“Dani Morgan” Scholarship celebrates English and CJ students

Scholarships can be hard to find, but if you are a Western Carolina University junior or senior majoring in English or criminal justice, you might want to check out the Danielle “Dani” West Morgan Endowed Scholarship Fund.

The award amount can vary, but it tends to run between $500 and $1,000. The English Department and Criminal Justice Department Scholarship Committees alternate choosing the winners each year.

“The scholarship is supposed to go toward students who not only have need for financial assistance,” said Dr. Brian Gastle of the English department, “but also reflect some of the ideals and personality traits of Dani-service, community engagement, high moral and ethical standards, and things of that nature.”

Danielle “Dani” West Morgan graduated from WCU in 2004 with an English degree in professional writing and a minor in criminal justice. Her parents endowed this scholarship after she died in September 2009.

“I had Dani in a couple of classes,” said Dr. Gastle, “and I remember her very fondly. She was a great person, really energetic and outgoing.”

About the scholarship, he added, “I think that this is really one of the wonderful things you can do to remember somebody. This is something that WCU could theoretically have around forever. For a lot of people, it’s important, and it makes a difference.”

Two previous award winners, named late in the fall 2012 semester, were English majors Jessica Jaqua and Jessy Allen.

Jaqua graduated cum laude with a double major in English and Spanish in December 2012.

“Seeing how proud my family was of me when I told them I had been selected for the Morgan scholarship was the best thing about winning it,” said Jaqua. “My mom announced that I had won the scholarship right after we prayed over our Thanksgiving dinner. I was a little embarrassed but also extremely proud and happy.”

Jaqua has a long history of community service, which is one of the criteria for the scholarship.

She spent four years working for a non-profit agency called Project Challenge and has volunteered at the Macon County Humane Society since she was 12-years-old. Recently she received a full-time position as a resident counselor at a juvenile group home called the Methodist Home for Children.

About Project Challenge, Jaqua said, “Basically I would meet kids who were involved with the judicial system, find out their interests, then look for volunteer activities that would use their talents to fulfill their court-ordered community service obligations. It gave me the chance to show children that you can give your time and talents and make an impact in the world too.”

Today Jaqua is still very busy. When she is not designing quasi-self-sustaining ecosystems for her poison dart frogs, she is working, kayaking or trying to figure out how to one day own a penguin. Although she is taking a break now, she also hopes to attend graduate school for English soon.

“But until that day comes,” said Jaqua, “I’ll continue living the good life: reading, writing, playing guitar, saving money for an ice enclosure for a penguin and spending time with the people I love.”

Jessy Allen will graduate this May with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Education. In the fall she hopes to attend graduate school studying speech pathology.

Like Jaqua, Allen has also been very involved in her community.

“Volunteering is something that has always been close to my heart,” said Allen.

She has volunteered for Relay for Life, the UP program on campus, Operation Christmas Child and Habitat for Humanity. On top of all that, she participates in a mission trip with World Changers every summer.

“Serving these organizations has given me such wonderful memories and allowed me to make friendships that I am certain will last a lifetime,” said Allen. “And if I’m being honest, I feel like I get more out of serving for these organizations than I give.”

Besides spending time with her family and being an active member at Riverside Baptist Church in Waynesville, NC, Allen enjoys swimming, hiking, camping and skiing in her free time.

About the Morgan Scholarship she added, “I was extremely excited to hear that I had been chosen as a recipient. I feel very privileged and very grateful for the honor.”

On Feb. 13 the current application period for the Danielle “Dani” West Morgan Endowed Scholarship Fund ended. The criminal justice winners for the 2013-2014 academic year will be announced at the College of Health and Human Sciences Spring Awards in April.

For juniors or seniors with at least a 3.0 GPA, please contact the English department for more information on the next application period in the fall.