By Sue Moore
It takes dedication to studying, lots of extracurricular activities, exceptional grades, job experience, and lots of parental support to win a Heyl scholarship to Kalamazoo College. Two Vicksburg students have pulled that off in the last two years: Alex Oswalt last year and this year, McKinzie Ervin.
The Heyl pays for four years of science studies at Kalamazoo College for applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or better, and covers everything except food for the nine successful students selected from the Kalamazoo area. The scholarships were provided to the college by Dr. and Mrs. Frederick Heyl. Heyl founded the research department at the Upjohn Company, arriving in Kalamazoo in 1913. He structured it to be competitive and chose the best of the best to work there, according to the college’s web site.
“Ervin is one of the hardest working students I have,” said Michael Sinclair, her physics teacher at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC). “I started challenging her to try for the Heyl because she has the talent and desire to succeed in anything she tries. It took a little urging because she had her sights set on the University of Michigan,” he said.
“I’ve always been interested in science and have wanted to be a dermatologist since I was a little girl,” Ervin explained. “I had eczema really bad and it was so painful I would have to cry myself to sleep at night. A compound that was prescribed by Dr. Craig Mohney, helped to mitigate the pain from this skin disease.” Her mother, Holly Ervin, said that ever since this experience, McKinzie has been laser focused on becoming a doctor and hoping to find other cures for other hard to treat diseases.
Once McKinzie was chosen to attend KAMSC, the table was set for hard work. That was OK with her because that is a part of her passion. “I like learning so studying four hours or more a day doesn’t seem like work,” she said. “It was something of a shock when I went to KAMSC as a freshman because I didn’t have to study at all in middle school and still got straight A’s. I was even at the kitchen table studying as usual when the email came that I had been awarded the Heyl. I did a little dance and then cried a bit, because I wasn’t expecting it.”
She probably should have expected it, Sinclair said. With her success in the classroom and her considerable volunteer service in the Vicksburg community, she had plenty of qualifications. “She is smart and focused, but still had to struggle in the first part of the year in my class. She would come in and ask questions, go home and work through a problem and correct her work quickly if she needed to, always asking how she could improve on it.”
Teaching piano lessons was one of her outside activities. It came naturally to McKinzie, since she had been taking lessons herself since she was four years old. She learned from her grandmother Ervin and now has six students that she instructs. She has been a baby sitter for the Laura Chang family since 2009, helped with Vicksburg United Methodist Church’s summer Bible School camp, volunteered with Generous Hands, the Girl Scouts, and the Vicksburg library’s summer reading program. She played clarinet in the concert band for two years but because of attending KAMSC when the band practiced, she had to drop from the program.
She has had numerous academic awards as a member of the Vicksburg chapter of the National Honor Society, received the KAMSC Medallion Award, and participated in science research projects. She had a summer job at KAR Laboratories in Kalamazoo as a laboratory assistant.
Her sister, Marissa, is a sophomore at Vicksburg High School, has chosen to specialize in music and was selected as class president in 2014. Both girls are the daughters of Garrett and Holly Ervin, Western Michigan University graduates. They chose to settle in Vicksburg twelve years ago because their research told them the school system was top rated.