Four Vira I. Heinz scholars selected to receive funding

“If you had a choice to go anywhere in the world where would it be? We are going to help you, and we will give you $5,000 to make that dream come true,” said Pat Bristor, coordinator of the Vira I. Heinz Women in Global Leadership Scholarship program at Waynesburg University.

Four female sophomores, Rachel Pellegrino, Ciera Fitts, Amanda Latta and Emily Schafer, anticipate studying abroad this summer thanks to the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship and the opportunities it provides. 

“There are a lot of components to the scholarship,” Bristor said.  Awarded applicants must attend a workshop, weekend retreat and pre-trip retreat at the University of Pittsburgh between now and the time they will be leaving in May or June. 

After returning home, they must complete an experience report, post-trip retreat and organize a community engagement program on campus. These have ranged from informational discussions based on their experiences abroad to interactive fundraisers that bring awareness and aid to other countries. 

The Vira I. Heinz Scholarship forces women to rise to the challenge of being leaders and tackle the art of living in foreign cultures. 

“They often come in very shy at first and unsure of what they are doing,” Bristor said. “The program provides so much growth, confidence and independence. Seeing previous recipients catch the travel bug and continue in this ambition to go see the world is amazing.”

Bristor enjoys seeing the Facebook posts and pictures of scholarship recipients as they continue traveling thanks to the scholarship’s boost of courage. 

“I think the diversity this year will be exciting,” Bristor said. “They are going to some different countries than students have gone in the past.” The women’s endeavors stretch as far east as Italy, where Pellegrino plans to study with the University Studies Abroad Consortium, to the tropical beaches of the Turks and Caicos Islands of the Carribean, where Fitts will be spending her summer and south to Peru, where Schafer will be expanding her nursing skills. 

“Once I heard and learned more information about Vira Heinz, I knew I had to take advantage of this opportunity,” Fitts said. “The program I chose is School Field for Studies because it has the most beneficial fit for my major. I will be certified to scuba dive, study sharks, learn about environmental management and dive more into oceanography.”

Latta, an international culture major, plans to study in Brazil, a place she has longed to visit since high school. 

“Literally, I am excited for everything,” Latta said. Latta will be honing her Portuguese, which she has studied for several years now. She will be staying with a host family in Florianopolis, the capital city of the state of Santa Catarina, in the southern region of Brazil. Along with her studies, she hopes to dabble in a form of Brazilian martial arts or dance at a studio she located in the city.

Exploring and learning to call completely foreign cultures home can be a daunting experience certain to foster independence. 

“I have always been a very reliable  person. I want to prove that I can do something on my own and I am excited to get anything out of the experience that I can,” Latta said. According to the scholarship program’s website, Vira I. Heinz, “was so moved by the life-changing power of foreign travel that she bestowed the gift upon generations of young women.”

Heinz’s legacy and mission, to provide opportunity for women who wouldn’t have the means to travel, has been fostering growth and independence since 1954, when the widowed Heinz first walked to the University of Pittsburgh with a $1,000 check in her hand and requested it be offered to a female student along with the chance to go abroad.

Waynesburg University was one of the first institutions outside of Pittsburgh to receive the grant. The record of student applicants dates back to 1986. It is a traditionally awarded scholarship that Bristor and her committee hope to continue to bestow upon female students.

An interest meeting will be held in April for any female sophomore or junior student who may have an interest in the program. 

“It’s never too early to start considering,” Bristor said.