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WHS freshman Grace Wirka was notified May 5 of her acceptance into the 2017 Holland Academy of Excellence, a competitive STEM program sponsored by the Peter Kiewit Institute. This year's Institute will be held June 11-14 on the UNO campus.

Grace Wirka selected for 2017 Holland Academy of Excellence

WHS freshman chosen among hundreds across NE/IA for presitigous STEM program sponsored by Peter Kiewit Institute & UNO

Traditionally there has been a noted gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) studies, with more men earning college degrees in these fields than women.

WHS freshman Grace Wirka is doing her part to change that.

On Monday, Wirka was informed that she has been accepted into the Peter Kiewit Institute’s (PKI) 2017 Holland Academy of Excellence, which will take place June 11-14 on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

As described from the Institute’s website: “This unique program was established as an initiative to actively engage high school students who excel in math and science, and who have an interest in engineering and technology.”

This three-day experience will allow students to apply engineering and technology concepts by attending workshops, housed in UNO’s state-of-the-art labs, and facilitated by UNO faculty. Topics covered will range from bridge construction, to water resources and soil contamination, to visual animation.

“Attendees find themselves immersed in an exciting environment centered on creative innovation, teamwork, and witty animation,” the website stated.

Students will stay in the UNO residence halls during the academy. All expenses, including meals and extracurricular activities, are covered by the Holland Foundation.

According to Leah Ellis, scholarship and development program leader at the Peter Kiewit Institute, hundreds of applications were submitted by high school students (grades 9-12) across Nebraska and Iowa, but only 40 are selected to participate, based upon academic achievement, as well as extracurricular involvement in the community, and leadership experience.

Wirka is one of them!

The Holland Academy of Excellence is entering its 18th year, and has a reputation for producing the University’s future top-notch STEM students.

Ellis commented that 30 percent of the Academy’s attendees go on to enroll at UNO as Walter Scott, Jr. Scholars. This is the most prestigious scholarship extended by the PKI and the University of Nebraska, providing four years of full funding for undergraduate programs based within the PKI and taught by the College of Engineering or College of Information Science and Technology.

"Grace is a leader and a student who loves to learn," commented WHS School Counselor John Harris. "The PKI Summer Academy will allow her to do both! I'm excited to see her successfully chasing her passions."

For more information on the PKI’s Holland Academy of Excellence, click HERE.

Congratulations Grace on this very impressive accomplishment!

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Grace Wirka selected for 2017 Holland Academy of Excellence

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