Five college students with high marks, high hopes and high ideals have been named winners of Harness Tracks of America's 2011 college scholarships. Each has harness racing family connections and each receives a $5,000 check toward their college education.
All the winners have worked with harness horses and in harness racing. The winners are:
Chad Calice, 24, Dublin, Ohio, son of Jerry Calice, a heavy equipment operator, and Bette Jean Calice, a harness racing owner and trainer. A straight-A graduate of The Ohio State University, Chad is a third-year veterinary student with an emphasis in equine sports medicine. He is a third-generation horseman who, along with his mother Bette Jean, currently has a stable of around ten horses that they race at Pompano Park during the winter and at the Poconos, Vernon, and Tioga Downs during the summer. With glowing references, he is the second winner of the HTA June Bergstein memorial scholarship for academic and social excellence.
Jessie Hennessey, 25, Haslett, Michigan, daughter of harness horse trainer Edward Hennessey and his wife Sandra, an accountant. A previous HTA Scholarship recipient and student at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, she has displayed exceptional academic excellence and won numerous honors for extra curricular activities. She is in the process of founding a volunteer campaign called "Let the Horses Eat," to generate funds for organizations that provide nutrition for horses whose owners can no longer afford to keep them fed.
Brandi O'Keefe, 19, Ferryland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, daughter of Standardbred horse owners Anne Marie and Kerry O'Keefe, who is also a fisherman. A recipient of an International Baccalaureate Diploma from Pearson College-- United World College of the Pacific -- where she was the only Newfoundlander accepted in 2009 -- she now plans to study Biomedical Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her passion for helping others led her to participate with the KULE Foundation projects in a remote Kenyan village, raising funds and visiting the village where she helped build a library, taught in classrooms and worked in orphanages.
Ariana Peluso, 24, White Lake, New York, daughter of Andrew Peluso, farm manager and trainer at Misty Acres Farm and his wife Michele, an administrative assistant. A previous HTA Scholarship recipient and in her final year at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, she hopes to specialize in equine sports medicine and ultimately focus on internal medicine or surgery. In addition to her strong academic record and extracurricular activities, last year she served as President for her school's Student Chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Nicholas Walski, 19, Transfer, Pennsylvania, son of harness horse trainer Daniel J. Walski and his wife Karen, a harness horse owner and groom. A freshman at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, where he hopes to major in accounting before seeking employment at a Standardbred racetrack, he has been grooming and handling race horses all of his life across the United States and Canada, claimingthat his "horse education is as well rounded as my scholastic education." A National Honor Society member with high-A averages in math, Nicholas has also participated in track and marching band while participating in volunteer work.
The winners were selected by HTA's Scholarship Committee, consisting of 10 HTA directors and racing industry executives from around the country, co-chaired by former HTA president Jeffrey Smith and David Snyder of International Sound Corporation.