Years of dedication, volunteering, and participating in a wide array of activities finally paid off for a pair of local high school academic standouts this past December.
Fairbury's Macy Ohlde earned acceptance into the Kearney Health Opportunity Program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, while Meridian's Rylee Pieper was accepted in the Rural Health Opportunity Program at Peru State College.
The KHOP program will cover the cost of tuition and half of Ohlde's room and board expenses at UNK, while also guaranteeing acceptance into University of Nebraska Center after three years of undergraduate studies.
Ohlde met the requirements for the award with a minimum ACT score of 23, be in the top half of your class, live in a rural community, and then secured her acceptance with an essay and an interview.
The multi-sport standout, who plays softball and basketball, shared her emotions of the moment when she found out on that she was accepted into the program on Dec. 8.
“I was super excited,” Ohlde said. “I've been planning for this scholarship since I was a sophomore. I've been volunteering, I've just been building up my resume. So it's just a huge relief for me because it proved all my hard work paid off.
Ohlde, who will be roughly one of six students at UNK that'll be a part of the program in her class for the pharmacy specialization.
The future Loper added that she had her sights set on the program for the past three years.
“Probably since my sophomore year of high school I've been looking into pharmacy and I've taken lots of job shadows and I work at our hospital pharmacy so I knew it'd be the right fit for me,” Ohlde said. “I knew I wanted to go in the medical field, I love helping people. But I do not like blood and guts so I couldn't be a surgeon or anything. With the job shadows, I like how the pharmacist jobs are different everyday and there's always new medication coming out.”
The Lady Jeffs leading three pointer shooter this season – 17 made on 46 attempts – says that her long-term goal is to come back to the Fairbury community after she finishes her schooling to become a pharmacist.
Pieper earned a nearly identical award by being accepted into the Rural Health Opportunity Program at Peru State College, where she will also be playing volleyball.
After a strenuous process that required an essay and multiple interviews, Pieper was overwhelmed by relief when she found out she was one of two candidates accepted into the physical therapy part of the program.
“It's just a big weight off my shoulders to be able to know after I'm done with my four years at Peru I'll be automatically accepted into UNMC,” Pieper said. “It's just a lot more relaxing to be able to go through my college years and not have to worry about what college I'm going to afterwards because I already have my life basically planned out now. And also it just helps financially because now I have that money going towards tuition and so my volleyball money will go towards my room and board.”
Leading up to her acceptance, Pieper was on pins and needles due to the fact that the physical therapy specialization received the most applicants it has ever had in the programs history.
The edge was taken off a bit for Pieper when she made the final cut of seven interviewees.
“It's just a very competitive process with many different people around the state,” Pieper said. “I was really nervous so when I got the interview I was really happy because only a certain percentage get it. I was just glad they choose me.”
While getting her CNA certification at Southeast Community College during the fall semester in 2016, Pieper had a change of heart that led her in the direction of becoming a physical therapist.
“For one of my clinical hours you had to follow around a physical therapist and I just fell in love with it. At first I didn't like the physical therapy area because I dislocated my knee the April before playing volleyball. But then I realized, hey I can help people who were in my situation that just want to get back to playing volleyball or doing track, softball, whatever sport they're in.”
Pieper says she would like to start her physical therapy career under another physical therapist after graduating from medical school before eventually starting her own physical therapy practice down the road.