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Riverdale student among CSU's first 'Presidential Scholars'

Photo by Curt Yeomans Riverdale High School senior, Sotheavy Vann, is one of the first six recipients of Clayton State University’s new Presidential Scholarships. She has been a dual-enrollment student at the university since August 2008, and will become a full-time student in the fall. 

Photo by Curt Yeomans Riverdale High School senior, Sotheavy Vann, is one of the first six recipients of Clayton State University’s new Presidential Scholarships. She has been a dual-enrollment student at the university since August 2008, and will become a full-time student in the fall. 

Sotheavy Vann is not scheduled to receive her diploma from Riverdale High School until later this month, but she is already planning to walk across another graduation stage — at Clayton State University — to receive a bachelor's degree in biology two years from now.

Vann, 18, has been a dual enrollment student at Riverdale High and Clayton State for the last two school years. After this semester, she will have earned 44 semester hours at the university. The College Park youth plans on enrolling as a full-time college student at the university in the fall.

She will go into her full-time college career with something of a leg up on many other incoming students. Not only will she already be roughly a third of the way through her college studies, she said she also has a 4.0 grade-point average in the classes she has already taken at the university.

"If it all goes the way I plan, I'm thinking maybe 2012 is when I'll graduate with my undergraduate degree," Vann said.

In making the transition from dual enrollment student, to full-fledged college student, Vann will be making a bit of Clayton State history. She will one of the first six recipients of the university's new Presidential Scholarships, which are tied to the school's University Honors Program, the university announced on May 5.

"It's really exciting," Vann said. "I guess we are like the guinea pigs for the program, to see how it will work."

Her scholarship will amount to $12,352 for her first year at the university, according to an April 23 letter Vann received from Clayton State President Tim Hynes. In the letter, Hynes said the scholarship will cover textbook costs (up to $1,000), on-campus housing and meal costs ($8,352) –– and a grant, which Vann said will cover tuition costs ($3,000).

Hynes also wrote that a condition of the scholarship is that recipients must participate in the University Honors Program, and maintain a 3.0 grade-point average throughout their first year at the university. They remain eligible to receive the scholarship for each subsequent year of college, by meeting that criteria on an annual basis.

"To be named a Presidential Scholar is a unique honor," Hynes wrote. "[It is] based upon your outstanding scholastic achievement to date, as well as Clayton State's confidence that you will continue to demonstrate successful performance throughout your higher education."

In addition to Vann, the recipients are Tawan Holmes, a student at Westlake High School, in Atlanta; Angelique Green, a student at the John S. Davidson Fine Arts School, in Augusta; Kathleen Barbosa, a student at Chattahoochee High School, in Alpharetta; Kirk Muse, a student at Whitewater High School, in Fayetteville, and Khalea Crowe, a student at Miller Grove High School, in Lithonia.

In a written statement, Clayton State Spokesman John Shiffert said the university will continue to add six new recipients each year, with the goal being to eventually have 24 scholarship recipients at the school each year.

Vann said she wrote in her scholarship application essay that she wanted to eventually become a "medical missionary," who travels to third-world countries to offer medical care to impoverished people.

She said her family moved to College Park, from her hometown of Bat Dâmbâng, Cambodia, in 1998, to pursue a better life in this country, and because they already had family living in the area. It is memories of her "very poor" home country, she said, which helped her decide to pursue a career in medicine.

Vann said she also has personal ties to the medical field. Her sister, Sovi Vann, is a nurse, and a Clayton State graduate. In Cambodia, her father, Chinlay Vann, was a nurse, and her mother, Chandarey Duch, was a mid-wife.

Sotheavy Vann will enter the university as a full-time student in the fall with a freshman classification, but she said it is for official purposes only, because she has to enter the school as a freshman to be on the scholarship.

After the first semester, though, she said she will have as many as 60 credit hours — roughly half the amount she will need to graduate with her bachelor's degree. She said she will then also be classified as a junior at the university, to reflect her earned semester hours.

"Right now, I've been taking general-core classes," she said. "So, when I get there, I'll probably start taking my major classes."