Cheers and applause, along with a few tears of joy, filled the Buffalo High School gymnasium when the announcement was made Friday. Courtney Luikart was chosen the winner of the Citizens Bank of West Virginia Emerging Leaders Scholarship to Davis & Elkins College – a full, four-year scholarship that includes tuition, room and board valued at approximately $160,000.

Luikart is the second recipient of the scholarship. While the announcement of Luikart’s selection was a surprise to her, that wasn’t the case for her parents, Dale and Tanya Luikart, Putnam County Superintendent of Schools John G. Hudson and Buffalo High School Principal Shawn Wheeler who all played a part in secretly bringing the ceremony together. It was more than a private in-school event. Representative from Davis & Elkins College and Citizens Bank of West Virginia led the ceremony and a crew from WDTV captured it all on film.

“Our counselor posted the scholarship not very long ago and at first I didn’t know if I was going to apply,” Luikart said. “Then I visited and realized I loved Davis & Elkins. I was surprised to get through the first round, and then I felt like the interview went well, but I knew there were a lot of applicants, so I feel very blessed to be in this position right now.”

This is the second year D&E, Citizens Bank and WDTV partnered to offer the unique scholarship to West Virginia high school seniors who exemplify leadership and motivation. Top candidates were interviewed by a panel of D&E administration, staff and students.

“Preparing tomorrow’s leaders and keeping them in West Virginia is the purpose of the Citizen’s Bank of West Virginia Emerging Leaders Scholarship at Davis & Elkins College,” said D&E President Chris A. Wood. “Courtney Luikart is an outstanding young leader and scholar who is going to excel at D&E. I am grateful to Citizen’s Bank of West Virginia and WDTV for their partnership to make this transformative experience for Courtney a reality.”

Also for the second year, the panel was so impressed with the high caliber of applicants the scholarship opportunity attracts, administrators decided to offer additional scholarships of varying values to students who scored in the top tier.

“The young people we interviewed made it clear that they are proud to be West Virginians and motivated to do all they can to make our state the best it can be,” said D&E Executive Vice President Dr. Rosemary Thomas, who served on the panel. “Their essay responses were inspiring and encouraging on so many levels. D&E wants to make an even more significant investment in this group of emerging leaders.”

A true leader at Buffalo High School, Luikart is senior class president, president of the school’s FFA chapter, captain of the Bison girl’s swim team and a member of the National Honor Society. She has earned multiple honors through participation in FFA including two consecutive silver national rankings.

Outside of school, Luikart is a six-year member of Bee Ridge Bears 4-H Club. She also volunteers in her church and community with the Great Kanawha River Cleanup, Putnam County Fair Cleanup Committee, Wreaths Across America and Five Loaves Two Fish Food Pantry.

“We are extremely proud to continue the sponsorship of the Citizens Bank of West Virginia Emerging Leaders Scholarship and invest in a deserving, hard-working student and future leader of our state,” said Nathaniel S. Bonnell, president & CEO of Citizens Bank. “We know this partnership with Davis & Elkins College and WDTV will allow Courtney to enhance her college experience by devoting more time to her studies and career pathway. On behalf of our entire team at Citizens Bank, we congratulate recipient Courtney Luikart and are confident that we will see great things from her on campus and in our community.”

Bonnell knows first-hand how Davis & Elkins College shapes a student’s future. A 2003 alumnus, he is also a member of the College’s Board of Trustees.

At D&E, Luikart plans to major in exercise science and aspires for a career as an occupational therapist.

As part of the competition, students were required to write an essay based on the topic, “If you receive this scholarship, how will you pay it forward to the state of West Virginia?”

Luikart expressed her love for the Mountain State and its people, their values and hospitality. Since it is the place she never wants to leave, she said she has always planned to pay it forward to West Virginia.

“While my career in occupational therapy will in a sense ‘pay it forward’ by helping others, the way I really want to achieve this is through continuing community service,” Luikart wrote. “My parents have always instilled in me the importance of giving back.”

In quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Luikart wrote, “’Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.’ In my personal experience, serving others is more valuable than anything tangible. It brings joy to not only those receiving, but also those giving. In a state where many are leaving because of a ‘lack of opportunity,’ serving others is a great way to show them the great community environment the state has to offer.”

Luikart will graduate high school in spring 2023 and enter D&E in the fall.

“Davis & Elkins College seems like the perfect place for me to grow in my academics, extracurriculars, and as an individual,” Luikart wrote. “I know that the environment will allow me to develop the skills I will need for my future career, as well as life in general. Already in my experience with this College, I have grown to love the atmosphere brought by each of the faculty and students. I look forward to furthering my education at Davis & Elkins College.”

Emerging Leaders Winner 2022

In a surprise announcement at Buffalo High School, Courtney Luikart was named the winner of the 2022 Citizens Bank of West Virginia Emerging Leaders Scholarship to Davis & Elkins College. Participating in the ceremony are, from left, President & CEO of Citizens Bank Nathaniel S. Bonnell, Luikart’s parents Tanya and Dale Luikart, Courtney Luikart, D&E President Chris A. Wood, Emerging Leaders inaugural winner Sidney Megna, D&E Executive Vice President Dr. Rosemary Thomas and D&E Branding & Marketing Coordinator Ryann Moore.