PINEDALE – Navigating the college admissions and financing maze is a daunting task. There are a few times when the right scholarship and student happen to meet to make the process easier.
Pinedale High School senior Shyla Orders was staying after school one evening, tutoring younger students in math. She happened to see a poster advertising the STARR Charitable Foundation’s all-inclusive, full-ride scholarship for students to attend Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Orders decided to submit an application. This April, she received word that she won the prestigious scholarship.
The STARR Scholarship is awarded to students from Wyoming and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Approximately 18 students from both locations receive the prestigious scholarship each year, according to the foundation’s website.
Orders recognized that living in a large urban center in southern Michigan is going to be a significant change from rural Wyoming.
“I thought it would be a nice change of pace as well as a learning experience,” she said.
A unique opportunity
The STARR Foundation looks at students as a whole person rather than simply numbers on a GPA scale or ACT test score.
“They wanted to be accessible to everyone, not just the kids who are super successful in grades or people who are always lettering in sports,” Orders said. “What they focused on was the quality of the person.”
The application process is difficult, requiring students to submit five essays on prompts ranging from the definition of leadership to learning experiences in life. The STARR Foundation’s goal is to find young people that will make an impact on the world, Orders explained.
Composing five essays may seem like a grueling task to many, but Orders was excited by the chance to exhibit her writing talents.
“I enjoy writing, which is also why I really liked the idea of the scholarship because writing is something I enjoy doing and it can help me in the future,” Orders said.
When she has spare time, Orders spends the time honing her writing skills. She is particularly interested in screenplays and often rewrites scripts for shows that she watches.
“Sometimes, I’ll look at something and think, ‘You know, that would be a cool idea if I changed this,’ and just make new worlds as I go,” Orders added.
Orders's name might be on the next big show or movie in the future.
“It would take a lot of work, but I think it would be really cool to maybe produce some of my own someday,” she said.
The application process also involves an interview with three officials representing the school and the STARR Foundation. Orders explained that her acting experience gave her a hand up.
“The interview was nerve-wracking to think that these important people are going to be watching my every breath and deciding if I’m good enough,” Orders said. “Being an actor helped. I think having practice talking around people and being able to prepare what I say for an audience really helped.”
Orders played Teddy Brewster in PHS’s “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Lena’s vocal coach in “Singin’ in the Rain” and the factory boss in “Radium Girls,” diverse roles that demonstrate Orders’ versatility.
“I had always been interested in movies and television and acting even as a kid, but when I first started acting, I learned to try and forget who I am and just start being the character. It’s almost like a barrier between myself and the people who I’m acting with and the people who I’m acting for – the audience. It helps with confidence," she said.
Orders is involved in choir, having participated since sixth grade. She is a member of PHS’s selective a capella group, Petrichoral.
At Michigan State, Orders plans to join the drama program and sing in choir. She also wants to give fencing a try.
“It’s not something people in Wyoming do,” she said. “It’ll be awesome.”
Orders plans to study physics, but is open to other possibilities at college.
“There are a lot of things in this world that we can do, and I’m not sure physics is the one I want to stick with.”
Careerwise, Orders is thinking about engineering, designing and maintaining buildings.
“Order, in general, and helping people to be structured – I like the sound of that.”
Orders thanked her parents and people wrote letters of recommendation for her application, including PHS faculty Gregory Allen and Christine Zakotnik.