Three winners received $10,000 Bold.org checks toward their education

September 20, 2022

Pictured: Melina Figueroa (Left), Janaan Ahmed (center) and Angel Zheng (right)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN Catcher for the Minnesota Twins, Gary Sánchez, awarded his $30,000 “Swing for the Fences” Scholarship to three students from Minnesota. In August 2022, Gary created the scholarship in partnership with the Twins and Bold.org to financially support students from traditionally under-represented segments. Before the Twins game against the Los Angeles Angels on September 23, Gary awarded three $10,000 Bold.org checks to each of his scholarship winners: Angel Zheng from Cannon Falls High School, Janaan Ahmed from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Melina Figueroa from Spring Lake Park High School.

Gary Sánchez says: “When I decided to start the scholarship, I knew I wanted to find students in under-represented segments of Minneapolis who could have an impact in their own way to the State’s future. In Angel, Janaan and Melina, I have no doubt that we did so. All three are strong, young women who have overcome much. They have much to offer Minnesota, and I am honored to be able to lend some financial support to ensure that they get the education they need to reach their goals. Thank you to Bold.org and the Minnesota Twins for being steadfast partners in this endeavor. They were active participants at each step of the process. Without their efforts, this scholarship would not have been possible.”

Janaan Ahmed wrote her essay about the struggle of growing up in a home that felt distant and disconnected. Her essay expanded on the financial, emotional and physical struggles of growing up in Section 8 housing with 9 siblings and 6 step-siblings under one roof. After facing many isolating hardships at home, Janaan started to make school her home. When Janaan shifted her focus, she began to excel in high school — all while juggling three jobs, two varsity sports and extracurriculars. “This scholarship will not only provide the opportunity for affordable education, but it will also end another generation of poverty here in Minnesota,” she wrote in her essay.

Janaan Ahmed (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) says: “Receiving the Gary Sánchez Swing for the Fences scholarship on Bold.org is one of the biggest blessings in my life. After taking a year off of school, I’m excited to pursue my bachelor's, followed by my master's, at the University of Minnesota. School has always been a refuge for me and a space to blossom into the student I am today. I hope to return to my roots and become a Minnesota High School Social Studies teacher in the near future. Without this scholarship, that dream would be more challenging to obtain. As a die-hard Minnesota Twins fan, being awarded this opportunity by Gary Sánchez is a dream come true. I can’t wait to return to the classroom as a student, and with this scholarship, I’m one step closer to teaching in my own classroom.”

Angel Zheng wrote about the challenges she has faced as an Asian-American student. At a young age, Angel experienced bullying, racism, and abuse. The challenges she faced caused her mental health to dwindle, eventually leading to chronic anxiety and depression. Angel came to a crossroads, and she decided to prioritize her mental health and learn more about the human psyche. Angel plans to use the scholarship toward a psychology degree so she can help others work through difficult situations.

Angel Zheng (Cannon Falls High School) says: “I am so thankful to Gary for creating this scholarship on Bold.org. I was shocked when I found out I was one of the winners. Winning this scholarship definitely boosted my confidence in achieving my goal of going to college. I will use the scholarship money to pursue my education in psychology.”

Melina Figueroa wrote about growing up in a single-parent household and the challenges her family faced when her father left the home. Living in a single-parent household, Melina’s mother struggled to financially support Melina and her sister. As a first-generation student, Melina worked hard to overcome her fears in order to achieve her ambitious goal of pursuing an education — which is something she learned from her mother. “My mother showed me how to use others' doubts and negative perceptions as motivation to become a better person. She taught me to be an independent woman and that I am still fully capable of being successful on my own,” Melina wrote in her essay. “The ability to further my education is something I do not plan to take for granted. The opportunity is one that my mother did not have; therefore, I am inspired to continue my education.”

Melina Figueroa (Spring Lake Park High School) says: “I’m extremely grateful to have received the Swing For The Fences Scholarship on Bold.org. This scholarship will give me the opportunity to further my education, which has always been a goal of mine. As a first-generation student, I have always been motivated to further my education and this scholarship has truly been a blessing to help me achieve that. Thank you, Gary!"

Sánchez spent his childhood playing baseball in sandlots in the Dominican Republic. In 2015, he made his debut with the New York Yankees and by 2016, he was deemed the American League’s Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month. Today, Gary plays under the bright lights of Major League Baseball as a catcher for the Minnesota Twins. Sánchez is part of a long list of athletes and public figures who support education on Bold.org. Other Bold.org scholarship sponsors include NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Jae’Sean Tate and Tyrell Terry, MLB player Austin Hays, professional tennis player Sloane Stephens, Grammy-winning band Imagine Dragons, actor Terry Crews and many more.