The Northwest Kiwanis Club last week provided 11 scholarships to Tri-Village-area students for excellence in the classroom and contributions to their communities.
For more than 50 years, the club has sought to honor the hard work of high school seniors living in Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington, and assist them in their pursuits of higher education.
Since that time, the club estimates it has given close to $500,000 in financial assistance, and it continued the tradition May 15 at its Margaret and Jake Will Scholarship Banquet to honor this year's winners at St. Agatha's Church.
"We had many outstanding students applying for the Kiwanis scholarships this year," said Jim Bauer, who chairs the Northwest Kiwanis Club's scholarship program. "Approximately 20 percent of the students had a grade-point average of 4.0 or better, along with 90 percentile or higher on their SAT/ACT scores.
"Every applicant had a wonderful resume of community involvement, volunteering and giving back to the community," he said. "Everyone on the scholarship committee felt all of the applicants were great and the idea of giving back to the communities and helping others less fortunate is certainly instilled in all of these applicants."
In past years, the club awarded 11 scholarships worth $1,500 each to local students.
This year, the club increased the value to $2,000 for 10 of the scholarships, and gave one $2,500 Jake Will Kiwanis Scholarship, named for the late Jake Will of Upper Arlington, for his contributions to the club and Tri-Village community.
"Kiwanis Club members wanted to memorialize a scholarship in Jake's name for a student who best personifies the same attributes associated with Jake Will," Bauer said. "We added additional criteria by requiring the applicant to write a 250-word essay describing the personal benefits they received from their community involvement and their thoughts on what type of clubs or organizations they plan to pursue while in college."
Bauer said the club wanted to honor Will "because of his many years of dedicated service he had with Kiwanis, but especially his hard work and dedication to the Kiwanis Scholarship Program."
The inaugural Jake Will Kiwanis Scholarship went to Cecilia Pesavento, daughter of Katherine and Todd Pesavento, of Upper Arlington.
Pesavento will graduate from the Columbus School for Girls this spring, and she plans to major in pre-medicine or international relations at the University of Notre Dame.
"She was very strong academically and her Jake Will essay was outstanding," Bauer said. "The committee felt that she exemplified the generosity, devotion and passion to help others just as Jake Will did."
In addition to high performance in the classroom, Pesavento has served as a substitute coach for the Northwest Kiwanis youth program, and she sought to give back to those in need and learn more about the medical profession -- her anticipated career field -- by volunteering at the Columbus Free Medical Clinic.
A member of the Columbus School for Girls track team, she noticed Special Olympics athletes used her school's track following her team's practices and then successfully lobbied her school officials to serve as a volunteer coach of sorts for those Special Olympics runners.
"It was real meaningful to me because I got to share a sport I love with others who love it," she said.
Pesavento also helped coordinate a scholarship walk at her school to raise funds for future students because, "It was really important to me to help other girls get the same education opportunities I have had," she said.
As for receiving the Jake Will Kiwanis Scholarship, Pesavento said, "It was incredible. I grew up with the Kiwanis. I did soccer when I was 5 years old and coached later. It meant a lot to me to have my community support me."
Pesavento added that, while she never met Jake Will, she learned much about him through the scholarship application process.
"It's an incredible honor to have a scholarship in his name because he seemed like someone you'd really want to emulate," she said.
Other scholarship winners were:
• Caroline Amling of Upper Arlington, daughter of Debra and Bob Amling, who will attend Ohio State University and study material science.
• Matthew Belz of Upper Arlington, son of Jeanette and Bob Belz, who will study pre-med and engineering at Ohio State University.
• Naomi Benatar of Upper Arlington, daughter of Joy and Avi Benatar, who will attend OSU and study nursing.
• Zachary Brannan of Grandview, son of Debbie and Mike Brannan, who will study biochemical engineering and pre-med at OSU.
• Mary Kate Dempsey (recipient of the Dr. Robert E. Davis Scholarship) of Grandview, daughter of Megan and Mark Dempsey, who will study engineering at OSU.
• Karla Jeggle (recipient of the Jeanne and Bill Palmer Scholarship) of Upper Arlington, daughter of Nancy and Scott Jeggle, who will study actuarial science at Butler University.
• William Niermeyer of Upper Arlington, son of Kurt and Joan Niermeyer, who will attend Notre Dame and study biochemistry.
• Marielle Rodgers of Upper Arlington, daughter of Kristine and Mark Rodgers, who will study economics at Duke University.
• Grace Saalman of Upper Arlington, daughter of Emily and Gary Saalman, who will study biology at Notre Dame.
• Laura Satterthwaite (recipient of the DonnaJean DeSilva Scholarship) of Grandview, daughter of Tacey and Bruce Satterthwaite, who will attend the University of South Carolina and study biology.