Twenty of the states top performing high school seniors have been offered the prestigious Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship to attend West Virginia University in the fall.

The Bucklew Scholarship, valued at $21,000, provides students with over $5,000 each year towards educational costs during their four years at WVU .

The students were recognized this week (April 3) by WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. during a special ceremony at Blaney House.

The scholarship was named after its creator, Neil S. Bucklew, who served as WVU s 20th president from 1986 to 1995.

The 2007 recipients are: Nadia Ahmed , Morgantown High School, Morgantown, Monongalia County; Jason Bailey , Ripley High School, Ripley, Jackson County; Lea Bridi , Woodrow Wilson High School, Beckley, Raleigh County; Kristine (Ann) Bybee-Finley , Hurricane High School, Hurricane, Putnam County; Mackenzie Clarkson , Preston High School, Kingwood, Preston County; James Eakins , University High School, Morgantown, Monongalia County; Alexander Janes , Fairmont Senior High School, Fairmont, Marion County; Austin Jones , George Washington High School, South Charleston, Kanawha County; Hayley Leight, Bridgeport High School, Bridgeport, Harrison County; Stephen Lovell , Martinsburg High School, Martinsburg, Berkeley County; John Mathias , East Hardy High School, Wardensville, Hardy County; Rebecca Mitchem , Wyoming East High School, Bud, Wyoming County; Louie Olive , Williamson High School, Williamson, Mingo County; Elizabeth Parnicza , Weir High School, Weirton, Hancock County; Kelsey Pierce , Logan High School, Logan, Logan County; Steven Rhodes , Parkersburg South High School, Parkersburg, Wood County; Emily Shaffer , Tucker County High School, Parsons, Tucker County; Marissa Statler , Clay-Battelle High School, Core, Monongalia County; Justin West , Wheeling Park High School, Wheeling, Ohio County and Laura Wilson , Bridgeport High School, Bridgeport, Harrison County.

The scholarships are part of the Universitys comprehensive awards program and are supported, in part, by the WVU Foundation Inc.

These 20 students are now eligible for WVU s top academic award, the Foundation Scholarship, which is awarded to the top five Bucklew Scholars and valued at over $50,000. The finalists will be announced May 16 by Gov. Joe Manchin and University officials at a ceremony at the Charleston Capitol Complex.

Bucklew Scholars:

After graduating in the top 6 percent of her class at Morgantown High School, Nadia Ahmed of Morgantown plans to study chemistry.

She has participated in the American Chemical Society first-year and advanced tests, scoring two first places and a second place and was selected to participate in the National Chemistry Olympiad in her junior year.

Her academic accomplishments include: National Merit finalist, National Honor Society, National Honor Roll and Governors Honors Academy.

Ahmed has taken many advanced placement classes at MHS as well as classes at WVU and Alderson Broaddus College.

She has been active in the WVU Math Symposium and MHS Math Field Days, won a U.S. Achievement Academy national math award and was also selected as an Advanced Placement (AP) Rising Scholar. She also tutors her peers and volunteers at the local mosque.

Growing up as a Muslim-American in West Virginia had a great impact on her life, she said, and she has worked to clear up misconceptions about her Islamic faith by creating a club called the Muslim Awareness Club.

In todays world, there are many misconceptions concerning the beliefs of Islam,Ahmed wrote in her application.After learning more about the religion, I felt it was my responsibility as an American Muslim to convey to my school and community that extremist Muslims did not follow the teachings of Islam.

Ahmed also played on the varsity tennis team for four years, earning a varsity letter three of those years. She also participated on the North Central Athletic Conference All-Conference Girls Tennis Team and in the Jefferson Interscholastic Tennis Tournament.

She also plays the piano and saxophone.

Her parents are Sheikh and Tamanna Ahmed.

Jason Bailey of Ripley will graduate first in his class at Ripley High School and plans to major in international studies. He wants to focus on European studies and also learn about business, economics and government practices.

He has prepared by taking advanced placement and college-level courses along with studying politics and U.S. government. He has also traveled through Europe and Australia as a People to People Student Ambassador.

Academic achievement awards included: National Honor Roll; National Honor Society, including its president; AP Scholar and the Carlos Hidalgo Award for Outstanding Math Student.

He also sings in the Concert and Chamber choirs and plays the trumpet in the marching, concert and jazz bands. He has been named to the WVU Honors Band, All-Area Band, All-State Chamber Choir, All-State Chorus and the West Virginia American Choral Directors Association All-State Middle School/Junior High Honor Choir.

As president of his church youth group, Bailey coordinates the annual Adopt-A-Family dinner that matches church families with families in need to provide necessities and wish list items.

I gain a sense of accomplishment through the numerous smiles and tears I witness from the families,Bailey said of the project.Not only does this (program) help my community of Ripley, but also many of the families have children with whom I attend school.

He has also volunteered with Ripley Highs campus cleanup, Big Brother/Big Sister, Relay for Life and the Jackson County Charity Challenge.

Hes also captain of the varsity tennis team and is on Student Council.

His parents are Chuck Bailey and Barbara LeGue.

First in her class at Woodrow Wilson High School, Lea Bridi has her sights set on a career in journalism.

She was editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper and wants to someday write for a major U.S. publication. She plans to major in journalism and complete an internship.

The possibility of receiving an internship at a major publication as a WVU student seems very real,Bridi said.And the experience of actually participating in the production of such a publication, even as an intern, would be an invaluable way to launch myself into the world of prominent journalism.

Bridi has been named to Whos Who Among American High School Students and received several prestigious awards from her high school, including National Honor Society, the Top-Of-The-Nest Award, several underclassman academic subject awards and Junior Class Marshall.

She is active in several sports including tennis and swimming, and she was captain of the cross-country team. Most recently, she won her age division in the Tri-State Triathlon.

Bridi is active in her church, helping in the nursery and with childrens church and serving as a member on the Pastor Nominating Committee.

She has also been involved in student government throughout high school.

Her parents are John and Diane Bridi.

Kristine Bybee-Finley hopes to major in biochemistry and one day create effective ways to treat diseases caused by poverty or conflict. She decided on that career path after traveling and witnessing the devastating effects of poverty on the health of people in Third World countries.

Her dedicated studies at Hurricane High School have paid off with recognition in National Honor Society and as an AP Rising Scholar. She attended the Governors Honors Academy and was awarded a full scholarship to attend a Science Technology Engineering Mathematics camp.

Bybee-Finley was also a top-five finalist in the AAA Geography Challenge and received her schools Academic Achievement Award for four years straight.

She also spent six weeks in Australia as a Lions Club exchange student and is active in 4-H.

Extracurricular activities include: the St. Francis Medical Explorers, Future Scientists and Engineers of America and the Young Democrats of America.

She also played softball in the Hurricane Softball League, was a member of the Ultimate Frisbee Club and participated in the YMCA racquetball league.

Her parents are Howard Finley and Kristine Bybee-Finley.

Mackenzie Clarkson of Kingwood has his future scoped out. He will graduate first in his class at Preston High School, major in biochemistry, attend medical school and someday practice rural medicine in West Virginia.

He is well on his way, having taken numerous advanced placement classes, earned many notable honors and participated in a host of clubs and organizations.

Serving as a counselor at Camp McKennawhich focuses on building childrens self-esteem in a Christian environmenthas been the most important leadership position he has experienced, Clarkson said in his application.

Being a summer church camp counselor is important to me because during that week, I have the opportunity to give back to the community and be a positive role model for the campers,he said.I try to be a positive role model because teenagers can be the most influential people in a young persons life.

Clarksons honors include: National Merit Scholar finalist and semifinalist, National Honor Roll, National Society of High School Scholars and Presidential Scholar.

Clarkson has been involved in Student Council, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and National Honor Society, serving as president.

He played varsity baseball throughout high school as well as played on MVP summer and fall travel leagues and teams. He also was a Kingwood Youth Baseball League assistant coach.

His parents are James and Cynthia Clarkson.

James Eakins of Morgantown would like to study chemistry at WVU and become a pediatrician.

He has already taken advanced placement classes and college courses in biology, chemistry, English, Spanish and mathematics.

His participation in numerous clubs and organizations at University High School displays his interest in a wide range of subjects including the sciences, but also chess, sports, theater and music.

He has been active in the Science, Book and Creative Writing clubs as well as the marching band. Eakins also participated in the Shelly Marshall Creative Writing contest and Junior Engineering and Technical Science Technical Engineering and Mathematical Science Competition. He was Outstanding Delegate for Model United Nations and attended the Governors Honors Academy.

He has earned top 10 finishes in the West Virginia State Chess Championship for two years and played with the West Virginia State Honor Band.

He also enjoys tutoring other students.

Tutoring is important to me because I can help others achieve their goals,he said.I am excited to help them in any way I can because by helping another person learn a new skill or obtain a new level of understanding, I have helped shape another persons life.

His mother is Debra Eakins.

Alexander Janes of Fairmont hopes to study chemistry, but also has an interest in learning about the British Parliament.

Although my greatest academic talent seems to lie in the fields of mathematics and science, particularly chemistry, I have always had an abiding interest in politics and government,Janes said.Although at first glance parliamentary proceedings appeared to me, as an American, to be disorderly and chaotic, I have come to appreciate their timeless structure and formality.

Janes has already learned a bit about student government, having served four years on Student Council at Fairmont Senior High School. He also participated in Math Field Day, Science Bowl, the Presidential Scholars Program and Mountaineer Boys State, and he served as a state representative at the National Student Council Conference.

Some of his honors include: National Honor Society, National Merit finalist and Word Masters.

Janes was captain of his high school football and basketball teams and also sang in the Madrigal Chamber Singers.

His parents are David and Nathy Janes.

Austin Jones of South Charleston hasnt yet decided if hell pursue a degree in accounting or economics. His interests at George Washington High School have included a science-based curriculum and advanced classes.

He is also involved in Boy Scouts of America. He is an Eagle Scout and was a junior assistant scout master and senior patrol leader.

For his Eagle Scout project, he repainted the bleachers at John Adams Junior High.

I fully planned the project myself, consulted with school personnel, requested and received necessary donations and organized workers on the actual day of the project,Jones said.The project taught me about the responsibilities that leadership entails, as well as gave me valuable experience in communicating with authorities.

Jones has also been involved in Future Business Leaders of America and American Chemical Society competitions, and he was named an AP Rising Scholar and a National Merit Scholar. He also participated in Mountaineer Boys State and volunteers as a tutor at his school and works with local nonprofit agencies like Union Mission and Adopt-A-Highway.

He will graduate fifth in a class of 221.

His parents are Matthew and Julie Jones.

Hayley Leight of Bridgeport has split her high school years between studying, cheerleading, swimming and planning for a career in medicine.

She plans to major in chemistry and pursue a premedicine track.

Her numerous academic awards include: national finalist in the Samsung-American Legion Scholarship program, National Honor Society, National Honor Roll and the National Society of High School Scholars.

Additional awards include individual and team awards from the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission and the Big 10 Conference Academic Award.

She has involved in Bridgeport Highs Student Council, having served as an executive board member for four years, membership director and committee chairperson for several events.

She was captain of the varsity swim team and a member of Key Club, French Club and French Honorary. She attended Rhododendron Girls State.

I think I would like to spend a semester in France so that I can use some of the French I have studied for the last five years and see the places and monuments we have discussed in French class,she said.If I was given this opportunity, I would use it to expand my horizons and learn more about the world in which we live.

Her parents are Victor and Susan Leight.

Stephen Lovell from Martinsburg plans to study environmental protection at WVU and would like to study abroad to experience new cultures throughout the world and build a career in opera.

Through singing, I have glimpsed a life of which I have only read,he said.I believe that study abroad would be the greatest opportunity for me to follow my dreamimmerse myself in the world I live to protect.

Lovells wide range of interests includes music, art, math and language. He has been inducted into the Art Honor Society, Hispanic Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

He was selected to participate in All-State Chorus, Good Times Show Choir and National Association of Teachers of Singing competition, and he was a representative at the Music Teachers National Association, placing first in his category.

Lovell is also a member of the National Honor Society, Math Team, Key Club and Academic Challenge for Excellence team, and he is president of the Student Council at Martinsburg High School.

Throughout my senior year, this position has influenced me in ways I will never forget,he said.Student Council is so important because of the positive change it makes in the lives of those who care.

His parents are Randall and Susan Lovell.

John Mathias of Wardensville plans to major in political science at WVU and attend law school.

During his years at East Hardy High School, he has been involved in the Future Business Leaders of America, Voice of Democracy, Governors Honors Academy and Mountaineers Boys State.

In addition, he has taken advanced placement and college courses in literature, English and history from Potomac State and Eastern Community College.

He has earned his schools Superior Academic Achievement award and a place in the National Honor Society. He also lettered in track and cross country and was captain of the cross-country team.

During his involvement with the Stream Scholars Summer Program, he spent five summers studying the effects of roadway construction on the surrounding watershed.

We were taught to conduct various chemical tests, from dissolved oxygen to turbidity levels, and very nearly everything in between,Mathias said.It was an amazing series of trips, from surveying the North River to canoeing to the Chesapeake Bay.

In his Bucklew Scholarship application, he said he would like to use the stipend to start a nonprofit organization. He also indicated an interest in supporting sheep herders and nomads to develop a market for their woolsupporting spinning operations and the development of wool products and creating income from the proceeds to create a self-sustaining operation.

His parents are James and Karen Mathias.

Rebecca Mitchem from Bud plans to major in medical technology.

Her many interests include poetry, Spanish, math, science and 4-H.

She was named to Whos Who in Poetry and the Spanish Honor Society and participated in Math Field Day and the State Math/Science Quiz Bowl.

Honors include: Wyoming East High Schools academic honors, National Honor Roll, National Honor Society, U.S. Achievement Academy, Whos Who Among American High School Students and the state Academic Achievement Award.

She has volunteered with Relay for Life, Camp Horseshoe and Adopt-A-Highway, and she was a 4-H camp counselor. She has also been involved in the anti-tobacco awareness program, RAZE .

She was selected to serve on the Governors 21st Century Jobs Cabinet of West Virginia and as Youth Chief Justice of the State of West Virginia.

Her most important community service activity, she said, has been volunteering at various 4-H camps for underprivileged children.

Because I can influence numerous children and grow as a person, I know that volunteering at camps is my most important personal activity,she said.Providing these children with a positive role model provides me with a sense of accomplishment and provides them with a sense of belonging.

Her parents are Jeffrey and Betty Mitchem.

Louie Olive from Williamson will pursue a degree in biology and plans to attend medical school.

His ultimate goal is to eliminate Alzheimers disease. Having lost his grandmother to the disease, he would like to perform undergraduate medical research to find a treatment for degenerative mental diseases.

Although it is too late for my grandmother, it is not too late for the rest of my family or the rest of the world who could potentially have this disease or others like it,he said.I believe this is one of the worst diseases in the world and that more research needs to be done into treatments and possible elimination of it.

During his years at Williamson High School, Olive participated in Math Field Day, the Governors Honors Academy, Student Council, Mountaineer Boys State, Coal Education Development and Resource of Southern West Virginia Coal Fair and Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. He also took several advanced placement courses in micro and macro economics, literature, government and language as a junior and senior.

Olive has volunteered with the Read Aloud program at Riverside Elementary, Special Olympics, Kiwanis and the American Cancer Societys Relay for Life.

He also plays on his schools golf team and is the captain of the tennis team.

He has been an active member of 4-H and the Boy Scouts of America for four years, earning Eagle Scout status.

His parents are Sam and Janice Olive.

Elizabeth Parnicza from Weirton would like to study history at WVU and secure an internship at the Gettysburg National Military Park to further her knowledge of the Civil War era.

Along with providing me with valuable work experience through constant interaction with the public and long working hours, the internship would further my personal cause of preserving history for future generations and would benefit society by helping to staff one of the nations finest military parks,she said.

While at Weir High, Parnicza received the Presidents Volunteer Service, Hugh OBrian Youth (HOBY) Leadership for Service and Rensselaer Medal awards along with the Good Citizen award from the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is a member of the National Honor Society and Weir High School Principals Honor Roll.

She has participated as a national qualifier in the Academic Gamesa national tournament of mathematics, language arts and social studies competitions. She attended the national tournament for all four years in high school and won many awards as a junior.

Parnicza has also participated in: Key Club as vice president, Literary Magazine as editor-in-chief, Chemistry Club as vice president and the National Honor Society as treasurer.

Through participation in the HOBY World Leadership Congress in Washington, D.C., Parnicza was moved by a presentation on the Red Cross Measles Initiative program. The program provides measles vaccinations for children in Africa at a cost of $1 each. Parnicza created a program at her school to raise money from a penny collection for the initiative.

The penny war was an amazing success, raising over $250 for the Measles Initiative program,she said.The knowledge that I had sparked this event which may save the lives of 250 people was exhilarating.

Her parents are George and Roberta Parnicza.

Kelsey Pierce of Logan has already composed her future plans. She will graduate first in her class from Logan High School and plans to major in music performance and music education at WVU . She also wants to travel to Europe someday to pursue a career in opera.

Her interests in high school were in math, music and language. Her honors included: Whos Who Among American High School Students, National Honor Society, National Honor Roll, National Merit English award, AP Rising Scholar and the All-American Scholar Award.

She has participated in Rhododendron Girls State and the Governors Honors Academy as well as the Governors School programs for math and science and the arts.

With a strong interest in music, Pierce has performed in many musical productions, including a duet in the West Virginia SymphonysThe Marriage of Figaro.She has also earned Choir 1, 2 and 3 awards from LHS .

Pierce volunteers for many organizations, but says her involvement in community Red Cross blood drives has been one of the most important activities she has participated with.

The units of blood that this organization collects gives people a new chance at life,she said.Through the American Red Cross, I help save lives each time I donate blood or encourage other donors to continue donating blood.

Her parents are Calisa Pierce and James Pierce Jr.

As percussion captain of the Parkersburg South High School marching band, Steven Rhodes , learned a lot about leadership.

I gained a new understanding of the importance of hard work and perseverance, reinforced by respect,he said of his studies.

Rhodes will graduate in the top 5 percent of his class and enter the mechanical engineering program at WVU .

During high school he has taken advanced placement courses in math, chemistry, English and Japanese.

He has a passion for music and has been recognized as the states Outstanding Jazz Soloist. In addition, he was a member of the WVU Honor Band and the State Music Educators Honors Recital.

He also has been recognized on the National Honor Roll, National Honors Society and the Principals List. During his freshman year, he participated in the multistate Quiz Bowl, earning a third place award in the competition. He also received second place in Mental Math Estimation at his schools Math Field Day.

Rhodes would like to study abroad to supplement his formal education.

At some point during college, I anticipate studying overseas for an entire semester, which would allow me to fully immerse myself in a foreign culture and gain significant perspective on how other people live in other parts of the world,he said.I am highly interested in Asian culture and have spent a lot of time studying the Japanese language, so I could picture myself attending an exchange university in Japan.

His parents are John and Christine Rhodes.

Ranked first in her class at Tucker County High School, Emily Shaffer of Parsons wants to major in biochemistry and minor in music at WVU .

Her numerous honors include: National Merit semifinalist, National Honors Society, U.S. Achievement Academy and a place in Whos Who Among American High School Students. She has also attended the Governors Honor Academy and Governors School for the Arts.

Shaffer said music is an important part of her life. Her family performs in a gospel group, and her father runs a sound production business. She has been studying classical voice and languages as a way to build upon her natural singing talent.

The first time I read an Italian piece my interest was piqued by the challenges of the dictation and its similarity to Spanish,she said.My continued affinity for the language has served me well and been a key element in the many awards that I have received for performances.

Shaffer has participated in the Mentor Princess Program for three years and was recognized for her work with the program. During her years of participating in pageants, she was named first runner-up in the West Virginia Poultry Queen competition and first runner-up Miss Eastern Panhandle. She was also commended by Gov. Joe Manchin for her platform and outstanding work with Tucker County youth.

Shaffer enjoys volunteering with organizations such as the Tucker County Community Endowment Foundation, Kiwanis Club, American Red Cross, Adopt-A-Highway and the American Cancer Societys Relay for Life.

Her parents are Ronald and Ellen Shaffer.

Marissa Statler of Core hopes to study broadcast news at WVU and take advantage of opportunities to study abroad.

It is very pertinent to the fields of broadcasting and journalism, my intended majors, to obtain a complete grasp on international connections and relations,she said.By studying abroad, I would have the opportunity to forge those associations and further my understanding of global politics and international diplomacy.

Active in high school and in her community, she was Miss Clay District Fair in 2006 and participated in Student Council, varsity cheerleading, varsity track and the French and Pep clubs. She also dances with the Performing Arts Academy.

Honors include: the National Honor Society, a Young Writers award, Whos Who Among American High School students, Whos Who Among High School Students Athletes Edition, U.S. Achievement Academy and the National Honor Roll. She has also participated in the Governors Honors Academy, Math Field Day and Rhododendron Girls State.

She was touched by an experience she had while volunteering with the Make-A-Wish-Foundation to grant the wisha trip to Disney Worldof Megan, a young cancer patient. The school pulled together to raise funds through bake sales, hat days and other activities. Statler was saddened to learn of Megans eventual passing, but feels the experience was an inspiration.

Her life showed me the power that one person can have to make a difference in the world,she said.I hope that I can continue to use that power to have a positive influence on all the people in my life.

Her parents are Joseph and Louie Statler.

Although Justin West of Wheeling has not completely decided his future, he is confident that it will involve engineering and business, so he plans to major in engineering at WVU .

I have also dreamed of experiencing a new foreign culture, learning what only experience can teach and working on projects with people from all over the world,he said.I want to make the most out of my life, exceed my potential, inspire others and accomplish something great.

He has been recognized as a College Board AP Scholar and a Merit Scholar semifinalist. West was also named to the National Honor Society and Honor Cord, and he was a Park Scholar at Wheeling Park High School.

During his senior year, he was selected to represent WPHS at the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission State Farm Insurance Academic Achievement Awards.

West has also participated in the West Virginia Regional Science Bowl, Math Field Day, Governors Honor Academy and National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine.

At WPHS , he has participated in numerous campus groups: the Math, Key and Chess clubs; Speech Team; Political Awareness Club; and Aviation Flight Camp. He also plays saxophone in the marching, concert and after-school jazz bands, and he plays double tenor in the steel drum band.

West feels that his readings as a church lector are a source of inspiration, guidance and solace for the members of his church and these efforts have helped him feel a strong sense of accomplishment.

I can help people through the power of wordshe said.I plan to continue this service for many years, but I know I will apply these talents to the rest of my life to inspire progress, kinship and joy in the lives of others.

He is proud of forming an Ultimate Frisbee Team and raising the funds needed to supply team jerseys.

His parents are Robert and Mary West.

Laura Wilson of Bridgeport plans to study biology with a pre-med emphasis at WVU . She has been recognized for her achievements in science, academics and sports and will graduate first in her class from Bridgeport High School.

Wilson was selected to participate in the Chemistry Olympics in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Harrison County Math Field Day, and she has been the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Delegate.

She is a member of the Presidential Scholars Program and National Honor Society, a National Merit finalist and a United States Achievement Academy National Science Merit award winner.

She is also involved in student government and is alto section leader in the schools theater department. She also played varsity soccer for two years.

Volunteer activities include the American Cancer Societys Relay for Life.

Both satisfying and meaningful, serving as co-captain of a Relay for Life team is the community service project I look forward to the most throughout the entire year,she said.Though extremely tiring, the experience united hundreds of people in high spirits to work toward a common goalraising money for an extremely worthy cause.

Wilson hopes to use her academic stipend for travel in Europe to broaden her experiences and perspective of the world.

Her parents are Robert and Rebecca Wilson.