2022-2023 Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship Recipient
“Awarded through the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, the Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship has an important mission: to reward a student who possesses not only strong moral courage, but someone who stands up for an individual or group in the face of great opposition. The ideal recipient is someone who is not afraid to face the consequences of speaking out despite intense pressure to stay silent.”
— Western Washington University Foundation
We are pleased to announce that Petra McDonnell-Ingoglia has received the 2022-2023 Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship in Honor of Arthur Poznanski. A WWU senior, Petra is majoring in History while earning minors in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Political Science, and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. Petra volunteers in The Honors Book Club (co-president), Honors Outreach, and the Emergency Food Network. Petra has also worked in various student academic, and peer advising roles and has maintained a high academic GPA.
The Kohlmeier Mikulencak scholarship has no minimum GPA or financial need requirement. Applicants must respond to only one question: “When have you stood up for an individual or a group of people in a meaningful way and made a difference for that individual or group?”
Amid the 2016 U.S. elections, Petra, like many people, felt the effects of the dramatic uptick of racist and xenophobic incidents. Although she felt safe, Petra was keenly aware that friends and classmates were experiencing threats to their well-being.
“Early in 2017,” Petra wrote, “one of my friends confided in me that they and their entire family were undocumented and every day she feared that they would be deported even though for her and her siblings, the United States was the only home they had ever known. It had become a reality for her family that ICE may show up at her parents' work and she may have to return to a place that had brought only hardship for her family.” Petra resolved to do everything in her power to keep her friend, and other classmates in similar circumstances, protected.
Within weeks of learning about her friend’s situation, Petra spoke to her district’s school board about the difficulties experienced by undocumented students. Petra encouraged the board to offer students and families a “Know Your Rights Workshop.” She also asked the board to amend their district surveys and forms by removing potentially endangering questions, such as a student’s birthplace. When the board declined to offer the workshop, she and several classmates decided to organize and provide their own training. In partnership with the ACLU of Washington, Petra’s high school group founded an ACLU student club. The club began offering civil rights education workshops within the school, and later, to the local community.
Petra writes, “I felt that it was my responsibility to help provide a safe and better world for those who could not necessarily fight for themselves or did not know how to . . . it is my hope that for everything I do for the rest of my life I am working towards that goal. I might not be as powerful as a US Senator or judge, but I can make a difference in my community and that is where change begins.”
For many of us, experiencing the world around us as unsafe can lead us to withdraw. Petra McDonnell-Ingoglia has confronted apprehension and uncertainty to advocate on behalf of others. The depth of courage exhibited by Petra truly embodies the ideals of the Kohlmeier Mikulencak Scholarship in Honor of Arthur Poznanski.