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Monessen guy, Frazier girl receive Valley Independent-Cal U awards

| Friday, May 2, 2014, 1:41 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
2014 scholarship nominees Bryan Moore of Frazier, Parker Lynn of Belle Vernon, Tyler Shash of Monessen, Anthony Mooney, Jr. of Elizabeth Forward, Brandon Bowman of Charleroi, Travis Loar of Bentworth, Gerald Koza,Jr. of Yough, Jeremy Perez of Ringgold, Joshua Luko of California, Samantha Brooks of Frazier, Micale Mary-Arlette Ellison of Belle Vernon, Monet Wade of Monessen, Anjela Tilghman of Charleroi, Karlee Reeves of Bentworth, Jordan Sterner of Yough, Erica Santina of Ringgold,Lacey Koster of California and missing Rachel Hough of Elizabeth Forward at the 14th annual Scholarship for Outstanding High School Seniors on Thursday, May, 1, 2014 at the California University's Natali Student Center.

Based on accounts from teachers, administrators and fellow students, Tyler Shash is a really nice person. However, the Monessen High School senior proved Thursday night that nice guys don't always finish last.

Shash and Frazier senior Samantha Brooks were awarded one-year academic scholarships to California University of Pennsylvania Thursday evening at the 14th annual Valley Independent-California University of Pennsylvania Scholarship for Outstanding High School Seniors dinner. The awards dinner took place at the Natali Student Center at Cal U.

Brooks and Stash were selected from a group of 18 finalists, one male and one female from each of the high schools within The Valley Independent's circulation area. The scholarship is provided by the university. Each of the candidates received a $500 cash award from The Valley Independent.

A member of the varsity baseball team and marching and concert bands, Shash is the son of Joe and Jill Shash. He has a 3.74 grade-point average and volunteers for numerous church and charity events.

“Just doing nice things for people is reward enough. … In my own opinion, if you're not spending your life helping somebody make their life better, then you're wasting your time,” Stash said.

“It's astonishing to me that I was regarded with other students of such caliber who've achieved so much, and they're not even out of high school yet. To receive this award … I don't even know what to say.”

Brooks might be accustomed to the spotlight as Frazier's reigning homecoming queen, but said she was more nervous about the scholarship presentation.

Brooks, daughter of Audrey Pockstaller, has a 3.77 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars.

“I was shocked whenever they said my name. I was nervous and I was like, ‘I'm probably going to fall' when I was walking up,” she said, laughing.

“What was really special is it was my academics that got me here. It's like no one ever really noticed that I did well in school except for my family. … Then something like this makes you realize that it was actually all worth it.”

The awards were announced and presented by Dr. Timothy Susick, associate vice president of student affairs at Cal U, and Regina Stefan, human resources assistant at The Valley Independent.

The awards ceremony followed a dinner and short talks by Cal U Interim President Geraldine M. Jones and newspaper General Manager Rob Hammond.

CUTV, the university television station, screened a video presentation featuring past and present photos of each student nominee with a voiceover listing activities, interests and previous honors.

“Your many years of hard work, your dedication and commitment have led you to this point,” Jones told the nominees just prior to the video presentation. “We look forward to getting to know you as you begin your studies here in the fall, and to celebrate your success when you walk across that commencement stage four years from now.”

Hammond noted how refreshing it was for himself, Managing Editor Bob Burke, Advertising Manager Karen Strickland and others from the newspaper in attendance to indulge in some positive news for a change.

“In our business, we report a lot of things that are sad and negative, unfortunately, because people do some bad things,” Hammond said.

“It's very uplifting to be able to see what the youth of this area does for the community in addition to the good work they're doing academically.”

Jobie Rossell, a 2013 California Area graduate and scholarship winner from last year, told the crowd that people pay attention to public honors.

“It just seems like it's tradition that whenever you get mentioned in the newspaper, that people just bring you the newspaper,” Rossell said of his award year.

“The next day, I was amazed just by the fact that I had about 16 copies of the paper sitting on my front doorstep. So it is a big deal. You're going to be surprised how many people get to see this, and you should all be very proud.”

The candidates are listed below:

• Belle Vernon Area: Micale Mary-Arlette Ellison and Parker Lynn.

• Bentworth: Karlee Reeves and Travis Loar.

• California Area: Lacey Koster and Joshua John Luko.

• Charleroi Area: Anjela Tilghman and Brandon Bowman.

• Elizabeth Forward: Rachel Hough and Anthony Edward Mooney Jr.

• Frazier: Brooks and Bryan Moore.

• Monessen: Monet Wade and Shash.

• Ringgold: Erica Nicole Santina and Jeremy Perez.

• Yough: Jordan Sterner and Gerald Koza Jr.

In the night's opening remarks, Jon Difilippo – a Cal U junior and the 2011 scholarship recipient from California Area – said it might be cliché, but all the students assembled are “winners.”

“This isn't like Little League or youth soccer or cheerleading and you got this first-place trophy because you all did well and the coaches wanted to make you feel good,” Difilippo told the nominees.

“Every one of you, you're here because you demonstrated extraordinary qualities through high school. So don't take this lightly. And don't lose that during college. You want to continue to strive for excellence.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.

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