The Community Foundation is pleased to announce two new recipients for this year’s John F. & Rose Marie Wismer Community Foundation Scholarship: Panayia Melistas and Claire Marquardt.
Thanks to the legacy and generosity of John and Rose Marie Wismer, Claire, Panayia and the other four returning Wismer recipients will receive scholarships this year ranging from $7,500 to $13,000. Created in 2003, the Wismer fund is the Foundation’s most prestigious scholarship with renewable awards that increase each year to support the area’s best and brightest students.
Panayia Melistas is a graduate of Memphis High School, where she participated in a variety of extracurricular activities. She was National Honor Society President, a league and district champ in competitive cheerleading, and section leader, drum major and National John Philip Sousa Award winner for the Yellowjackets’ marching band. She also participated in mock trial and was deeply involved in FIRST Robotics for eight years, helping her team win multiple awards. She will be attending University of Michigan in the fall as a biology major with plans to become a Physician’s Assistant and, hopefully, one day do commercial real estate as well.
The first-generation college student said that the extended support from the Wismer scholarship will make a world of difference for her.
“This scholarship means everything to me because without it I simply did not know how I was going to get through college,” Panayia said. “I come from a low-income family and going to a university for a bachelors was never an option for my siblings or my parents.”
Now, unlike many of her peers, Panayia will not have to worry about taking out loans this fall. “That alone made me cry with happiness,” she said. “This scholarship allows me to focus on my studies and not working multiple jobs trying to cover the cost.”
Port Huron Northern graduate Claire Marquardt is also thankful to have the financial burden lifted.
“When I first heard I was overjoyed and in shock because of the amount,” Claire said. “One of my main concerns for going to college was the financial standpoint…. it took away a lot of weight and worry for me.”
Claire is also headed to University of Michigan, attending the School of Music. The talented French horn player and homecoming queen was heavily involved in performing arts and received the MSBOA Scholar Instrumentalist Award for outstanding academic performance and musicianship. In addition to participating in the jazz band and solo and ensemble, she led the Huskies marching band as drum major. Claire also participated in PHN’s drama and choir programs and the Diversity Club. Her involvement and love for the arts made her a great candidate for the Community Foundation’s Blue Water Arts Committee, which she joined this year.
She hopes to one day play in a professional orchestra with the ultimate goal of playing for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra- a goal she can focus her energy on now, thanks to the financial support of the scholarship.
“It lessens the pressure….” Claire said. “I feel really honored to receive the award and now I’m more excited to go off to college instead of anxious.”
Claire and Panayia will be joining some other Wismer recipients at Michigan this fall. Also donning maize and blue will be Marisa May, Bryson DenUyl, and Carra Eagen.
Senior Carra (Port Huron Northern 2019) will continue her studies and working as a medical scribe. She plans on going to grad school, likely for genetic counseling, and hopes to work within a cancer center in the future.
Marisa (Marine City High School 2021) will be back for her sophomore year, studying engineering in pursuit of her goal of one day acquiring a position on a Formula One racing team to follow her dream of designing and building race cars. ”I am so excited for my second year of college… I plan to study abroad and join more student organizations,” said Marisa. “I am thankful that this scholarship has allowed me to focus on my studies, and participate in service opportunities outside of the classroom.”
Fellow engineering student, Bryson (Marysville High School 2020), will be a junior this fall still working toward his goal of one day completing his master’s degree in aerospace engineering. “The Wismer scholarship has allowed me to fulfill my goals and dreams at U of M,” Bryson said. “With the aid it provides me I need not worry about working during college, or penny pinching to make sure I can cover my costs for school… I can dedicate all of my time during the school year to classwork and club activities.”
Bryson used that time to join the U of M sailing club, sailing 420 and FJ dinghy boats, with practice up to three days a week and weekend long regattas both at U of M and other colleges across the US. “This club has given me a small community to be a part of within the massive halls of U of M,” he said. “I doubt I would be able to take part in this, and other activities, without the financial support that I have thanks to the Wismer scholarship.”
Rounding out the returning Wismer recipients is Deschalyn Riase, the lone Chip in the group. Deschalyn (Port Huron High School 2020) will be entering her junior year at Central Michigan, majoring in Sociology with a concentration in social and criminal justice.
The social justice champion has been very active while at Central, thanks to the support of the scholarship. “This scholarship has helped me afford attending Central Michigan University and all of the things I have been able to do there,” Deshalyn said. “With this scholarship and a few others, I didn’t need to have a job while in school, which allowed me to completely focus on my academics and extracurricular activities.”
Deshalyn focused on giving back and investing in her peers and community. She was inducted into the international Sociology Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Delta (AKD) and continued her volunteer leadership in Central’s IMPACT mentoring program and MAC Scholar Mentoring Experience. She also participated in RISE Michigan- helping to build student-led advocacy campaigns and programs that put higher education within reach for all, with a focus on eliminating tuition and fees, expanding financial aid, ending student hunger and homelessness, and getting out the vote.
“Receiving the John F. and Marie Rose Wismer scholarship for a third year, is a true blessing and honor that I do not take lightly,” Deschalyn said. “I am extremely grateful for the legacy they left behind and the impact it’s had on my life.”
Thanks to that legacy and the generosity of John and Rose Marie Wismer, these focused high-achievers will receive scholarships ranging from $7,500 to $13,000. Created in 2003, the Wismer Scholarship is a renewable scholarship with recipients receiving increasing awards each year, helping to support the area’s best and brightest students.
John and Rose Marie were active community members and philanthropists. John himself was a Wolverine, before having to drop out of Michigan because he couldn’t afford it. After going back to SC4 and working nights to put himself through college he went on to become a successful businessman and founder and owner of Wismer Broadcasting. He and his wife were passionate about giving back and investing in future generations through education.
Their generosity almost 20 years ago is making a significant impact today on the lives of these six worthy students. The financial support will help pave a path for the ambitious young leaders who are already well on their way to impacting countless lives themselves… a ripple effect the Wismers likely had in mind all along.