By Frank Stanko
Jessica Mastel and Sarah Holcomb have more than their close friendship to share. They’re Wahpeton High School graduates. Both have been active students at North Dakota State College of Science. Mastel was recently named the 2016 New Century Scholar for the state of North Dakota. Holcomb was North Dakota’s Scholar in 2015.
The New Century Scholars program awards one student per state $2,000, considering, grades, leadership, activities and most importantly, how students extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom. The program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa and the American Association of Community Colleges.
“The New Century Scholar application is administered through the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society,” Mastel said. “I’m president of our chapter of Phi Theta Kappa here at NDSCS, so I work closely with our advisors on that process. But really, the application looks at academic achievement and involvement on campus.”
Mastel, by her own admission, is active on campus. Along with being president of the Phi Theta Kappa chapter, she’s also president of the Student Senate, an administrative assistant of the NDSCS Ambassadors and is heavily involved with the school’s music programs, such as the Wildcat singers.
“Being involved here on campus and being academically successful, I was very honored to be nominated by NDSCS to be one of our nominees for the Academic All-State Team in North Dakota. From there, you move on to be nominated for a New Century Scholar. I was informed recently that I will be going to Chicago (in April) to receive that award.”
The formal breakfast ceremony will be attended by not only Mastel but NDSCS President Dr. John Richman and his wife, she said.
Holcomb’s mother, Carla Thiele, recalled the experience of Sara becoming a New Century Scholar.
“She was a business management student, in DECA (which prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs), on the campus activities board, involved in student government,” she said. “We weren’t exactly sure what the New Century Scholars were, but Sara was nominated and she got asked if her family wanted to go the banquet, which was held in Bismarck. And the night before the banquet, she received this e-mail from her advisor and Dr. Richman saying she won the $2,000. And we went, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Both of us were just floored.”
According to Thiele, Sara wasn’t initially aware she had won for the entire state of North Dakota. The honor has benefitted Sara’s life, she said.
“It’s something else great that she can put on her resume,” Thiele added.
Holcomb, currently working as a legal assistant for the Rosenquist & Arnason firm in Grand Forks, North Dakota while she continues her education at Mayville State University in Mayville, North Dakota, said she thinks it’s great that somebody from Wahpeton was nominated and able to go to nationals.
“My involvement in the campus and community really helped out and they’ve made a positive impact, especially as I continue for my bachelor’s degree,” she remembered. “They announced my win the night of the banquet. No other schools knew anything about it. There were eight two-year institutions there, so being chosen the one out of all of those was pretty exciting.”
Holcomb added that she hopes students interested in the New Century Scholars program don’t underestimate the opportunities to be gained from it.
“Don’t take it for granted,” she said.
Mastel, who will further her education and career in the fields of social or political science and pre-law, said she and Holcomb continue to know the importance of getting involved on campus.
“We’re still in an organization called the North Dakota Student Association,” Mastel said. “It’s a group of students representing all 11 (higher-learning) institutions and it meets once a month, so Sara and I can have continuous conversations.”
The best advice she can give, Mastel said, is to be involved.
“Not even for someone in Wahpeton who wants to apply (for the scholarship), but for anyone just going to college, going to NDSCS or another institution. Just get involved with something, get involved with what you’re passionate about. If you can get involved with what you’re passionate about and you can show you’re passionate about that, people are going to recognize that in you.”
One more endorsement for Mastel came from Ned Clooten, principal of Wahpeton High School. He called her intrinsically motivated and someone who always filled her schedule with the hardest classes she could find.
“Jessica went above and beyond what was asked of her in the classroom and was someone who did not take their education for granted,” Clooten said.
Mastel and Holcomb join the 2012 New Century Scholar, Tyler Loll, as recent winners from the state of North Dakota who were graduates of Wahpeton High School and NDSCS. Loll was unable to be reached for comment.
You have a few options from this point. The first and most recommended option would be to download one of the browsers below. If that is not possible, the second suggestion would be to update your current browser, you can follow the update link below for that. Otherwise, the site will still function in its current state, but in a limited capacity.