The Top of the Class

Every scholar has a story, and one of the goals of the Most Valuable Student Leadership Weekend is to get to the heart of those stories; to understand how 20 incredibly talented, gifted and driven students traveled paths that intertwined in Chicago where they’d vie for the opportunity to earn $50,000 toward their college experience.

During a 20-minute interview with a panel of judges, each of the Finalists showed why he or she was in that room. They were more than just impressive resumes—valedictorians, perfect GPAs, and presidents of clubs and service organizations—they also had big dreams for the future and even bigger ambitions.

Their future is bright, and so is ours. The 2018 Leadership Weekend class is full of future doctors, scientists and engineers who are going to change the world. By the end of the weekend, the top male and female scholars were chosen: Shiv Patel, sponsored by Roxboro, N.C., Lodge No. 2005, and Maitland Thull, sponsored by Mobile, Ala., Lodge No. 108, whose accomplishments astounded the judges.

Role Reversal

Shiv was raised in North Carolina with his parents and brother. His life changed when he was 9 years old, and his father was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurological disease. The experience of caring for his father strengthened Shiv physically and emotionally.

“With constant tremors in his hands and a slurred speech, I would often write letters and serve as an interpreter in conversations on his behalf,” Shiv says.

His father lost his battle with the disease, and he passed away three years ago. On top of their grief, the family had to navigate their financial burdens, including sending Shiv and his brother to college.

Earning the top scholarship lightens the load for Shiv’s family. He plans to study global health on the medical track at Northwestern University in the fall.

“I want to pursue a career in medicine, and the Elks are a great foundation for doing that because they’re giving me the starting steps,” Shiv says.

The View from Above

Maitland’s story is also one of fierce determination, in herself and in her mother. Four years ago, Maitland’s mother was diagnosed with viral head and neck cancer. The intense chemotherapy caused a secondary colon cancer just a year later. Earlier this year, Maitland’s mother was diagnosed with a metastatic melanoma at the radiation site of her first cancer.

“Due to a virus, not genetics or lifestyle, cancer unexpectedly became part of my family’s story,” Maitland says.

Watching her mother fight and helping her beat cancer not once, but three times inspired Maitland and has made her the independent, mature and focused person she is today.

“Although it has been pretty gritty in my family, I have chosen to continue to find the joy,” Maitland says.

Among many things, Maitland finds joy in flying, a hobby she began at age 11 with her grandfather. She uses her private pilot’s license to give her friends and family aerial tours of the Gulf Coast.

Maitland will combine her passions for flying and helping others when she attends the University of Alabama in Huntsville to study aerospace engineering and public health policy. She’s grateful for everything the ENF has provided and looks forward to leading and serving throughout college as well.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Maitland says. “Your investment in my future has been so encouraging to myself, my family and those who have supported me so far. I can’t thank you enough.”

No matter where their stories take them next, one thing is for certain: Shiv and Maitland will always have their #ElksFamily beside them.

For 2018-19, the Elks National Foundation allocated $2.9 million to fund the Most Valuable Student scholarship program, which includes 500 four-year scholarships ranging from $4,000 to $50,000.

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