Two Northern Kentucky students score coveted scholarships to University of Louisville

Posted at 12:08 PM, Oct 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-10 12:08:18-04

COVINGTON, Ky. -- Two local high school graduates recently were among only 10 in the state this year to receive full-ride Grawemeyer scholarships from the University of Louisville.

Through the scholarship, freshmen Brandon Brown of Erlanger and Gabrielle “Ellie” Farley of Fort Thomas will receive full tuition remittance and $8,000 a year for college expenses.

Brandon Brown took nine Advanced Placement classes in high school on top of running track and playing football. Photo provided

Brown, who graduated this year from Dixie Heights High School, hopes one day to work as a chemical engineer for Nike. For now, though, he’s planning by the semester and focusing on how he will use his scholarship for research.

“Obviously, I’m taking it one step at a time,” Brown said.

The Grawemeyer scholarship is awarded each year to 10 University of Louisville students in honor of alumnus and benefactor Charles Grawemeyer. The scholarships are an extension of the Grawemeyer Awards, five annual prizes founded by their namesake to honor individuals in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education and religion.

The Grawemeyer Scholars Program is one of three mentored scholarship programs offered at the university. Through the program, freshmen participate in a dedicated enrichment program to foster civic, cultural and leadership involvement. They also are matched with faculty researchers who help facilitate research opportunities for the undergraduate scholars.

Before selections were even finalized for the scholars, Brown received a message from Grawemeyer Awards executive director Charles Leonard expressing a desire to connect him with a professor who worked with Nike.

“Once the emails were going back and forth about the Nike professor, I kind of thought, ‘They have to select me, they must like me,’ ” Brown said.

Gabrielle Farley was active in high school, where she served as the captain of her varsity soccer team and participated on dance team as well. Photo provided

Both Brown and Farley considered multiple universities before deciding to attend the University of Louisville. For Farley, who attended Highlands High School, the opportunities offered through the university’s GEMS (Guaranteed Entrance to Medical School) and Grawemeyer programs confirmed her decision.

“I got into GEMS at Louisville and Grawemeyer, so that kind of sealed the deal for me,” she said.

With only 10 spots in the Grawemeyer Scholars Program, the bar was set high for the two Northern Kentucky natives. To qualify, they had to maintain high school GPAs of at least 3.75. They also were required to score a minimum of a 31 on the ACT or a 1,420 on the SAT.

“We work hard to get top scholars at the University of Louisville,” Leonard said.

The GPA requirement wasn’t a concern for either student; both held a 4.0. However, the ACT was a different story.

While Farley scored a 35 on the test, Brown’s first attempt produced a score of 24.

Not to be deterred, he retook the assessment -- nine times -- until he got score of 31, which many college scholarship programs require.

“I worked really hard to get that 31,” Brown said.

His hard work showed not only in his GPA and ACT score, but in his high school classes and extracurricular activities.

“He was just a very diligent student,” said Dixie Heights Spanish teacher Lori Dennler.

“With the challenging workload that we have for this class, he was always super prepared when he walked into class,” said Chad Fields, who teaches U.S. history at Dixie Heights.

In addition to taking nine Advanced Placement courses, Brown ran track, played football and was very involved in art classes.

“He was just good in everything,” Dennler said.

Brown’s well-rounded high school career and his strong Grawemeyer application essays particularly stood out to Leonard.

“His essays were strong and gave a good sense of self, mixed with humility,” Leonard said.

As with Brown, Farley’s humility went a long way in her recommendations.

“She’s very, very articulate, very easy to speak with but at the same time not somebody who was demanding to be the center of attention all the time,” said Highlands Principal Brian Robinson.

She too stood out for her well-rounded background, which included serving as the captain of her varsity soccer team and participating on the school dance team.

“Ellie is a really great mix of a student who was really good at a lot of things,” Robinson said.

While her acceptance into the Grawemeyer and GEMS programs will in some ways make Farley’s college experience easier, she’s excited for the challenge of meeting the GEMS and Grawemeyer expectations.

“I think I did work really hard in high school, so I wanted something that would push me even harder in college,” she said.