The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association awards 2023 Thomas R. and Laura Ridge Scholarship to 27 Deserving Students

CAMP HILL, PA — This year, scholarship winners earned a total of $67,500 toward their goals in higher education. Recipients are chosen by a panel of judges who review each applicant’s academic record, school, and community involvement, recommendations, and a submitted essay.

“Kudos to this year’s Ridge Scholars, who represent some of our brightest young adults,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “They have amassed an impressive list of accomplishments, service, and academic and professional leadership. We are happy to recognize their efforts and help them reach their academic goals.”

Individual scholarship amounts awarded every student with a $2,500 scholarship for the 2023-24 academic year. In total, $67,500 in scholarships were awarded. Scholarship funds come from PFMA’s Education Trust and sponsoring PFMA member companies The GIANT Company, Karns Foods, Rutter’s, Sheetz, and Wawa.

“Working in retail food service has been a fun and rewarding experience. It has taught me to be fast, detail-oriented, and friendly while performing a variety of job duties in a fast-paced environment. To think that a job I love that has helped fund my education has also allowed me the opportunity to become a Ridge Scholar is an amazing privilege for which I am grateful,” said Helayna Baer of Cheswick, PA. “The Ridge Scholarship will help me achieve my goal of expanding my learning experiences to study abroad in France.” 

This year’s recipients are listed below with their goals in higher education. PFMA thanks its members for sponsoring the Ridge Scholars, and each sponsoring business is listed in parentheses. 

Helayna Baer of Cheswick, PA, plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh to major in Chemical Engineering and a minor in French. (Sheetz)

Alexis Benner of Reedsville, PA, plans to attend Juniata College to major in

Biology. (Rutter’s)

Madison Braswell of Howell, NJ, plans to attend Montclair State University to major in Earth and Environmental Science. (Wawa)

Nancy Colwell of Hayes, VA, plans to attend James Madison University to major in Marketing and minor in Business Spanish. (Wawa)

Sydney Eckhardt Phoenixville, PA, plans to major in Economics and History at Boston College. (Wawa)

Maizie Ecker of Seven Valleys, PA, plans to attend West Chester University to major in Nutrition and a minor in Biology. (Rutter’s)

Jillian Evans of Coatesville, PA, plans to attend University of Delaware Honors

College to major in Neuroscience and Psychology with a minor in Human

Development and Family Science. (GIANT/Martin’s)

Lindsay Fittipaldi of Egg Harbor, NJ, plans to attend Quinnipiac University to major in Criminal Justice. (Wawa)

Sarah Graham of Altoona, PA, plans to attend Dickinson College to major in

International Studies with a minor in Political Science and Spanish. (PFMA/David & Kathryn McCorkle)

Sydney Hertzog of Kutztown, PA, plans to attend Gwynedd Mercy University to major in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy with a minor in

Psychology. (PFMA)

Hannah Hess of Berwick, PA, plans to attend King’s College to major in Early Childhood Education PK- 4 and Special Education PK- 12 and pursuing a Masters in Reading. (GIANT/Martin’s)

Lucas Hydock of Minersville, PA, plans to attend The Pennsylvania State

University to major in Film and Cinematography Production. (PFMA)

McKenna Kessler of Fleetwood, PA, plans to attend East Stroudsburg University to major in Digital Media Technologies (DMET). (GIANT/Martin’s)

Edgar Maysonet of Orlando, FL, plans to attend the University of Central Florida to major in Mechanical Engineering. (PFMA)

Peter Murnane of West Chest, PA, plans to attend The Pennsylvania State

University to major in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Technology Based

Entrepreneurship and Innovation. (GIANT/Martin’s)

Travis Noecker of Hamburg, PA, plans to attend Arcadia University to major in Forensic Science. (Rutter’s)

Mackenzie Owens of Lansdale, PA, plans to attend University College Dublin to major in Applied Economics. (GIANT/Martin’s)

Riya Patel of Ellicott City, MD, plans to attend University of Maryland to major in Public Health Science and minor in Humanities, Health and Medicine. (PFMA)

Kara Peck of Waynesboro, PA, plans to attend Shippensburg University to major in

Early Childhood Education. (PFMA)

Jamie Pottman of York, PA, plans to attend University of Delaware to major in Applied Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. (Rutter’s)

Mark Pottman of York, PA, plans to attend Kutztown University to major in

Cinema, Media, and Television. (Rutter’s)

Kaitlyn Sheriff of Landisburg, PA, plans to attend Lycoming College to major in Astrophysics and a minor in Computational Science. (Karns)

Caleb Shoemaker of Duncannon, PA, plans to attend Penn State Harrisburg to major in Mechanical Engineering. (Rutter’s)

Madalyn Strait of Columbia, PA, plans to attend Misericordia University to major in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. (PFMA)

LaRin Walls of Hollidaysburg, PA, plans to attend Point Park University to major in Theatre Production. (Sheetz)

Ryan Wilson of Mechanicsburg, PA, plans to attend Bloomsburg University to major in Finance. (PFMA)

Sandy Zheng of Spring Grove, PA, plans to attend West Chester University to major in Biochemistry with a minor in Biology. (Rutter’s)

Established in 1996, the Ridge Scholarship honors the parents of former Gov. Tom Ridge. Thomas R. Ridge was a member of the food industry for 25 years, and his wife, Laura, was a great advocate of education for their three children: Tom, David and Vikki. To date, 654 students have earned Ridge Scholarships, and nearly $1.2 million has been awarded.

About PFMA

The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, a statewide trade association, advocates the views of nearly 800 convenience stores, supermarkets, independent grocers, wholesalers, and consumer product vendors. PFMA members operate more than 4,000 stores and employ more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians. For more information on PFMA, visit