Each year, Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) engages in a rigorous process to select recipients for the prestigious Yoder Scholarships. Established in 1993 and named for alumni Carol and Paul R. Yoder Jr., the scholarships cover full tuition and include admission into EMU’s Honors Program.
This year, the Yoder Scholarships were awarded to Silas Clymer of Collinsville, Mississippi, and Anisa Leonard of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Nairobi, Kenya. They were chosen from a field of 44 applicants who had an average SAT score of 1333, average ACT score of 30.7 and an average high school grade-point average of 4.17.
The scholars interview during Honors Weekend in February. Honors Program faculty conduct the interviews, evaluating academic performance, extracurricular activities, community involvement, creativity, leadership potential and other factors. Each applicant must prepare a portfolio and resume, write two short essays and submit two references.
The graduation rate for EMU honor students has been at 100 percent in recent years, with many completing more than one major. The students receive unique academic and co-curricular opportunities along with intensive mentoring from faculty.
Naming her home town isn’t easy, said Anisa Leonard. “As any Third Culture Kid will tell you, where I am from is a complicated question.”
Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Leonard was eight months old when she was adopted by Eastern Mennonite University alumni John and Glenda Kratz Leonard. The family moved to Harrisonburg when Anisa was five. She attended Waterman Elementary School and Eastern Mennonite School. Her family were members of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.
“Before seventh grade, we moved back to Kenya for my parents to work at Rosslyn Academy,” Leonard said. The academy is an international Christian school of 650 students from more than 50 nations. Leonard, a National Honor Society member, will graduate from Rosslyn in May.
Because she’s lived extensively in both Harrisonburg and Kenya, Leonard is not sure which location to call home. “Can you list both as my home town?”
She plans on majoring in social work with a minor in Spanish. She says she and her sister benefited from committed social workers in Virginia and at Kenya’s New Life Home, who helped in the long, complicated adoption process. Their work with her parents are why Anisa and “my sister are who we are today. I want to be able to make that change in someone else’s life.”
As a child living less than a mile from EMU, Leonard grew to love the campus, she said, attending sports camps, as well as EMU sporting events.
At Roslyn, she was captain for both varsity basketball and varsity soccer. Leonard was a camp soccer coach with young girls for Ambassador’s Soccer-Kenya. A member of St. Julian’s Church in Nairobi, she has also volunteered as a Sunday School teacher for pre-school children at International Christian Fellowship-Nairobi and at New Life Home, the orphanage that “literally saved my life when I was a really small and sick baby,” Leonard said “This is the orphanage both myself, and my sister were adopted from. I absolutely love spending time with kids.”
Being awarded the Yoder Scholarship is a “huge honor,” said Silas Clymer. “I still can’t quite believe it.”
Clymer, of Collinsville, Mississippi, attends Meridian High School . He is the son of EMU alumni Michael and Melody Good Clymer.
“I had a connection to [EMU] early on and saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the Mennonite faith and its applications across the globe,” said Clymer, who is a member of Jubilee Mennonite Church Youth Group. “I’ve always been particularly interested in the cross-cultural program and the idea of gaining new perspectives of the world.”
After visiting EMU, Clymer realized he was interested in a liberal arts education, he said. “EMU has given me the sense of a community that rewards and encourages curiosity in all sorts of areas, and that is the sort of place I decided I’d like to be.”
Clymer plans on studying engineering and may add a minor or double-major in music.
“I find [music] theory fascinating and would love to get into composition,” said Clymer, who played alto and tenor saxophone as a section leader for the MHS marching, concert, jazz and pit bands. Currently, he is a bass guitarist and leader of his church’s Youth Band. “I also like the idea of exploring ways that these different fields connect, such as physics and sound in acoustics.”
Last summer, Clymer attended Mississippi Governor’s School. He was a National Merit Scholar and earned recognition for the highest ACT score at MHS. A member of the National Honor Society, Clymer is captain of the MHS Academic (Quizbowl) team, which won the state championship tournament this year. In addition, Clymer ran cross country and played soccer.
Clymer has volunteered as a member of the Meridian Community Band and the Community Jazz Band. He also participated in the Community of Hope program, which involved 100 hours of community service, and was a Leader in Training at Pine Lake Fellowship Camp in 2015.
While at EMU he wants to focus on learning about different careers, his strengths and weaknesses. He’s open to pursuing “meaningful” studies in a wide range of fields, “from the aerospace industry to computer programming to medical research and more,” Clymer said. “And I think it would be awesome to find a way to apply music to any of those areas as well.”
Editor’s note: John Leonard earned undergrad degrees in business and English education in 1992 and 1993; Glenda Glenda Kratz Leonard earned an undergraduate degree in elementary education in 1992 and an MA as a reading specialist in 2008.
Michael Clymer earned a BS in math education in 1989 and an MA in conflict transformation in 1999; Melody Good Clymer earned her BS in elementary education in 1989.