January and February sessions at WMU. Invitations to compete were based on a combination of high grade point averages and ACT scores, and were extended to students who had applied to WMU by Dec. 7, 2012.

A total of 729 seniors from across Michigan and the United States participated in this year's competition. The daylong event included essay writing and a group problem-solving activity for the students as well as an informational session for the participants' parents.

The 40 top-performing competitors returned to campus and were interviewed as finalists for the Medallion Scholarship, with 20 ultimately being selected to receive the honor.

In addition to the $50,000 monetary award, Medallion Scholars become members of WMU's Lee Honors College. The college, one of the oldest honors programs in the nation, enhances the undergraduate learning experience by providing such benefits as smaller class sizes, individualized academic advising and a freshman mentoring program.

The finalists not awarded Medallion Scholarships were offered a top-tier Deans' Scholarship worth $6,000 over two years, and all of the remaining competitors were offered a one-time Dean's Scholarship worth $3,000. Regardless of tier, every Dean's Scholarship recipient who lives in a WMU residence hall during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years will also receive a $4,000 Residence Hall Award to offset their 2014-15 housing costs.

This year's 20 Medallion Scholars have an average ACT score of 30.85 and a grade point average of 4.25. Of those 20, nine come from underrepresented minority groups. They will begin their studies at WMU in the fall and are scheduled to graduate during the 2016-17 academic year.

Medallion Scholarship winners

Giulia O. Avelar

Avelar, of Texas Township., Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in psychology. She graduated from Portage (Mich.) Central High School and is the daughter of Patricia Hahnenberg of Texas Township. A member of the National Honor Society, she earned accolades such as a Husky Gold Academic Award and three Mustang Gold Academic awards. Avelar was active throughout high school in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as well as theater and the choir. She performed in the school musical annually and sang with the choir at Carnegie Hall in New York her junior year.

In addition, she participated in an after-school Women's Ensemble for two years and periodically sang the "National Anthem" at school athletic games. Avelar's community service activities have included working with the Moose Project, a mentoring program for students with mental impairments; working with Study Tables, a tutoring program for students; and serving as a student ambassadors officer, helping freshmen get acclimated to high school. She also donates blood, participates in church activities and uses her skills in Spanish to tutor as well as translate.

Joshua M. Ayerdi

Ayerdi, of Portage, Mich., received the William Robinson Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in secondary mathematics education. He graduated from Portage (Mich.) Central High School and is the son of Barbara Ellen Cornell. A member of the National Honor Society, he earned a Mustang Gold Academic Award four years in a row. Ayerdi was involved with vocal music throughout high school, participating in the concert choir, Chamber Singers and Men's Ensemble as well as performing in this year's production of "Beauty and the Beast." He also played singles and doubles tennis all four years of high school and took part in tae kwon do for two years.

As a National Honor Society member, Ayerdi completed more than the required amount of annual volunteer hours and was an active participant in projects such as the Mustang Mentors, the Woods Edge Pen Pal Program and Teacher Appreciation Day. He also worked on the student council treasury committee his freshman year, helping to promote council activities and fundraise for school activities. In addition, he served as a math tutor for middle and high school students and has helped out at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum the past two summers.

Samantha E. Blosser

Blosser, of Temperance, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in music. She graduated from Bedford Senior High School in Temperance and is the daughter of Tina Blosser. A member of the National Honor Society, she earned the 2011 Rabbi Sokobin Confirmation Award for Academic Excellence, 2010-11 Outstanding School Service/Peer Tutoring award and 2011-12 Outstanding English Student award. Blosser plays saxophone and participated in music and theatre all four years of high school. She is a 2010 inductee into the International Thespian Society, from which she won a Best Character Award three years running.

She also is a member of the University of Michigan Youth Jazz Improvisation Ensemble and served in such school leadership positions as vice president of the varsity band and head drum major of the marching band. Blosser has earned numerous awards for her poetry and short story writing and high honors as a soloist or group member in various categories at big band and jazz festivals as well as county and district solo and ensemble competitions. Her community service activities have included visiting the elderly through Jewish Family Services' Friendly Visitor program, being a Hebrew tutor at Temple Shomer Emunim and serving as a Supercamp camp counselor.

Marine P. Bolliet

Bolliet, of Kalamazoo, received the Diether H. and Carol A. Haenicke Medallion Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in biomedical sciences. She graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and is the daughter of David Bolliet and Tina Glover, both of Kalamazoo. A member of the National Honor Society, she will be entering WMU at age 16.

Throughout high school, Bolliet made her school's dean's list as well as won high honors as a student at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center. She also was involved in student council all four years and was a member of the theatre technical crew for two years. Much of her time outside of class has been spent participating in school and nonschool athletics, as a member of the ski team and playing soccer and lacrosse. In addition, Bolliet has volunteered considerable time to community service activities such as tutoring, assisting in a preschool class and serving on a ski patrol.

Kelly M. Brandon

Brandon, of Franklin, Wisc., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in an art field. She graduated from Franklin High School and is the daughter of Thomas and Kimberly Brandon. A member of the National Honor Society, she has earned a Student Achievement Award for Academic Excellence for the past three years. Brandon played tennis and participated in band throughout high school. A band section leader, she performed guitar pieces in the school talent show that she arranged or wrote and was a member of the jazz band her sophomore year.

Her other activities included serving as yearbook editor during her senior year and playing basketball and soccer in previous years. She helped to organize and run her school's cystic fibrosis fundraiser, tutors younger students in several subjects, and plays music at senior citizen centers. Brandon also has volunteered at the Franklin Public Library and works part time as an ImPress associate at Office Max.

Travis J. Culhane

Culhane, of Mattawan, Mich., received the Ted and Karen Stone Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in a business field. He graduated from Mattawan (Mich.) High School and is the son of Jim and Susan Culhane. A member of the National Honor Society, he participated in Model United Nations and was part of the Mattawan group that won the Best Large Delegation award at the state Model U.N. competition. Culhane was s a member of the teams for hockey and lacrosse and served as captain for both.

He won the Grant Smith Memorial Award from the Southwestern Michigan High School Hockey League, which is given to an outstanding hockey player who exemplifies the highest degree of sportsmanship on and off the ice. While he was on the hockey team, Mattawan won two league championships and one league tournament. Culhane's community service activities have included volunteering for the Kalamazoo Marathon and the Kalamazoo Deacons Conference, in addition to school projects such as the junior prom, Kick-it for Curesearch to raise money for cancer research and National Honor Society events.

Ana Del Rocio Morales

Morales, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., received the Emeriti Council Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in theatre. She graduated from Buffalo Grove High School and is the daughter of Maria Leon. She was involved with theatre throughout high school and was a costume and makeup crew chief for all of that time. Morales spent nearly the same amount of time helping to design sets and leading set construction, and she worked on two shows that were selected to be performed at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival.

She also was a member of the band for one year and was involved in vocal music for three years. She was the leader and a member of the Crew show choir as well as a vocal leader for the chamber choir and a member of the concert choir and vocal jazz group. Her community service activities have included a mission trip to Minneapolis.

Kylie L. Dennis

Dennis, of Norton Shores, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in biology. She graduated from Mona Shores High School in Muskegon, Mich., and is the daughter of David and Pamela Dennis. A member of the National Honor Society, she made the honor roll throughout high school and earned awards in scholarship, citizenship and other areas. Dennis, a dancer and a soprano 2 in the choir, was accepted into her school's prestigious Allegros musical theatre group; top women's choir, A Capella; and top co-educational choir, Singers.

Dennis made the varsity basketball team as a starter her freshman year and for her entire high school career, was a starter on the varsity volleyball team. In the latter sport, she broke the school record for hitting percentage and helped her team win its first city tournament in 12 years. Dennis earned several school awards in that sport, and was selected for all-conference, all-area, all-region and all-academic honors. She is a longstanding Adopt a Family participant and has helped fundraise for health-related causes as well as volunteered at Red Cross blood drives, tutored middle and high school students, and helped to coach basketball and volleyball.

Oseas B. Hudy-Velasco

Hudy-Velasco, of Lansing, Mich., received the Harold and Beulah McKee Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in mechanical engineering. He graduated from Eastern High School in Lansing and is the son of Peter Hudy. A member of the National Honor Society, he earned a variety of academic achievement awards, including for his skills in math and French, and participated in the Illinois Aerospace Institute, Lansing Community College's Language Day and the BEACON summer program at Michigan State University's Kellogg Biological Station.

Hudy-Velasco was named a National Hispanic Scholar this year and has received numerous U.S. Sea Cadet Corps ribbons. He has been a quiz bowl member for the past three years, serving as vice president this year, and participated in the televised Quizbusters tournament twice. He was a four-year member and the saxophone section leader of the marching band and was in the jazz band for three years. In addition, Hudy-Velasco played tennis for two years, and participated in Michigan Color Guard Circuit competitions as well as solo and ensemble competitions. He has served as teen juror in the Teen Court of Lansing and as a videographer for the Central United Methodist Church. He also has participated in mission trips through that church and been involved in projects such as Toys for Tots, American Red Cross blood drives and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

Jenna N. Jackson

Jackson, of Troy, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in biomedical sciences. She graduated from Athens High School in Troy and is the daughter of Matthew Jackson of Commerce, Mich., and Judette Haddad of Troy. She played lacrosse her freshman year and earned a scholar athlete award. Much of her time has been spent working in a part-time job and performing community service.

Jackson has volunteered to help with tissue culturing in the research labs at Oakland University, and at the Macomb Humane Society Animal Shelter. She also volunteered weekly for two years in the Henry Ford Hospital emergency room, assisting and supporting patients, and at the Oakmont Senior Center. In addition, Jackson has been doing private tutoring for two students who moved to the United States from Germany.

Andrew P. Larkin

Larkin, of Troy, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in chemistry. He graduated from Bishop Foley Catholic School in Troy and is the son of Robert and Karen Larkin. A member of the National Honor Society, for which he served as president his senior year, Larkin also was involved with student council for three years, serving as historian, secretary and vice president. In addition, he has been involved with the arts, participating in the drama club throughout high school and serving as its scribe and historian, among other roles.

He also participated in vocal music for two years and was a member of the medical science club for four years. Larkin was on the Be the Difference Day leadership team and has been volunteering at the Detroit Medical Center Surgery Hospital. In addition, he is active in the Boy Scouts of America and has served as secretary of the Noquet Lodge and chairman of its trails committee. He is a certified wilderness first responder and has been a Leave No Trace trainer and Boy Scout summer camp counselor.

Narisse A. Martin

Martin, of Rockwood, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in biomedical sciences. She graduated from Oscar A. Carlson High School in Rockwood and is the daughter of Frederick and Tanasha Martin. A member of the National Honor Society, she participated in the marching and symphonic bands her entire high school career. Her senior year, Martin also served as a band section leader, participated in a clarinet quartet for a solo and ensemble competition, and took part in Students Against Destructive Decisions.

She is active in her church, playing in its orchestra and helping to clean its facilities, and has been a member of the church's youth group for the past five years. Her community service activities have included working as an assistant for children's activities in the Trenton Veteran's Memorial Library Summer Reading Program. In addition, Martin mentored kindergarteners her junior and senior years and has tutored a younger student weekly in algebra, trigonometry and chemistry.

Elizabeth C. Mena

Mena, of Novi, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in communication. She graduated from Novi High School and is the daughter of Willy and Marita Mena. She plays the oboe and the English horn and throughout high school, was a band member. For two of those years, she was a principal chair. Her high school career also included four years of participation in district and state solo and ensemble competitions, the marching band, color guard and winter guard as well as membership in the Spanish club, recycling club and student ambassadors.

Mena has been active in many community and church organizations. She has volunteered with the Holy Family Homeless Shelter, the Salvation Army, St. Leo's Soup Troup and Girl Scouts. She also was a member of the Youth Group Leadership Team and worked at vacation Bible schools for the Faith Presbyterian, Cross Pointe Meadows and Holy Family churches.

Daniel P. Rogers

Rogers, of Mason, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in an engineering field. He graduated from Mason High School and is the son of David and Beth Rogers. A member of the National Honor Society, he is the recipient of a Mason Public Schools and Mason Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Performance Award. Rogers participated in music and swimming all four years of high school, earning numerous high-profile awards for his academic achievements as well as his skills on the trombone and in the water.

These awards included first-place medals in district and state solo and ensemble competitions, and all-conference and state-qualifying honors in freestyle, relay and other swimming events. The former varsity swim team captain has achieved Eagle Scout status through the Boy Scouts of America. Rogers has been active in the St. James Catholic Church for most of his life. In addition to being an altar server and youth group member, he participates in many of the church's musical activities. He also helps out at food drives as well as fundraisers for organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Lymphomas Society.

Edward Ryan

Ryan, of Battle Creek, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in industrial and entrepreneurial engineering. He graduated from Lakeview High School in Battle Creek and is the son of Lisa Ryan. A member of the National Honor Society, he was named a student of the month by the Battle Creek Rotary Club, Battle Creek Exchange Club and, in the area of publications, Lakeview High School. Ryan, an honor roll student, was a writer for the LHS Crystal, the school newspaper, and has competed in Michigan Interscholastic Press Association contests.

He played bass guitar in the jazz band, serving as an unofficial captain, and played in the backup band for the Spartanaires singing group. Ryan also plays bass and sings lead vocals in his own semiprofessional alternative rock band, which has independently funded, written and recorded its own CD. He participated in tennis and track throughout high school and was involved with the ski club as well as served as vice president of the Senior League of Boys this year. Ryan is an active member of the Boy Scouts of America and his church. He studied abroad in Takasaki, Japan, in 2009 as part of a trip sponsored by Battle Creek's Sister-City Exchange program.

Taylor B. Sherrill

Sherrill, of Harper Woods, Mich., received the Merze Tate Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in biology. She graduated from Grosse Pointe (Mich.) North High School and is the daughter of Benjamin and Tanisha Sherrill. A member of the National Honor Society, she worked at her high school newspaper and was a member of the basketball and track teams as well as an assistant coach for the freshman girls team for two years.

She also was a member of the environmental club SAVE, Diversity Club, Health Careers International Club and community service-oriented Impact Club. Through the Impact Club, Sherrill worked on projects for several local organizations, especially those that assist or improve the lives of senior citizens, young children and soldiers. One of her larger projects included helping to create, organize and execute a disability awareness workshop for third grade students. She also has been a mentor for incoming freshmen and is active with her church.

Emily R. Smith

Smith, of Greenville, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in theatre. She graduated from Greenville High School and is the daughter of Dan and Mari Smith. A member of the National Honor Society all four years of high school, she annually received her school's highest academic honors. Smith competed at the local and state level as a member of the forensics team and was captain of the junior varsity soccer team. She was heavily involved in the arts throughout her high school career and served as president of the drama club her senior year.

Smith has performed in several school and community theatre productions, often in lead roles, and been an assistant director with the Hans Christian Andersen Children's Theatre. She participated in a European tour with the Blue Lake International Choir, was a member and secretary of the Village Green Singers Show Choir, and performed with school vocal groups as well as competed in solo and ensemble voice competitions at the state level. In addition, Smith studied for six years with the Flat River Dance Co. She was chosen Miss Danish Festival in 2012 and will compete in the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant June 11 through 15 in Muskegon, Mich. She is active in her church, served as president of the Montcalm County Youth Advisory Board this year and has helped raise funds for several local charities.

Jake M. Tholen

Tholen, of Fowlerville, Mich., received the John and Ramona Bernhard Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in geology. He graduated from Howell (Mich.) High School and is the son of Michael and Lisa Tholen. A member of the National Honor Society, he participated in academic team competitions for three years and was named to the Tri-county All-Star Quiz Bowl team.

As a senior, Tholen and several of his Howell High Schools peers won the We the People state championship. He also participated for four years in cross country and track, serving as captain of the cross country team during his senior year. He also was in band for two years. Now an Eagle Scout, he has been an active member of the Boy Scouts of America, serving as a Junior Scoutmaster and Senior Patrol Leader. Tholen has volunteered at Potter Park Zoo for two years and during the summer, trains for triathlons.

Leslie J. Walcott

Walcott, of Jenison, Mich., received a Presidential Endowed Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in an engineering field. She graduated from Jenison High School and is the daughter of Phil and Ellen Walcott. She served as vice president of her class as well as of the student council. In addition, Walcott played volleyball her entire high school career and was selected team captain in both 2011 and 2012.

She also participated in competitions off the court, including those for the Science Olympiad and DECA, which prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Walcott has been involved with several church activities. She is a member of the Rosewood Youth Group and Access Youth Group and has volunteered with Harbor House Ministries as well as taken part in a mission trip to New York City.

Zachary B. Witherspoon

Witherspoon, of Delton, Mich., received the Roy and Beulah Kendall Medallion Scholarship and plans to major in aerospace engineering. He graduated from Galesburg-Augusta High School in Galesburg, Mich., and is the son of Brian Witherspoon of Battle Creek, Mich., and Karry Taylor of Delton. A member of the National Honor Society and a student at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center, he earned numerous academic awards for outstanding research projects and for high marks or dedication in honors chemistry, physics, English and U.S. history courses.

Witherspoon participated in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest international pre-college science competition. For his IISEF project, he and another student researched, designed, programmed, tested and installed a pressure and temperature shut-off and notification system to help maintain WMU's particle accelerator. In addition, Witherspoon served as student council treasurer his senior year and was a member of the high school band and pep band throughout high school. He served as one of his school's two drum majors last year and plays first clarinet this year in the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra. Much of his community service has been through the Battle Creek Centurions Motorcycle Club, a nonprofit club that focuses on giving back to the community.

For more information about the Medallion Scholarship Program, visit wmich.edu/medallion or contact WMU's Christopher Voss at christopher.voss@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2051.