The EQT Foundation and The State Journal are helping to make some high school students' dreams come true.
For the third year in a row, students from throughout the state will receive scholarships to help them pay for a higher education courtesy of the EQT Students of Excellence program.
"At a time when tuition costs keep going up at schools both in West Virginia and throughout the nation, every dollar a student can receive through scholarships helps," said Beth Ryan, managing editor of The State Journal. "These scholarships are designed to help students pursue their dream careers either in West Virginia or elsewhere and not be saddled with debt."
The program has expended dramatically over time.
The scholarship program began in 2009 as a way for The State Journal to recognize and honor high school seniors who make a difference in their schools, their communities and the state. In the first year, students from 36 counties were recognized by The State Journal and its program sponsors, EQT Corp., The Warner Law Office and Fox Engineering.
The following year, the program grew. Thanks to a generous partnership with the EQT Foundation and EQT, one student in each county received a $1,000 scholarship to be used at the college of his or her choice.
This year, the program is reaching even more students. In addition to continuing to financially support the $1,000 scholarships for a teen in each of West Virginia's 55 counties, the EQT Foundation added three full-ride scholarships.
The scholarships are worth up to $18,000 per year for up to four years, and they can be used at any accredited college or university in the nation. EQT's requirements for the scholarship were fairly simple: The recipient student must be in good academic standing at his or her high school and major in one of six areas — petroleum, civil or chemical engineering; computer science or information technology; geology; safety science; environmental science; or energy or land management. In order to maintain the scholarship, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and stay in one of the specified majors.
"It truly is amazing to see how this program has grown and impacted lives in literally every corner of the state," said Bray Cary, CEO and president of West Virginia Media, the parent company of The State Journal. "And none of it would be possible without the very gracious help of the EQT Foundation. They continue to step up to the plate to fund these scholarships and have increased their support each year. Words cannot express how grateful we are for their support."
Cary said the program is a perfect example of how two different organizations — EQT and The State Journal — can have similar goals of helping students and honoring teens who strive to achieve their dreams.
This year's scholarship winners are as diverse as the state itself. Nearly a quarter of the students receiving EQT Students of Excellence scholarships hope to study some type of engineering. Those students include Andrew Archer of Harrison County, Kennedy Boyce of Hampshire County and Andrew T. Marchlenski of Marshall County.
Another quarter of the students hope to major in fields related to the health care sector. Some students, such as Rachel Bainbridge of Hancock County and Brooke Hager of Putnam County, hope to become physicians, while EmmaLee Knotts of Calhoun County, Andriana Mayle of Taylor County and Adriane Rine of Tyler County hope to become nurses working in specialties such as pediatric or neonatal nursing.
Asia Salmons of Mingo County hopes to become a psychiatrist, while Sarah White of Berkeley County hopes to become a pathologist. Three other students — Trevor Addison of Wyoming County, Brittany Ann Bender of Webster County and Hannah Boughner of Wetzel County — hope to become pharmacists, while Madonna Lott of Wood County hopes to become a physical therapist
Other students hope to study forensics, such as Sabrina VanMeter of Grant County and Megan Justice of Summers County.
Three Students of Excellence scholarship recipients are considering studying journalism, while four others hope to eventually earn a law degree.
Six students plan on majoring in education. One student, Amanda Key of McDowell County, said her final goal is to return to her home county as a teacher.
Four students plan to major in computer science or information technology. Anthony Darst of Mason County said he hopes to work for a major corporation such as AT&T or Amazon.com after graduation, while Alex N. Griffith of Pocahontas County said his goal is to eventually find a job as a software engineer in West Virginia.
Two scholarship recipients hope to enter the military. Tyler S. Barrett of Logan County plans to major in either civil or mining engineering before following in the footsteps of his brother, who served the country in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kristin Bowe of Pleasants County plans to be a part of the Air Force ROTC program at West Virginia University, where she hopes to study physical therapy. After that, she hopes to pursue a career in the Air Force.
Other students have set their sights on giving back to the community through public service. Jesse Beasley of Monroe County said he would like to serve in the Peace Corps. Brady Smith, a budding photographer from Morgan County, wants to eventually use his photography skills on mission trips to bring attention to the plight of people living in Third World nations. Cameron Viney of Randolph County hopes to run for political office someday or serve in the FBI or Secret Service.
"Every student who received this scholarship this year is inspiring and extraordinary," Cary said. "They have set some remarkable goals for themselves, and speaking on behalf of West Virginia Media, The State Journal and the state, I am immensely proud of each and every one."