RUSH TWP. — A pair of Laingsburg students were announced as scholarship winners to the University of Michigan Tuesday during the Cook Family Foundation’s annual dinner at the Owosso Country Club.

Autumn Zwiernik was awarded the 14th annual Bruce and Jacqueline Cook Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to the University of Michigan.

Olivia Graham, a senior and valedictorian at Laingsburg High School, was awarded the Donald Cook Scholarship by the University of Michigan. The scholarship is for students who will attend the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. It provides $5,000 per year over all four years at Michigan.

Kedra Ishop, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Michigan, spoke to guests about the importance of education and the opportunities the university offers its students.

Zwiernik, who attended Laingsburg, is the daughter of Matthew Zwiernik and Denise Kay. She spent her senior year in Costa Rica at the Del Mar Academy. During her time there, she researched sea turtles, and had the opportunity to practice her Spanish skills. Zwiernik plans to pursue a degree in science and study environmental issues at Michigan.

“I love biology and want to major in it,” Zwiernek said Tuesday. “I’m interested especially in marine biology. Over the past year, I’ve been studying sea turtle populations. I want to continue studying the environment here in Michigan, and have worked with bald eagles. Wherever I go, I want to keep learning about the environment and biology. I want to credit all of my academic success to Laingsburg and their school system. I learned the most I ever have, and got so much support from the staff there. With the Cook family, it was an environment that allowed me to succeed.”

Bruce Cook, who presented the scholarship, said Zwiernik was enrolled in high school classes as an eighth-grader.

“(Laingsburg was) really flexible with me,” Zwiernik said. “They allowed me to push myself, which I think is really unusual for a school that small.”

Zwiernik’s parents said they were grateful for the scholarship.

“The first Shiawassee Scholar event, when she first learned of the scholarship, when we came home, she said ‘I’m going to get that scholarship.’ Honestly, through so many things, that was a motivating factor for her,” Kay said. “The Cook family legacy is fantastic. Its influence on education here is phenomenal.”

Graham, the daughter of Troy and Shannon Graham, was either the president of vice president of her class each year of high school and is president of the Michigan Congregational Youth Council. She plans to pursue a degree in political science, women’s studies or public health.

“I hope to go into a field that deals with social sciences,” Graham said. She said she was running on a treadmill when she received the email notification that she’d been awarded the scholarship.

“I was pretty excited. I called my mom right away and told her,” she said.

“It’s fantastic. She’s spent a lot of time and done a lot of work,” said Graham’s father. “She could have been gliding to graduation, but she’s been putting a lot of hours in to finish classes. She wants to finish strong and she’s very proud to go to a school like Michigan. She’s very proud to be recognized.”

According to a press release from the Cook Foundation, 20 scholars from Shiawassee County and the surrounding area were recognized for their academic achievements, and all will receive aid from the Cook Family Foundation.

The total value of all scholarships awarded was more than $156,000.

Following a dinner ceremony, Bruce Cook presented Zwiernik with a certificate commemorating her shcholarship and Tom Cook presented a certificate to Graham.

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