The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) announced the seven winners of its annual scholarship awards supporting emerging dairy industry leaders. These current and future dairy professionals have been selected to receive a total of $19,000 in scholarship funds in 2023.
“The promising future of the dairy processing industry is evident in the accomplishments and ambitions of these students. WCMA is honored to invest in dairy’s next generation, thanks to generous industry support,” said WCMA Executive Director John Umhoefer.
Over 26 years, WCMA has awarded the Myron P. “Mike” Dean Cheese Industry Student Scholarship to 46 students affiliated with dairy manufacturers and processors. In 2023, this scholarship will be awarded to Lizzette Lopez and Tyler Schroepfer.
Lizzette Lopez trained as an industrial engineer in her native Nicaragua before beginning her career in the food and beverage industry, eventually becoming an FSQA Technician for Great Lakes Cheese Company in Wausau, Wisconsin. She is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Food Safety through Michigan State University, which she expects to complete in 2025. Lizzette also volunteers with the American Nicaraguan Children’s Foundation, helping students in her home country achieve personal and professional growth.
Tyler Schroepfer is a current student in the Food Science program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, set to graduate in May 2024. He plans to combine his interest in food research and development with his experience as an active member of Wisconsin’s dairy community to one day earn his Wisconsin cheesemaker’s license and open his own creamery. Tyler is the son of Sartori Company employee Jolynne Schroepfer and Dave Schroepfer.
Since 1999, 60 WCMA Supplier Student Scholarships have been awarded to suppliers to the dairy industry and their family members. This year’s winners are Josie Boyle, Rainna Simone, and Samantha Hawkey.
Josie Boyle is a fifth-generation agriculturalist and current high school senior who grew up surrounded by her family’s dairy farming tradition in rural Iowa. She has also been an active FFA member, most recently serving as Northeast District Vice President and West Dubuque Chapter President. She will attend the University of Iowa in fall 2023 to pursue her goal of becoming a communications professional for a dairy-focused business. Josie’s parents are Ted Boyle, an employee of Chr. Hansen, Inc., and Angela Rowson.
Upon graduation in May 2025, Rainna Simone plans to utilize her degree in Dairy Science from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to launch her career as a dairy calf nutritionist, working alongside producers to develop well-managed calf care operations. She is also pursuing a minor in Spanish, empowering her to help build connections between dairy companies and their Spanish-speaking employees and customers. Rainna is the daughter of Roehl Transport, Inc. employee Amy Simone and Chad Simone.
Samantha Hawkey is the HR Coordinator for Kelley Supply, Inc. and a student in the Human Resource Management program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Upon graduation in May 2024, she plans to continue advancing her career as a full-time employee of Kelley Supply, where she has strengthened her business acumen and skills. Samantha hopes to one day lead a human resources department as a manager or director.
Since 2021, WCMA has also selected two students each year to receive the Brian Eggebrecht Student Scholarship Supporting Skilled Trades in the Dairy Industry, worth $2,000 each. This award, named in honor of Championship Cheese Contest Chairman and generous donor Brian Eggebrecht, is open to students attending any technical school in Wisconsin, or high school students registered to attend a Wisconsin technical school. The 2023 winners of this scholarship are Nathan Nikolay and Kaitlin Rydzewski.
Nathan Nikolay will graduate in May 2023 with a degree in Agriculture Power Equipment from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin. He plans to use his education, combined with his experience in dairy management and equipment operation at Nikolay Farms, to become an agricultural service technician and ultimately own his own equipment repair business. Nathan’s father, Jay Nikolay, is an employee of Nelson-Jameson, Inc.
Kaitlin Rydzewski is currently studying welding at Moraine Park Technical College in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. After completing her degree in May 2023, she looks forward to a career in stainless welding in the dairy industry, where sanitary welds are critical to product safety and quality. As a young woman in her field, Kaitlin hopes to help grow the dairy industry by inspiring other women to become welders as well. Her father is Stephen Rydzewski of ProActive Solutions USA.
The WCMA Student Scholarship Program is funded by the annual Championship Cheese Auction, where gold medal cheeses from WCMA’s Championship Cheese Contests are sold to the highest bidders. The next auction will be held during CheeseCon, scheduled for April 4-6 in Madison, Wisconsin. More information and registration details are available at CheeseCon.org.