Above: Senior Zara Johnson is the first recipient of the Jennifer Demyan ’21 Endowed Memorial Scholarship. (Photo provided)

As the first recipient of the Jennifer Demyan ’21 Endowed Memorial Scholarship, Zara Johnson hopes she can carry on the legacy of light, laughter and love that the scholarship’s namesake embodied.

She’s certainly off to a good start.

Hailing from West Chester, Pennsylvania, Jennifer “Jen” Demyan ’21 was known for her passion for service and her vibrant personality. During her time at the College, where she majored in communication with a minor in psychology, she loved working as a teacher’s assistant at a local Montessori school – and she made an impact on campus, too.

Jennifer Demyan

Jennifer Demyan ’21, the namesake of the Jennifer Demyan Memorial Scholarship (Photo provided)

“She was one of the students who made the class better for everyone,” says Ryan Milner, chair of the Department of Communication, who admired the positive energy and thoughtfulness Demyan brought to his Communication Ethics class every day.

When Demyan passed away in 2021, her family and friends wanted to find a way to honor her legacy. They began with plans to place a memorial bench on the College’s campus, and that morphed into something even more meaningful: the Jennifer Demyan ’21 Endowed Memorial Scholarship, designed to support communication majors with financial need, especially those from out of state.

Demyan’s father, Bret Demyan, says that he and her mother, Carolyn, “felt that this might open the door to others like Jen, who would like to explore but are afraid of out-of-state costs.”

During the selection process for the first recipient of the Jennifer Demyan Memorial Scholarship, the awards committee placed great importance on the applicants’ dedication to helping others.

What they didn’t expect was the striking similarities between one applicant and Demyan herself: Not only is Johnson from just outside of Demyan’s hometown, she has an interest in journalism and public policy – and a passion for service and community engagement.

“Receiving this scholarship is a huge honor,” says the Bonner Leader, who is double majoring in communication and international studies and has been active both on campus, promoting a culture of sustainability and civic engagement, and off campus, volunteering weekly at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.

The scholarship allowed her to add another service project last spring, when she worked with the Center for Civic Engagement and anti-censorship organization Free The Facts to plan an Alternative Break trip to Washington, D.C.

“I am fortunate that the Demyan scholarship has given me the financial breathing room I needed to pursue planning this trip,” she says, noting that she credits the scholarship and the College for many of the opportunities she’s had. “Through the College, I am still discovering more about myself and the person I will become.”

Although Johnson is open to the possibilities the field of communication can bring her when she graduates in 2024, she has found herself more and more interested in a career in journalism with a focus on international issues.

One thing is for sure, though: She hopes to carry on Demyan’s legacy.

“Jennifer is described as someone who was full of ‘light and love,’” she says. “I aspire to become someone just like that, and to touch the world around me the way she did.”

Contributors: Alex Tolle, CofC Stewardship Officer, and Maggie Boyd ’20, Administrative Coordinator for CofC Department of Communication Events, Outreach and Public Relations