Six Vira I. Heinz participants chosen from Waynesburg

The Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership recently announced this year’s scholarship recipients.

Every year, the Vira Heinz Program offers at least three scholarships for each of the 16 participating colleges to give to eligible students. These scholarships are funded by the Heinz Endowments, which has a mission to help the region “prosper as a center of creativity, learning and social, economic and environmental sustainability.”

To be eligible to apply, female students must be sophomores or juniors who have never traveled outside of the country.

Pat Bristor, associate dean of students, said schools can receive more than three scholarships if other schools don’t use all of the scholarships given to them.

“Waynesburg University has received more than three for many years,” Bristor said. “This year, we have six.”

The six recipients are: Kara Compton, junior criminal justice major with minors in sociology and political science; Nia Shuler, sophomore criminal justice major; Alexandra Reineck, sophomore biology pre-med major; Rebecca Fremd, junior nursing major; Elena McDermott, sophomore environmental science major; and Briana Zaharko, sophomore nursing major.

To be accepted into the program, these six students had to submit a completed application, two letters of recommendation and their transcripts. In addition to this, the students had to take part in an interview.

“What we’re looking for in the interview,” Bristor said, “is someone who is excited about this opportunity, is well prepared, is able to convey their program to us [and] how it fits into their major [and] into their career path [and] somebody who can represent themselves well, but also the university and the United States.

The selection is made after interviews, and if there are extra scholarships, Bristor said a committee from the program reviews the applications of the alternates and decides who should receive the remaining scholarships.  

“I think that it’s a testament to our students that over and over again, the foundation pulls from our alternate pool to fulfill the extra spots,” Bristor said.

The students will be finalizing the details for their trips in the next couple of months. Then in the summer, they’ll travel to the countries where they chose to study. These include: England, Africa, Belize, India, Australia and Costa Rica.

“I’m very excited; I definitely feel blessed,” Fremd said.

Fremd will travel to Bengaluru, India, where she will be taking two classes and helping out in the local community. The classes she will be take include a health care class and a women’s issues in Indian society class.

“We’ll be going to women’s shelters and helping them and trying to teach them how to deal with situations of physical and sexual abuse and domestic violence,” said Fremd. “I’m pretty excited to do that because I’m a really big advocate for that.”

Aside from studying abroad, the program incorporates a lot of other opportunities in which the students must get involved.

“It’s more than just an opportunity to study abroad,” said Bristor. “It’s a leadership program.”

Recipients must attend retreats in March and September as well as a study abroad trip in the summer. When they return from their trip, they have to put together a community engagement experience with the other scholarship recipients and write a report about it. Altogether, the program is about a year long.

“I think it’s really cool to have the Vira Heinz scholarship to offer people that haven’t been out of the country the opportunity to,” said Compton, “and then have a group or cohort of young ladies experience it together and take what they’ve learned from abroad and bring it back here and try and impact their community with it.”

Compton will travel to London, England, where she will participate in a wrongful conviction and human rights program. Like the other recipients, she is currently solidifying the details of her trip.