Laasya Chennuru from Martinsburg High School, Lilah Coe from Herbert Hoover High School, Emily Escue from South Charleston High School, Isaac McCarthy from Musselman High School and Daniel McDonald from Morgantown High School are the 2021 WVU Foundation Scholars.
Distinguished by high standards for academics and a passion for discovery and to serve their state and others, five rising freshmen have been named to the 2021-22 cohort of West Virginia University Foundation Scholars, the highest academic scholarship the University awards.
Resolute in pursuit of their goals, Laasya Chennuru from Martinsburg High School, Lilah Coe from Herbert Hoover High School, Emily Escue from South Charleston High School, Isaac McCarthy from Musselman High School and Daniel McDonald from Morgantown High School are excited to join a vibrant community of research, high-quality learning environments and a culture of service as they embark on their journey as future physicians, engineers and scientists who strive to be at the forefront of innovation and discovery with far-reaching effects on the well-being, quality of life and health of others in their communities and beyond.
"I am energized each spring as I meet our latest cohort of Foundation Scholars," WVU President Gordon Gee said. "They inspire me with their dreams. And at West Virginia University, we will give them the tools to achieve their aspirations to build successful careers and make breakthroughs that will extend beyond the borders of our state to the rest of the world."
Chennuru, who was introduced to palliative care through her volunteer service at Martinsburg VA Medical Center, believes “a doctor-patient relationship accentuated by compassion and a commitment to improving welfare lies at the heart of medicine.” Bridging her scientific curiosity, humanitarianism and interest in working with children, she plans to use her degree in biochemistry as the path to a career as a pediatrician. She will minor in psychology and medical humanities and health studies and plans to join the WVU Global Medical Brigades and serve as a counselor at Camp Kesem.
Coe, a biology major, was inspired to pursue a career as neurologist or neurobiologist after she watched her younger brother suffer from a congenital brain disorder and her running coach from Parkinson’s disease. She is a statewide semifinalist for the 2021 National Merit Scholarship, the high school winner of the Third Annual Pearl S. Buck Writing Competition for her poem titled “West Virginia Is” and has earned a varsity letter in track and field. Coe looks forward to joining the WVU Track Club and Baskets of Love and would like to eventually study abroad at the University of Trento in Italy.
After witnessing newborns struggle with drug withdrawal as a volunteer in the NICU at Thomas Memorial Hospital, Escue, a competitive dancer who will also major in biochemistry, believes this experience has “revolutionized the way she sees the world” and is better equipped to help transform primary health care for women and other underrepresented patients as an obstetrician-gynecologist. She plans to use her stipend to serve as an intern with Health Care for the Homeless in Louisville, Kentucky, to gain insight that will enable her to advocate for and break down barriers to advanced health equity.
A love for science and a passion for music have inspired McCarthy, who plays more than a dozen instruments, notably the trumpet, guitar and accordion, to pursue a degree in music and health. He is not only following in his father’s footsteps as a WVU Foundation Scholar but also as a physician. Most proud of his 5th chair 2020-21 All-State Band placement, McCarthy is excited to join the Concert Band and other WVU ensembles. Once pandemic restrictions lift, he would like to use his stipend to study music abroad such as The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, Ireland.
McDonald, who grew up watching others pursue medically futile treatment for mobility impairment, is determined to develop assistive technology to improve mobility in patients suffering from disease or injury. Inspired by the blending of biology and robotics, he will major in mechanical engineering and minor in biomedical engineering. McDonald plans to continue his service to the Appalachian Prison Book Project and eventually use his stipend to perform research at the IHMC Robotics Lab in Pensacola, Florida, to develop exoskeletons and orthoses to assist in obstructing gait abnormalities.
To qualify for the Foundation Scholarship, high school students must meet a rigorous set of criteria, including holding West Virginia residency, possessing a minimum GPA of 3.8 and achieving a minimum composite score of 31 on the ACT or the equivalent SAT score. Twenty of the applicants who interviewed for the Foundation Scholarship were named Neil S. Bucklew Scholars. The value of the Foundation Scholarship, when paired with the state’s PROMISE Scholarship, is more than $90,000 over four years.