In August 2014 when they enter EMU’s first-year class, Michaela Mast of Harrisonburg, Va., and Harrison Horst of Landisville, Pa., will begin their four-year journey as Yoder Scholars.
Each year since 1993, two EMU students have been awarded full-ride tuition scholarships. The Yoder Scholarships are named for Carol and Paul R. Yoder Jr., 1963 graduates of EMU.
The rigorous selection process for this elite award includes a comprehensive academic and service resume, letters of recommendation, creative essays and interviews with Honors Program faculty members.
“We are looking for high-caliber creative students with wide-ranging interests and strong leadership abilities,” says history professor Mark Metzler Sawin, director of the honors program at EMU.
During Honors Weekend last February, 56 students participated in the final interview process for the Yoder Scholarships. The group averaged 1285 on the SAT critical reading and math sections, 29.5 on the ACT, and had an average GPA of 4.1.
Outstanding academic achievement is a given for Yoder Scholars, but it doesn’t tell the whole story on the two selected for the honor this year.
Michaela Mast knows the sound of applause – on stage as young Cosette in “Les Miserables” and six years later as Maria in “The Sound of Music;” on the field after scoring the winning soccer goal in the state championship game; at the podium delivering the 2013 valedictory speech at Eastern Mennonite High School.
But it was the smile and hug of an impoverished gypsy girl that “snatched up part of my heart,” Mast wrote on her blog, and compelled her to return to Romania during the fall of 2013.
Mast first met Magda one afternoon during her high school choir’s 2012 trip to Europe. “As we were leaving, she started running toward me, arms outstretched. I scooped her up into the biggest hug. Magda taught me what joy is. I heard God in her laughter, saw God in her smile, and felt God in her hugs…” Michaela wrote in her journal.
With the support of her family and church, Park View Mennonite, Mast returned to that country 15 months later to volunteer for four months in several villages. She lived with a Romanian family, taught in a kindergarten, planned music activities and games for 50 children and, once again, hugged Magda.
As she looks back on her eight years at Eastern Mennonite School, music stands out.
“I grew up singing with my family and taking piano and violin lessons,” Mast says. “Music is rooted in who I am. I flourished within the music program at EMHS, participating in Touring Choir and Chamber Choir during my junior and senior years.”
In the academic paper she submitted with her Yoder Scholar application, she advocated a greater integration of the visual and musical arts into school curriculum, through use of the arts to teach other subjects.
She is excited about exploring her many interests during her four years at EMU, and is thinking about combining an elementary education major with an English as a Second Language minor. She has also considered a liberal arts major before studying music therapy in grad school.
“My dream job would include working closely with children, especially children who are struggling, whether that’s due to their surroundings or family or physical disability,” Mast continues. “It would allow me to share my love and live compassionately.”
Harrison Horst, the other 2014 Yoder Scholar, dreams of being a city planner in an underdeveloped country, where he’d use energy-efficient infrastructure to make the village or town as sustainable as possible.
In his last year at Hempfield High School (Lancaster, Pa.), Horst volunteered one afternoon a week at the local Boys and Girls Club, where he helped children create musical instruments from found materials. “Our goal is to teach [them] that music can be made everywhere from anything,” says Horst.
“A lot of the ideas for original, creative instruments came from Internet sources like Pinterest and YouTube. We use lots of buckets; we’re heavy on percussion,” he says.
Horst began making music at a young age, starting with saxophone lessons in the fourth grade. He’s played the sax in every band his school offers, from marching to orchestra to symphonic to jazz, and even organized a new saxophone quartet.
Horst ranked in the 99th percentile nationally on the critical reading and math sections of the SAT, and is a member of the chess team, quiz bowl team and National Honor Society. For his senior research paper he explored the themes of transcendentalism that run through the play “Death of a Salesman.”
When his busy schedule allows, Horst volunteers on Thursday nights at the local food bank and community center, serving hot meals and learning to know his less-fortunate neighbors. He is also the youth representative to the leadership board of Landisville Mennonite Church.
“I am so excited about the global perspective that runs though EMU. And when you align that with faith and cultural values, it’s where I want to be,” says Horst. He plans to major in environmental sustainability, with a possible music minor. “And I’d like to take as many courses as possible in peacebuilding and global service.”
Perhaps one word could describe something these two Yoder Scholars have in common: “meraki.” It’s an untranslatable Greek word that Mast chose for the title of her blog, meaning “the soul, creativity or love put into something; the essence of yourself that you put into your work.”