The National Science Foundation S-STEM Scholars at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise welcomes 10 first-year students to the program’s 2020-2021 cohort.

The cohort includes academically talented students who were selected because of their exceptional promise and potential, said Josephine Rodriguez, associate professor of biology who heads the program. The new students join 11 more scholars who are in the program.

“These 10 academically talented first-year students are all in the same section of Seminar 1010 with me, and they are a highlight of my week,” Rodriguez said. “Together, they have given me the most hope during this COVID crisis.”

Rodriguez said the extra precautions and safety measures in place are necessary during the pandemic.

“What will persist beyond this pandemic is their enthusiasm and passion for wanting to learn with us and our commitment to them for providing the best possible education and highest quality experience,” she said.

The S-STEM grant was funded with $650,000 in 2018 and was the largest NSF award received by UVA Wise. Rodriguez said it shows the College is nationally competitive for these awards. Since the initial award, the College has received two additional NSF awards with UVA Wise faculty as either principal or co-principal investigator.

“Attending college is undoubtedly a huge privilege, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to do so,” said student Mattison Horton. “The expense of school can be overwhelming and discouraging at times. Receiving the NSF S-STEM scholarship has greatly reduced the financial burden on my family, made me feel like I belong here, and it will allow me to continue to pursue my educational dreams. The scholarship and the amazing professors within this program are the reasons I chose UVA Wise.”

Kallie Berry, a student from nearby Scott County, is also a member of the latest cohort. She credits Rodriguez for making her feel as if she could do anything she set her mind to, and that made her feel she belonged on campus.

“Being chosen for the NSF-STEM scholarship here at UVA Wise was honestly one of the main reasons I chose to attend college here,” Berry said. “I come from a rural area and a low income family, the extra support this scholarship provides made a way for me to attend college almost debt free. This program offers new insights and research into multiple STEM fields, which is always a plus for undergraduate students. I’m forever grateful and blessed to be a part of it.”

The 10 first-year students include:

Kallie Berry, Kert Gibson, Christian Worley, Mattison Horton, Keaton Johnson, Isabella Maggard, Madison Shuler, Andromeda Strong, Isabella Lawson, and Jade Pitts.

Current students who are new to NSF include:

Pearl Acheampong, Hope Mitchell, Kaley Sykes, Haley Sykes, and Brayden Carty.

Students in the original 2018 cohort include:

Kayla Deel, Rachel Guevara, Athena Isabella Horne, Hanna Owens, Megan Roark, and Iris Wynn.