Oya chosen 2017 scholar from four finalists



21st Century Scholars Society finalists include Brianna Legner, left, Nick Needs, Martha Hoffman and 21st Century Scholar Akari Oya. Legner, Needs and Hoffman received $1,500 each and Oya received $3,000. Ten other students were chosen to receive $6,750 from the Society.

Staff, Staff Writers

Illinois Valley Community College sophomore Akari Oya of Peru was named the 21st Century Scholar at the IVCC Foundation’s eleventh annual 21st Century Scholars Society dinner Thursday Aug. 31 in La Salle.

A 4.0 student, Oya plans to transfer to study psychological counseling. She has visited Ivy League universities Yale, Harvard and Columbia and is also considering Big 10 universities Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Oya was one of four finalists vying for the coveted $3,000 21st Century Scholar award for tuition, books and fees. Other finalists, Brianna Legner of Princeton, Nick Needs of Peru and Martha Hoffman of Earlville each received $1,500.

“To me, this award represents three things: recognition, motivation and hope,” Oya said in her acceptance speech. “I have come to realize that countless people like my family, friends, IVCC faculty and this Society stands beside me.”

Oya, the daughter of Etsushi and Nobuko Oya, is the photography editor of IVCC’s award-winning student newspaper IV Leader and the visual arts and photography editor for River Currents, the student literary and art journal. Winner of IVCC’s 2017 Paul Simon Essay Contest, Oya read her submission at the May commencement.

She is currently engaged in two independent research projects: a study on the historical and social contrasts between the cities of La Salle and Peru and an analysis of student dream journals. For the latter project, she traveled to California at her own expense this summer for a week-long conference on dreams.

Legner, the daughter of Dan and Sue Legner, is a 4.0 student who will transfer to the University of Illinois to major in speech pathology. After college, she plans to return home to work in local schools. This summer she won the crown as Bureau County Fair Queen and will represent the county at the state pageant in 2018.

Needs, the son of George and Barb Needs, is the Student Government Association President and an Eagle Scout. He plans to transfer to the University of Illinois and pursue a career in law. An active community volunteer for the PADS shelter and Illinois Valley Food Pantry, he personally raised $1,600 for Team World Vision by running the Chicago Marathon last October. Needs’ run will provide 32 children in Third World countries with drinking water for life.

Hoffman, the daughter of Winifred and the late Kenneth Hoffman, was the 2016 Earlville High School valedictorian. She will transfer to Northern Illinois University to study communications. A student representative to IVCC’s ag advisory committee, Hoffman donated 350-dozen eggs from her chicken flock to the local food pantry, among other charitable acts.

Along with speeches from each finalist, IVCC President Jerry Corcoran and Foundation President Sue Schmitt also spoke.

$750 Merit award winners

Bethany Black, daughter of Wes and Mary Black of Oglesby, public relations.

Abigail Coutre, daughter of Tony and Beth Coutre of Peru, nursing.

Chase Ochsner, son of Michelle Ochsner of Ottawa and the late Bud Ochsner, creative producing.

Matthew Pehoski, son of Mike and Nancy Pehoski of La Salle, accounting. He is the student representative to the IVCC board of trustees.

Julia Pohar, daughter of John and Jill Pohar of Peru, mathematics. She is a starting guard on IVCC’s basketball team.

Rion Schulz, son of Alex and Michelle Schulz of Utica, chemical engineering.

Lauren Tomasson, daughter of Cory and Traci Tomasson of Oglesby, psychology. She is a member of the basketball team.

$500 Honorable mention candidates
Olivia Graham, daughter of Dale and Joan Graham of Utica, healthcare.

Danielle Hawkins of Peru, daughter of Alan Osman and Christina Callahan, business.

Parker Weber, son of Richard and Jodi Weber of Peru, business.

In all, 14 students received more than $14,000. Since its founding in 2007, the Society has awarded nearly $145,000 to 120 students.

Currently made up of about 30 members each contributing $500 annually, the Society rewards some of IVCC’s most promising returning students. To qualify, students need a minimum 3.5 GPA as well as extensive college involvement and community service.