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Williams Award Jefferson Scholarship

Gracie Williams, a senior at Union Academy Charter School, has been awarded one of the most highly selective merit scholarships in the nation. The Jefferson Scholars Foundation at the University of Virginia selected Gracie as one of 38 recipients of the Jefferson Scholarship. She will commence her studies in the fall at UVA.

Gracie stated, “The University of Virginia offers all the qualities I prioritized during my college search. From its academic rigor as one of the top public universities in the nation to the history and beauty of the Grounds, I could not be more excited to spend the next four years of my life there. Additionally, I was looking for a college where I could continue to grow in the areas of challenge, character, and community that I have come to value while at UA. UVA prioritizes these values, as there is an emphasis placed on community service and a plethora of opportunities to become involved in the Charlottesville area.”

In order to be named a Scholar, candidates must undergo a rigorous, highly competitive, multi-stage selection process. First, they are nominated by their high schools or affiliated organizations based on their demonstrated excellence and exceptional potential in the areas of leadership, scholarship, and citizenship. Once nominated, the students go through at least one round of regional interviews. If selected as a regional finalist, students are then invited to participate in a final round of interviews. This year, over 2,300 students were nominated for the Scholarship, and 150 finalists were invited to take part in remote interviews conducted by UVA alumni and faculty.

Gracie said, “The process of getting the Jefferson was one of the most challenging things I have had to do, but also the most exciting and rewarding. It was full of many ups and downs, hours of preparation, and stress, but in the end, I am immensely grateful for what it has taught me. I had to reflect on my values and goals in preparation for my interviews, and I have grown a lot as a person because of it.”

The 38 selected recipients of the 2023 Jefferson Scholarship boast a number of significant achievements and Gracie is no exception. During her time at Union Academy Charter School, Gracie has been a member of the varsity swim, cross county, and track teams; member of the National Honor Society, Senior Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Science National Honor Society, and Tri-M Music Honor Society; member of FFA/4-H and placed 1st individually and as a team at the NC State 4-H Skillathon Competition; member of the UA band, LINK crew, and student council.

“The Jefferson Scholarship is designed to enhance my experiences at UVA as a leader, scholar, and citizen. It will provide me with numerous enrichment experiences, including fully funded study abroad, an exploratory fund that I can use as seed funding for a project of my choice, and, importantly, the ability to graduate college debt-free. Additionally, the alumni network I will have access to for the rest of my life will build connections and provide opportunities that will benefit me in my future career,” explained Gracie.

Gracie will join a cohort of 158 Scholars currently funded by the Foundation at UVA, as well as a community of more than 933 Scholar alumni. In addition to receiving the full cost of attending the University for four years, Jefferson Scholars benefit from a number of enrichment programs sponsored by the Foundation, including travel abroad, career networking activities, and a leadership speaker series.  

“I am still in disbelief at this extraordinary opportunity I have been given. I could not have gotten here alone, and my friends, family, and God have been by my side throughout this long and arduous process. I will also be eternally grateful to the staff at UA who provided support and guidance to me during the application and interview process, specifically Mrs. Devine, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Faulkner, Mrs. Mendoza, Mrs. Tohill, and Mr. Alexander,” said Gracie.