A Long Way from Home
For a young woman from a small town in Arkansas, 2010 top female Most Valuable Student scholar Jenny Van has big ambitions!

From a young age, she knew one day she would broaden her horizons and leave Arkansas. Thanks to her Most Valuable Student scholarship, sponsored by Fort Smith, Ark., Lodge No. 341, Jenny is able realize that dream! She will be the first in her family of seven children to move away from her hometown and venture off on her own. She’ll head to Cambridge, Mass., where she will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A Life of Helping Others

Though Jenny was involved in many different organizations throughout high school, her greatest passion is volunteering. Her favorite high school extracurricular activity was National Honor Society because of its commitment to academics and altruism. Jenny consistently gave her time to help out at the Salvation Army, assist the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and tutor local elementary school children.

“I never had much growing up, but I know there are others who have even less,” explains Jenny. “I have the drive and dedication to give back and want to help out as much as possible.”

When Jenny’s older sister invited her to help at an event for the Alzheimer’s Association, Jenny’s commitment to serving others turned into a life plan. At the event, Jenny learned more about the work the Alzheimer’s Association does to help patients living with Alzheimer’s. She knew she wanted to make a difference, so started regularly volunteering with this organization.

“I saw how debilitating Alzheimer’s is and have seen how devastating it can be to those affected,” says Jenny. “I want to do all I can to help.”

A Broader Horizon

Jenny’s commitment to helping those suffering from diseases like Alzheimer’s led her to declare a major in Biological Engineering. Her experience volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association made her want to dedicate her life to finding treatments for incurable diseases.

“Biological engineering helps others by offering opportunities to research diseases and possible treatments, advancing modern medicine,” explains Jenny. “My major will further both my enthusiasm for science and my commitment to helping others.”

Though she will miss her large family, Jenny looks forward to moving to Cambridge and beginning college in the fall. She is most excited to be surrounded by students with similar ambitions.

Jenny chose MIT because of its engineering school’s outstanding reputation. She can’t wait for all the opportunities and growth that college will offer. After graduating from MIT, she plans to pursue a research career, where she can spend her life working to better the quality of life of those living with diseases.

“My Elks National Foundation scholarship will unquestionably enable my college experience,” says Jenny. “Not only will I have financial security, but I will also be able to thrive and mature with the awareness that I have the support of such a generous organization.”

We can’t wait to see what scientific discoveries Jenny will make!

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