LHWL scholarship winners

As Lake Highlands High School seniors were called down Friday morning to discover that they would be receiving a college scholarship from Lake Highlands Women’s League, some whooped aloud with joy, some dropped their jaws in surprise and some texted the news to proud parents. The League will officially award 32 scholarships totaling almost $100,000 later this month at an presentation where treasured family members and devoted teachers may be present.

Friday’s scholarship announcement, Saturday’s prom – the entire senior year – hasn’t been easy, said Will Howard, a recipient who will study finance and pre-law at Samford University. He was especially close to classmate Austin Silva, a Wrangler and tennis team captain who died last summer after complications from routine wisdom tooth extraction.

“Austin had a big impact on my life,” Howard told me. “Experiencing all of the final things this year has been tough.”

Natyah Smith wants to attend UNT and become a math teacher, but she admitted math is a struggle for her.

“I am not good at math at all, but I like it because it’s something you have to work at, and there are multiple ways to get at a solution, and once you’ve got it, you can build on that solution. That’s why I like it.”

Nora Balli will head off to UT Austin to study public health, but she won’t be gone long.

“I want to come back and give back to the community that has given so much to me,” she said. “Every dollar of this scholarship will make a big difference since I want to go to medical school.”

Shaimya Wright hasn’t decided between Midwestern State University and Sam Houston State, but the rest of her future is all planned out. She’ll study forensic science and criminal justice, and she’ll catch the bad guys, just like they do on TV shows like Criminal Minds and Law and Order. She was sure, too, she’d get tears of pride and joy when she called her mom to share the big scholarship news.

“I’m doing something my mom wasn’t able to do,” said Wright. “She’s very smart, but she had me before she could finish high school or go to college.”

Imani Johnson became interested in labor and delivery nursing when she experienced the birth of her younger brother. Calling her mom about the scholarship, though, wasn’t something she was in a hurry to do.

“I’m the only girl in a family of four boys and I’m the oldest, and my mom is taking my leaving pretty hard. When I mention college she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. She gets emotional.”

Jacob Armer, headed off to UT in the fall, recognized that LHWL scholarships come from funds raised at their annual Holiday in the Highlands home tour. Most of those funds, he realized, come from personal or corporate donations.

“It shows a lot about the community we have in Lake Highlands. This money is coming from everyone in the community, and everyone is supporting us to go to college and in our future endeavors.”

Luke Kirkpatrick, also headed to UT, said the awards have power beyond just paying the bills.

“I’m honored. I know it’s very select. Scholarships like these not only help people pay for their school but also give them a boost of confidence – that other people believe in them. I know that’s what I’m feeling right now – that I was chosen for this elite scholarship and I have more belief in myself.”

Katie Gray, drum major of the Wildcat band, had a message, not just for League members, but for students coming along behind her.

“I am so honored to represent LHWL and the things they do, and I hope the young people who look up to me will see that doing the right things and following the right path will lead to good things and awesome rewards.”

Recipients of the LHWL scholarships are: Jessica Anoway, Jacob Armer, Tysen Auldridge, Nora Balli, Jace Breedlove, Craig Casler, Thomas Casler, Dominique Conway, Alex Coulson, Kirsten Cozart, Evan Garcia, Luca Gisellu, Katie Gray, Hannah Hatfield, Will Howard, Imani Johnson, Luke Kirkpatrick, Caroline Knowlton, Michelle Lew, Eden Mawi, Moo Meh, Abigail Meliza, Grayson Orr, Madeline Ratliff, Trey Reed, Jacob Seddelmeyer, Natyah Smith, Oby Uche, Erin Wilhelm, Nyasha Wilson, Hannah Wood and Shaimya Wright.

If you feel inspired to support Lake Highlands Women’s League, it’s not too late. You may donate online here. The League will announce their almost $100,000 in community projects later this month.