By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ
Like most of the Class of 2020, McKinney High School senior Sara Hummadi missed all the milestones and experiences she’s supposed to have in the final months before graduation.
The coronavirus outbreak forced North Texas school districts to close all in-school activities in March, but it didn’t dampen Sara’s enthusiasm. The aspiring communicator used her time at home to continue producing videos, including one that highlights student activities, experiences and accomplishments and a compilation video of teachers checking in on their students.
“It’s mainly transitioning from actually being in school versus having to do everything online,” Sara said. “In terms of student media, I still am very connected with it and creating content for it through the news journalism program.”
On April 28, Sara thought she was joining a video chat to talk about how the Class of 2020 is coping with the effects of COVID-19.
Instead, CoServ surprised her with a $5,000 scholarship that she can apply to the Texas college of choice. Right now, she intends to study pre-law and is deciding between the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University.
CoServ awards seven such scholarships to students from CoServ households every spring – usually in-person and often with a “prize patrol” that surprises them in their classrooms. This year, COVID-19’s shutdown of schools and gatherings prompted an improvisation.
“Everyone’s meeting through video conferencing these days,” said Vicki Sargent, CoServ’s Director of Community Engagement. “So, we thought a virtual presentation was something we could – and should – do.”
Sara’s not the first family member to win a CoServ scholarship – her sister, Noor, was awarded the same scholarship when she was a senior in 2016. This month, Noor graduates from the University of Texas at Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in Emerging Media and Communications.
On April 29, CoServ also awarded a “surprise scholarship” to Ponder High School senior Julia Pagel. Julia and fellow seniors in her household – sister Jensen and brother Jacob (they’re triplets) – were on a video chat arranged by PHS Guidance Counselor Anne Ivy.
“I’m going to Texas A&M University in the fall, so I’m very excited about that,” Julia said. “I’ll be majoring in Allied Health. That’s just the first step I have to take to major in nursing, so I’m hoping to get into nursing school.”
The scholarship application process is straightforward, but challenging, said Whitney Gohlke, CoServ’s Community Relations Manager who administers the scholarship program and was part of the video presentations.
“Good grades and school activities are a starting point” she said. “But we want to hear from students, in their own words, what they plan to study and why – how they’re contributing to their community now and how they plan to in the future.”
Based on the rubric score CoServ uses to assess scholarship applications, Jensen and Julia actually tied, meaning the scholarship amount would’ve been split. But Jensen received a full scholarship to Texas Women’s University, so the entire $5,000 will go to Julia.
On the video call, the siblings talked about how disappointing it was that school came to screeching halt.
“When it all started in March, I never thought I’d appreciate school so much,” Julia said. “We didn’t know that was the last day of school. Now I’m holding on to that memory.”
Jacob’s basketball season had just ended with a playoff loss, and he was starting the transition to tennis when the stay-at-home order shut down school. Jensen said she only got to play in two tennis tournaments before school closed. The hardest part for her was missing the sense of closure and being able to say goodbye in-person.
Whitney said that even though their senior year didn’t finish the way they wanted, the Class of 2020 is special and will persevere.
“Our graduating seniors are going through some tough times, but we know they’ll come out of this stronger than before” she said. “We know we’re looking at tomorrow’s leaders today.”