For Jenice Duong and Sarah Thompson, realizing that they each had won $48,000 scholarships is still a little overwhelming.
Wichita State University announced Thursday that the two high school seniors had won the $48,000 Harry Gore Memorial Scholarship, the largest undergraduate scholarship in Kansas.
Each will receive $12,000 a year for four years to attend WSU.
"I don't know how I can express my thanks right now," said Duong, a senior in Wichita East High School's International Baccalaureate program. "I hope to give back as much as I have been given."
The Gore Scholarship has been awarded to two individuals annually at WSU since 1954. The scholarships recognize leadership and academic skills.
"None of us can define, but we can all recognize leadership," said WSU president Donald Beggs. "This scholarship is for their own growth and development. When you can attract a student like this to Wichita State, you know you have a great student."
The two women competed against 375 other competitors in the largest Distinguished Scholarship Invitational in WSU history. To be invited to the invitational, students who are seniors in high school must have a 24 or higher ACT score, and minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA.
Duong and Thompson have been competing for the scholarship since November.
The Distinguished Scholarship Invitational requires a submitted essay, letters of recommendation and several interviews.
After narrowing down the competitors to 25 semi-finalists, 10 students were selected and spent Wednesday completing their final interviews. At 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the judges selected Duong and Thompson as the winners.
"In this process (I) already feel comfortable here," said Thompson, a senior at Salina South High School. "I don't know how I got this far. I don't know how I'm here."
Both Duong and Thompson credited their success to their family and friends.
"I want to thank my parents for instilling in me the value of education," Thompson said. "They've supported me all the way through."
Duong and Thompson were both involved in activities in their high schools and both volunteered in their hometowns.
Duong, the daughter of Dieu and Jenny Pham, carries a 3.94 GPA and plans to major in computer science. Her activities at East include journalism, cheerleading, orchestra, yearbook and the French National Honor Society. She also tutored fellow students in her spare time. She volunteers with the Junior League of Wichita and the March of Dimes.
Thompson, the daughter of Kenny and Amy Thompson, is unsure of her major, but is considering psychology.
Her activities include student council, Junior Leadership Salina, orchestra, drama club, debate, swimming and golf. Volunteer activities include teaching vacation Bible school, serving as a camp counselor and helping the American Red Cross.
Duong said she cannot wait to start school at Wichita State.
"I can't express how excited I am," Duong said. "I'm glad to make this my home in the future."