Skip to content

Young Harris College Announces Recipients of the Ledford Scholarships

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Young Harris College is pleased to announce that Sophia Shook and Ashley Palmateer have been awarded Ledford Scholarships from the Appalachian College Association (ACA). The ACA’s Ledford Scholars Program offers financial assistance for intensive research projects to undergraduate students enrolled at ACA member institutions. As YHC has only recently joined the ACA, 2023 is the first year that its students have been eligible to participate in the program, and two of Young Harris College’s most deserving scholars have been recognized this year.

Sophia Shook, class of 2024, is a Biology major and Psychology minor. Her research will focus on the effects of the selective estrogen receptor modulator, Bazedoxiefene, and aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligands found in green tea extracts on CYP1A1 expression and activation. She has been awarded the Ledford Scholarship for this exploration of a potential approach to cancer prevention. 

“It is an immense honor to be awarded the Ledford Scholarship,” said Sophia. “This scholarship provides financial support to begin research that contributes to a potential role of a cancer preventative. Not only will this scholarship provide me with the materials needed to do this research, but this scholarship will provide an opportunity of experience that will assist me when continuing my education to become a physician. I would like to express great gratitude to the Ledford Scholarship committee for putting their confidence in my research proposal, and I would like to thank Dr. Schroeder and other faculty at YHC that have gone above their duties to help me.” 

Sophia will conduct her research under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Schroeder, Associate Professor of Biology. “I am excited to mentor Sophia this fall on her research project,” said Dr. Schroeder. “She has an innate curiosity that drives her to more fully understand how biological processes affect human health. While taking my Cancer Biology course last year, she was particularly interested in possible ways to treat or prevent breast cancer. After suggesting a specific aspect she wanted to explore, we were able to develop a set of ambitious research goals and submit a proposal for the Ledford Scholars program. We are both grateful to have been selected for this honor and look forward to representing Young Harris in this manner.”

Sophia currently works as a medical assistant at North Georgia Family Medicine, as well as mentors in Towns County Schools. With a deep passion for the community in which she grew up, Sophia plans to combat the shortage of physicians in rural areas by one day becoming a doctor. 

Ashley Palmateer, class of 2024, is a Psychology major with a minor in Philosophy. While the validity of Ashley’s project relies on potential participants remaining naïve to her hypotheses, her research focuses on psychological and behavioral avenues to pain management. Ashley has been awarded the Ledford Scholarship for her investigation of alternative coping skills for those who suffer from pain. 

“I am deeply thankful for this opportunity,” said Ashley. “Until now, I have never had the opportunity to do such extensive research. Not only will this project set me apart as I apply for graduate school, but it will allow me to better understand the effects of pain on individuals. Often, pain is catastrophized without an understanding of its root, and prescriptions are made immediately. My research aims to reduce the resulting opioid dependency through better coping skills and practices. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct this research with the guidance of Dr. Van Dyke.” 

Dr. Benjamin Van Dyke, Assistant Professor of Psychology, congratulated Ashley for her research.  “I am excited and proud to be working with Ashley Palmateer on her Ledford Scholar Research Project!” said Dr. Van Dyke. “Ashley’s project represents her hard work, curiosity, and passion for understanding and relieving the suffering of people in pain, who often also struggle with opioid dependence. The results of Ashley’s project not only have the potential to address an important gap in the existing scientific literature on the psychology of pain, but they may provide insights that could help people develop new relationships to their pain and therefore reduce the need for medications with high addiction and overdose potential.”

Ashley is currently a volunteer with the local 4-H Club and a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority. After graduation, she plans to study neuropsychology at the graduate level, studying the cognitive and neurological processes that dictate human behavior.   

Dr. Larry Hall, ACA Vice President for Academic Programs, commended Sophia and Ashley for their research. “The ACA is so proud to be able to provide these Ledford awards to support the exceptional work of our students across Appalachia,” said Dr. Hall. “From my own experiences, I understand how impactful and sometimes even life-changing these intensive undergraduate research experiences can be for students. We thank Dr. Schroeder and Dr. Van Dyke for their commitment to their students as they serve as their faculty mentors for the projects, and we look forward to seeing Sophia’s and Ashley’s presentations upon completion of their research!”

About Young Harris College

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science and Technology; and Professional Studies. More than 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the prestigious Peach Belt Conference. For more information, visit