Nine Niles McKinley High School seniors sat nervously in the library last week while waiting for the results of the Clayman Family Scholarship Awards.
One of the most prestigious scholarship awards offered at the school, candidates are required to fill out an extensive application that includes references from teachers and community leaders and a personal statement written by the candidate. Individual interviews with the scholarship committee finalizes the process.
Applicants are also determined by academic honors, grade point average and ACT / SAT scores. Extra-curricular activities as well as service to the community also is taken into consideration.
The Clayman Family Scholarships were awarded to Stephanie McElrath, 18, left, and Tyler Harden, 18. Tyler took the top award, which is $40,000 over four years. Stephanie will be awarded $20,000, also over a four-year period. In the event either student receives additional scholarships, the award will be passed down to the next students in line who applied. The scholarship is based on a system of points earned as determined by five judges.
''When I have the money, I'll have my own scholarship here at the high school,'' said top award winner, Tyler Harden.
Tyler, who said he has applied to 30 different colleges, hopes to attend either Case Western Reserve or Baldwin Wallace, where he plans to major in either engineering or computer science. His ultimate goal is to attend Harvard School of Law and eventually be CEO of his own company.
''I'm an entrepreneur-type person,'' Tyler said.
His favorite subjects in high school are chemistry and calculus, he said, although he is currently attending Youngstown State University under the College in High School program. Through the scholarship, Tyler has qualified for $40,000 over four years toward his college education. Tyler is the son of Linda Harden of Niles.
The second scholarship was awarded to Stephanie McElrath, who qualified for $20,000 over four years.
With plans to attend Kent State University to major in speech pathology, Stephanie hopes to help others with speech issues either in a clinical setting or through education.
''When I was younger, I had a speech impediment, and now I want to help others,'' Stephanie said.
She is the daughter of Erin and James McElrath and has a younger brother, Patrick.
''I really appreciate what Mr. Clayman and his familiy do for Niles,'' Stephanie said.
Prior to announcing the winners, principal Scott Libert told the candidates they were all outstanding and would be successful with great futures.
''You make our school very proud,'' Libert said.
This year the decision was very tough, said Clayman family representative, Michael Clayman.
''There was no one who didn't do a great job,'' Clayman said. ''You are all amazing.''
Winners are chosen on a system of a points given by each of the five judges. Points are determined based on each of the required criteria and fed into a computer program that tallies them to determine the high scorers.
This year the candidates points were so close, it was mere 10ths of points that separated many of them, said guidance counselor Vickie Janik.
''Some years we can get a pretty good idea of who the winner will be, but this year, I had no idea until the points were tallied,'' she said.
Tyler and Stephanie will join other students over the past 21 years whose names will be engraved on a plaque that is kept in the school's display case near the front entrance.