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Only six students are awarded the full-tuition Presidential Scholarship at the University of Mount Union in Alliance each year, making the honor one that's hard to come by.
For the Dreger family of Rootstown, however, the once in a lifetime honor came twice as brothers Kyle, a junior computer science and English major, and Nathan, a sophomore biochemistry major, were chosen as Presidential Scholars. Kyle and Nathan are the sons of Eric, a Kent Police patrolman and Theresa, a home teaching instructor in the Rootstown Local School District who home schooled each of the couple's five children.
To be eligible for a Presidential Scholarship, students must carry an ACT score of at least 27 or a SAT score of 1220 and at least a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or a high school rank in the top 15 percent. In addition, students must demonstrate outstanding performance during the Presidential Scholarship Competition held several times each spring.
For Kyle, Mount Union was always in his top college choices due to attending summer soccer camp on campus and knowing a number of friends and family members who attended Mount Union.
"When I would bring up Mount Union, someone's eyes would light up and they would say they or someone they knew went there," Kyle said. "There was always a really strong connection with having a good experience and going to this school."
After completing a written test and an interview on campus, Kyle began feeling more confident about what Mount Union would offer him in terms of a scholarship.
"I remember picking up the phone when I got the call that summer and being offered the Presidential Scholarship," Kyle said. "I told my mom, 'Thank you for all the effort you put into my education.'"
Nathan's path to Mount Union had a few more twists and turns than Kyle's. At the end of his junior year, he began looking at schools where he could play soccer and also offered strong academics.
"I applied to several schools and I also got all my stuff sent in to Mount Union," Nathan said. "I had seen the campus through Kyle and liked that you felt safe walking around regardless of what time of day it was."
During his senior year, Nathan was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease which took a toll on his body and changed his athletic focus. He interviewed for the Presidential Scholarship at Mount Union but still hadn't decided he was going by March.
"I wanted to see what happened and leave all my options on the table," Nathan said. "I remember my mom telling me she had no expectations of Kyle getting the Presidential Scholarship and there was no pressure on me."
When Nathan's phone call came from Mount Union, his news was a bit different. The University offered him the Trustee Scholarship, the second highest offer, and told him he was the first alternate for the Presidential Scholarship. Though this was good news, Nathan was no closer to deciding on a school.
"As my senior year wrapped up, it became more apparent that going to a smaller school was going to be the best option for me," he said. "I knew that Mount Union had a good thing going as far as biochemistry and the science fields were concerned."
At the end of May, Nathan received a call learning that someone had turned the Presidential Scholarship down and it was now his for the taking.
Both Kyle and Nathan credit their home schooling to helping prepare them for a rigorous college schedule. Due to Eric working as a police officer, his shift often changed. In order to spend more time as a family, the Dregers adjusted their school day based on when he went to work. Some years, the school day would begin at 3 p.m. and last until 11 p.m. when Eric got home from work.
Both Kyle and Nathan have found their place at Mount Union. Kyle participated in the Honors Program, is president of the Society of Computing Students, vice president of the Raider Programming Board, a member of the Raider Relief service organization and a student blogger for the Office of Marketing. Nathan works as a chemistry tutor, is a member of service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and the American Chemical Society.
Nathan, who can solve a Rubik's cube in 45 seconds, hopes to start a Rubik's Cubing Club on campus. The two are also roommates.
"Mount Union is the only place in my life so far that when I say I have to go home, I'm actually referring to my dorm," Nathan said. "Mount Union is where you come to call home."
Both Kyle and Nathan appreciate the faculty, staff and students they have encountered on campus.
"The type of individual that comes here is not typical," Nathan said. "People are usually very friendly so that's a testimony to what this University is all about."
Kyle noted that his parents always stressed the importance of building other people up.
"You always tried to make somebody feel better, whether it be helping the kid who's not good with homework or helping someone on the soccer field," Kyle said. "We are a community building each other up. One of my dad's sayings is that it takes a village to raise a child and I realized once I got to Mount Union how very true that is. It takes a collective effort from my professors, my classmates and my friends to help me succeed. I'll be indebted to all of them forever."
Other area Presidential Scholars at Mount Union include senior biochemistry major Kyle Edwards of Atwater; senior French and German major Drew Myers of Stow and sophomore early childhood education major Sarah Briggs of Kent.