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Capital Award

New alumni-funded scholarship helps students pursue their dreams in pricey Washington, D.C.


As the epicenter of the political world, Washington, D.C., has culture and beauty and many educational and professional opportunities. It is a town rich in many things. College students, however, are often not, at least in the monetary sense. And while it is worth the price of admission, our nation’s capital is very expensive. Two Ohio Northern University criminal justice majors, LeAnne Clark and Haley Wershbale, didn’t let that stop them from pursuing their dreams of a summer internship among the cherry blossoms. They didn’t need to.

Thanks to the generosity of ONU alumni Cheryl McCain Mason, BA ’86, ACIT ’10, and Brett Mason, BSEE ’86, ONU students who are accepted into internship programs in the Washington, D.C., area no longer need to worry about how they are going to survive while there. The Capital Leadership Award they created assists students in the colleges of Arts & Sciences and Engineering with a $1,000 scholarship to help with accrued expenses during internship and co-operative experiences.

Clark and Wershbale are the first recipients of The Capital Leadership Award, and both held internships facilitated by The Washington Center. Clark interned at the Metropolitan Police Department in the Forensic Science Service Division for 12 weeks, where she completed more than 300 hours with Metro PD. Wershbale also accepted her placement with Metro PD, working in the Human Resources Division at central command.

“One of the reasons I chose ONU was because of the good relationship the school has with The Washington Center,” says Wershbale. “I wanted to go to D.C. for my internship because I love the city, and I knew I wanted to intern at the Metropolitan Police Department.

Clark hopes to use her daily experience working with crime scene technicians to further her graduate studies in forensic psychology.

From left: ONU students LeAnn Clark, Lisa Bradley and Haley Wershbale
take in the sights during time off from their summer internships in
Washington D.C. last summer.

“My internship gave me experience that I can use in the future. If I have to analyze crime scene photos, I’ll know what to look for because I got to see the real thing,” says Clark.

Over the course of her internship, Clark and other ONU students with The Washington Center joined the Masons at their home for an ONU alumni picnic, where the students networked with ONU alumni in D.C. and northern Virginia. The ONU alumni network is prominent all over the U.S. but is growing particularly fast in the greater D.C. area, jokingly known as “Potomac Fever” according to Dr. Rob Alexander, chair of the Department of History, Politics and Justice, and liaison to The Washington Center.

While her time in D.C. was rewarding, Clark encountered the high cost of living as an ever-present factor of her daily life in the capital. Her biggest expense? Transportation. With a daily commute to work and without a personal car, public transportation fees added up quickly over the 12-week period.

“Sometimes, I had to take cab rides to my place of work, which would be $15-$20 a day,” she says.

It’s certainly understandable that many students would be unable to have an internship in D.C. — and thereby miss out on potential opportunities — without financial support.

“I think I knew that I was going to need more money than I had budgeted out, but when you get down there, it’s a shock. Because you know it’s going to be expensive; you’re in a city. Food is not that cheap, and transportation is all on your own,” says Clark.

As their time at Northern winds down, the experiences and opportunities that Wershbale and Clark received during their respective internships in Washington, D.C., cannot be understated as driving factors in their futures.

Wershbale is currently applying to become a police officer with the very police department she interned with, the Metro P.D.

"Without my internship opportunity and the financial assistance I received from the Capital Leadership Award, I would not have gotten all the valuable information and connections that helped shape my decision to apply to MPD,” she says.

As for Clark, her internship taught her much about her chose field of forensic psychology, but it also taught her about the power and importance of giving back.

“Knowing that ONU alums gave me this opportunity, it definitely makes me want to give back once I get established. Just to have that real relationship with alumni is great because when you enter college, you always hear about how alumni provide financial support or will help you network,” she says. “But it’s not until you are actually touched by them, that you actually see it in person, do you realize that ONU’s alumni relationship with the students is actually stronger than what you thought it was.

“Our alumni are pretty awesome.”

—Steve Saunier
Senior, history major
Centerburg, Ohio