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20-21 New Awardees

Henri Gaeddert (Wichita, KS) – Ms. Gaeddert is a senior earning her BA in Jewish Studies with a minor in Anthropology.  She is a non-traditional, first-generation college student, who embodies Elizabeth’s spirit of persistence through many aspects of her education.  She stated in her application, “While I've had various significant difficulties throughout my college career, I have grown immensely both academically and as a person through attending college”. Her impressive community service through Just Food and the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City in addition to her studies and work at the Kenneth Spence Research Library, makes her academic success more notable.

Itala Martinez (Kansas City, KS) – Ms. Martinez is an incoming freshman student pursuing her degree in Broadcast Journalism.  While in high school she was involved in a social reform project, a broadcasting internship, and multiple extracurriculars. As an immigrant, first-generation student, she is inspired by Elizabeth’s life stating “I will not let my immigration status stop me from achieving my biggest goal in life that is to attend the University of Kansas, just like Ms. Miller Watkins didn't let people decide her future”. Ms. Martinez hopes to use her education to help her future family, just like her parents did for her by moving to the United States. 

Kari Skinner (Kansas City, MO) – Ms. Skinner is a first-generation college student with a caring nature.  Providing for many, while also working more than full time during her schooling, she speaks to Elizabeth’s creed, in her essay saying “E.M.W. proved throughout her life that her creed was not mere words on a page, but it was etched on her heart and was evident in the fruit of her life choices”.  Kari is a senior majoring in Molecular Biosciences and minoring Cognitive Psychology. She has been inspired to her field by her mother’s blindness and hopes to use her education toward research to improve vision.  

Kayla Castillo (Topeka, KS) – Ms. Castillo is a first generation, sophomore student earning her BS in Chemical Engineering with both Pre-Medicine and Pre-Biomedical Engineering tracks. She is involved in many activities including Engineers Without Borders, IHawke, a diversity outreach program, and contributes as an assistant in a molecular bioscience lab.  She is a Rieger Scholarship Hall resident and has a passion for mentorship and diversity in STEM.  Her drive is clear through her statement, “My dream is to be able to take the knowledge I gain from completing my career and use it to help kids from underrepresented communities achieve their goals of getting a higher education”.

Mary Hrenchir (Paola, KS) – Ms. Hrenchir is a sophomore Accounting major.  She has great personal insight to Elizabeth, as she not only is a Watkins resident, but has served as their treasurer this past year. She is involved with KU Students Against Rising Tuition, and is keenly aware of the importance of affordable education, and states “I might not be as wealthy as EMW was when she helped the students of KU, but I can still do some good for the people here”. Mary hopes to someday use her degree to work for the IRS.

Noelia Villa (Hays, KS) – Ms. Villa is a first-generation college student, in her junior year.  She is majoring in Secondary Education and Spanish and works as a para-educator in Hays.  She hopes to continue to teach Spanish to high school students after graduation, sharing her passion for education.  Noelia speaks highly of Elizabeth’s legacy, and her kindness toward all.  “With the help of this scholarship I will be able to focus more on my classes and not have to worry as much on the financial part of my education”.

Phuong Truong (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) – Ms. Truong is a junior earning her BS in Supply Chain Management.  As both an international student, and a first-generation student, she embodies the values of a woman who has “walked uphill”.  She is a Sellards Scholarship Hall resident, a member of the KU Honors Program as a Global Scholar, and volunteers through the Center for Community Outreach, and International Orientation Ambassadors. She says in her essay, “To me, the community that Lady Elizabeth started has taught me about empathy, companionship, and inclusiveness”. Ms. Truong hopes to use her degree to establish an English Center with her sister. 

Riley Taylor (Manhattan, KS) – Ms. Taylor is a junior History major.  As a Miller resident, she speaks graciously of Elizabeth’s gifts across campus, saying, “Without her, I would not have met my best friends and had some of the best memories in Miller Scholarship Hall”.  She spends her time at KU on the Betty Ultimate team and working part-time to assist paying for her tuition.  She hopes to use her education become a museum curator someday. 

Sura Jaradat (Wichita, KS) – Ms. Jaradat is a junior, earning three degrees in Global and International Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, East Asian Languages and Cultures.  She is a previous resident of Watkins, serving as their alumni chair, and now is the Food Board Manager for Margaret Amini Scholarship Hall, earning toward her tuition. Her passion for education is clear, in her essay saying, “Despite the challenges faced, there is a lot to be gained and achieved when you step off the well-worn trails of the traditional path pre-determined for you”.  She is fluent in Arabic, and Korean, and hopes to someday work for the US State Department working on projects for international education.

Sydney Strickland Broden (Cherryvale, KS) – Ms. Stickland Broden is an incoming freshman student pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences, with an interest in psychology. In high school she balanced many activities such as managing the football team and National Honor Society in addition to working a part time job.  She is thankful to be attending KU as a first-generation college student, even through financial difficulties.  She spoke to Elizabeth’s creed in her essay saying, “She left a legacy of the love, laugh, lift creed for students like me”.

Talita Leikam (Overland Park, KS) – Ms. Leikam is a senior earning her bachelor’s in social work.  She is a first generation, non-traditional student, and truly values her journey to education.  She says in her application “As a mother I want my daughter to know the value of work that reflects my personal values and goals. Education opens the door to discovering and developing self-knowledge and the skills needed to have a meaningful life and career”.  Talita has extensive community service experience with Missioncorps and various religious groups in the Kansas City area.  She hopes to someday go to law school to specialize in international law or immigration. 

Victorina Santos (Ottawa, KS) – Ms. Santos is a junior majoring in Computer Science and is a member of the Honors Program.  She is a resident of Watkins Hall and has served as their D&I chair.  She has been a part of the Global Awareness Program as part of her service to her community.  She believes in Elizabeth’s spirit of persistence, and states “I consider her an essential role model to look up to and a source of empowerment”. Ms. Santos is thankful for her opportunity for education in Kanas and hopes to bring her education back to the Philippines.    

Zalma Molina (Dodge City, KS) – Ms. Molina is entering her senior year in Petroleum Engineering with a minor in Geology.  She is a resident of Miller Hall, where she has served as their Alumnae Chair.  In addition to her service at Miller, she is a member of the Society of Geophysicists, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Society of Women Geo-scientists, and a TRIO Ambassador.  Ms. Molina credits Elizabeth with her success saying, “Elizabeth Watkins has definitely changed my life because I not only got a place to live, I got a home in a community that has inspired me and been a large part of my college journey for the last four years”.