On Aug. 10, the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association announced that Jessica Dencker, Alexa McVoy and Charisse Potter are this year’s recipients of the $25,000 Hamel Family Scholarship for Further Education. The scholarship was designed to encourage further education among equestrians, and recipients are able to use the funding for college, trade or professional school. This year, the $25,000 scholarship will help three equestrians toward their higher education goals.
Dencker, 27, of Newburgh, New York, is a fourth-year veterinary medicine student at the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts, West Indies.
“It is an honor to be chosen as one of the recipients of this award,” said Dencker. “I am so appreciative of the Hamel family for their generosity and to the USHJA for facilitating this award. Becoming a veterinarian has been a dream I’ve been chasing for many years, and it means so much to me to receive this financial support. I am proud to be part of an organization that strives to support higher education.”
Becoming a veterinarian has been a lifelong dream for Dencker, who attended the University of Georgia for her undergraduate education and rode on the NCAA Division I Equestrian Team, serving as team captain her senior year and earning an NCAA Southeastern Conference Championship title.
Dencker will complete her fourth year at the University of Tennessee, an affiliate of RUSVM, for her clinical rotation, with dreams of returning to New York to open an equine sports medicine and rehabilitation center with a focus in alternative medicine.
McVoy, 20, of Allendale, Michigan, is studying social work at Grand Valley State University (Michigan) with the goal of becoming an equine-assisted psychotherapist.
“Receiving this scholarship has greatly reduced the financial burden of my family, given me peace of mind, and will allow me to continue to pursue my educational dreams,” said McVoy. “Thanks to the generous financial support I can graduate with a degree in social work that will help me leave a lasting mark on my community through nonprofit work.”
Inspired by her own experiences riding and competing horses, McVoy’s goal is to help at-risk youth who have suffered from trauma overcome fear, develop confidence, and create a safe environment for emotional growth to help kids heal and provide a positive experience through horses.
“Throughout my own life horses were always the stable thing that helped me cope, and I cannot wait to use a master’s degree in social work to give kids who have been struggling that same experience,” she said.
Potter, 32, of Norfolk, Virginia, is a first-generation college student studying physical therapy at Old Dominion University (Virginia). She is the first of her seven siblings to earn a bachelor’s degree and hopes to have a career helping others as a physical therapist.
“Words fail to express how grateful and appreciative I am to receive the support of the Hamel family and the USHJA Foundation,” said Potter. “This scholarship will significantly reduce the financial burden of becoming a physical therapist, allowing me to increase focus on my studies and spend more time learning from the horses and the equestrian community that have already taught me so much. I look forward to many more years in the hunter/jumper community both as a participant and as a healthcare professional.”
Upon graduation, Potter hopes to bring her love of horses into her practice by exploring hippotherapy as a means of treatment, as well as becoming well versed in the kinetics and dynamics of the different riding disciplines to serve a range of equestrian patients.
“The non-traditional path that brought me to where I am today is not only one of the aspects that make me unique, but more importantly is what has prepared me to be successful in my goals of completing physical therapy school and becoming a licensed physical therapist.”
The Hamel Family Scholarship for Further Education is thanks to a generous donation from the Kristen and James Hamel Family Foundation. The USHJA Foundation awards up to $25,000 to be used for college, graduate, trade or professional school to one or more USHJA members each year. Eligible candidates may apply for the Hamel Scholarship every year but may only be awarded the scholarship once. Applications for 2022 will open in January.
To learn more about the USHJA $25,000 Hamel Family Scholarship for Further Education, visit ushja.org/hamel