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» Erie student awarded Erie County Bar Foundation’s 2013 Pennsylvania Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship
Posted on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM

ERIE, Pa. – A future Erie lawyer who will be attending law school at American University this fall is the 2013 recipient of the Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship.

Mara  Rita Vento, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in April 2012 with Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degrees in Political Science and Italian Studies, was one of eight aspirants for this year's scholarship, administered and awarded for the Roberts Family by the Erie County Bar Foundation.

The Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship Committee found that while competition for the 2013 scholarship award was extremely keen, Vento exemplified the many qualities demonstrated during the long and distinguished career of the Erie lawyer and judge who rose to lead the Commonwealth’s highest court, becoming one of the nation’s most respected jurists.

In addition to awarding the 2013 scholarship to Vento, the committee, citing the academic success of Erie’s Jon Heintz at the University of  Notre Dame, renewed his Roberts Scholarship for his third year of law school, and Courtney Mercier’s Roberts Scholarship for her second year at the University of Michigan Law School. Both previous  recipients have shown extraordinary scholarship at their respective law schools, committee members said.

Meanwhile, Vento was selected after the committee recently interviewed all eight scholarship candidates.

“The committee had a tough job this year, given the academic credentials and potential talent of each applicant. All members, however were extremely impressed with Mara’s undergraduate background, her internship with the U.S. State Department last fall, current volunteer work in Morocco with the Davis Projects for Peace, and the course she has set for herself and her future in law,” said Sandra Brydon Smith, executive director of Erie County Bar Foundation.

In her scholarship application, Vento, also a student of classic ballet, wrote, “The foundation of my personal and educational identity, formulated during my adolescent years in Erie, led me to my interest in international affairs, studies in Pittsburgh and Rome, successes in ballet, internships with the State Department and in Italy, as well as my grant opportunity to work in Morocco.

“Moreover, I believe this foundation I have built will ultimately lead me to many more successes in my career as an international lawyer. I am grateful to serve as a representative for the Erie community, not only during my time in law school, but through the entirety of my career in law.”

          While earning her collegiate bachelor’s degrees, the Mercyhurst Prep member of the National Honor Society maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.5 during her years of study.

While grades, class standings and standardized test scores are all weighed when considering scholarship awards, motivation, personal interviews, community service and broader interests are also taken into consideration by committee members. Vento conducted her interview with the committee via Skype from Europe, where she is donating her time and grant money to assist a women’s home that hosts economically disadvantaged university-aged women.

Each year, the Chief Justice Samuel J. Roberts Scholarship Committee meets to consider applications from first-year law students and scholarship renewals for previous recipients. While there is no mandate that scholarship winners return to Erie County to practice law, the committee encourages local law careers whenever possible.  The committee has been awarding scholarships for more than two decades.

Serving on the committee are former Justice Roberts law clerks Daan Braveman, president of Nazareth College, James Strazzella of Temple Law School, Patrick “Mick” Livingston, sole practitioner in Pittsburgh and Dennis Haines of Pepco Energy Services; former scholarship recipients Tina M. Fryling and Scott T. Stroup;  Foundation members Mary Alfieri Richmond and John J. Mehler; Attorney David M. Zurn and lay representatives Kathleen Horan of Stairways Behavioral Health, and Jeff Pinski, formerly of Edinboro University and the Erie Times-News.