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PROFILE: Alumna’s Legacy Awards Dedication To The Youngest Learners

They were UC graduates, sisters and long-time educators who wanted to honor future students who shared their passion. Their generous gift will financially benefit two UC seniors as they prepare for careers to teach young children.

Date: 7/26/2004 8:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot
Jessica Petrey and Theresa Wiggins
Jessica Petrey, left, and Theresa Wiggins are the 2004 recipients of the Pearl M. Wright Award.

Two University of Cincinnati seniors in early childhood education are the recipients of the annual Pearl M. Wright Award from the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. The distinction means that Jessica Petrey of Springdale and Theresa Wiggins of Glendale – both graduates of Princeton High School – will receive a year of financial support to apply toward tuition, fees and living expenses. The award amounts to $15,000 for each student.

The gift was established in Kathryn E. Wright’s will in memory of her sister. Both women, who shared a home in Clifton, graduated from UC in the 1920s and spent their careers educating young children. Pearl M. Wright was 96 years old when she died in 1990. Kathryn Wright’s will was written in 1992, four years prior to her death at age 95. Her endowment states that the Pearl M. Wright Award will honor the student who “best exemplifies high moral and academic standards of a primary teacher – who is sensitive, loving and understanding of little children.”

Jessica Petrey
Jessica Petrey

“Before I even started majoring in early childhood education, I loved working with children. When I was little and we played ‘school,’ I was always the teacher,” says 22-year-old Jessica Petrey. The UC senior is looking ahead to a year-long teaching internship at Cameron Park Elementary School in the Winton Woods School District. She is presently working with extended day and summer camps at Princeton City Schools, a job she has held for the past five years. “People have always told me that I would be a good teacher and in a way, I’m sure that God pulled me in that direction, too.”

Petrey says the financial relief from the Pearl M. Wright Award will allow her to focus less on her financial issues and dedicate more time to her studies.

Theresa Wiggins says the gift comes as more good news as she finishes up the last-minute plans for her wedding on July 30. The 21-year-old Wiggins will do her teaching internship at Hopewell Elementary in the Lakota School District.

Theresa Wiggins
Theresa Wiggins

Wiggins is spending her summer working as a caregiver for four children. She says her interest in teaching stemmed from “knowing that you have the ability to change a child’s life forever. They say a child’s I.Q. develops by age four, so if you don’t reach them by that age, then you’ve lost a major opportunity.”

Wiggins adds that one delightful aspect of her UC teaching experience led her back to her kindergarten teacher and mentor, Patricia Lux, at Glendale Elementary School. “I got to see her 15 years later and she could share with me how much has changed in teaching and what has stayed the same, like the foundation of education.

“While Mrs. Lux inspired me in kindergarten, my parents, Jonathan and Dorothy Wiggins, have been a constant source of inspiration and support. They have supported my dreams and education and they’re the biggest contributors to my future as an early childhood educator,” Wiggins says.

Petrey and Wiggins were selected for the award from a pool of 18 applicants. They both expect to graduate in spring 2005.



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