Blue Ridge Scholars
On the weekend of May 19-20, the first cohort of Blue Ridge Scholars will walk the Lawn at Final Exercises. They’re in the final stretch of a student experience that some never believed possible. Since the Blue Ridge Scholars program begun in 2014, 234 UVA students have received a Blue Ridge Scholarship. “Receiving this scholarship has allowed me to set and reach educational goals which I didn’t know existed before my time at UVA,” said Michelle Cox (Col ’18). “It has helped me realize that I can make a difference and that my work matters.” In spring 2018, the Board of Visitors allocated an additional $5 million to provide 50 more Blue Ridge Scholarships for the class entering fall 2018.
Now in their third year at UVA, Blue Ridge Scholars met recently with alumnus John Griffin, who established the scholarship program to benefit incoming undergraduate students with exceptional promise and significant financial need. The scholars are engaged in a healthy range of studies, including engineering, nursing, architecture, and human biology. During the event, students heard inspiring words from Griffin, who suggested that they pay close attention to the things that energize them in order to find their paths to success. In his remarks, he encouraged students to be unafraid to fail and emphasized the power of resilience and risk taking in shaping their futures.
Challenge Grant Opens New Doors
In February 2014, John Griffin, a 1985 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce, created a $4 million challenge grant to support both the first year of the Blue Ridge Scholarship program and its long-term endowment. In just nine months, the challenge was met, and the first class of Blue Ridge Scholars entered in fall 2014.
Thousands of students were considered for this inaugural group of Blue Ridge Scholars. Their intellectual promise, contributions to their communities, and sheer talents stood out among their peers. The Blue Ridge Scholars join a community of innovative thinkers who are passionate about pursuing new knowledge. The scholarship will allow each scholar to thrive throughout his or her time at the University and will be renewed annually for four years as long as the student remains in good academic standing and continues to qualify for need-based financial aid.
Griffin met with the first class of Blue Ridge Scholars November 13 to learn more about them and congratulate them in person. “It’s incredibly rewarding to begin to get to know the talented, diverse students who have earned these scholarships,” said Griffin, a Board of Visitors member and president of New York-based Blue Ridge Capital, an investment partnership he founded in 1996. “I am inspired by their dedication to educational success and by the extraordinary caliber of the students in the inaugural class of Blue Ridge Scholars.”
“I hope to have a lab space with a team of people looking at problems that are facing certain countries.”
Jose Chavez Carballo, of Houston, Texas, has an eye on his future. He sees himself dealing with some serious global issues—and finding solutions. Jose has a strong interest in science and research, mainly physics and biology. In his senior year of high school he took first place in Rice University’s Global Health Technology Design Competition. Jose also has hands-on experience in the digital humanities, thanks to a summer internship he completed at Rice University’s Chao Center of Asian Studies. He graduated from Eastwood Academy High School with nine AP courses. These early accomplishments paid off when Jose was accepted by UVA and offered a Blue Ridge Scholarship. Now Jose is one step closer to realizing his vision.
“Getting the scholarship means that someone’s willing to invest in my future.”
Casey Balamut, of Naples, Florida, is well worth investing in. She’s taking on a huge responsibility for a major investment herself—a college education. Casey, one of five children, is paying for college on her own. She knows that an education is an investment in the future—college graduates live healthier lives, earn more, and make important contributions to society. A Blue Ridge Scholarship is helping Casey’s prospects tremendously, while making sure that Casey benefits from all that the UVA undergraduate experience has to offer.
“I thought it was a longshot! So I just applied.”
Byron Acosta, of Bronx, New York, has come a long way. He knew he was going to college, but thought UVA was a reach for him. A Blue Ridge Scholarship brought Byron to the University of Virginia. A kinesiology major, Byron will be getting experience in the classroom, field, lab, and clinics of the Curry School of Education’s Kinesiology program. His training will open the door for a career in everything from fitness-related industries, to teaching, coaching, and health-related fields like medicine, public health, and physical or occupational therapy. Then Byron can go almost anywhere, maybe even closer to home, back in the Bronx. “I want to take everything that I learned from UVA and bring it back home with me,” he said. “You know, I didn’t do this by myself—there were a lot of people helping me.”