Students and donors meet at annual scholarship reception

October 24, 2012

Melding academic prowess with a passion for horses, Penn State New Kensington student Shanna Williams desires to start a new business after graduation. Penn State alumnus Mike Kotyk funds a campus scholarship that is helping Williams fulfill her desire.

Williams, a senior in the Applied Psychology program, was the guest speaker Oct. 23 at the campus’ annual Scholarship Reception, an event that brings together recipients and donors. The reception gives students who receive scholarships and benefactors who establish scholarships, a chance to meet face to face. Students attending the reception were able to deliver personal thanks to their donors, who in turn were able to see the personification of their philanthropic endeavors.
Williams is the recipient of the Gregory and Xenia Kotyk Memorial Trustee Family Scholarship. The $50,000 endowment was established in 2011 by Kotyk in honor of his parents.

“I cannot thank Mr. Kotyk enough for his generosity and kindness that has been beneficial to me in so many ways,” said Williams, a product of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. “I never imagined being able to afford college. By working hard academically, and with the scholarships, grants and some loans, I have seen the fruits of my labor through the helping hands extended to me by Mr. Kotyk and other scholarship donors.”

Campus scholarships are awarded to eligible students on the basis of academic promise, leadership qualities, community service and financial need. This year, new and returning students at the New Kensington campus earned a total of $293,000 in scholarship money. The campus has 50 scholarship endowments, annual gifts and program awards that funded 183 students this year with an average award of $2,000 per student.

A strong academic ethic is one part of Williams’ genetic makeup. The Apollo resident has been a member of the dean’s list for each of the six semesters she has attended the campus. The dean's list recognizes students earning a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher. William carries a 3.95 GPA in the Honors program, an academic initiative that is designed for only the best students in all majors.

Her classroom acumen has resulted in numerous campus scholarships that helped pay tuition during the past four years. In addition to the Kotyk scholarship, Williams was awarded the Hazel L. Hug Scholarship, Penn State Alumni Association Scholarship, Alle-Kiski Society Scholarship and Bozzone Family Foundation Scholarship.

“Growing up as an only child of a single mother, we have always struggled financially," said Williams, a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Psi Chi honor societies. ”Scholarships have aided me in taking a new step to a brighter future for myself, my family and my community.”

The classroom is not the only place that Williams excels. Her extracurricular activities include tutoring fellow students in myriad academic subjects. The tutoring is complemented by her position as a work-study student in the Academic and Career Success Center. She assists students with major and career exploration decisions and helps them navigate the center’s resources.

Williams holds leadership positions for two student clubs -- president of the Group Investigating God and secretary of the Psychological Association. A component of all campus clubs’ mission statement is community service, and through her association with the clubs, Williams has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and Rachel Carson’s Homestead.

“Penn State New Kensington has helped me develop leadership skills that I never imagined I could develop as an undergrad,” said Williams, who will earn her bachelor’s degree in May. “The faculty and staff have supported me every step of the way throughout my education here, and I am so thankful to all of them.”
When not on campus, Williams’ leisure time is spent caring for her three horses and her fiance’s two horses. The equine herd is stabled at his farm in Apollo. During the summer, she rides local trails during the week and takes part in riding contests on the weekends.

“My favorite riding trail is Summers Allegheny Trail that runs through the mountains of the Allegheny National Forest,” Williams said. “I like the judged trail competitions at Northmoreland Park and Crooked Creek Horse Park. The competitions are essentially obstacle courses in the woods.”

Riding horses goes hand-in-hand with her career aspirations. After graduation, Williams plans to get a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and open a therapeutic horseback riding practice to help children and young adults with disabilities. To that end, she volunteers for Riding for the Handicapped of Western Pennsylvania.

“I help disabled children reap the physical and emotional benefits of horseback riding,” said Williams, who is studying to be a psychologist. “Because of the horses, I see my riding students flourish and grow in ways that I never would have imagined.”

Williams works with children of various disabilities — blindness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and autism. While working on a class research project, she delved into the little-known topic of the social, emotional and behavioral benefits of horseback riding. Most research studies extolled only the physical benefits. Her findings spawned the idea of starting her own business.

“Many parents enroll their children in therapeutic horseback riding for the physical benefits,” Williams said. “I want to open a practice exclusively for children and adolescents with social, emotional and behavioral problems, including chronic mental illness.”

More than 50 students and donors attended the reception. Mardelle and Patrick Kopnicky, benefactors of an endowed scholarship at Penn State New Kensington, gave brief remarks on the importance of giving back to the campus and the community. Both are Penn State alumni and both are active in their Harrison Hills community. They sat with their scholarship recipients, Michael Daly, Craig McNair, Christopher Rae and Edwin Sosa.

Scholarships are the lifeblood of the campus. They provide a source of financial support as well as encourage academic and personal growth. Penn State New Kensington is a part of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, a University-wide effort to raise private donations to strengthen support for students. All gifts enhance Penn State's historic mission of teaching, research and service to society. The Kopnickys co-chair the campus campaign that is charged with raising $3 million by July 2014. The University’s overall goal is $2 billion.

Alumni and friends can contribute to the campus by establishing an endowment or by contributing to already established campus endowments or funds. Gifts can be in the form of a one-time gift in cash or securities or a pledge commitment to be paid over a specified number of years. Gifts can also be created through bequests or in the form of a deferred gift designed to provide a life income for the donor or his or her dependents.

For more on giving to the campus, call Donna Speer, director of development, 724-334-6057 or visit

For a list of scholarships and recipients as well as reception photos, visit


  • Scholarship recipient Shanna Williams talked with scholarship donor Mike Kotyk at the campus' annual Scholarship Reception.

    IMAGE: Bill Woodard

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 25, 2012