Fox Chapel Area's Sydnee Pilarski wins full-ride to Thiel
Sydnee Pilarski had no idea walking into the administrative offices at Fox Chapel Area High School on Dec. 15 that her years of hard work were about to pay off.
Pilarski, a senior, was met by her family and representatives from Thiel College, who surprised her with a full-ride scholarship, valued at $125,000.
"I had no idea I was receiving such a wonderful gift," said Pilarski, who cried and laughed at the news with her family, who gathered for the surprise.
Thiel is a liberal arts college in Greenville, Mercer County, where Pilarski was invited last year to participate in a scholarship challenge with more than 100 honors students. The O'Hara resident said she felt intimidated by the competition.
Students participated in group interviews and leadership activities as part of the scholarship race — and Pilarski stood out.
"She clearly and effectively demonstrated her motivation to learn," said Ashley Josay Zullo, vice-president of enrollment management. "She showed her abilities in leadership and service, which is exactly what we look for in Thiel students."
Pilarski was accepted into the school's Dietrich Honors Institute where she plans to study in the business, advertising and marketing program and minor in fine arts.
She is the daughter of Melinda and Christopher Pilarski and credits her brother, Jacob, a 2016 Fox Chapel Area graduate and current undergrad at Virginia Wesleyan University, as an inspiration.
In addition to academics, Pilarski keeps busy with more than a few passions and pastimes. She is active in her church and is in the high school's madrigal singers, concert choir, vulpes cantantes, busking club, spring musical and tapestry club. In 2016, Pilarski was inducted into the National Honor Society for excellence in scholarship, service to her school and community.
Other hobbies include drawing, painting, horseback riding and playing ukulele.
The busy teen advises younger students to always push themselves.
"Every person is different and everyone should follow their own path," she said. "Be involved, study hard and never be afraid to push yourself."
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, email@example.com or @tawnyatrib.