A local group of business leaders flexed their philanthropic muscles, pooling their resources to award scholarships and internships to civic and business-minded UB students.
The 43x79 Group, named for Buffalo's geographic latitude and longitude coordinates, is the benefactor of the Build Buffalo Scholarship, in its second year of existence. Each year, the group adds two winners to its scholarship bankroll.
"A group of businessmen from Western New York looking to advance the cause of Western New York came up with the idea of two extensive four-year scholarships a year," said Dr. Josephine Capuana, administrative director of the University Honors Program.
The scholarships are open to students residing in Western New York, in the hopes that the students will graduate with the business skills needed in today's job market and a commitment to the region's community. The awards are only available to freshmen entering UB through the Honors Program.
"We take a look at the scholarship parameters of Western New York and send out a letter and applications to all eligible. We solicit them. Its aim is for Western New Yorkers to stay here after graduation and make sure Western New York moves in the right direction," said Capuana.
The financial assistance, which lasts through the student's entire university career, ranges between $2,000 and $3,500 per semester, depending on the proportion of aid already given to the student by UB. This year's recipients, Kari Mergenhagan and Benjamin Freer, were awarded scholarships in the amount of $6,000 per year.
Mergenhagan, an 18-year-old Williamsville resident, currently works in a pharmacy department.
"My immediate plans are to pursue a doctorate degree in pharmacy. An interim objective is to become part of the student government at the University of Buffalo," she stated in an e-mail.
"During high school I realized I had a propensity for science, a desire to work in an area of health, and a love for government, politics and history. A career as a pharmacist would enable me to be in a health field where I can help others and also be part of the community where I can encourage growth and change."
Freer, who lives in Amherst, is also 18 years old and a mechanical engineering major.
"I have a sincere interest in the region and Buffalo's future," Freer said. "I think that the paid internship would be a great opportunity because in the real world the difference between a good job and a great job is your level of experience."
According to Capuana, somewhere between 50 and 60 students are eligible for the scholarships, although only about 40 actually apply.
The deadline for this year's application was July 16. In early September, finalists were chosen to meet with Capuana and representatives from the Build Buffalo committee. Notification was given shortly after.
Last year's recipients were Julie Mann, currently studying abroad in Spain, and Vikas Dua.