Lost River Students Win $10,000 College Scholarships

Two Lost River Junior-Senior High School students have been selected as 2019 Horatio Alger State Scholars, and will each receive a $10,000 college scholarship.

Makenzie Girtman and Yajaira Cobiana, both seniors and scholar-athletes, were among 570 students across the country selected for the award. The annual scholarship recognizes outstanding students, who, in the face of great adversity, have exhibited an admirable commitment to continuing their education and serving their communities, according to the Horatio Alger Association.

Cobiana and Girtman both grew up in the Merrill area and attended Merrill Elementary and Lost River Junior-Senior High School. As part of the scholarship application, students had to come up with a statement to finish the sentence: “The Horatio Alger Scholarship will help me to ….”

For Cobiana, who was raised by a single mother with her three sisters after her father was deported to Mexico in 2010, that statement was “Defy the Odds.” For Girtman, who wants to change lives by becoming an orthopedic surgeon, it was “Serve Others.”

One of Cobiana’s biggest challenges was learning to believe in herself. She and her older sisters are the first
generations of her family to attend college. “Over the last two years, I’ve seen a lot of personal growth; I’ve pushed myself. Even applying for this scholarship, I kept thinking, ‘I’m not going to get it. I mean what are the odds?’ But both of us did,” she said with a big smile. “It’s about taking the shot, taking the chance.”

Both girls work mornings before school at the K&K Espresso Deli in Merrill, and both are actively involved in
LEO’s Club, a youth organization of Lions Clubs International. LEO stands for Leadership, Experience, Opportunity. LEO clubs encourage youths to develop leadership qualities by participating in social service activities.

The two girls have been friends since kindergarten, but after graduation will head in different directions.
Girtman, who has a 4.0 GPA, is a three-sport athlete, competing in volleyball, basketball, and softball. She is
involved in 4-H, FBLA and National Honor Society and was the statistician for Lost River football games. In addition to the K&K, she works at Mike and Wanda’s restaurant. Her biggest challenge in high school was managing her time. “I had athletics, work, and school,” Girtman said. “I had to figure out how to have the drive and motivation to make sure I got everything done so that I can achieve anything I want to.”

She is going to study pre-med at Corban University, a private Christian college in Salem, Ore., next fall. After
earning her undergraduate degree, she plans to take a year off to study abroad before attending medical school and specializing in orthopedic surgery.

“After being in athletics and witnessing so many injuries, I wanted to find a way to give back, not only to athletes but to anyone,” Girtman said. “It’s amazing to me that an orthopedic surgeon can treat someone with shoulder injuries or knee injuries, and they can come out of surgery and be able to walk or use their arm again.”

Cobiana, who has a 3.89 GPA, also is a three-sport athlete, competing in volleyball, basketball, and track. She is
involved in FBLA, robotics and National Honor Society. She joined FFA for the first time this year and is raising a turkey to sell at fair. She has been accepted to both Lewis & Clark College, a private liberal arts college in Portland, and Wake Forest University, a private research university in Winston-Salem, N.C. Her biggest decision lies ahead: Does she attend Wake Forest and study environmental science with a minor in urban development or join Lewis & Clark’s pre-med program? She has until May 1 to decide. “That’s my big debate right now,” she said. “I think the biggest goals for me right now are I want a career, I want to be educated and I want to feel fulfilled in whatever I choose to do.”

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