They are among the best high school seniors in the state. They are curious, hard working, self-motivated, extroverted and persistent – and they want to change the world.

They are West Virginia University’s 2010 class of Foundation Scholars – selected for their outstanding academic success, leadership skills and community service work.

These students could have gone anywhere they wanted to continue their education, and they chose to join the WVU family to pursue their dreams.

On Tuesday, May 18, five of the state’s top high school students were introduced as the recipients of the University’s most-prestigious academic honor – the Foundation Scholarship. Gov. Joe Manchin, WVU President James P. Clements and WVU Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer R. Wayne King formally recognized the scholars during a ceremony at the state Capitol Complex in Charleston.

The award – which provides full tuition and fees, plus room and board and books for four years – is valued at approximately $70,000 when paired with the state’s PROMISE Scholarship. In addition, the scholarship includes a $4,500 stipend for academic enhancement, which is commonly used for study abroad, internships and other advanced learning opportunities.

WVU’s 2010 Foundation Scholars are: Paul Garton of Jane Lew, Lewis County; Alex Gray, Fairmont, Marion County; Noelle Hadley, Winfield, Putnam County; Priyanka Jagannath, Charleston, Kanawha County; and Catie Kelly, Vienna, Wood County.

Manchin congratulated the students on their scholastic achievements and dedication.

“I commend these five young talented scholars for their outstanding work and commitment to education. They have each placed a great deal of value toward learning and their dedication is being rewarded. The WVU Foundation Scholarship will give each of these young people the ability to continue their academic excellence and achieve career goals right here in West Virginia,” he said.

President Clements noted that these students all had many choices about where to pursue an education, and he’s glad WVU chose them and they chose WVU.

“I am proud to welcome these five outstanding students to West Virginia University. They have displayed extraordinary academic ability, leadership skills and an incredible commitment to their communities. I have no doubt they will continue to excel at WVU and we are honored to be their school of choice,” he said.

The Foundation Scholarship is the most prestigious award offered by WVU’s undergraduate scholarship program, which annually benefits more than 5,500 students in excess of $10 million. Since the program was established in 1987, 120 of the state’s brightest high school students have been awarded the University’s most selective scholarship.

“I join my colleagues at the WVU Foundation in congratulating these exceptional students and their families. Each scholar has excelled in academics, leadership and community service, and we are delighted that they will be attending WVU. The Foundation stands committed to providing scholarship opportunities for students through private support,” King said.

The five WVU Foundation Scholars are chosen from a pool of 20 students awarded the Neil S. Bucklew Scholarship, valued at more than $26,000 for four years. After being offered the Bucklew Scholarship, students are invited to campus for a day of rigorous interviews.

The students must be from West Virginia, posses a minimum 3.8 GPA and achieve a minimum composite score of 30 on the ACT or 1,340 on the SAT college entrance exams.

Meet WVU’s 2010 class of Foundation Scholars:

It might seem a bit strange to, well, strangers, but Paul Garton likes to start conversations with people he doesn’t know. Not the polite kind of conversation that strangers typically have, but deep, philosophical conversations that have the ability to open new worlds and inspire new perspectives.

In other words, he’s curious.

About everything.

“I like discussing things,” Garton, of Jane Lew, says. “I like kicking back under trees and thinking about life.”

It appears he’ll get to do a lot of that this fall, when he becomes a philosophy and international studies double major at WVU.

Garton expects to graduate first in his class at Lewis County High School in June. He’s been recognized as an Advanced Placement Rising Scholar, English Student of the Year and has received the National School Marching Award.

He has been an active participant in 4-H, the National Honor Society, the Foreign Language Club and the United Methodist Youth Fellowship, among others.

He’s also a fan of the arts – both movies and music. Oscar night is one of his favorite nights of the year. He’s the drum major in his high school band and he can play more instruments than most people can name, including the trombone, the baritone, the piano, the guitar and most percussion instruments.

“Mom started me early,” he says with a shrug.

Garton might view his talents as average, but WVU recognized his accomplishments as deserving of its highest honor. The Foundation Scholarship not only convinced Garton that he should follow in the footsteps of his mother, father and sister – all WVU alums – but it brought with it a sense of relief.

“I don’t have to worry about anything,” Garton says. “All monetary problems are out the door.”

Garton, the son of Rock and Dorothy Garton, isn’t sure where his somewhat unusual double major will lead him after college, but he imagines he’ll be working with an organization that offers help to the less fortunate.

It’s been a passion since a substitute teacher and church leader he admires took him on a mission trip to McDowell County, where he helped to build houses.

“I admire him,” Garton says. “He’s caring and generous. And there’s never a dull moment with him.”

Which, for a curious guy like Garton, is a good thing.

Alex Gray, of Fairmont, wants to work with airplanes.

“It is amazing how you can take this heavy piece of metal and have it go in the air. It is not only a science, it is an art,” Gray says.

Gray will major in aerospace and mechanical engineering when he attends WVU in the fall.

His love of planes stems from having parents in the U.S. Air Force and being active in the Civil Air Patrol.

As a member of the patrol, Gray participated in search and rescue missions, assisted in drug-demand reduction programs, helped with moral leadership programs and worked with young cadets.

Gray, the son of Edward and Dana, describes himself as “hard working,” “self-motivated” and “eclectic.”

He is excited to attend WVU to meet a variety of different people, and to have the freedom “to be more myself,” he says.

“I want to be able to study something that really appeals to me, and to participate in Engineers Without Borders,” he says, a nonprofit, humanitarian organization that combines the efforts of professional engineers and engineering students to implement sustainable engineering projects around the world.

At East Fairmont High School, he is expected to graduate as one of the top three students in his class.

He has been recognized as a Rising Advanced Placement Scholar, and has received the Civil Air Patrol Billy Mitchell Award.

Gray is a member of the National Honor Society and National Spanish, science, social science and English honoraries. He is an active participant in his school’s marching band as the trumpet and French horn section leader, speech and debate team.

Noelle Hadley is one step closer to her dream of traveling and researching space as an astronaut.

The Winfield native, and daughter of Barton and Cheryl, will major in aerospace engineering when she attends WVU in the fall.

Hadley received her love of space from a great uncle, who worked as an aerospace engineer at Lockheed Martin. Her uncle’s frequent conversations about launching satellites into space led Hadley to want to learn more.

At WVU, she is excited to not only expand her knowledge, but meet new people and get involved in community service organizations.

“Anything that is interesting, I will try at least once,” she says.

Of all she has achieved in her time at Winfield High School, Hadley is most proud of her experience as an ambassador for West Virginia at the World Leadership Congress. She attended the congress in the summer of 2008, interacting with students from every state and 16 countries.

“It made a huge difference in my life and made me realize my role as a leader in school. I also made some really good friends, and any connection that can help later in life is important,” she says.

Hadley has been recognized on the Principal’s List all four years of high school, has received Student of the Month and a President’s Volunteer Service Award. She has also been active on her school’s soccer team.

Charleston native Priyanka Jagannath describes herself as “extroverted,” “relaxed” and “funny.”

She gets along well with others and wants to make people’s lives better overall.

Jagannath, daughter of Thopsie and Prema, will major in biology or chemistry when she attends WVU in the fall with the ultimate goal of being a doctor.

“I admire doctors who participated in organizations like Doctors Without Borders. I aspire to be like them and respect that they are willing to risk their lives to help others,” she says.

She has spent much of her time volunteering at hospitals and learning about different kinds of medicine, and although she is not sure which path she will follow she plans to “do everything it takes” to accomplish her goals.

In her spare time Jagannath can be found in the kitchen, where she is using her creativity to create new recipes. She also enjoys hiking, playing tennis and spending time with friends.

She has been active on the George Washington High School cross country team, and now serves as the team captain.

A semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship, Advanced Placement Scholar with distinction and National Beta Club member, Jagannath has also been the president of the Beta Club, vice president and treasurer of the Key Club and a member of the Young Democrats, among others.

Being given the honor of representing WVU as a Foundation Scholar is something Jagannath will take with her always.
“I am proud to represent West Virginia and I can’t wait to show the rest of the world that West Virginia can produce just as smart, dedicated students as any other state. Coming to WVU opens endless opportunities,” she said.

Catie Kelly, of Vienna, admires Olympic medalist Wilma Rudolph for her passion and dedication to overcoming obstacles.
Born with polio, Rudolph was a three-time gold metal track and field winner during the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Kelly aims to live her life similarly to Rudolph.

“She had the persistence and dedication that I hope to use in my everyday life,” she says.

Kelly, a life-long West Virginian and daughter of Gerard and Sherri, will follow in her mother’s footsteps as a Mountaineer.
She will major in biomedical engineering. Her ultimate goal is to help improve the medical system, whether it is through enhancing technology, helping the disabled reintegrate themselves into everyday life or research.

She looks forward to joining the Honors College, participating in student organizations that improve the lives of those in developing countries and “joining the University family.”

“There are so many academic and student life opportunities that I want to take advantage of at WVU,” she says.

As former class president at Parkersburg High School, Kelly enjoyed being able to represent her classmates when they had issues they felt needed to be taken up with administration.

She also enjoys a love of music. She sings, plays piano, flute and guitar.

Kelly is a member of the National Honor Society, Ohio University Honor Choir, Parkersburg High School Chamber Choir, All-State Chamber Chorus and Math Honor Society.

She has been recognized as an Advanced Placement Scholar, and has been an active volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, among other initiatives.