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Sheffield Lake Middle Schooler Wins 3rd Ohio Vax-A-Million Scholarship

a screen shot of the scholarship winner Sara Afaneh
The Ohio Channel
The third Vax-A-Million full-ride scholarship winner, Sara Afaneh, joins a Gov. Mike DeWine press briefing with her mom, Summer, on Thursday. The Afanehs are residents of Sheffield Lake in Lorain County.

A Lorain County middle school student is the third Vax-a-Million scholarship winner, receiving a full ride to college for getting vaccinated.

Thirteen-year-old Sara Afaneh of Sheffield Lake was selected out of more than 143,000 Ohioans age 12 to 17 who entered the drawing for the scholarship.

“My mom was the one that told me,” Afaneh said.

She and her mom, Summer, joined a press conference with Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday morning to discuss winning the scholarship and the importance of getting vaccinated.

“It was very exciting. Surreal, for sure,” her mom said.

Sara Afaneh is the second Northeast Ohio teen in a row to win the scholarship, and the third Vax-A-Million winner from the region overall. Last week, Mayfield Village teen Zoie Vincent won the scholarship, and 22-year-old Shaker Heights native Abbigail Bugenske was the first Ohioan to win the million-dollar lottery.

The scholarship money will be placed in a 529 college savings account and can be used for any university, DeWine said. The dollar amount is pegged to the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and books at Ohio’s most expensive public university.

Getting vaccinated a "no brainer"

Sara Afaneh received her vaccine shortly after ages 12 and up became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, her mom said. Sara and her siblings got their vaccines at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital, Summer Afaneh said, and several of their family members had COVID-19 early on in the pandemic.

“I’m a nurse, so I sort of have seen the damage COVID has done in all scenes of health care,” Summer Afaneh said. “We just felt lucky that we were able to get the vaccine and it was available to us, so for me it was a no brainer. As soon as they were eligible, we signed up and took them in.”

Sara Afaneh will be an eighth grader in the fall and said she is not yet sure what college she wants to attend. But the full-ride scholarship will also help the family afford college for her older sister, who is 17, Summer Afaneh said.

The third winner of the million-dollar lottery is Mark Cline of Richwood in Union County.

The governor knocked on Cline’s door and told him he won in person shortly before it was announced to the public during the Ohio Lottery’s Cash Explosion lottery show at 7:29 p.m. Wednesday, DeWine said.

Cline, who retired in 2016 after a career with Findlay-based Marathon Petroleum Corp., received his shot at the Union County Fairgrounds, he said.

“The shots are no big deal. Get them,” Cline said. “Protect your fellow men and women that you love.”

More than 3 million adults have now entered Ohio’s Vax-A-Million program, with more than 136,000 new entries since last week’s drawing, DeWine said Thursday. The scholarship drawing received more than 10,000 new youth entries, he said.

The lottery is a statewide program to encourage Ohioans to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Anyone aged 18 and over who has received at least one dose of the vaccine can sign up for the $1 million drawing, and children aged 12 to 17 who have received one dose can still enter for the full-ride scholarship incentive.

The weekly drawings will continue through June 21. Ohioans can register online or by phone at 1-833-427-5634. Those who have already registered do not have to sign up again, according to state officials.

Additional vaccination incentives

Vaccinations in the state have leveled off after an initial spike after the million-dollar lottery was announced, DeWine said Thursday. However, several counties are continuing to see increases, including Warren, Hocking and Seneca, among other, mostly rural, counties, he said.

“What we achieved in the first week was worth all of it, in the increase in vaccinations. Second week was good as well. Third week is now pretty much filling in, not as good, [and] going back [down],” DeWine said.

More incentives to get the shot, including prizes donated from Ohio businesses, will be rolled out soon, he added.

“We have some additional incentives and things that the private sector has been working on, and we hope to announce those in the next few days,” DeWine said. 

DeWine said the state’s overall case rate as of Wednesday was 39.1 cases per 100,000 population. And cases are still dropping across the state, he said, with all but 17 counties now reporting under 50 cases per 100,000 residents – the governor’s original benchmark for dropping all state-mandated health orders, though those were lifted June 2.

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