UC celebrates newest Bearcats on Decision Day

University officials surprise accepted students in person amid record-breaking application year

Today is Decision Day, when the newest Bearcats learn they’ve been accepted into the University of Cincinnati.

This year UC surprised six students from four Greater Cincinnati high schools with an official acceptance letter to UC, a scholarship and a serenade of sorts from the UC’s Bearcats Bands, cheerleaders, mascot and other university officials.

“Decision Day is one of the most exciting days of the year,” says Jack Miner, vice provost for enrollment management at UC.

The community is witnessing students who will one day be the teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, engineers, artists and community leaders who will serve Cincinnati and beyond, says Miner.

Interest in all things UC is at an all-time high. Applications are up 7% for the fall 2024 semester with nearly 33,000 applicants wanting to become Bearcats.

“We saw our largest enrollment in fall 2023 with nearly 51,000 students, and we anticipate surpassing that this fall, setting another all-time enrollment record,” explains Miner. “Based on our applications, we anticipate this will be our brightest and most diverse freshman class in UC’s history.”

Officials from the university's regional colleges UC Blue Ash and UC Clermont also surprised area students on Decision Day. 

Jude and Frances Eckerle took a tour of UC’s Uptown campus and were impressed with a presentation from the College of Allied Health Sciences. The twins are seniors at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Highlands was UC’s biggest Kentucky feeder school in 2023. The university has admitted 73 students from Highlands for fall 2024.

”They have grown up here so that is one big draw,” says Michelle Eckerle, the twins’ mom, who is a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at UC. “They have known the school, its sports and reputation through the years and their dad went to UC for graduate studies. They have some of the inside scoop on the College of Medicine because of my job and they have some experience, too.”

The Eckerle siblings each received a $6,000 scholarship. This is the first time UC officials have crossed the river for a Decision Day surprise in the state of Kentucky.

UC surprises twins Jude and Frances Eckerle at Highlands High School on Decision Day.

Frances and Jude Eckerle with Jack Miner | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

“I am so excited. I was not expecting this at all,” says Frances Eckerle, who spoke with local media after Monday’s event. “I am very honored that my brother and I were chosen. I feel a lot of gratitude right now.”

“It’s funny," says Jude Eckerle. "I turned to my friend and said, ‘There is no way they called my name.’ It was just total shock. I’ve been a UC fan growing up.”

Jude was voted homecoming king at Highlands High School and is a competitive swimmer. His parents describe him as a driven individual who gets along with everyone.

Frances is passionate about horseback riding, a skill she started developing at age 10, and is a member of the National Honor Society. Her parents describe her as passionate, hardworking and wise beyond her years.

UC surprises twins Jude and Frances Eckerle at Highlands High School on Decision Day.

Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

“They are both pretty engaged,” says mother Michelle, who sees her children have matured into good citizens who are liked and respected by their peers and teachers. “I am thrilled with the young people that they are.”

Jude and Frances Eckerle support each other, but they never had a plan of going to college together, say their parents. Both are 17, though Jude is maybe four minutes older than his sister.

“They are opposites in a lot of ways but they get along very well,” Michelle says. “They are not trying to get away from each other.”

Their father Andrew Eckerle says the day’s surprise went off without a hitch. He kept his son and daughter in the dark until the moment of truth.

“Thanks to UC for coming out to recognize our kids and all the other students at Highlands that applied to the school,” he says.

Meet UC’s newest Marian Spencer Scholars

Two students within the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) district received the Marian Spencer Scholarship, which includes a full ride to the university.

First announced in 2021, the scholarship covers undergraduate tuition, housing, living expenses, service-learning opportunities and much more for high-achieving CPS students.

“It’s an opportunity to truly as a university invest in who we feel like are the future leaders of this city,” explains Miner.

Read about last year’s class of Marian Spencer Scholars.

UC surprises Marian Spencer Scholar Zamir Frazier at Riverview East Academy on Decision Day.

Zamir Frazier | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Why do I want to be a Bearcat? This is my hometown and I just love the community.

Zamir Frazier UC Marian Spencer scholarship recipient

The first Marin Spencer Scholar from Cincinnati's Riverview East Academy, Zamir Frazier hopes to study economics in UC’s Lindner College of Business. He’s balanced getting straight-As with playing football and volunteering as a youth coach.

“Zamir is very passionate about athletics and his grades,” says older sister Mariah Frazier. “He puts his heart into every single thing that he does. He is very goal driven and self-motivated. He knew going into high school that he wanted to be on the honor roll every year.”

Zamir's mother, Dornessa Frazier, says her son has always been a self-starter. She remembers as a kid he wanted to make breakfast. Initially, it started with a scrambled egg but his culinary talents have progressed so that Zamir made the family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

UC surprises Marian Spencer Scholar Zamir Frazier at Riverview East Academy on Decision Day.

Zamir Frazier | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

“He can do anything he sets his heart on and he does it and does a great job,” she says. “I am so proud of Zamir. I never had to force him to go to school. Ever since he was in second grade, he would get up and get himself ready and go to school and be on time. It wasn’t because Imade him. He just did it and I am thankful for that. Out of all the things in the world he could be doing he is choosing to go to school and do what’s right.”

Dornessa says Zamir’s heart is set on becoming a Bearcat.

“His first thought when discussing college was, ‘I am going to go to UC,’ she says. “ He would explore but then he always came back to UC.

She has struggled to keep the Marian Spencer Scholarship a secret. Her son hoped strongly that he would get a scholarship to UC.

“I kept telling him to keep applying and see what works out,” she says,hoping to keep her son in the dark for a bit longer. “It took everything in me not to say, ‘Hey, you got it.’”

UC surprises Marian Spencer Scholar Zamir Frazier at Riverview East Academy on Decision Day.

Zamir Frazier | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Eleven students from Riverview East Academy were admitted to UC, a record for the CPS school.

“I am really thankful for this opportunity,” said Zamir, as television cameras captured his award. “There are so many words going through my head. When I woke up this morning I was not expecting this. One thing that is going through my head is like, God, and being thankful for everything that I have and for my family.”

Zamir wants to study business and someday open his own restaurant.

“Why do I want to be a Bearcat? This is my hometown and I just love the community. Everybody makes me feel welcome.”

Follow media coverage from the day

Media from across Cincinnati covered the day’s events:

Read more.

Hughes STEM High School career teacher Tim Hill identifies Fiston Feruzi as one of those students who is on a pathway for a bright future.

Feruzi is part of Hughes’ engineering pathway program, which has allowed him various visits to the UC College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Feruzi is senior class president at Hughes, where he’s played football and basketball He is part of CPS’ Local School Decision Making Committee as a student representative who has input on decisions that impact the district.

UC surprises Marian Spencer Scholar Fiston Feruzi at Hughes High School.

Jack Miner and Fiston Feruzi | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Feruzi attended a 3D printing expo with the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative and was featured locally as part of the Stop the Bleed training promoted by UC Health and CPS. 

“He is very charismatic about what he wants to do and is very dedicated,” says Hill. “Fiston is supportive of his peers and he has a drive that you typically don’t see in students nowadays. He is definitely in line to be very successful in his future.”

“Fiston is involved, he is empathetic to his peers and he is a leader,” says Hill.
“We have had several conversations about where he is going in the next five, 10 or 20 years. He is that student when I am retiring I would hope would come to see me, just to show me how successful he is.”

William Mason High School welcomes the Bearcat

William Mason High School, one of Ohio’s largest public schools, is among the top feeder schools sending graduates to UC in recent years. Two Mason students were surprised at school with UC admission on Decision Day. UC offered admission to 423 students from Mason High School for fall 2024.

Gracie Hicks and Koah Wilson received the news as their peers looked on in the school lunchroom. Each is also the recipient of a $6,000 scholarship.

UC surprises Gracie Hicks at William Mason High School on Decision Day.

Jack Miner and Gracie Hicks | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

One of Gracie Hicks’ teachers described her as not only a remarkable student but, more importantly, a remarkable person, according to Katie Hicks, Gracie’s mother. The teacher described Gracie as one of the most driven, mature and selfless students she had ever met.

“She achieved amazing grades, but she was always so humble and would help anyone who needed it,” she says. “She has such a huge heart and is willing to go the extra mile to include people.”

UC surprises Gracie Hicks at William Mason High School on Decision Day.

Gracie Hicks | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Hicks is a member of Mason’s varsity cross country team, part of the club Students Involving and Befriending Students and helps run Comet Savings and Loan, a school bank billed as a safe place for students to save money and earn interest.

“Gracie has a very positive, engaging personality,” says mother Katie, who is also a school counselor at Mason. “She is truly interested in knowing other people, is a good listener and has a knack for making people feel loved.  Gracie is a very gracious young woman. She has the most gentle, kind heart and truly puts others before herself. She doesn't need to be in the spotlight, she is perfectly happy being in the background with a smile.”

Hicks is a longtime Bearcats fan and hopes to cheer UC on as it continues its presence in the Big 12 conference.

“After visiting several other college campuses she has been consistent in always saying UC felt like home,” says Katie. “Gracie will be studying nursing and is really impressed with and excited about all the opportunities the Cincinnati program offers.”

UC surprises Koah Wilson at William Mason High School on Decision Day.

Koah Wilson| Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

During her junior year, Koah Wilson transferred from a small school to one the region’s largest high schools. Her mom, Kelly Wilson, says her daughter truly understood what it was like to feel like an outsider, but didn’t let that dampen her enthusiasm for learning.

“She went from a little class, being a big fish in a small pond, to going to a very big pond,” says Kelly. “She didn’t know anybody and part of what she wanted to do was create a different way for people to get plugged in.”

Wilson started a club called Acts of Random Kindness to help students, faculty and staff feel cared for and acknowledged in a small but meaningful way.

Athletic but having suffered a knee injury, Wilson decided to be part of the sports scene in another way. During her first day of school at Mason, she found out who was the school’s athletic director, and sent an email expressing her desire to volunteer and help out the girls basketball team. She became the team manager and also an intern with the school’s athletic department.

UC surprises Koah Wilson at William Mason High School on Decision Day.

Koah Wilson| Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

“Koah is outgoing, smart and funny,” her mother says. “ She’s an extrovert, a leader and a connector of people. She has tremendous confidence.”

Wilson loves the Bearcat mascot.

“She seeks out the Bearcat every time we’ve been anywhere near the UC campus and her dream is to be the Bearcat someday,” says Kelly.

Koah Wilson is one of four children. Her older brother, Kyler Wilson, graduated from UC’s medical school last spring. Her mother holds a psychology degree and MBA from UC while her father, Kenneth Wilson Sr., holds a business degree from the university.

Koah Wilson hopes to study marketing in the Lindner College of Business at UC.

 

Featured image at top of Zamir Frazier: Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

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