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Pahrump teen awarded $100K scholarship after losing mother in 2019

Kelsi Jackson fought back nerves as she walked with her grandmother into the conference room at Pahrump Valley High School as the 18-year-old senior was mentally preparing to be interviewed to win a $100,000 scholarship late last month.

That’s when John Mowbray, trustee for the Charles and Phyllis M. Frias Charitable Trust, which created and funds the scholarship, told Jackson and her grandmother that he wasn’t there to ask her any more questions.

Jackson’s grandmother, Mary Ann Ratay, started to wipe away tears as representatives from the Public Education Foundation commended Jackson and told her she had won the scholarship. Jackson fought back her own tears as she was presented with a giant celebratory check.

“Now, I get to carry on my education and be more than what I expected to be a couple years ago. It’s amazing,” Jackson said.

Jackson received the 2023 Charles and Phyllis Frias Legacy Scholarship, which awards $25,000 a year for four years of college to 15 high school seniors in Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln and Nye counties. The trust has given more than $13.5 million to education and youth-based causes in Southern Nevada since 2017.

Students needed to maintain a grade point average between 2.0 and 3.2, demonstrate financial need and experience “some adversity beyond their control” to qualify for the scholarship.

Riley Caspersen, director of marketing and communication for the Public Education Foundation, said the adversity students face can range from hardships brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, bullying and losing a parent.

Jackson’s mother was murdered in Las Vegas in 2019. “I never would have been able to get her into college, and she’s tried her hardest since her mom’s been gone,” Ratay said. “She’s been working, going to school, just keeping up with everything and getting better by the day. I’m so proud of her.”

Jackson was planning on going to the College of Southern Nevada before she was awarded the scholarship, but said now she’s thinking about going to UNLV or a college out of state.

“Even if you feel like you hit rock bottom, always look up because life will always bring what is necessary to you,” Jackson said.

Contact Mark Credico at mcredico@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Instagram @writermark2.

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