Like most good tales, every success story has a turning point – a moment of inspiration or opportunity that transforms a dream into reality. For many WVU students, those defining moments stem from scholarships.
During the 2021-22 academic year, the WVU Office of Financial Aid awarded more than $126.7 million in scholarships to 16,056 students. Every dollar makes a difference in the lives of WVU students. Beyond the financial benefits, scholarships offer support to help students pursue lifelong dreams and provide encouragement to imagine what’s possible.
Receiving the Emil Czul Endowed Scholarship was “life-changing” for WVU junior Garrett Ware. Established by a late WVU graduate through a $4 million estate gift, the scholarship provides two full-ride scholarships per year to students from Fayette County, W.Va.
Ware is from Smithers, a town of about 750 people located roughly 25 miles southeast of Charleston. He first came to WVU to follow in his father’s footsteps as an electrical engineer. But with the cost of his undergraduate education covered, he shifted gears to pursue a career in medicine. He is now majoring in biomedical engineering and plans to go on to medical school, hopefully at WVU.
“There’s a lot of kids you don’t really think about that can’t pursue their dreams that are actually really smart, and they just can’t afford college,” Ware said. “So, with the help of these scholarships, you’re creating the next engineer, the next doctor that adds another piece to the backbone of the state of West Virginia.”
Jaliyah Hubbard, of Weirton, W.Va., has dreamed of being a dentist since she was in fifth grade. She was inspired by her own childhood experience with braces and her mother’s career as an orthodontic assistant. Hubbard occasionally accompanied her mom to work, where she appreciated seeing the metamorphosis patients went through during treatment: “Seeing how much brighter their smile was or how lifted their self-esteem was really resonated with me, and I knew that was something I wanted to do.”
Hubbard knew it would be a challenge to afford dental school, so she worked hard – academically and otherwise – to offset her education costs during her undergraduate years at WVU. As a former high school valedictorian, she received some scholarships to put toward tuition and fees. She also juggled three jobs to help pay for living expenses and other costs, planning her time carefully to ensure she could keep up with her coursework and extracurricular activities.
Hubbard was elated to receive the Norman H. and Nathan P. Baker Dental Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship that benefits African American students at WVU.
“Having the scholarship has really lifted the burden of trying to figure out how I was going to afford to pay for [dental school],” Hubbard said. “It allowed me to really immerse in my studies and be able to focus on excelling and doing that instead of having to worry about how I was going to go to work or be able to afford certain things, such as groceries or my rent.”
Meredith Bobersky, of Hurricane, W.Va., first came to WVU to study accounting, but she struggled academically during her freshman year. Changing her major to journalism – and earning the W.E. Chilton III Journalism Scholarship – helped her regain the confidence to be successful despite the learning challenges that came with her attention deficit disorder diagnosis.
“I knew that I was smart and I had that determination, but I felt like I wasn’t given anything to make me feel empowered in my abilities,” Bobersky said. “… Once I received that scholarship, I felt like so much more, and I felt like my academics were actually being appreciated by the University. It just made me feel recognized, and it made me feel important.”
Bobersky has found a passion for writing, but she ultimately plans to become a divorce attorney. Her goal is to graduate debt-free with her bachelor’s degree so she can afford law school. While the Chilton scholarship doesn’t cover Bobersky’s tuition in full, she said it’s helped change her mindset and keep her on track to achieve her dreams, when combined with family support and private scholarships she’s earned.
The University is expanding efforts to help first-time freshmen from West Virginia afford a college degree with the launch of the WVU Pledge. Beginning with the fall 2023 semester, the last-dollar-in aid program will cover outstanding costs — including tuition, fees, housing and meal plans — for qualifying Promise Scholarship recipients who’ve exhausted all other financial aid options.
The Czul, Baker and Chilton scholarships were established through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University. From July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, alumni and friends made 39,347 gifts totaling $213.8 million via the Foundation, marking the second-highest giving year in WVU’s history. Those gifts benefit scholarships, facilities, programs and more to make a positive impact across the Mountain State and beyond.