Triangle Lake student Stamps her ticket to the UO

Makenna Pennel, center, with family

Makenna Pennel, a senior at Triangle Lake Charter School in Blachly, couldn’t quite believe it when she learned she had been awarded a prestigious Stamps Scholarship.

“I was in a state of disbelief and I also had trouble breathing,” she said.

Pennel’s achievement was celebrated Monday afternoon at a signing ceremony at her school. The entire student population of 86, including the school band, along with the superintendent, principal, teachers, family and friends — and the Oregon Duck, naturally — turned out for the event.

Pennel, 17, is the second Oregon high school student this spring to accept a Stamps Scholarship and sign a letter of intent to enroll at the University of Oregon.

Stamps Scholarships are among the most prestigious and generous aid packages offered at the UO. They cover tuition, room and board for four years of undergraduate study and provide up to $12,000 in enrichment funds that help students pursue study abroad, internships and other experiences. They go to the most high-achieving Oregon high school students.

Five Stamps Scholars enter the UO each fall. Additional signing events will take place this spring. Read their stories in a special Around the O section.     

Pennel is co-president and founder of the school’s award winning robotics team, so it was only fitting the pen she used to sign her letter of intent was brought out by a robotic cart she helped design and build.

Pennel, who lives in the small town of Deadwood in Oregon’s Coast Range, is also a flautist in the school band and a runner on the cross-country team. While in high school, she has taken classes at both Lane Community College and Eastern Oregon University.

Superintendent James Brookins said Pennel is one of the reasons the school started an advanced math program.

In addition to her school activities, she worked as in intern for an environmental engineering lab in Corvallis where she conducted research into improving the synthesis of traceable nanoparticles.

She plans to study chemistry at the UO. She credits her parents for encouraging her to succeed and said she never felt constrained because she attended a rural school.

“I want to let people know that being from a small school does not define your potential,” she said. “It doesn’t define who you are if you're willing to go that extra mile.”