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SHELBY — When Alexis McClain received her financial aid packet from the Ohio State University, she was certain there’d been some mistake. 

The estimated cost of attendance and the amount covered were the same. 

McClain was in AP Physics when she received the email, so she asked her teacher Gregory Mongold to look it over.

“She read it two or three times before quietly bringing me the information in disbelief and asking, ‘Mr. Mongold, what does this really mean?’ ” he recalled.

“I looked her in the eye and smiled, ‘It means all your hard work over the last few years has finally paid off. You got the full ride.’ “

McClain, a senior at Shelby High School, printed off the results and showed them to her guidance counselor.

“She just started jumping up and down,” McClain recalled.

McClain received the Land Grant Opportunity Scholarship, which covers tuition, room and board and other expenses like books and transportation for four years. 

The scholarship is awarded based on both financial need and academic merit. OSU selects 176 in-state Pell-eligible students each year. 

According to Shelby High School Principal John Gies, students must be in the top 5 percent of their graduating class to be considered. 

McClain, who graduates Sunday, is one of two valedictorians in her class.

“Alexis is a confident young lady who never backs down from a challenge,” Mongold said.

“She has always been eager to learn and was a delight to teach. There is no doubt that she will make an awesome pharmacist someday.”

McClain’s mother Heather said she’s not surprised her daughter is Buckeye bound. Heather and her husband met while attending the university’s Mansfield campus. 

Family photos show a tiny Alexis dressed in Buckeye-branded baby clothes and wrapped in OSU baby blankets. 

“She’s kind of been surrounded by it her whole life,” she said. 

In addition to earning top grades, McClain has stayed active in countless extracurriculars and worked a part-time job. 

She has been a four-year member of Shelby’s tennis and swim teams, marching band and choir. She’s served in numerous leadership positions, including tennis team captain, band section leader, chamber choir section leader and student council vice president. 

During her high school years, she’s been a part of the academic challenge team, Shelby GOLD and school plays. She played the lead role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz last fall.

McClain is also a member of the Marvin Memorial Library’s teen advisory council and a longtime member of 4H. She’s currently raising two pigs to compete in the county fair. 

“I don’t know (how I balance it all),” McClain said. “Sometimes I don’t think I get enough sleep.”

Heather said the family has encouraged her to slow down, but she manages it all with a strict self-discipline.

“We’re not one of those families where we were like, ‘You have to do this, you have to do this,'” she said. 

“(Alexis) really sets herself healthy parameters. She sets limitations on specific things and she lives within those limitations.”

McClain plans to enter the university’s pharmacy program, which includes three years of undergraduate studies and four years of graduate school. As an early admission student, she’s already been accepted to OSU’s graduate pharmacy program.

McClain has always enjoyed science and wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, but found the sight of blood made her squeamish. Pharmacy seemed like the perfect compromise. 

She said taking honor’s chemistry with Mongold made her feel more confident in her choice.

“Before I took his class, chemistry was really daunting,” she said. “After taking it I felt a lot better about being able to actually pursue (pharmacy) as my career.”

McClain will live on-campus in Ohio State’s Pharmacy Living-Learning Community. 

“I think it’ll give me a good opportunity to be with other students who have the same interests as me, she said. “And it’ll be really helpful for when I need someone to study organic chemistry with.”

McClain admitted she’s a bit nervous about moving to Columbus in the fall. She’s spent most of her childhood on her grandparent’s farm in northern Richland County.

“I’ve never really lived in close proximity to anyone else. I live out in the country, in the boondocks,” she said. 

“I love my space. I love my privacy. I love living out in the middle of nowhere where no one can bother me.”

Nevertheless, she’s looking forward to expanding her horizons and attending Ohio State football games in The Horseshoe.

“I’m really excited to meet new people,” she said. “Living in Shelby, everybody’s known each other basically since they were born. It will be nice to get out and meet new people who have completely different experiences than me.

“Since it’s OSU, I’m excited to go to football games,” she added. “That’s just an experience in and of itself.”

McClain said she’s still on the fence about whether or not to move back to Shelby one day. 

“I’m very family-oriented. I don’t want to move far away,” she said. “Some people just want to get out. While I would like to go and get out and see stuff, I could see myself coming back after college or after a little bit and having a family here.”

Her advice for younger students is simple — do your school work and get involved.

“Find the things that you like to do and pursue them and you will be rewarded,” she said. “There’s something for everybody.”

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