Four Shenandoah University undergraduate students, Charise Rodriguez (bottom right), Ryan Rowles (top right), Alyssa Sfarnas (top left) and Mikaela Thomas (bottom left), have been awarded $5,000 scholarships through the Hattie M. Strong Foundation (HMSF). The students were chosen based on their letters of application and personal interviews.
“It has been a blessing and an honor to have been awarded this scholarship,” said Thomas, a music education major from Hampton, Va. “I am very humbled to have been seen as someone deserving of the award, and excited for all the possibilities it will open up in the classroom. After graduating, I am hoping to use my degree to teach middle school band and pursue a master’s degree in education and human development.”
This is the third year that HMSF has provided scholarships for Shenandoah students who are seeking initial teacher licensure and who demonstrate promise as future teachers. This year, the foundation increased the number of awards from two to four.
“I feel both honored and encouraged to have received the Hattie Strong Scholarship, said Sfarnas, an English major and Professional Studies Certificate in Secondary Education student from Stephenson, Va. “It is a wonderful feeling to be recognized for the passion and determination I have poured into my education. I hope to become a high school English teacher and inspire young people to achieve their goals and express their own ideas through the English language, all while reminding them that their voice matters.”
According to its website, HMSF has supported “young people of promise” since 1928 in their pursuit of higher education across all fields of study in all regions of the country. The foundation’s scholarship program is aimed at college students enrolled in teacher-training programs. It hopes to reduce financial pressure during the student-teaching semester, when a student’s ability to offset expenses with outside employment is curtailed by the rigor of full-time work in the classroom.
“I am incredibly honored and thrilled to be receiving the Hattie Strong Foundation Scholarship,” said Rowles, a music education major from Virginia Beach, Va. “During my student teaching, I plan to inspire and provoke the students’ curiosity through the art of music. By exploring the many realms and genres of music, I hope to ignite a passion for learning, as well as encourage students to become lifelong learners.”
Funds for the $5,000 scholarships are distributed via partnership with twenty-one institutions, all located near Washington, D.C., that have demonstrated leadership in preparing outstanding classroom teachers.
“I cannot even begin to express the gratitude that I have for the Hattie M. Strong Foundation,” said Rodriguez, a music education major from Manassas, Va. “Throughout college I have had to work two jobs in order to pay for my housing and other school necessities. Through this scholarship opportunity, I am able to focus my last and most crucial semester of studies primarily on my student teaching experience. This is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I am truly blessed and extremely thankful to God and everyone involved in making this wonderful opportunity possible. After graduation, I hope to inspire students and begin my musical career as a band director in Northern Virginia.”
Professor of Education & Director of Professional Licensure Mary Bowser, Ed.D., coordinates Shenandoah University’s Strong Scholars program for the Shenandoah University Educator Preparation Council. The council, whose selection process includes screening applicants’ submitted essays and conducting interviews of semi-finalists, is made up of 13 faculty members.
Application requirement and student selection is in line with the following criteria: undergraduate students who have exhibited outstanding success and enthusiasm in field experience prior to the final year of the program or graduate students whose life experiences prior to enrollment reveal the same traits; students with demonstrated financial need; and students who have achieved a minimum 3.0 GPA in the two semesters prior to their final year.