Mackenna Woodring said she had to read the letter ten times before she could believe that the Lenfest Foundation had chosen her as a recipient of a prestigious scholarship totaling nearly $50,000.The application process took months to complete, as the students had to wait weeks between each step before learning if they'd made it to the next. By the time the final envelope arrived at her house, Woodring said she was afraid to open it as her mother held it out in front of her. Had her mother not confessed that she had already peeked inside, who knows how long she would have waited before finding out that she will be able to choose from some of the most coveted schools in the country.
Octorara received a huge shock the morning after the final letters arrived and learned that four juniors in the district had been chosen as recipients. Whereas in previous years the Lenfest Scholarship was awarded to one student at each of ten rural schools, this year the foundation decided to give 15 scholarships to deserving students.
Woodring's situation differs from that of the other three students because her brother, Calvin, was also a Lenfest Scholarship recipient. He graduated in 2007 and currently attends Dartmouth. Woodring feared it would be a hindrance to her that her family had already received the financial assistance, luckily, it was not.
The first step in the long process was to write and submit an essay-no longer than two pages-detailing where the applicant plans to be in 10 years and how college would help them to get there. This essay, along with personal information, such as grades and extracurricular activities, and a written recommendation from Mr. Mundy-honors and advanced placement English teacher at Octorara-qualified Woodring to advance to the second round.
From there, she wrote three more essays and sent them to the scholarship committee, made up of administrators from some of the nation's top schools, including Roger Lehecka, who was the dean of Columbia University for 25 years.
One of Woodring's essays discussed the three issues she feels are most important in the upcoming presidential election. While being careful not to discuss her personal opinions on any of the three, Woodring wrote that conservation of energy, universal healthcare, and education topped the charts in importance.
Her second essay answered the question, 'where do you feel most at home?' From a list of options, Woodring explained that it is with her closest friends that she feels most at home. "Through my high school career I have established very good relationships with my friends, which I greatly value," she said.
The final of the three essays asked what will be the most challenging part of college. Woodring answered that balancing every-thing-clubs, sports, and academics-will test her the most. "I need to make sure I don't spread myself too thin," she said. "I will need to maintain my grades, but also pay attention to the social aspects as well."
Woodring started the application process with a bunch of her friends and ended it with four. Four students from Octorara were chosen for the final stage-the interview-and each was rewarded in the end. "The interview was kind of intimidating," Woodring said. "It's not that they were grilling me, but they had to ask a lot of questions to make sure they were giving it to the right person.
"I was nervous until I answered the first question," Woodring remembered. "They [the committee members] were really nice and helped me to feel more confident." During the half-hour interview, she said she really had to think on her feet when one of the interviewers asked her to discuss a controversial issue that arose recently at Octorara. Woodring talked about the fact that displaying the Confederate flag was banned throughout the district.
"It's a big issue because people want to show their Southern pride, but don't realize that it's offensive," Woodring said. "The school decided to ban wearing it and flying it on your truck because it caused problems. Then that caused problems. I feel it's not a big price to pay to ensure that everyone feels safe," she said.
On the day the final letter came, Woodring said her happiness was mixed with a bit of sadness because she assumed her friends had been turned down for the scholarship. When she ran into Jordan Makansi later that day, who is her neighbor and another of the four recipients, she said neither of them wanted to share their good news. It eventually came out and she said that moment and the next day at school-learning each of the four finalists had won-was really exciting. "It's a testimony to how much potential this class really has," she said.
Woodring said she has always set high standards for herself, she was always a hard-working student and set high goals. She plans to apply to Boston College, which she thinks will be a good fit for her, and also to Dartmouth. "I know those schools will be a challenge to get in to, but I am consciously optimistic," she said. "I also really like Brown; that's a reach, but why not?"
As far as a course of study is concerned, Woodring said she is still really open to a lot of things but is definitely leaning toward the medical field. Currently a volunteer at the Chester County Hospital, Woodring aims to be a doctor. She is considering the pediatric field because she likes working with kids. She also has interest in psychology and to continue to study the Spanish language in college.
Throughout high school Woodring has taken the highest courses offered in every subject. "I just follow the tracks of honors and AP (advanced placement)," she said. "The teachers are phenomenal. They are so inspiring and have been a big part of my happiness with Octorara." During her junior year, which she completed in June, Woodring said her two favorite classes were English with Mr. Mundy and physics with Mr. McWaters. She said the teachers had a lot to do with her love for the courses.
The list of clubs that Woodring participates in at Octorara includes Model UN, Student Council (she will be the treasurer during her senior year), NHS (she will be the president her senior year), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), chorus, and chorale. She explained that of many who tryout, only 12 students are chosen to participate in chorale. "It's really awesome, you get a lot of individual attention," Woodring said. She also plans to take the time to participate in the school musical during her senior year. Not caring what size part she gets, Woodring said, "I just want to be a part of it."
During her freshman through junior years, Woodring played field hockey but said she has decided that it is time for something new and will join the school tennis team for her final year at Octorara. "I like sports but I'm not too competitive," she said. "I mostly do it to stay in shape."
Woodring participates in so many things because she feels that with so many opportunities available, it is important to make the most of them. "A lot of it is free, so why wouldn't you?" she said. "I don't want to have any regrets about not doing something. I feel it is important to use all of your abilities to find out what you're best in."
Her goals for her senior year include maintaining her GPA, which is currently around 4.8. "My class is really competitive; we're all kind of right up there," she said. She also strives to get all of her college applications in and to hopefully choose the right one.