Founders Gala Scholarship offers college opportunity to students ‘with a story’

A Wilkes University freshman received a phone call months ago which changed his life and shaped his future.

Kyle McHale, a Myers high school 2014 graduate, was one of 12 first year students to be awarded the Founders Gala Scholarship.

Michael McCree, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions, was McHale’s Admissions Counselor and delivered the news.

“He just called me one day, and said ‘You’re going to get a call from the president that you received the Founders Scholarship,’ and I said, ‘okay’ and I received it,” McHale said.

Created by the Alumni and Development offices, The Founders Scholarship is awarded to first generation college students with a primary focus on those in the northeast Pennsylvania region. However, location is not a limiting factor.

This is the first year the scholarship had been in existence.

“I always had dreams of coming to college. From the financial situation I’m in, I wasn’t supposed to go, especially to a private institution. It was one of those feelings where, ‘I can’t believe this actually happened’,” McHale said.

It is instances like this, Director Alex Sperrazza said, that the scholarship is all about.

“The Founders Scholarship had provided our office and university an opportunity to reach in and affect change on those stories,” Sperrazza commented.

According to McCree and Sperazza, McHale had been on the university’s radar.

“I mention someone to Mike and he’s like, ‘I got three phone calls on the same kid’,” said Sperazza.

The university works with high school guidance counselors, alumni, coaches and the Educational Opportunities Center in Kingston as well as other individuals, when looking for students with exceptional stories who also fit the scholarship criteria.

McCree, while at a Myers baseball game sporting Wilkes attire, was approached by numerous parents that said “You’re getting a great kid,” regarding McHale.

Within a week, McCree and Sperazza had received multiple phone calls regarding McHale, who, along with being a member of the Myers baseball team and ski club, was also a student leader and an active volunteer.

Sperazza said, “We couldn’t have dreamed that we would be able to do it. It was something that we wanted but… it never happened before,” regarding the scholarship.
As for the process for giving the Founders Scholarship, the university will begin looking now at potential students but really, “it’s conversations, it’s getting to know kids,” which finds potential recipients, said Sperazza.

Even Wilkes President Patrick Leahy has taken an active role in the process as he wishes to be the “Recruiter-in-Chief”.

Sperazza said that “our president calls academic performers” much like an athlete would be recruited. Essentially, the university “wants to identify these students and encourage them to be here.”
McHale has taken full advantage of this opportunity and has joined numerous clubs and organizations such as Climbing Club, Snowboarding Club, and WCLH Radio.

“I like that they had a lot of stuff here to do,” McHale said.

McHale has also declared his major as nursing, but for a special reason.

“I chose nursing because of my cousins; they are autistic. I’ve done a lot of volunteer help with them. I’ve learned a lot of different things as in taking care of somebody with disadvantages, not in the sense of mental or physical just in the sense of a disadvantage… those experiences really touch home, which is what brought nursing to me.”

McHale has already begun taking courses which sparked his curiosity. He particularly enjoys his Anatomy and Physiology course and has felt prepared for college life.

“I was more prepared than most students coming to college because of what I had to do before I got here.”

As for a future career, McHale hopes to become a nurse practitioner and work with children in pediatric oncology. Although McHale had looked at other institutions such as Arizona State, Wilkes was hard to compete with.

“Really focusing on the brand new simulation center which is state of the art, high end,” McHale was sold.

“They talked about the smaller classes, and the Cohen Science center. They really branded that,” McHale commented.

“I was pretty set on Wilkes for a long time. It wasn’t hard for them to do their job,” McHale explained.

Part of the reason McHale was set on Wilkes was because of his past involvement with the campus, especially with one of his high school teachers who happened to be Wilkes Alumni.

“I think that was the biggest thing that made me pick Wilkes… Even before I came here I was always here…like, I would come here for math competitions or a field trip or community service, or just anything. I was really involved with Wilkes even before I came here.”

McHale is a resident at Wilkes, living in Evans Hall. “You’re getting a different experience.  You’re learning responsibility…It provides a lot of diversity,” he said on the dorming experience.

The first Founders Gala event was held this past summer; McHale will be invited to attend the Summer 2015 event.
Funds for the scholarship are raised through the event.

The 2015 Gala is scheduled for May 30, 2015. For more information, readers can visit