Harlan County High School senior McKenzie Bryant and her family are breathing a tremendous sigh of relief when it comes to paying for college next year.
Bryant has been selected for the Robinson Scholars Legacy Scholarship which will fund her college education for the first four years. The scholarship is valued at more than $80,000.
“I was super excited,” recalls Bryant after she received the official notification via email. “I ran downstairs to tell my mom (Leslie). I was jumping and screaming. I read the email to her. I was pretty excited.”
Bryant then called her father, Shawn, in West Virginia, where he had taken a job due to the downturn in employment opportunities locally. He said that call took a lot “of weight off our shoulders. This scholarship ensures that we are going to be able to make sure that she can go to college for the first four years. I was struggling to find work. Then this came through. We know she is bound for success.”
Bryant said he is especially proud of his daughter because she did all of the paperwork and fulfilled the requirements herself.
“She was self-motivated,” he recalled, noting that she will be the first to receive a college degree in her family. The scholarship is awarded to students whose parents did not graduate from college.
“The money is great. It takes a lot of stress off my parents on paying for college,” she said. “But it also means that I am representing my family, my community and my school. I want to go out and prove people from here can go to college and be successful. I hear others say that they can’t go to school. I tell them they can but you have to apply and push yourself to find the help you need. I hope to set an example for others on getting a college education.”
Bryant actually became part of the Robinson program at the University of Kentucky as a freshman. Since then, she has completed required community service hours, enrichment activities and exceeded the requirements for grade point average and school attendance. Those requirements have been more stringent and challenging during her junior and senior year.
Participating in the program, she will continue to be responsible for community service and other activities. Already, the program has helped prepare her for the transition from high school to the big Lexington campus. She participated in a summer camp that placed the participants in college classes and required them to find their way around campus. Her goal is to major in biology and then pursue medical school to become an anesthesiologist. After earning her undergraduate degree she will then still need four years of medical school, two years of specialty training and then her four to six year residency.
“I am really nervous,” she said about going to college on a large university campus. Many students are rushing to complete applications and forms for college enrollment, housing, financial aid and other scholarship, Bryant, however, already has her housing assignment and roommate. She is required to live in a campus dorm the first year.
College classes aren’t new to her. In addition to spending the week on campus and attending classes, she has earned 21 college hours through the dual credit program at her high school. She is only nine hours short of being a sophomore in college and may take summer classes. She has maintained a 4.0 grade point average while taking Advanced Placement and dual credit classes at HCHS.
She has been a three-year member of the cheerleading squad. She has participated in gymnastics, 4-H, Beta Club, National Honor Society, Educational Talent Search, Future Business Leaders of America and First Priority. In addition to her parents, she has a 12-year-old sister, Emily, she hopes to inspire to do well in school and pursue a college education.
One student from each of 29 eligible counties in eastern Kentucky are selected for the Robinson Legacy Scholarship.