Because of last-minute circumstances, Karis Barrett had to cancel.
She had been invited to join fellow members of the Gateway High School Class of 2022 in attending the Rotary Club of Monroeville’s June 16 meeting, at which the club presented scholarships to five graduates.
Barrett, though, was present in spirit, with club member Brunette Richards providing information about her activities at Gateway, including participation in the Black Student Union and marching band, and her plans to study psychology at either Jackson State University in Mississippi or Howard University in Washington, DC
“Through the pandemic, she had a chance to see and experience what was going on as far as the Black community, and this is the reason she is going to study mental health for the Black community,” Richards said. “And I commend her for this.”
Joining her as Rotary scholarship recipients are Anna Reynolds, Heath Chase, Makayla Clark, Bryona Jackson, all selected from a pool of applicants whom a committee of club members interviewed.
“It’s really a difficult task, because we had some amazing candidates, reading from the essays and the interviews, and just their overall applications,” committee member Susan DeLaney said. “We wish we could give all of them something for the outstanding achievements, accomplishments and service.”
Reynolds received the Bill Segar Academic Scholarship, named after a late club member who served for three decades on Gateway School Board. His son Mark Segar, a Rotarian in Cranberry, made the presentation.
He explained that while his father was growing up in Punxsutawney, he received considerable support from one of his teachers
“Most of the people in Punxsutawney ended up in the coal mines. My dad ended up at Pitt as an engineer, and that was because someone took an interest in him,” Segar said. “And he felt that was something he always should be giving back.”
As for Reynolds, she plans to study pharmacy at Northeastern University in Boston after a Gateway experience that included serving as captain of the girls’ varsity soccer team as a 12th-grader and playing the female lead in the school’s production of the musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
“Getting to play essentially a drunk and sarcastic woman on the stage was some of the most fun that I had during my senior year, and I would trade that experience for the world, or the friendships that I made,” she said. “But doing the show was very special to me for another reason. Back in my sophomore year of high school, we also decided to put on a production of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ and I was cast as Trix, who was an airplane pilot in the show.”
The onset of the covid-19, though, caused the musical’s cancellation.
“It really was heartbreaking to learn that all the work we had put in so far was seemingly for nothing, and that my first opportunity to be a lead on stage seemed like it was canceled forever,” Reynolds said.
But the overall experience provided a life lesson:
“I found that it’s really easy to be pessimistic about the state of the world, especially about the way people treat one another. But the more difficult and yet so much more worthwhile perspective is to have hope. My time in the musical has taught me that, along with the several other programs I participated in at Gateway.”
Regarding “The Drunken Chaperone,” Chase was another major cast member in both the 2020 and ’22 productions, and in fact, he is majoring in theater along with environmental sciences at Slippery Rock University.
In high school, he also participated in the marching band and Rotary-sponsored Interact, a service club. His favorite classes involved music, particularly one that focuses on vocals.
“At the chorus class, I learned to work effectively as a group,” he said. “No matter how many people sing the same part, it is essentially one voice.”
One of Clark’s high school activities was teaching for four years in Gateway’s preschool program, an experience that helped influence her career path.
“I think that education is a very, very, very important career, and that I can make a change in education through policy making,” she said.
As such, she is studying law with an emphasis on criminal justice in society at the University of Pittsburgh.
“My goal is to stay local and help as much locally as I possibly can, and I do want to say that my inspiration for that was the Rotary club,” Clark, who served as Black Student Union president as a Gateway senior, said. “Seeing how much dedication and leadership in the community that you provide daily, it’s so inspiring.”
Another Black Student Union member who is attending Pitt, Jackson is majoring in premedicine as the first step in higher education toward becoming a doctor. She thanked the Rotarians for providing a scholarship to each of the recipients.
“Not only does it recognize our academic achievement, but also recognizes our commitment to athletics, our commitment to other clubs and activities, and service to our community, which is very encouraging to us,” she said. “This just lets us know that our character is pushing us in the right direction.”
The Rotary Club of Monroeville meets at noon Thursdays at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh, 101 Mall Blvd. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/therotaryclubofmonroeville.
Harry Funk is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org.