Hard work pays off for ESHS senior

Thursday, May 5, 2022
Eureka Springs High School senior Mackenzie Loudermilk was recently awarded the prestigious Hagan Scholarship.
Submitted photo

Mackenzie Loudermilk didn’t have much luck finding a prom dress during a shopping trip to Branson with her mom on March 22.

“Didn’t find one that day,” the Eureka Springs High School senior said.

She certainly didn’t mind. Especially after receiving some big news on the drive home that quickly overshadowed any concerns about a dress.

“We were riding back home, and I was looking through my email, trying to find an email from a dress designer,” she said.

That’s when Loudermilk spotted an email in her inbox with the words “Hagan Scholarship.” It was the email she had been waiting months to receive.

“When I saw the email, I screamed,” Loudermilk said. “My mom was driving, and she panicked and was going to pull off the road.”

Instead, Loudermilk read the email and told her mom the good news: She had been awarded the prestigious Hagan Scholarship.

“When she heard why I screamed, it was a relief for sure,” she said.

The Hagan Scholarship, given through the University Talent Search Program, awards a student up to $68,000 over four years, including a $48,000 base scholarship. The scholarship targets small rural high schools across the nation, located in cities with fewer than 25,000 residents.

“I’m part of a group called the Arkansas Talent Search Association through the University of Arkansas, and we were encouraged to fill out and apply for the Hagan Scholarship,” Loudermilk said. “We were told it’s the hardest scholarship to fill out but to make sure we [apply for it] because it can do wonders.”

Loudermilk, 18, is one of four students who participated in the University Talent Search Program to receive the Hagan Scholarship this year, said Evelyn Fuller, director of the talent search programs with the University of Arkansas.

“We push [the Hagan Scholarship] because if students are eligible, it’s a win-win for them if they have the persistence to get through it, as Mackenzie did,” Fuller said in an announcement about Loudermilk’s honor. “They are very strict in their regulations, and it is a long process, but it is so worth it if students get this scholarship. That’s what I told Mackenzie — if you want to put some time and effort into a scholarship and you meet the eligibility requirements, this is the one for you to do. It is such an amazing scholarship.

“She worked so hard and I’m so proud of her.”

Loudermilk is only the second Eureka Springs student to receive the honor, which requires that a student have at least a 3.50 GPA, be in top 20 percent of their class, enroll at a four-year eligible college or university, graduate in four years or less and work a certain number of hours. The first Eureka Springs High School student to receive the Hagan honor was Keegan Wilbur in 2013.

“It’s such a dream to get this scholarship,” Loudermilk said.

Fuller said Loudermilk was looking forward to all aspects of the requirements of the scholarship, including periodic workshops over her college career that will be held in Columbia, Mo.

“The Hagan Scholarship is a nationwide need-based merit scholarship designed to help high achieving students graduate college debt-free,” Fuller said. “The scholarship also provides recipients with a practical understanding of important life skills not typically covered in the school curriculum via free workshops, Schwab brokerage accounts and study abroad. Hagan Scholars currently attend colleges and universities located in 47 states.”

The application process was a long and challenging one, Loudermilk said.

“We started the process back in October,” she said. “The worst part about it is everything had to be turned in as a PDF, in a very specific way. That was challenging because the computer we have at home is really old and we didn’t have Adobe.

“So, we had to figure out how we were going to do it.”

That’s when a former employer, Paul Komarek, who Loudermilk previously worked with at Forest Hill Restaurant in Eureka Springs, stepped in and assisted.

“I couldn’t have submitted an essential part of the scholarship application without him,” Loudermilk said. “He helped me compress down the file sizes so that I could submit them, because our old computer couldn’t do it even with the software we bought.”

Despite the technical issues, Loudermilk was able to get everything – specifically a series of essays – submitted on time but didn’t learn until February that she was part of the applicant pool being considered.

“It was months and months of waiting,” she said.

With the scholarship, Loudermilk could go to most any college, but she decided to attend the University of Arkansas and enroll in the Walton College of Business with a focus in business economics. She picked UA over the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Loudermilk works part time at Walmart in Berryville and plans to work at the store full time over the summer. With an interest in finance, she hopes the Walton College of Business will prepare her for what she could see as a future working at the Walmart home office.

“I was recently recognized by one of my managers at Walmart,” she said. “He told me I have a chance with Walmart if I wanted it, so I decided to go to UA, and the Walton College of Business, especially seeing how well those students do that go there.”

In addition to her high-level academic results, Loudermilk is part of the Eureka Springs High School Future Business Leaders of America, has been a student council member and is vice president of the senior class.

She played basketball and is a member of the school’s track team where she participates in the 300-meter hurdles, 100-meter hurdles and 100-meter dash.

Loudermilk, the daughter of James and Shelley Loudermilk of Eureka Springs, did end up finding the perfect prom dress.

“I didn’t find one the day we went to Branson,” she said. “I ended up finding one the following week.”

And the price tag of that dress – while at that point no longer an issue – couldn’t have been better, her mom said.

“I remember Mackenzie set out on [the day of the Branson shopping trip] hoping to find something very inexpensive, since she knew she needed to save every penny possible for college,” Shelley Loudermilk said of the initial dress-shopping day. “Even after learning she was being awarded the Hagan Scholarship and knowing that student loans were no longer an issue, she still bought a dress for $49 and felt and looked like a million bucks at her senior prom.”

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