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‘We Are Stronger Together’ scholarships aid students affected by COVID-19

As West Virginia University embarks on a new academic year amid the challenges of COVID-19, more than 60 students are beginning or resuming their coursework thanks to the generosity of Mountaineer Nation.

We Are Stronger Together,” a special fundraising initiative launched by the WVU Foundation, is providing nearly $80,000 in scholarship support for students in need. Contributions to the ongoing effort assist WVU students affected by the pandemic with tuition, room and board, and other educational expenses.

Freshman Skye Pacelt, of Chicago, said her parents both had their hours cut due to COVID-19. Her mother is a teacher who could no longer work after-school programs once classes moved online, and her dad is a probation officer who typically trains other officers in restraints, holds and other maneuvers that require close contact.

Pacelt plans to follow her father into law enforcement by earning a forensic science degree at WVU.

“I would like to say thank you to the people who donated for my scholarship,” Pacelt said. “They are the only reason I am here. I wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise, so all the scholarships I got I am extremely grateful for. They mean so much to me, and I know they mean a lot to my family.”

Senior Robert Farley, of Morgantown, is majoring in industrial engineering and geology. He pays for his education out of pocket, working two part-time jobs to support himself. As the pandemic escalated last spring, he struggled with the transition to online classes and limited hours working remotely as a teaching assistant and customer service representative. He appreciates the financial relief provided by “We Are Stronger Together” supporters.

“This scholarship is a weight off my back,” Farley said. “I don’t have to work as many hours throughout the day as I normally would, like last semester or the semester before where I would take 20 credit hours on top of working two jobs.”

Freshman Isaac Calle-Tapia comes to WVU seeking a better future for his South American family and himself. His parents – an architect and a judge in Ecuador – have been unable to work due to the pandemic, limiting their ability to afford Calle-Tapia’s tuition and fees.

“People may not think $1 or $5 counts, but every dollar gets bigger with another dollar, and that actually helps me,” Calle-Tapia said. “I’m pretty thankful for that. If you want to donate 1 cent for a scholarship for someone, it’s going to help. Anything can help, and it could change someone’s life.”

L-R: WVU students Robert Farley, Isaac Calle-Tapia and Skye Pacelt

L-R: WVU students Robert Farley, Isaac Calle-Tapia and Skye Pacelt

As part of the “We Are Stronger Together” initiative, the WVU Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is working to boost scholarship support for students from underrepresented groups, which account for about 9 percent of WVU’s student population. A targeted crowdfunding effort runs through Labor Day (Sept. 7).

“We know these students often need financial assistance to start or continue their higher education, and they have disproportionately felt the devastating impact of COVID-19,” B.J. Davisson, executive vice president and chief development officer of the WVU Foundation, said. “With support from the WVU community, we can help as many students as possible achieve their dreams of earning a college degree.”

Calle-Tapia, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Ecuador, is majoring in political science and pre-law. He hopes to go on to law school and work in government before becoming a U.S. Senator.

“I’m going to always remember WVU for what they’ve done for me,” he said.

Donations to the “We Are Stronger Together” scholarship can be made by contacting Jena Prokopchuk, WVU Foundation executive director of leadership annual giving, at 304-282-5929 or, or online via a secure giving webpage. Contributions to support students from underrepresented groups can be made at a dedicated crowdfunding page.

Students who believe they qualify should contact the Mountaineer Hub and submit an online ticket requesting assistance due to the COVID pandemic. The WVU Office of Financial Aid oversees awarding scholarships for all WVU students in accordance with each student’s aid eligibility. 

All gifts to the “We are Stronger Together” fundraising initiative are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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