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Student Spotlights

Lauren Sylvester ’24
Ollie, IA

Upon graduating from Pekin High School, Lauren Sylvester chose to attend William Penn University to pursue her Nursing Degree. With a rich history of healthcare workers in her family, many of whom have served as role models, she has known for a long time that she wanted to be a Nurse. She liked WPU’s small class sizes, the strength of the Nursing program, and the proximity to home.

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Kemeron Cooper ’24
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Major: Nursing
Minor: Business Management

Upon arriving on campus from his hometown of Seattle, Washington, Kemeron felt welcomed by staff and the campus community. He is a member of the William Penn University football team and a Nursing major. This requires commitment and hard work, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He is active on campus, serving as President of the Student Nursing Organization, Vice President of the Black Leadership Initiative, and an RA at Market dormitory. “I believe it’s important to put in the time and effort to become successful.”

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Collin Baliva ’24
St. Louis, MO
Industrial Technology

Collin Baliva was recently able to combine his experience as a Lacrosse player and Industrial Technology major for a project that directly benefitted students and athletes. Collin was part of the INDU 218 class that created 50 custom lockers for an update to the Lacrosse locker room. As a captain of the team, he was able to recruit fellow teammates to help in various aspects of the project. “It was important to me that the team helped and did not just stand by while others put in countless hours on something that was a benefit to the Lacrosse program.”

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Carla La Rosa Valdes
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Major: Business Management

Carla La Rosa Valdes’ story began in Cuba where she spent her childhood. Her journey then took her to Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 13. She attended the College of Southern Nevada where she played softball and received an Associate of Arts degree. As she searched for a college to complete her bachelor’s degree, William Penn University’s small class sizes and helpful faculty and staff appealed to her. Carla came on a softball scholarship and is graduating this spring with a major in Business Management.

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Mackenzie Roberts ‘ 22
Agency, IA
History & Political Science

Mackenzie Roberts has just completed her bachelor’s degree at William Penn University, but her education will continue at Drake Law School in the fall. A Political Science and History double major from Agency, Iowa, Mackenzie has been awarded the prestigious Dean’s Scholarship at Drake. She credits her professors for guiding her path at WPU and encouraging her to discover a passion for history and social justice. “Dr. Brooke Sherrard especially has made an incredible impact on me as a student and as an individual. She shared with me her love of history and created a safe space for me to grow.”

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Louis Debarge ’25
Évian-les-Bains, France
Major: Applied Mathematics

Coming from a resort town on the shores of Lake Geneva, Louis Debarge was looking for a small University to attend in America. “I picked the smallest school on the list, it was William Penn University,” says Debarge. Louis is completing his freshman year at WPU and is very happy with his choice. His intention for attending college in America was to better learn English. He came to Oskaloosa with basic English skills, he knew a smaller school would allow more interaction with professors and students.

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Alex Perreira ’22
Major: Digital Communications
Hometown: San Leandro, CA

Alex is proud of his Latino heritage and Hawaiian roots. He came to William Penn University via a junior college in Hayward, California to continue his baseball career. However, he ended up meeting a variety of students, not only through athletics, but through haircuts. Alex began cutting hair for a few friends as a favor and to make some extra money. But it quickly grew into a way for him to meet new people and gain an appreciation for networking.

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Lexy Underwood ’23
Escalon, CA
Major: Elementary Education

Like many students at William Penn University, sports drew Lexy to Oskaloosa. An Infielder for the Softball team, she has balanced the role of student-athlete as an active Elementary Education major. She is serving as President of the Education Club this year. “It is a close-knit group in the Education Division. I have met a lot of great people and we have experienced so much together.”
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Audrey Uwimana ’21
Major: Creative Fine Arts ’21 | Master of Business Leadership
Hometown: Rwanda

From a very young age, Audrey Uwimana knew she wanted to attend school in the United States. This was a bold dream for the a third-grade girl in Rwanda, but she never wavered in making this goal a reality. The opportunity was made available for Audrey to enroll as a student at William Penn University through a relationship that began in 2008 in which WPU partners with the Rwandan Ministry of Education to send students to the University.

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Gabi Evans ’24
Majors: Psychology and Sociology 
Hometown: West Liberty, Iowa

While busy with her academic studies and being an athlete at William Penn University, Gabi Evans ’24 added one more project to her plate: a book drive to support the local YMCA.

Gabi is a Psychology and Sociology major, as well as a member of the William Penn University Bowling Team. She also finds time to work in the child care room at the Mahaska County YMCA. When her Quaker Values class asked students to participate in a service project, Gabi immediately thought of the children she works with at the YMCA. Keep Reading.

Jaylin Carter ’20
Major: Public Relations
Hometown: Ottumwa, Iowa

From the beginning, Jaylin Carter ‘20 knew the importance of getting the full #WPexperience.

Jaylin came to William Penn with a goal in mind: to gain real-world experience in the communications field. After researching William Penn’s Communication Research Institute (CRI), Jaylin knew it was the perfect fit to grow professionally.

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Rory Johnson ’23
Majors: Biology & Psychology
Hometown: New Zealand

Being over 8,000 miles from home isn’t easy but Rory Johnson is proving it’s worth it. Rory is a driven international student from New Zealand who has inserted himself into a variety of on-campus leadership roles. As a member of the Soccer team, a tutor, an RA and an active member of the World Club, Rory is taking advantage of every opportunity. Keep Reading.

Jose Chavez ’24
Major: Undecided
Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

On November 8, colleges and universities celebrate the success of our First-Generation College Students. November 8 was selected as the date for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. HEA provided federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, and ushered in programs to help with the transition and retention of first-generation college students.

Meet Jose Chavez, a freshman and first-generation college student at William Penn.

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Jacob Taylor ’20
Major: Management of Industrial Technology
Hometown: Eddyville, Iowa

Jacob Taylor is proof you don’t need to go far from home to get the full college experience.

With only living a few miles outside of Oskaloosa, Jacob quickly immersed himself in the many activities William Penn offers. From the opportunity to play golf and be part of a team, to his active involvement with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and Campus Ministries, Jacob has relished every experience.

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Sydney Katko ’21

Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Oskaloosa, Iowa

Through William Penn’s Education Division, Sydney Katko is making her dream of becoming a teacher a reality.

“I have always wanted to be a teacher,” says Sydney, who joined the Education Club her first year on campus. “I joined Education Club because I wanted to meet and talk to people that were going through the same classes and experiences that I was going through.”

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