Freedom High School senior Julianna Lepardo and her mom, Jannine Lepardo, celebrate her scholarship to East Stroudsburg University.
Freedom High School senior Julianna Lepardo’s transcript lists an impressive array of top grades in challenging science and math classes.
But the deeper she got into her studies, the more her inner voice kept telling her to return to her childhood dream of teaching elementary education. She eventually confessed her doubts about pursuing a career in the sciences to her mother Jannine Lepardo, who urged her to follow her heart.
“I just knew, I am not going to be happy (in the sciences),” Julianna, 18, of Bethlehem, said. “Teaching. That’s my dream.”
With her career path set, East Stroudsburg University quickly rose to the top of Julianna’s college list. So Julianna applied for the Bethlehem Area School District’s superintendent’s scholarship, which annually offers two district students with grade point averages of 3.7 or better a free ride to East Stroudsburg. She was not optimistic she’d win.
Yet, on Monday afternoon, Julianna and her mom found themselves celebrating her full scholarship with staff from Freedom and the district’s education center.
“It’s incredible,” Julianna said, a wide grin on her face. “It relieves so much stress. ... I can’t even believe it. I can’t even express how excited I am or how grateful.”
Superintendent Joseph Roy said Julianna’s 4.3 grade point average, her enthusiasm and impressive academic achievements all helped her quickly rise to the top of the field.
The district looks for students who have taken advantage of all that the Bethlehem Area School District offers, and who can bring something special to ESU’s campus, Roy explained. Julianna’s taken Advanced Placement and Project Lead the Way classes, pursued dual-enrollment credits at a local college and is also doing a co-op this year, Roy noted.
“You’ve excelled,” Roy said.
Julianna’s hard work represents just what Freedom is all about, said Laurie Sage, school principal. And now she will get to graduate college without any debt, ready to tackle any opportunity the world presents her, she said.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Sage said.
But undoubtedly the proudest person in the room Monday was Julianna’s mom, who emphasized how hard her daughter worked to achieve her grades. The work didn’t always come naturally for her, Lepardo noted.
“We’ve been through some struggles the past few years in our home life so this means a lot to me,” she said of the scholarship and recognition of her daughter.
The superintendent joked that his human resources staff better be ready to hire Julianna when she graduates with a teaching degree in four years.
A Liberty High School student who was offered the scholarship declined.
Story by Lehigh Valley Live