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Monday, Sep 01, 2014

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Mrs. McDavis with scholars

L-R: Ryan Lawhorn, Mark Skillings, Justin Birchfield, First Lady Deborah McDavis, Rebecca Capper, Nicole Pryor, Julie Patterson, Laura Kelley

Photographer: Toshe Byrd

Nicole Pryor

Nicole Pryor presents the scholar's final project

Photographer: Toshe Byrd

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First class of Appalachian Scholars to graduate on Saturday

Graduates plan to give back to their communities


The first class of Appalachian Scholars presented their capstone project on June 3 in Baker University Center. 

It was the final group presentation for several members of the history-making class who will graduate on Saturday.

The scholars' presentation focused on the cultural history of Appalachia and the social and economic problems the region faces. The students also offered possible solutions to those problems.

"Appalachia has a lot of problems, but we all must work cooperatively to solve them … We want to express our gratitude for being selected for this program through our actions and we want to work to improve Appalachia together," said Justin Birchfield. 

Giving back was a major theme of the presentation.

"We want to give back. One day we hope to donate money to area schools and medical facilities," said Ryan Lawhorn.

The Appalachian Scholars Program, which began in fall 2006, recruits high school students from Ohio's 32 Appalachian counties to attend one of the university's six campuses. The students receive a four-year, renewable scholarship, an annual book stipend and access to resources designed to help them succeed.

Mark Skillings, assistant director for educational and scholastic programs in the Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention, is one of the people responsible for finding new Appalachian Scholars each year.

"The members of the inaugural class of the Appalachian Scholars Program have been pacesetters," Skillings said. "They have set the standard for all other classes to come."

The inaugural class of Appalachian Scholars had a 100 percent scholarship retention rate and an overall GPA of 3.24, according to Skillings, who became the group's adviser after Richard Greenlee, the programs first adviser, became dean of OHIO's Eastern Campus.

"Teachers at my high school encouraged me to apply for the Appalachian Scholars Program and now I go back to my hometown and encourage others to apply for the program," said Appalachian Scholar Julie Patterson, a first-generation college student. 

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis and his wife, Deborah, established the Appalachian Scholars program to increase cultural diversity and create opportunities for students to attend college.

Appalachian Scholars have three options to finish their college degree. They can attend all four years at either the Athens campus or a regional campus or they can follow in the footsteps of Nicole Pryor who spent her first two years near her hometown of Bethesda, Ohio.

"I lived at home for my first two years of college and attended Ohio University's Eastern Campus … then I transferred to the main campus. I got to stay close to my family at first and then when I was ready, I got to come to Athens. It was the best of both worlds," Pryor said. 

Ohio University-Southern Dean Bill Willan, who gave the opening remarks for the students' final presentation, said he was glad the scholars recognized that it is an honor and a privilege to be selected for this program.

That message was not lost on Appalachian Scholar Rebecca Clapper.

"It is our responsibility to succeed. We have an obligation to ourselves, to the other scholarship students, as well as an obligation to those students who were not chosen to participate in this program," Clapper said. 

The latest on the first class of Appalachian Scholars:

  • Justin Birchfield, Ripley, Ohio, history/pre-law major who will work for AmeriCorps before applying to law school.

  • Rebecca Clapper, Willow Wood, Ohio, civil engineering major who will pursue a master's degree in engineering at OHIO.

  • Laura Kelley, Cheshire, Ohio, social work major who will pursue a master's degree in social work from Ohio State University.

  • Ryan Lawhorn, Beaver, Ohio, will graduate next year as a pre-med major, but is applying to medical schools and plans to be a doctor.

  • Julie Patterson, Londonderry, Ohio, will graduate next year with a bachelor's degree in nursing and plans to work as a nurse in Chillicothe.

  • Kelly Payne, Ironton, Ohio, psychology major with a focus on pre-physcial therapy who will pursue a teaching career.

  • Nicole Pryor, Bethesda, Ohio, chemistry major who is already pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy at Wheeling Jesuit University.

  • Brandon Rudd, Peebles, Ohio, geography major with a focus on urban planning who will attend the University of Delaware to earn a master's degree in urban planning.

  • Erin Shipbaugh, Rochester, Ohio, became the first Appalachian Scholar to graduate in June 2009. She works in sales at Three D Metals in Valley City, Ohio.

  • Carletta Johnson, Zanesville, Ohio, earned her bachelor's degree in nursing in winter quarter and is pursuing a nursing career in Indiana.