STEM school alum, Clark County deputy creates scholarship

The scholarship was awarded to the first Global Impact recipient this year.

A local Springfield alumnus from the Global Impact STEM Academy is the school’s first former student to establish a service scholarship.

Kordell Waklatsi, a 2017 GISA graduate and current Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputy, established the Waklatsi Service Scholarship this year.

“I hope this annual scholarship influences others who are currently volunteering to continue their service,” Waklatsi said. “I truly believe we can strengthen our community through volunteering because it instills selfless qualities, which, in turn, develops community members who can rely on one another.”

Waklatsi joined the Marine Corps and served in Washington, D.C., after graduation, then returned to Clark County last November as a deputy.

Michael Payne, high school director, said Waklatsi was one of the original enrollees during GISA’s first year in operation, and has continued to give back to the community through both community and police service.

“To know a student was impacted in such a way by his years here at GISA that he would want to give back to students and encourage them to live a life of service is extremely humbling to say the least,” he said.

The scholarship idea started early last year when Waklatsi went to Payne with the idea of giving back to students from the high school. The two worked together to make it a reality along with the help of Matt Ehlinger and Joshua Jennings.

“He mentioned specifically wanting the scholarship not to be academic only in nature, but to be for any student whether they be going into college, career, or the armed forces,” Payne said.

Cooper Johnson, a GISA Class of 2023 graduate, has been awarded the first Waklatsi Service Scholarship. The $500 scholarship recognizes Johnson’s commitment to service and his dedication to making a positive impact in the community.

“I am so incredibly honored to be the first-ever recipient of the Waklatsi scholarship,” Johnson said. “To be awarded this scholarship in general would have been amazing, but for it to be from a Global Impact alum makes it even more meaningful.”

Waklatsi said Johnson was chosen for the scholarship because of his “remarkable understanding of the importance of giving back to others.”

“Cooper’s service extends beyond being a mere bonus for college applications; it has a profound and enduring impact on the lives of those he encounters,” he said.

Johnson was an active participant in 4-H, became a camp counselor, and made contributions to the local Honor Flight program, in which he provided veterans with the opportunity to visit and pay their respects at memorials in Washington, D.C. Through this, he was also able to escort his two Vietnam veteran grandfathers to see their memorials.

While in high school, Johnson also received an associate’s degree from Clark State College through the school’s college credit plus program, was active in the FFA chapter, and a four-year varsity cross country and track athlete for Greenon High School. He plans to attend the University of Cincinnati this fall to major in cyber security.

The scholarship is for GISA seniors only. Students can complete their application through writing or video, and it includes a section on academic standing, but a student is chosen through a series of questions that reflect on the student’s passion for service. Waklatsi is looking to increase the scholarship amount and potentially find others to join his cause.

This scholarship isn’t the only way Waklatsi plans to give back to the community.

“My long-term goal is to create a funnel program and start mentoring middle schoolers because the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” he said. “Being able to instill good values at a young age is so crucial to thriving in adulthood and creating a future generation of leaders who value service and giving back.”

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