Rachel Neff, a New Haven resident and first-year student at Vincennes University, was recently awarded the 2018 Rammie Walliser Memorial Scholarship.
The $500 scholarship recognizes students of taekwondo who have shown exemplary character. Neff, a black belt in taekwondo, has been a pupil at White Tiger Martial Arts in New Haven since she was 8 years old.
Mark Best, a co-owner of the martial arts studio, said the scholarship is named after Rammie Walliser, who was a martial arts instructor in Elwood, Indiana. His father, Fred Walliser, started the American Midwest Taekwondo Association. Rammie was supposed to one day take over the association after Fred’s retirement. However, Rammie passed away suddenly in 2016 after suffering from cystic fibrosis and diabetes.
Even though he had to take medication so that his body didn’t reject a lung transplant and insulin for his diabetes, he was a fantastic martial artist, Best said. To honor his memory, AMTA set up a scholarship for taekwondo students who have shown exemplary character.
Applicants must write an essay detailing how the martial art has affected their life and the person they have become, Best said. They are also asked to write about what they are studying, what institution they study at and why they are deserving of the scholarship. The student’s instructor also sends an advocate letter. This is the second year AMTA has awarded the scholarship. Students at eight martial arts schools are eligible to apply.
Neff is a first-year student at Vincennes University, where she’s studying American Sign Language in the hopes of becoming a certified American sign language interpreter. In her scholarship essay, she writes that taekwondo has taught her self-defense, perseverance, leadership and physical and mental strength. The experience also taught her self-control and how to work well with others.
“Working toward, fighting for and then accomplishing my goal of reaching my black belt has given me the confidence to know that I’m capable of achieving what I set my mind to,” she said in the essay.