UA honors: BV seniors receive fellowships at university
By Kelby Newcomb
Berryville High School seniors Alex Maldonado and Amber Veach have been awarded Honors College Fellowships for the University of Arkansas.
Maldonado said the fellowships are competitively-awarded, and applicants must have a minimum 3.8 high school grape point average (GPA) and a minimum score of 32 on the ACT.
According to HonorsCollege.uark.edu, only 70 to 80 fellowships are offered each year.
“So your competitors knew what they were doing,” Maldonado said. “It’s about $18,000 a year for four years. It can cover just about everything, including travel and study abroad which is something most fellows actually do.”
He continued, “It’s the most prestigious scholarship they offer. It’s very competitive and a very tough one to get.”
“It’s paired with the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship, which we both also got,” Veach said, “so it’s $18,000 a year plus $10,000 a year.”
Maldonado said he was surprised to receive the fellowship.
“I was actually driving at the time and got an email, so I had to pull over and saw the confetti animation that said ‘Congratulations,’ ” he said. “I felt so overwhelmed but at the same time relieved. It was a dream come true.”
He said receiving the scholarship money takes the pressure off of him and his mom to cover the cost of college.
“It really relieves the worry my mom could have and provides opportunities I’ve never had in my life before,” Maldonado said.
Instead of taking out student loans for college, he said he can now save that money up for graduate school in the future.
“It was surreal to get it,” Veach said. “I was super nervous. After my interview, I was not confident. They really grilled me and asked me about 18th Century authors.”
She said her friends had all told her how easy the interview was, so she was not expecting it to be so challenging.
“They said ‘Oh, we talked about football!’ I was like ‘Oh my gosh, they hated me,’ ” Veach said, laughing. “It was almost like being a witness and getting cross-examined. It was really scary, but it ended well.”
The students said Berryville alumna Chelsea Hodge encouraged both of them to apply and helped them through the process.
“For me, she helped me write my essay,” Maldonado said. “I think that was by far the strongest point of my application and the strongest thing I’ve written. I would not have even applied for this scholarship because I felt so insignificant compared to the competition had she not said ‘Hey, I really want you to do this even if it’s last-second. I want you to apply.’ ”
Veach said receiving the Honors College Fellowship will provide them with more opportunities for internships and other programs.
“We’ll be at the top of the pile when they look at internships,” she said. “They look at fellows first, then honors students. So that’s really really exciting. We get a lot more opportunities to travel abroad. Honors students get a lot, but then fellows almost have it paid for.”
“Now local scholarship we receive, like the Mercy Auxiliary Scholarship I receive, can all just go in our pocket,” Maldonado said. “That’s a great feeling.”
“It’s kind of like life security,” Veach joked. “I’m not going to have to worry about feeding myself now. I’m going to have to worry about the freshman 15 instead.”
She said fellows are encouraged to live in Hotz Hall but can apply for waivers to stay in other dorms.
“We can basically afford any dorm on the entire campus,” Maldonado said.
“We are responsible for any extra coverage costs for a dorm that isn’t Hotz Hall,” Veach said.
Maldonado said it feels amazing for two Berryville students to receive Honors College Fellowships.
“When we got there, there were kids from enormous schools like Bentonville and Conway with thousands in their graduating class,” he said. “We have 132.”
“And we have two fellows, which is insane!” Veach said, “When I heard he got it, I was like ‘Oh no. I didn’t get it.’ I thought only one of us would.”
“It was awesome,” Maldonado said.
Veach said she plans to study biomedical engineering and attend graduate school after college. Maldonado said he plans to have a pre-med focus and graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with a major in biology.
“Of course, I plan to pursue my field and become a nurse practitioner, and hopefully return here,” he said. “It’s a place where we don’t have many doctors who stick around, so we do really rely on nurse practitioners.”
Veach said she is most excited about the opportunities for internships and studying abroad.
“Internships will be a whole new type of responsibility I’m not used to,” she said, “and it’s going to be really exciting.”
“I’m kind of excited for the academic challenge,” Maldonado said. “I’m ready to move onto a place where I can further my learning and my understanding of things. To be in a place where I can have an internship in a lab as well as my classes is going to be nice.”