Local Vax 2 School $10K winners ‘speechless’ and grinning ear to ear

What is Ohio's Vax-2-School program?

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What is Ohio's Vax-2-School program?

Several local middle school, high school and college students were among the 150 winners announced this week for $10,000 scholarships from Ohio’s Vax-2-School lottery.

The last 30 winners of the $10,000 scholarships were announced Friday afternoon, and the grand prize winners of $100,000 scholarships named that evening.

ExploreFinal $10k Vax-2-School winners to be named today, grand prize winners tonight

Alena McCain, a Wright State University graduate student majoring in computer science, was announced as a $10,000 winner on Monday. McCain, of West Chester Twp. in Butler County, was vaccinated in April.

“I was honestly speechless,” McCain said after learning that she had won. “All I kept saying was this is crazy. I thought it was a scam at first because I never thought I would actually win.”

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Alena McCain, Kellen Miller, Jonathan Lewis, and Stephen Berent are four local students who received $10,000 as part of Ohio's Vax 2 School program. CONTRIBUTED

Alena McCain, Kellen Miller, Jonathan Lewis, and Stephen Berent are four local students who received $10,000 as part of Ohio's Vax 2 School program. CONTRIBUTED

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Alena McCain, Kellen Miller, Jonathan Lewis, and Stephen Berent are four local students who received $10,000 as part of Ohio's Vax 2 School program. CONTRIBUTED

Jamestown resident Mitchell Link, also a Wright State grad student, was announced as a winner on the same day. Link is a first-year master’s student researching wetland soils for bulk density and microplastic concentrations, according to his university bio.

Jonathan Lewis, a junior at Troy High School, attends the landscaping program at Upper Valley Career Center. His mother, Kendall Ferrill, was also was initially skeptical when she heard the news, until she got a phone call from the superintendent.

Once she was able to verify his winnings, her son was grinning from ear to ear, she said.

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“He’s still trying to take it all in,” she said Wednesday. “His future has shifted to more opportunities. We’ll take it one day at a time, talk to his guidance counselor and see what he wants to pursue.”

A second Troy High School student, sophomore Kellen Miller, was among the winners on Thursday. His mother, Liz Miller, said the money will be put to good use.

“He does plan on continuing his education after high school,” Liz said. “He wants to go to college and study physical therapy.”

Miller’s family chose to get vaccinated to maintain in-person learning, and to keep Kellen playing football and basketball for the Trojans.

“We wanted to keep him in the classroom and we wanted to keep him playing sports,” Miller said.

Ferrill made the decision for her son to get vaccinated long before the Vax 2 School program was announced, but figured the scholarship money was “worth a shot.” No pun intended.

“I had no worries or qualms about it,” she said. “The deciding factor was to protect him and protect others around him, and to return to in-person learning.”

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Stephen Berent, an eighth-grader at St. Brigid School in Xenia, is among the youngest winners, and has plans to attend Carroll High School before attending college. Though he still has plenty of time to decide about college, he wants to go to school to be an engineer, his father Mark Berent said.

Asked about Vax 2 School as a concept, Berent thought it was a good idea.

“It makes people think about it,” he said. “And for people who weren’t too sure about it, I see it as an impetus, like ‘sure why not.’ ” It’s nice to have a tangible benefit, I do think it helps.”

Through Ohio Vax-2-School, the Ohio Department of Health awards 150 scholarships worth $10,000 each and five $100,000 scholarships to Ohioans between 12 and 25 years old who have received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The money is put into an Ohio 529 plan in the student’s name, and can be used for qualified tuition expenses at colleges, universities, or technical schools, and can also be used to pay off student debt.

The full list of scholarship winners can be found at ohiovaxamillion.com.

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