20 incoming students win $60,000 Medallion Scholarships

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Photo of WMU's historic Heritage Hall.

The new class of scholars were chosen from the 845 students who begin classes this fall.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—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 $60,000 each over four years, they constitute one of the largest merit-based awards in American higher education.

Some of this year's incoming scholars received a WMU Presidential Medallion Scholarship, while others received awards that bear the names of their scholarships' donors or the individuals for whom the scholarships were established.

These students were selected after competing for the awards in the 34th annual Medallion Scholarship Program event held during two December sessions at WMU. Invitations to compete were based on a combination of high GPAs and ACT scores, and were extended to students who had applied to WMU by Nov. 1, 2016.

Medallion Scholarship Competition

A total of 845 seniors from across Michigan and the United States participated in the competition for 2017-18. The daylong event included essay writing and a group problem-solving activity for the students as well as activities for their parents and families.

The 65 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 $60,000 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 President's Academic Excellence Scholarship valued at $25,000 over four years. All of the remaining competitors were offered a Dean's Scholarship. This award totals $2,500 for in-state students and is given out during the freshman year. For out-of-state students, the Dean's Scholarship totals $10,000, with recipients awarded $2,500 annually over four years.

2017-18 Medallion Scholars

The 2017-18 class of Medallion Scholars has a GPA of 4.28. Its scores average 31 on the ACT and 1372 on the SAT. Sixteen class members are from Michigan and four are from other states. At least six come from underrepresented minority groups.

The new class of scholars will begin their studies at WMU in the fall and are scheduled to graduate during the 2020-21 academic year.

Hiba Ahmad

Hiba Ahmad, of Dayton, Ohio, graduated from the Dayton Regional STEM School in Kettering, Ohio, and plans to major in biology at WMU with the hope of becoming a surgeon. She received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. A member of the National Honor Society, Ahmad served as the organization's president and a fundraiser. She participated in science fairs, advancing to the district competition one year for a psychological experiment she and a team member conducted. Plus, she represented DRSS at a science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM—conference by making a presentation on her internship with a general surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital. During the experience, she shadowed the surgeon and gained a fuller picture of her planned future career as well as how it fits into the overall activities of hospitals.

Ahmad helped to create DRSS' newspaper and served as managing editor for the current events section. She was active in the Community Alliance, a group that provides a safe space for LBGT+ and other people from all walks of life, as well as the Junior Council on World Affairs, a group that studies global subjects and participates in quiz bowl-type competitions. She and her junior council team made it to the district-level contest three consecutive years. Ahmad also was a member of the Key Club. As such, she helped out at the school blood drive, co-founded a peer listening group and served as advertising leader for the club's Change Wars group, which raised a record amount of money to help Syrian refugees. Outside of school, she was a member and group leader for the youth group at the Dayton Mercy Society mosque and Islamic center. In addition, she volunteered with the Dayton-area Muslim Youth Organization's refugee program, acting for a time as secretary and interim president as well as tutoring a student from Congo. She also volunteered with the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals.

Joseph M. Backe

Joseph M. Backe, of Naperville, Illinois, graduated from Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville and plans to major in mechanical engineering at WMU. He received the Richard F. and Carolyn A. Curtis Chormann Medallion Scholarship. Backe was on the high honor roll every semester and earned the Presidential Award in 2013. He learned about careers in engineering by taking every course at NVHS offered by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit organization that provides, in part, computer science, engineering and biomedical sciences training that empowers students to develop and apply in-demand, transportable skills by exploring real-world challenges. A hard worker, Backe gets up at 4 a.m. to work out and has been doing so since the sixth grade whenever he is not competing in sports. This type of exercise helps him concentrate in school as well as improves his academic as well as athletic performance.

He was a member of the NVHS football team and Rugby Club all four years of high school and a member of the Ski Club one year. As a varsity rugby athlete, he started for two years, was a two-time state runner-up and captained the state championship team in 2015. He also was a starter—in two positions—for the varsity football team, served as an honorary captain and was a coach/helper for two years. Prior to heavily immersing himself in sports, Backe studied piano for many years, sang in a chorus for two years and learned to play the clarinet. He traveled to the United Arab Emirates and South Africa in 2016 on a combined trip sponsored by the Illinois Tornados rugby program for high school boys. His team of the best Illinois players competed against teams from other states and countries. While abroad, the team explored the two countries' educational systems and learned a little of their languages as well as trained in their athletic systems and engaged in athletic contests.

Jesús De Jose Barajas

Jesús De Jose Barajas, Evergreen Park, Illinois, is a graduate of Brother Rice High School in Chicago and plans to major at WMU in one or more aspects of theatre, such as performance, stage management, or design and technical production. He received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. A member of the National Honor Society, Barajas earned the designation of Advanced Placement Scholar as well as many other academic accolades during his high school career. They included being named a National Merit Semifinalist for his scores on the PSAT and cited by the National Hispanic Recognition Program for scoring within the top 5,000 of Latino and Hispanic PSAT takers. He also received BRHS' Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award for academic achievement in the sciences, Harvard Prize Book Award for meritorious academic and scholastic work, and Brown Book Award for essay writing.

He was active in the fine arts, participating in high school and community theatre at Mother McAuley High School, the Oak View Center and the Beverly Arts Center; privately studying voice; taking ballet, jazz and tap dance classes; participating in his school's Concert Choir, Show Choir and Liturgical Choir; and playing in the Concert, Jazz and Marching bands. He served as cantor for the Liturgical Choir for one year, principal alto saxophone in the Concert and Jazz bands for three years, and drum major for the Marching Band for two years. Barajas also played soccer for three years, serving as captain once; was the representative for his sophomore class; and was a member of the German Club. His community service activities included singing carols at retirement homes and working on projects through the National Honor Society.

Eboni N. Brown

Eboni N. Brown, of Novi, is a graduate of Novi High School and plans to major in nursing at WMU. She received an Emeriti Medallion Scholarship. Brown was a member of Health Occupations Students of America, or HOSA, which is a group for aspiring health professionals. During her three years with the organization, she competed in the forensic medicine category, examining mock crime scenes and ranking in the top seven out of 30 groups each year. She also participated in the Michigan Music Conference and was first chair percussionist for the Pit Orchestra; a section leader for the Marching Band and Winter Drumline; and a member of the Michigan Color Guard Circuit, Winter Guard International, Orchestra, Recycling Club and Link Crew. Brown earned both a President's Education Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement and an American Legion Award in 2013. Her fine arts competition honors included being a fourth-place world finalist with Winter Guard International in 2014, a first-place percussion finalist with the Michigan Color Guard Circuit in 2016 and a fourth-place finalist with the Michigan Competing Band Association in 2016.

An interest in dance led her to study at the Detroit Windsor Dance Academy for seven years and to be a mentor to younger dance students in the Summer Dance Camp Program. For several years, Brown helped Novi High School recruit elementary and middle school students into the music program, and she assisted with fundraising efforts for the music program and trained students how to play the percussion instruments. During her work as a Co-op Services Credit Union student representative, she encouraged students to save money as well as handled financial transactions for the Credit Union. She also worked as a paid volunteer for the 2016 presidential election and as a volunteer Capuchin Soup Kitchen helper.

Veronica A. Buss

Veronica A. Buss, of Portage, is a graduate of Portage Central High School and plans to major in computer engineering at WMU. She received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. Buss earned numerous computing-related honors, including being named a national runner-up and state affiliate for the National Center for Women in Information and Technology, winning Part 1 of the IBM Master the Mainframe competition three years in a row and placing in the top 10 of the Eastern Michigan University Programming Competition twice. In addition, she participated in the USA Computing Olympiad, Women in Computer Science competitive scholarship Summer Youth Program at Michigan Technological University, Saginaw Valley State University Programming Competition and University of Michigan Dearborn Game Design Competition. Buss attended the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center, where she was asked to be a lab aide and earned the Mustang Gold Academic Award three times for maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

At PCHS, she was a three-year member of the French Club, which she served as senior organizer, and a two-year member of both the varsity cross country team, which she captained one year, and the junior varsity lacrosse team. Along with Spanish, Russian and German, she independently studied the Python, C# and visual BASIC computer languages. Buss not only helped the Stryke Force FIRST Robotics Team win the Engineering Inspiration Award twice but also was put in charge of the the team's programming group her senior year. Her community service activities included co-organizing the Polish Youth Group Organization in Kalamazoo, and coaching a Battle of the Books team and doing other volunteer work at Lake Center Elementary School. She also volunteered at the Twelve Baskets food pantry, at the Ministry With Community homeless shelter and as a Girls on the Run coach.

Pierce A. Cahill

Pierce A. Cahill, of San Diego, graduated from Westview High School in San Diego and plans to major in environmental and sustainable studies at WMU. He received a WMU Foundation Medallion Scholarship. Cahill earned the California Interscholastic Federation All-Academic Team award each year of high school. A federation member since his freshman year, he earned its lifetime award and received one of its scholar-athlete awards for his performance. He completed several Advanced Placement courses and at the time of WMU's Medallion Scholarship competition, was on track to pass them all with a 4.0 GPA. Based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities and leadership qualities, he was chosen in June 2015 from a field of more than 300 applicants to go to the FBI Teen Academy.

Cahill was active in three sports and, at different points, served all three as captain. He was a member of the WVHS golf team for three years as well as soccer goalie as a freshman and participated in the recreational basketball league. Off the playing field, he served as vice president of the Advocates for a Better Environment club. He used this platform to spread ideas about sustainability, including bringing 15 new recycling bins to his school as well as two large composters to reduce waste. One of his goals with the group was community outreach. He communicated with local businesses about ways to reduce paper, and he held battery and electronics drives for the community to safely dispose of these hazardous products. In addition, Cahill was a volunteer at local baseball games for children with special needs. He worked at Oaks North Golf Course in Rancho Bernardo, California, as an outside services cart attendant and in guest services. He is the son of two WMU alumni who met in one of the University's cafeterias in 1989 and who both have one parent who graduated from the school in the 1960s. All together, his extended family includes six WMU alumni.

Tashifa Fayyaz

Tashifa Fayyaz, of Kalamazoo, graduated from Portage Northern High School in Portage and plans to major in biomedical sciences at WMU. She received a Merze Tate Endowed Medallion Scholarship. Fayyaz plans to eventually become a physician and was an intern at the Borgess Brain and Spine Institute, where she shadowed a neurologist. A member of the National Honors Society, she earned the PNHS Highest Honors Academic Award three consecutive years. She participated in Forensics for three years, doing especially well while oratory event captain her junior year, when she earned such awards as a second place in a regional tournament and at the Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association Statewide Tournament. The same year, Fayyaz created the Collegiate Education Club, which educates freshmen, sophomores and juniors about how to prepare for college, and served as its president. She also was a member of the tennis team, Democratic Club and Homecoming court as well as the Stryke Force FIRST Robotics Team's business group, which helped to help raise money and find sponsors so the team could engineer a functioning robot from scratch.

She volunteered for her school's Spanish tutoring program and was involved in numerous service projects in the local community and abroad through her four-year membership in the Interact club. In addition, Fayyaz was a volunteer for or leader of various locally based organizations. They included holding a leadership position with Blessings in a Backpack; assisting with Syrian refugee resettlement efforts, which included a project with her high school Student Senate to start a Syrian refugee non-food drive; and serving throughout high school as president of the Muslim Youth Group. She received the WIRE Volunteer service award for tutoring the WIRE math and science camp at WMU's Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations and Outstanding Ramadan Volunteer Award from the Kalamazoo Islamic Center, which is given to Muslim community members who regularly and efficiently help the center.

Eadoin Grim

Eadoin Grim, of Milford, graduated from Milford High School and plans to major in psychology at WMU. She received a Diether H. and Carol A. Haenicke Endowed Medallion Scholarship. Grim earned High Academic Honors all four years of high school. She maintained a high GPA while working sometimes two jobs and taking a challenging course load that included Advanced Placement classes. She credits her academic success to making her schoolwork a top priority during high school. However, she still found time to participate in extracurricular activities.

Grim joined the soccer team her junior year and played goalie for the varsity squad her senior year. She also was on the yearbook staff her sophomore year. In addition, she helped out at the annual art show, as well as had several pieces entered into it, and was a member and two-time president of the National Art Honors Society/Art Club, a group of students dedicated to using their artistic abilities to help the community. Her volunteer work for the latter organization included constructing window paintings in Milford's downtown area; creating posters for MHS events; helping to do the decorations for school dances; and doing chalkboard murals for a local family, face painting in the park and other projects. Grim also volunteered for holiday-related canned food drives the past four years.

Joseph Heacox

Joseph Heacox, of Southgate, graduated from Southgate Anderson High School and is undecided about what to major in at WMU. He received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. Heacox was a member and former president of the National Honor Society. He earned Academic Honors or High Academic Honors nearly all of his SAHS career as well as earned an Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor Award in 2016 in recognition of exemplary college-level achievement on AP program examinations. He was a member of the Marching Band for five seasons, serving as a leader in the ensemble as well as a trumpet soloist for three of those seasons. His numerous music-related accolades included honors such as Outstanding Achievement as Section Leader, and the Best Marcher, Best Musician and Most Motivational Camper awards.

In addition, Heacox was a member of the Southgate Anderson Drama Club for five years, performing as a member of the Pit Orchestra during the annual musical. He also displayed his musical talents for three seasons as a member of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps, which entailed performing around the country, participating in a three-month competitive season from mid-May to mid-August and attending one weekend-long rehearsal camp a month from November through May in Indianapolis. Heacox volunteers at church dinners and functions and is a frequent volunteer at his brother's elementary school functions, where he helps out with dances, science fairs, Halloween walkthroughs and more. He also volunteers at his school, often through the National Honor Society, by serving as an after-school peer tutor, helping to organize various events, and working at registration and the blood drive. In addition, he worked about 18 to 20 hours a week as a crew member at McDonald's.

Logan Hefferan

Logan Hefferan, of Shelby Township, graduated from Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township and plans to major in aerospace engineering at WMU. He received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. Hefferan was a student at the Utica Center of Math, Science and Technology—a prestigious and competitive magnet program—and participated in American Mathematics competitions as well as Michigan Math Prize competitions. He was a member of the National Technical Honor Society and named an Advanced Placement Scholar in 2016.

During high school, Hefferan was involved with the Spanish Club, Students Against Destructive Decisions and the Key Club. In addition, he enjoyed participating in sports and was a member of the varsity cross country team, which he served as captain, and the varsity track team. Plus, he played on an American Youth Soccer Organization team. Those commitments were in addition to taking seven years of private piano lessons, conducting community service and charity work with the Saints John and Paul Youth Group, and working at Aubree's Pizzeria and Grill and Willoughby's Beyond Juice.

Shealyn Lach

Shealyn Lach, of South Lyon, graduated from South Lyon High School and is undecided on an arts and sciences major at WMU. She received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. A National Honor Society member, Lach was on the principal's list for exceeding a 3.5 GPA every semester from June 2014 through 2016. The latter year, she earned excellence awards in Advanced Placement government as well as SLHS teacher awards in British literature. Her other honors included receiving the American Legion Post 338 Girls State Scholarship, which allowed her to attend a fully paid, weeklong, invitation-only government camp at Michigan State University in 2016. Lach participated in the 2015-16 Science Olympiad and competed in regional events for astronomy and computer programming. She played girl's tennis for four years, receiving a varsity letter three years in a row. She also was a Kensington Lakes Activities Association Golden Scholar Athlete, achieving a 3.9 GPA or better during the season from 2014 through 2016.

Lach was active in Choir for four years, as well. She received the 2014 Outstanding Freshman Award in Choir, which is selected from among all freshmen by peer vote, and earned a varsity letter three times by volunteering 10-plus hours, and maintaining an A-minus average and excellent or better ratings at district choir camps. In addition, she founded the SLHS Book Club and served two years as its president, plus co-edited the Jungle Book Literary Magazine her senior year. In the latter role, Lach edited, selected and approved works of literature submitted by her peers and used HTML and JavaScript to manage the publication's online posting. Her community service activities included mentoring younger singers in the Choir; helping with Jacob Michael Davis Foundation, Wounded Warrior and other National Honor Society service projects; assisting the Red Cross; and volunteering at Cross of Christ Church as a Sunday school and vacation Bible school teacher and co-director of the annual children's Christmas program.

Abbigale Laurentius

Abbigale Laurentius, of Canton, graduated from Ladywood High School in Livonia and plans to major in nursing at WMU. She received a Merze Tate Endowed Medallion Scholarship. A member of the National Honor Society, Laurentius earned the Scholastic All-Catholic Award from 2013 through 2016 from the Knights of Columbus for being a Catholic League high school student who maintained the highest possible GPA throughout the academic year. She played volleyball throughout high school and was named to the All-Academic Catholic League in 2015 by Catholic League coaches. This honor is awarded to one player from each team in the league who displays top academic skill while balancing time in their respective sport. In addition, Laurentius was honored as an Amateur Athletic Union Academic All-American in 2014 through 2016. Ladywood's head of school awards this honor to the top academic students at each class level.

Laurentius also was involved in theatre throughout high school, enrolling in theatre arts classes, helping backstage, and participating in talent showcases and other theatre activities. Plus, she was a member of the Spirit Club, serving as vice president and president; Pro-Life Club; and Environmental Club. Her community service activities included tutoring other students, leading the school open house and other National Honor Society projects; being an active member of Saint Michael's youth group; and taking part in various parish events. Laurentius also took part in Peanut Butter and Jelly Outreach, a volunteer organization that assists inner city residents, and Habitat for Humanity, through which she participated in a mission trip to Marquette in 2014.

Jacob Lutz

Jacob Lutz, of Grand Haven, graduated from Grand Haven High School and plans to major in aerospace engineering at WMU. He received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. A member of the National Honor Society, Lutz has training in stage rigging, advanced sound design and stage combat and earned several honors as a longtime member and one-year president of the Drama Club. He competed at the annual Michigan Thespian Festival three times, and as captain of the Tech Olympics team, earned a superior rating in sound design that qualified him for a trip to the International Thespian Festival. He earned a superior rating at that festival, along with a second place in the Tech Olympics with a team of just three people. Lutz served as technical director for nine Drama Club shows, with one going to the State Thespian Festival, as well as did sound design for 10 shows and fight choreography and backstage effects for another two shows.

At the time of WMU's Medallion Scholarship competition, he was writing a backstage technical manual for reference and teaching. Lutz also was active in the Model United Nations club and attended some 10 Model UN conferences, most notably three at the University of Chicago and one at Michigan State University. At his most recent Chicago conference, his crisis committee earned a verbal commendation, the first for his high school. His interest in politics prompted him to participate in Boys State Michigan, and he became a senator there. Lutz helped restart his school's Chess Club and logged many hours of community service through National Honor Society projects. He helped with technical services at many middle school theatre productions and last summer, helped put on a theatre program for elementary students to learn how to express themselves. He also assisted with Martin Luther King Jr. day, Give 'Em a Hand, and other community events and fundraisers. In addition, Lutz is a Eucharistic minister for St. Mary's Catholic Church in Spring Lake and has worked as a sound engineer for his local hockey team.

MacKenzie McClain

MacKenzie McClain, of Grand Rapids, graduated from Byron Center Senior High School in Byron Center and plans to major in elementary professional education at WMU. She received a John and Ramona Bernhard Medallion Scholarship. A National Honors Society member and former secretary, McClain was on the honor roll from 2013 through 2016. The scholar-athlete played volleyball all four years of high school. In 2016 she was named to the Volleyball Academic All-State Team with a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher and was named an All-Conference Honorable Mention. She also played volleyball on an Amateur Athletic Union team for three years and was twice selected for her club's national team. McClain became a class officer the beginning of her junior year, assisting with planning graduation and Homecoming floats and serving on the prom's advertising committee. A clarinet player, she became a member of both her school's Marching Band and Wind Ensemble during her freshman year. In addition, she participated her senior year in Brain Busters, a televised game show featuring seniors selected from various high schools in her hometown area competing in a Jeopardy-style game to win a scholarship.

McClain volunteered with Toys for Tots several times through her Spanish class and volunteered regularly at the Byron Center Recreation Center through the National Honor Society, helping with senior bingo, ice cream socials and trunk or treats. She was involved with the Garden Park Church of God Youth Group for more than a decade, serving as a Sunday school teacher for several years. In addition, McClain participated in two UP Project mission trips. The 2014 trip involved going to South Carolina and volunteering at area churches as well as working with the Dream Center. The 2015 trip took her to Indiana to paint cabins for a camp for children in poverty and building a house for an organization that rents homes to people in transition out of poverty. Last year, she went on a separate mission trip to Mexico in addition to volunteering as a junior camp counselor at the weeklong Midwest Family Camp.

Ethan Reid

Ethan Reid, of Grand Rapids, graduated from Lakewood High School in Lake Odessa and plans to major in aerospace engineering at WMU. He received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. A member of the National Honor Society, Reid was recognized as a commended student in the National Merit Scholarship competition his junior year for his score of 1,380. He earned several LHS accolades, including consistently being named to the honor roll and receiving a Circle of Excellence Award from the Spanish Department once and Fine Arts Department once. A trombone player, he was a member of the band program and Jazz Club throughout high school and received the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award in 2016. He performed with that group at the Hastings Jazz Festival each April as well as had a solo with the group. Reid also played in the Symphonic Band, his school's top concert band. He was principal player and section leader for three years and participated in three low brass quartets, one of which received a Division I rating at the State Solo and Ensemble competition. In addition, he earned a Division 1 rating for one of his solo performances at the district level and one at the state level. In Marching Band, he was the trombone section leader for two years and a drum major his senior year. He was a member of Blue Lake International's 2015 Northern Winds ensemble and his senior year, participated in a Drama Club production.

Reid volunteered for several National Honor Society service projects, including middle school math nights, the elementary school carnival, Adopt-A-Highway cleanups and card selling as part of Lake Odessa's Christmas 'Round the Town shopping event. While his father was church pastor, he also was involved with the Zion Lutheran Church, playing piano during worship service, volunteering at weeknight dinners and assisting at each summer's vacation Bible school music station. He also served as acolyte and lector and as a ringer in the hand bell choirs at other area congregations and worked on a project for the Trinity Lutheran Church at Dégagé Ministries and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Michigan Youth Gathering. Reid was diagnosed with autism at age 3, which hindered his social ability in early childhood. But high school has given him opportunities to overcome his disability and contribute to his community.

Nicholas D. Sienkiewicz

Nicholas D. Sienkiewicz, of Washington, graduated from Romeo High School in Romeo and plans to major in biochemistry as well as in choral music education at WMU. He was awarded a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. A member of the National Honor Society, Sienkiewicz has received numerous accolades during his high school career. He earned a varsity letter from RHS for academics in 2016; five consecutive Superior Awards in solo piano performance from the National Federation of Music; a variety of American Guild of Music vocal awards, including being named the 2016 national Vocal Classical winner; and excellent and superior ratings at Michigan Thespian Festival competitions in both solo and duet musical theatre. Sienkiewicz took classes at Macomb Community College, where he earned a departmental award in biology in 2016 and was on the MCC dean's list in 2014. As a participant in the Early College of Macomb program, he earned 49 hours of college credit in courses focused primarily on the sciences and mathematics, as well as completed two internships in the St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital Emergency Department. He also researched and performed experiments in such areas as osmosis and diffusion, enzymatic activity, quantum mechanics and Bohr's model of the atom. In addition, he was invited to travel to Washington, D.C., for the 2015 National Youth Leadership Forum for Medicine.

Throughout high school, Sienkiewicz was a member of the Student Council, serving as its Executive Board secretary one year; Students Enriching Romeo through Volunteer Experience; the Youth Advisory Committee; and the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps., achieving the rank of petty officer third class and earning several award ribbons. He also served one year as the only student representative on the Romeo Energy Committee. Sienkiewicz has long studied classical and jazz piano as well as classical, Broadway and pop vocal music. He was active in theatre, playing lead or feature characters in five RHS plays and musicals and a lead role in a Warren Civic Theatre musical. Through those experiences, he did some theatrical composing and teaching. In addition, he served as assistant music director for a Warren Civic Production musical and as assistant biology teacher at RHS for one semester. Sienkiewicz was a leader with the Sandcastles Grief Support Camp for three years, captained a Relay for Life team, and participated in many other service projects.

Nirvan Singh

Nirvan Singh, of Portage, graduated from Portage Northern High School and plans to major in dance at WMU. He received a Harold and Beulah McKee Endowed Medallion Scholarship. Singh, who moved to Michigan from New York City in 2012, earned PNHS' highest honors for GPA excellence all four years. He already is an accomplished dancer, with nearly a decade of training in ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary and many other dance styles. Locally, he danced with Ballet Arts Kalamazoo and the Dance Zone in Mattawan as well as helped to increase arts awareness in both Kalamazoo and Portage. In New York, he danced and performed in numerous nonprofit shows with the Covenant Ballet Theatre, the American Ballet Theatre, Brooklyn Community College, Kings Plaza and Downtown. Singh also held leadership positions in which he taught young children, especially young men, the art of dance and the importance of the arts in the community. During his career to date, he has performed in dozens of shows, many times working as a guest artist in lead roles in New York and Kalamazoo.

At PNHS, he was the lead dancer in the school musical, which also entailed helping the rest of the cast with dance choreography and technique. His senior year, Singh and a colleague started his school's first Model United Nations club. Through this club, he competed for PNHS at the Model U.N. conference in Kalamazoo as well as promoted leadership development among youth in the local community. His own leadership development began as a middle school student with his involvement in the National Young Leaders State Conference, through which he attended conferences in the nation's capital and Boston and took on leadership positions. Singh also was a member of PNHS' Interact club, working on Lunches for Lives and Bread Lift fundraisers; participated in a trip to the Dominican Republic with his Spanish Club that included a service component; volunteered at his Sikh Temple; and was a Youth Service Council member for Volunteer Kalamazoo.

Rosemarie E. Soma

Rosemarie E. Soma, of Traverse City, graduated from Traverse City West Senior High School and plans to major in fashion merchandising and design at WMU. She received a Presidential Medallion Scholarship. A member of the National Honor Society, Soma routinely appeared on her school's honor roll. She completed several Advanced Placement classes and was dual enrolled at Northwestern Michigan College her senior year. In addition, she participated in the Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition her junior year and was a sponsored conferee at the Rotary Club Life Leadership Conference in Tustin in 2016. Soma, who has studied piano for nearly a decade, earned numerous accolades for her artistic skills. They included being selected as the Featured Student Artist for the 2016 Traverse Higher Art Exhibition and at Traverse City West the same year, earning a first place in the Trashion Fashion Show as well as a second place and Viewer's Choice award for the Chalk It Up competition.

In addition, her mission patch design was chosen to go on Mission 3 to the International Space Station through the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. Soma also illustrated a children's e-book for Adrianna Lypeckyj, self-published two coloring books, and started her own business painting and selling custom skateboard decks and other artwork. Some of the pins, ornaments and other items she created were sold in a retail store where she was employed. Soma was active in student government. She served as a student senator for three years, one year as corresponding secretary, and on her class council as treasurer for two years. She also was a Youth Advisory Council member for two years, was a freshmen mentor for one year, and accumulated many hours of community service by working with the Great Lakes Children's Museum, participating in a summer mission trip and engaging in other volunteer activities.

Ava J. Strasser

Ava J. Strasser, of Metamora, graduated from Lapeer High School in Lapeer and plans to major at WMU in one or more aspects of theatre, such as performance, stage management, or design and technical production. She received a Medallion Scholarship through the William Robinson Endowment. At the end of her junior year, Strasser earned the Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor Award and LHS Scholar of Highest Distinction award. At the time of WMU's Medallion Scholarship competition, she was on track to earn the AP Capstone Diploma, which in part, involves a research experience. After researching an issue involving feminism, Broadway musicals and related topics, she wrote her own Broadway-esque musical and then condensed her research and findings into a 5,000-word academic paper. Strasser was a second soprano in the Sparkapellas, an elite female choir at LHS, and, for a time, helped choreograph the group's routines. In addition, she studied dance and vocal music privately for many years, was a member and student director of the Drama Club, and performed in eight Drama Club plays, often in key roles.

She displayed other artistic talents through membership in the Choir, Symphony and Marching bands, and a flute quartet. Strasser was a member of the OMNI Council for four years and participated in the annual OMNI Leadership forums, during which she served as a peer leader. She also was a student ambassador for two years, and participated in the Key Club and cross country for a year. While at LHS, she worked to create a districtwide mentoring organization through which high school girls help middle school girls with issues such as developing a healthy body image and positive female friendships. Strasser was involved in numerous other service projects, including schoolwide clean-ups, a local poetry slam, Miracle Box benefits for troops overseas and Project Homeless.

Nolan M. Tews

Nolan M. Tews, of Ortonville, graduated from Brandon High School in Ortonville and is undecided about a major at WMU. He received a Medallion Scholarship through the William Robinson Endowment. Tews maintained a 4.0 GPA and No. 1 class ranking while participating throughout high school with the basketball team as well as the varsity soccer and track and field teams, the Rochester Soccer Club team, and other extracurricular groups. He was named a scholar-athlete in all three of his sports all four years and was selected once to serve as captain of the basketball team and twice each to lead his other two teams. Tews earned significant honors in soccer, including the Blackhawk Award as a senior and for three straight years, made the top conference, district and regional teams as well as the second or third all-state teams. He also was named once to the All-Conference Second Team in track and field and was a state qualifier in track twice.

His academic honors included taking second place in trigonometry at the Flint Metro League Math and Science Competition. Tews studied French for four years, was a member of the student council his senior year and participated in several BHS musicals. In addition, he attended a leadership conference at Oakland University last year and the Flint Metro League Athletic Summit twice. His community service activities were numerous and varied. They included serving on the organizing committees for the Red Cross Blood Drive, Toys for Tots, and BHS' Charity Week, Canned Food Drive and Homecoming parade. Tews also tutored at-risk middle school students, was a Relay for Life participant, served as a peer mediator as well as an OCEF Food Pantry volunteer, and worked with youths as a basketball camp instructor and winter league coach and facilitator.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.