MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Five incoming freshmen eager to find solutions that will change their communities and the world for the better have been named 2023-24 West Virginia University Foundation Scholars, the highest academic scholarship the University awards.
Mariana Alkhouri, Jayla Boyd, Brent Marcus, Joss Poteet and Colin Street are equipped with the intellectual curiosity, ambition and critical-thinking skills needed to create positive change and are committed to building a more sustainable and inclusive world for future generations.
“I have had the opportunity to get to know each of these students and cannot help but be inspired by their dreams for a brighter future,” President Gordon Gee said. “They are thoughtful young people who want to make a difference in our state and beyond, and the University’s academic programs, R1 research opportunities and unique sense of community will help them to excel. I look forward to welcoming Mariana, Jayla, Brent, Joss and Colin to campus this fall.”
Alkhouri, from Wheeling Park High School, was inspired by her father’s dedication and compassion for his cancer patients, and said she believes her degree in immunology and medical microbiology will distinguish her from other medical school applicants. Passionate about “rebuilding her hometown,” she plans to ultimately return to Wheeling and work as a physician. She looks forward to “diversifying her knowledge through study abroad and research” and aspires to travel to southeastern European countries to study genetic blood disorders in migrant and ethnic minority populations and in children as a mentee at the WVU Medicine Blood Disorders and Cancer Center. Alkhouri is an avid writer, two-time published poet and pianist.
Boyd, from George Washington High School, said she wants to make a difference in her state by providing specialized care to stroke and opioid-dependent patients in rural areas of West Virginia as a “compassionate and empathic” physician. Boyd aspires to become a neurologist or psychiatrist and will use her degree in neuroscience as a path to medical school. She is interested in conducting research on the influence of bone hormones on brain development and cognition and the effects of circadian rhythm disruption on mental health. Boyd has a keen interest in reducing the stigma around mental health and plans to join the Wellbeing and Mental Health Student Advisory Board. She is four-year member of her cross country team and serves as co-chair of the Charleston parkrun.
Marcus, from Spring Mills High School, who watched a family member suffer from the effects of muscular dystrophy and plans to use his degree in biochemistry to help develop therapeutic strategies for genetic and other diseases while working to destigmatize individuals with disabilities. He looks forward to immersing himself in research at an R1 research institution and participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Marcus is a member of his high school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance and a former trumpet player in the marching band. He volunteers his time advocating for LGBTQ+ youth and his hobbies include reading and watching videos on learning to speak German. Marcus is also considering a degree in German studies.
Poteet, from Jefferson High School, isa vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who hopes his degrees in geography and jazz studies will teach him how to bring different cultures together through music. He reports that a National Geographic Bee competition in middle school sparked his ardent passion for the field of geography. His grandfather’s stories about traveling the word as a member of the military have inspired him to one day serve as a geography and cultural ambassador. Poteet, who plays the piano and the saxophone in his high school’s marching band and advanced ensembles, looks forward to joining the Jazz and WVU World Music Ensembles and Mon Hills Music Group. He also hopes to create a geography club at WVU focused on sustainability.
Street, from Morgantown High School, plans to bridge his degrees in political science and environmental, soil and water sciences with his passion for sustainability to cultivate grassroots solutions to environmental issues in West Virginia. A co-founder of the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance initiative at Morgantown High School, Street works to combat discrimination and isolation of LGBTQ+ youth through a network of alliances paired with the distribution of gender-affirming packages. As the president of Mountaineer Area Robotics and coach of the FIRST LEGO League, he volunteers his time inspiring youth to pursue their creativity and intellectual passions for STEM. Since 2019, Street has obtained more than $19,000 through grants to help fund organizations that align with his purpose.
To qualify for the Foundation Scholarship, high school students must meet a rigorous set of criteria, including holding West Virginia residency, possessing a minimum grade point average of 3.8 and achieving a minimum composite score of 31 on the ACT or the equivalent SAT score.
Twenty of the applicants who interviewed for the Foundation Scholarship were named Neil S. Bucklew Scholars. The value of the Foundation Scholarship, when paired with the state’s PROMISE Scholarship, is more than $90,000 over four years.
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