When Newton High School senior Katie Brenneman pictures herself in the year 2020, she imagines herself as a successful college graduate with a master's degree in accounting, preparing to take the Certified Public Accountant exam.

She described these goals in an essay, which won her a $2,500 "STAR Scholarship" from P.E.O., an international philanthropic education organization. She was nominated by local P.E.O. chapter members Barbara Bunting, Ann Adrian and Karen Farrell.

"I was shocked," said Brenneman, who is the local chapter's first "STAR Scholarship" winner. "There were so many applications and I knew I had to make myself stand out to even be considered for it."

"Katie's character and meticulous organization of her credentials, as well as her essay, were vital in her being chosen," Bunting said. "... We felt she had an excellent chance in winning this."

From almost 2,000 applications, 350 recipients were chosen. Applicants had to be nominated by a local chapter, write an essay and submit letters of recommendation.

"It was a pretty intensive process," Bunting said.

"(A winner's) credentials have to be really high," said current P.E.O. president Sally Long. "... There are lots of good students."

The local P.E.O. chapter hoped they would receive word on whether Brenneman had won the scholarship by senior awards night, so they could make the announcement. They finally received word that afternoon — and they were able to surprise Brenneman that evening.

Brenneman plans to attend K-State in the fall, majoring in accounting and finance. She said her involvement in NHS' Business Professionals of America group has given her valuable experience that will help her in her career.

"The club just gives you a variety of skills and lessons that are going to help you through life in any avenue you take," she said. "... It's been a really great learning experience."