Prior to announcing the name of the fourth annual Louis J. Tripodi scholarship winner, Rockey Tripodi, scholarship trustee, took a different approach.
''I didn't just want to blurt out the name,'' Rockey Tripodi said.
Instead, he read a letter written by the winning applicant, Alexis Baryak.
''When I was a little girl, we had an old typewriter in our basement,'' Alexis wrote. ''As a kid, I didn't think of it as much more than a toy. Now I realize that's when the journey to my dream began.''
As Rockey Tripodi began to read the letter aloud, Alexis covered her face with her hands.
Rockey Tripodi, nephew of Louis Tripodi who left the scholarship as an endowment to the high school prior to his death in 2008, has been trustee of the award since its inception four years ago. He is the sole administrator of the scholarship and chooses the winner based on the applications and letters received by students interested in applying.
This year's applicants consisted of 16 females and four males, he said. After eliminating three-quarters of the applicants, he said, he had it narrowed down to five. Of the five, he was able to narrow it down to three before choosing Alexis as this year's winner.
''This was probably one of the best letters I've read in the last four years,'' Rockey Tripodi said.
''I really didn't think I was going to get it,'' Alexis said. ''I was surprised.''
Alexis is the daughter of Tanya and Chad Baryak of Niles. She has two sisters and one brother and has attending Niles schools her entire life. Her favorite subjects are English and Italian. She is currently president of the school's Italian Club and is a member of the school choir and Students for the Environment.
Alexis plans to attend Kent State University where she will major in journalism.
''I want to write stories that will influence young people,'' she said.
Louis J. Tripodi was 90 years old when he passed away, but his wish was to ensure students from Niles would be provided with educational opportunities.
In previous years, the $20,000 scholarship to be awarded $5,000 each year for four years, was given to one male and one female. This is the first year that only one senior won the award.
A 1936 graduate of Niles McKinley High School, Louis J. Tripodi spent most of his life in Niles. In 1940, he and his brother, Anthony, founded The Niles Machine & Welding Co., a job shop that grew into a recognized machine and fabricating company.
In 1954, Tripodi, along with Frank Comparato, organized Steel Valley Erectors and in 1961 he sold his interest to his partner. He then engaged in commercial and public works construction. Some of these achievements included Grace Lutheran Church of Hubbard, large additions to Lakeview High School of Cortland, Newbury Ohio High School and St. John High School of Ashtabula.
In 1964, he became the national builder for investors providing buildings for lease to the Franchise Company Doghouse Inc. During the three years in this venture, 168 units were built in 28 states.
His final accomplishment was the creation of a 100-acre development in Niles, called Shadowridge, consisting of more than 200 single family homes and 95 luxury ranch style condominiums.
The first recipients of the scholarship in 2009 were Christopher Lee and Brandalyn Leathers. In 2010, the scholarships went to Matthew Margo and Rachel Baird and in 2011 the awards went to Emily Glassmeyer and Dylan Taylor.