“She loved learning so much”: Memorial scholarship honors Olivia Paregol’s curiosity

Freshman Olivia Paregol (center) with her parents, Ian Paregol (left) and Meg Paregol (right). The University of Maryland student died Nov. 18 after contracting adenovirus (Photo courtesy of Ian Paregol).

Before Olivia Paregol came to the University of Maryland, her parents would often play trivia games with her. They’d ask her questions about history and give her creative writing challenges. She’d sometimes win bragging rights for doing better than her siblings.

But whenever her parents asked her to name a strait — a passage of water that connects two larger aquatic bodies — she wasn’t amused by the weird question.

“I would ask this question every single time we would do this, and as soon as I said the word strait, she would roll her eyes and say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” her father Ian Paregol said.

When Paregol, 18, died last November due to complications from pneumonia caused by a serious strain of adenovirus, her parents wanted to honor her legacy with a scholarship.

They created the Olivia Paregol Memorial Scholarship with her curious personality in mind and sought responses that were creative and exemplified her personality. They immediately knew what they would ask on this year’s application: “Pick a strait — somewhere in the world — and tell us why you think it is important.”

The underlying theme, Ian Paregol said, was all about connection — appropriate given Olivia’s ability to instantly make friends with anyone she met. Multiple essays made the family tear up and reminded them of how Paregol might respond to the same prompt.

“We purposely put that word in [the application] because that’s what she was. She just connected to everybody,” her father said. “It’s a very Olivia thing.”

The application was open to students from Glenelg High School, Paregol’s alma mater, and ended a couple of weeks ago. Roughly a dozen students applied, many of whom knew Paregol, her father said.

The family crafted the scholarship so graduating high schoolers could use the money for whatever purpose they need, Ian Paregol said. So far, every student that has applied plans to use the money to help with their college tuition.

Sarah Hauk, a freshman marketing major and one of Paregol’s good friends, said a scholarship in her honor is fitting given her inquisitive nature.

“She loved learning so much, and it’s nice that she’ll be able to pass that on to someone else,” Hauk said.

Ian Paregol said his family is targeting one or two winners to receive around $1,000. Winners will be announced in May, and the family is hosting a fundraiser Saturday at Ledo Restaurant in College Park to help raise money for the scholarship. Fifteen percent of purchases from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. will go to the scholarship fund.

Freshman Riley Whelan, a communication major who was also close friends with Paregol, said Paregol would appreciate her family’s initiative and motives for the scholarship.

“She’d just be really proud of the way her family has taken all of this and the way that they’re handling it and using something so horrible and turning it into something so good,” Whelan said. “It gives her some sort of legacy that she deserves.”

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