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Full circle: Luzerne County Head Start alumni awarded scholarships

Joseph Souder, a senior at Wyoming Valley West, accepts the Mary & Tom Sewatsky Family Scholarship from Mary and Tom Sewatsky.
Katerina Que Photography
Joseph Souder, a senior at Wyoming Valley West, accepts the Mary & Tom Sewatsky Family Scholarship from Mary and Tom Sewatsky.

More than a dozen local high school seniors are heading to college with a little extra financial support thanks to the place where their education began.

Luzerne County Head Start, Inc. is an income-based education program that supports children five years old and younger from Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Head Start celebrated scholarship recipients, employees, and community partners at its 59th anniversary luncheon at Mohegan Pennsylvania.

The Head Start Alumni Scholarship Program is funded by community organizations, businesses, and individual donations. A total of 16 high school seniors were awarded a scholarship between $1,000 and $5,000.

Lynn Evans Biga is the executive director of Luzerne County Head Start.

“For the most part, the students that get the scholarships are first generation college students,” she said. “It is a beautiful time to see the outcome with their very beginning with us and as they’re graduating from high school and going off to college.”

Joseph Souder, a senior at Wyoming Valley West, will study biochemistry at Misericordia University next year.

“It’s definitely a big surprise,” he said of his award. “I’m happy and proud to be representing Head Start.”

Bara’a Kamal just committed to Wilkes University for mechanical engineering.

“It’s so generous of them to honor their past alumni like this, in such a big way,” she said.

Kamal wants to be a voice for young women in marginalized communities as an Arab woman in STEM.

"Being a minority in general, especially in a very underrepresented area like here, and going into a tough field like that, I genuinely hope to inspire other people who are like me."

She was also awarded the Jeff Koppel Memorial Scholarship Award from the Pennsylvania Head Start Association.

The Luzerne County Head Start Alumni Scholarship Program was established in 1987 and has awarded $355,450 to date.

PNC Bank has been a supporter for 15 years through the PNC Grow Up Great initiative. Angela Mariotti is a Luzerne County Head Start Board Member and employee of PNC Bank.

“It’s full circle,” she said. “We support them at the early years, and we are so happy to support them later in life as they are continuing their education.”

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org