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WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship

20 winners, $1,000 each
Application Deadline
Jul 16, 2024
Winners Announced
Aug 16, 2024
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Financial Status:
High school senior, going back to school, or already in a post-secondary program

Everyone deserves an opportunity to receive a high-quality education, but unfortunately, socioeconomic status is a common barrier limiting the educational opportunities of students across the country.

Only 14% of low-income students receive a bachelor’s degree within 8 years of graduating from high school. This is staggeringly low. 

While a college education can be a great way for low-income students to escape the cycle of poverty, many of these students do not take this path. They often face difficult choices – Do I get a job and support my family, or do I take out large loans and further my education? These are tough choices to make at a young age.  

As one small way to make higher education more accessible to low-income students, twenty $1000 WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarships will be awarded to students in any field of study who have an exemplary academic record, but are in need of financial assistance to pursue their dreams in higher education. 

To apply, you must be planning to be enrolled in continuing education in August 2024. This can include having your GED, being a graduating high school senior, someone returning to school or someone already enrolled in a post-secondary education program. Please write about your greatest achievement, what it taught you about yourself, and what you hope to achieve in the future.

Selection Criteria:
Essay, Low-Income, Ambition, Perseverance
Published April 15, 2024
Essay Topic

What do you think is your greatest achievement to date? What did that experience teach you about yourself? What you hope to achieve in the future? 

400–750 words

Winners and Finalists

September 2023

Shanda Poitra
Amerie Samuels
Miguel Ramos
Emma Beganovic
Christopher Jimenez
Nickolas Kaleimanuokekai Lum
Aireus Robinson
Desiree Smith
Levi Miedema
Ivette Flores
Nemawae Hines
bianca arizmendi
Chanrangsey Chheng
Keirah Jones
Brooklyn Luckett
Ziao Huang
Julianne Falcon
Alyssa Browne
Mikaylea Glaeser
Malka Heidingsfeld
(R.J.) Rycklon Stephens Jr.
Aaron Kaiser
Tegan Tien
Emily Newberry
Veronica Godina
Abbie Mathew
Jocelyn Hernandez
Fevet Ibrahim
Maria Simpson
Nadia Diaz
A’nya Wilkes
Wynona Lam
Danielle Mensah
Lydia Capaldi
Veronica Wanzer
Kanij Nessa
Daniel Deutsch
Devon Woodfine
Nahiyan Sattar
Michael Solomon
Pepper Reed
Maleeha Mughal
Patricia Rodriguez
Wendy Tamayo
Kennedi white
Alexandra Soto-Lopez
nikki syhasak
Rinel Maldonado
Kiara Lewis
merihan Daniel

August 2022

Amber Wang1st PLACE
Amaiya Brown2nd PLACE
Amor Goetz3rd PLACE
Ruby Isidro-Lopez4th PLACE
Arturo Servin5th PLACE
Gabriella Armatis6th PLACE
Hailey Roberts7th PLACE
Patrick Taylor8th PLACE
Elijah Michel9th PLACE
Freya Ngo10th PLACE
Victoriano Ponce11th PLACE
Doyup Kwon12th PLACE
Jay More13th PLACE
Taylor Gwinn14th PLACE
Peter Thompson15th PLACE
Simone Jane
Andria Taylor
Levi Miedema
Fametta Zubah
Miguel Ambriz Valdovinos
likita griffith
Aisha Wehliye
Andre Allen
Annie Xu
Geovanni Said
Sam McGee
Andrew Marshall
Luis Mendoza
Amsal Ali
Kamaia Hall-Edwards
Gabby Challgren
Matthew Johnson
Ghenaé Ford
Bailey Morris
Marisa Pelletaire
Andrea Padilla
Hager Sharhan
Madoe Etey-Benissan
Mohamed Ahmed
Nzna Nguyen
Mauricio Juarez
Shane Bennett
Calia Howse
Ava Stefanik
Jaclyn Smith
Ryley Butler
Trisha Patel
Henry Olango
Ashley Byrd
Noah Brown
Yvonne Jaime Robinson
Werlie Cius

August 2021

Matilda Braun
valisha pearson
Faith Folorunso
Nathaniel Savel
Jessica Sofía Segovia Pacheco
Tehmoor Hassan
Lin Lin
Paige Mandy
Osayuwamen Ede-Osifo
Sarah Ali
Mihir Mirch
Alejandro Quintero
Fatema Traore
Brandi O'Berry
Samantha Paul
Amanda Bonesteel
Renata Barona
Trinity Peacock
Taylor Young
Mariaelena Tejada
Victoria Monroe
Ethan Stevenson
Daphne Rodriguez
Mudia Ighile
Doyup Kwon
William Walker VI
Beverly N
Jessica Porras
Sadie Fashana
Angela Zhong
Enzo Mignano
Amanda Quintino dos Santos
Matthew Clarke
Joshua Sims
Gabriella Armatis
Cedric Caschetta
Alexandria Nguyen
DeLon Henderson, Jr.
Marcus-Malik O'Connor-Howard
Michael O'Connor
Autumn Houle
Armand Young
Mariah Williams
Eddie Kim
Taylor Waldron
Kamren Brock
Itzel Cerecedo
Alexandria Coleman
Dee Oliveira
Alexis Wilson
Meghana Jagarlamudi
Alison OGorman

Winning Application

Shanda Poitra
Turtle Mountain Community CollegeBelcourt, ND
Maandaamin Zeynibahn Ikwe Indizhinekaus, Migizi Doodem, Mikinak Wajing Doongee. My name is Corn Silk Woman, Eagle Clan, Anishinaabe/Ojibwe from the Turtle Mountains. My government name is Shanda Poitra. While employed full-time, I am also the founder, executive director, and lead instructor for Turtle Mountain IMPACT; formerly known as Turtle Mountain Empowerment Self Defense, established in 2018. We are now a non-profit for the state of ND and the first official chapter of IMPACT International - created for Indigenous communities and led by Indigenous people. Turtle Mountain IMPACT is a chapter of the IMPACT International organization and is comprised o female lead instructors (the “vigil-aunties”), and male suit instructors (who portray the “bad” or “suspicious” characters, wear fully padded suits, and take full-force physical strikes from participants). Our workshops are now requested on reservations all over the country and in Canada. We can hardly keep up due to my instructors also having full-time jobs, college courses, and kids at home; but we manage. We all share the same passion and dedication to this work because we have witnessed firsthand how important and life-changing it can be for those who take our workshops. Self-defense training is one of the few types of victim services that simultaneously promotes body-oriented healing and practical safety planning strategies. Feminist empowerment approaches to self-defense go well beyond physical skills. These programs teach assertive communication and boundary-setting skills, conflict resolution and de-escalation, and strategic physical escape from potentially dangerous situations. Research shows that survivors who are taught physical and verbal skills as part of feminist self-defense skills report finding their voices, speaking up for themselves, and ending relationships with abusive and coercive people due to increased confidence in their ability to take care of themselves. When I returned home, I noticed an increase in crime; mostly against women & girls, or vulnerable people. Every time this topic was brought up to a group of people, there were always more stories and injustices that were added on. I remembered the self-defense course that I took while attending the University of North Dakota, called IMPACT-U; this one-credit course changed my life forever. I was able to recognize the horrible conditions that my children and I were living in, leave my abuser, and live my life with more confidence than I’ve ever had. After discussing the issues with a former instructor, it was established that I would do instructor training and bring these skills back to our community myself. I had no idea how much work it was going to take to get this going, but I was determined. I have spent the last five years working to make this method of healing and safety planning available to others on the reservation. Turtle Mountain IMPACT (Empowerment Self-Defense) has taught basic skills to so many of all ages. Additionally, we partnered with IMPACT Boston, a program of Triangle, Inc., to bring more rigorous self-defense courses to the reservation in June 2018. Through this collaboration, my team worked with IMPACT Boston trainers to create a customized curriculum that addresses the unique realities facing indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and people with disabilities of all genders. Our biggest accomplishments were obtaining our chapter status while training, organizing, and teaching workshops, WHILE maintaining our full-time obligations with employers, school requirements, and family & ceremony life. The desired impact of this project is that Tribe members will be able to access healing programs without having to self-identify as victims of crime. Since there is a stigma in reporting to law enforcement or accessing victim services, this project will present an alternative way for Tribe members experiencing abuse to get the healing and practical safety skills they need. Self-defense programs will be offered in the school systems, including college, and community gathering spaces that are adjacent to the lowest-income housing on the reservation. By offering programs in these spaces, and advertising them as open to all women, teen girls, two-spirit or students receiving special education, survivors can access support in neutral locations that they go to as part of regular routines. Turtle Mountain IMPACT will offer programs in special education classrooms, during afterschool program time at the high school, and on weekends and evenings to reach adult women. We also created boundary-setting exercises based on the cultural norms of the community and the unique experiences of violence women and children experience. Safety planning strategies were developed for racially motivated hate violence, abduction, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment in medical settings, and domestic violence.
Amerie Samuels
Girls Academic Leadership AcademyInglewood, CA
Miguel Ramos
University of Colorado Denver OnlineDenver, CO
To date, one of my highest achievements was winning the Colorado state football 5A championship in 2021 for the Far Northeast Warriors. As a young Mexican American still in my senior year, my family was greatly impacted financially by covid. I had to work 30 hours at UPS to help make ends meet for my family. Deeply upset that I couldn’t finish my senior football, I convinced myself that it was still a possibility despite all the obstacles I had to overcome. To start my day, I would wake up at 7:30 to prepare myself for my six AP classes through Zoom, which I would finish by 4:00 pm. From there, I would go straight to football practice, which would end at 6:30 pm. Then, I would make my way to UPS until 11:00 pm and finish off the night with homework that was due the next day. I would repeat this schedule Monday through Thursday because Friday would be my game night. Saturday would be me working construction with my dad to help pay the bills that I owe. Despite all these responsibilities, I still had to catch up conditionally in football since everyone has been practicing all summer of last year. After continuously having a strenuous schedule, I wanted to give up. But I remember one night when I was struggling to sleep, I told myself if it’s possible then it’s doable. That same morning my will was enlightened once again. Day after day, week after week, I was doing my absolute best in school and football. As the football season was starting to come to an end, we qualified for the playoffs. Although we always make it to the playoffs, we never came close to the championship. But this year felt different. Knowing it was my last year, I put my absolute soul in my starting position as a defensive end through every play. Slowly but surely winning our playoff games, we finally made it to the championship. Our team, the underdogs, were faced with immense pressure and expectations from our community since we never won a championship for football before. But at the end of the day, hard work overcomes talent as we beat the team 34-6. What this experience taught me about myself, if I'm determined for something, I will complete my goal. Not only did I have restless nights, huge amounts of guilt, and no time for social events, my goal became a reality. I was able to finish off my season and complete the dream of many people of winning a state championship for football. Also, it illuminated how effective I am with time management since I was still able to graduate with a 4.0+ GPA by juggling my hectic schedule. What I hope to achieve in the future is having the same determination to finish my cybersecurity degree. I know cybersecurity is not easy since it's competitive and complex, but that shouldn’t stop me from completing the degree. I want to prove a Mexican American can obtain these high corporate jobs by improving my skills, especially with undocumented parents. The one thing I know about myself is, I will make time for my goals.
Emma Beganovic
American UniversityWashington, DC
In the vast tapestry of my life, I, a non-native English speaker and a first-generation Bosnian and Muslim-American, have woven a narrative defined by resilience, cultural richness, and an unyielding drive for success. Through the prism of my experiences as a first-generation student, I have discovered my greatest achievement, unraveling the depths of my being, and igniting an unwavering passion for education. My greatest achievement to date has been soaring beyond the confines of my circumstances, like a phoenix emerging from the ashes of adversity. As a non-native English speaker, the journey to fluency was akin to traversing a treacherous terrain strewn with linguistic obstacles. But with every stumble and linguistic hurdle, I grew stronger, forging a path toward mastery of the English language. The greatest lesson from this long journey was the discovery of my indomitable spirit, capable of transcending perceived limitations. I learned that the power to conquer challenges lies not in external circumstances but within the depths of one's own determination and resilience. The experience illuminated the unwavering fire within me—a fire fueled by the pursuit of knowledge, cultural identity, and personal growth. Moreover, my journey as a first-generation Bosnian and Muslim-American student provided me with invaluable insights into my own identity and the beauty of diversity. I uncovered the power of embracing my cultural heritage, recognizing that it is not a limitation but rather a source of strength and inspiration. Like a tapestry woven with threads of history, tradition, and faith, my cultural identity is a mosaic that enriches my perspective. In the midst of my personal growth, I have come to realize that my greatest achievement is not solely my own. It is a triumph shared with my parents, who nurtured and supported me through every step of my journey. They embody the unwavering spirit of resilience, leaving their Yugoslavian homeland in pursuit of a better future for our family. Their sacrifices and unwavering belief in the power of education have served as a guiding light, propelling me toward success. This profound achievement has illuminated my path, unveiling the infinite possibilities that lie ahead. It has ignited an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a commitment to serving as a catalyst for change in my community. Inspired by the transformative power of education in my own life, I am driven to ensure that others have the same opportunities. In the future, I aspire to make a tangible impact in the fields of social justice and environmental sustainability. Like a sculptor chiseling away at the flaws of society, I aim to dismantle barriers and promote inclusivity, creating a world where every individual is celebrated for their unique contributions. Additionally, my journey as a non-native English speaker and first-generation student has nurtured my deep appreciation for the environment and its preservation. I yearn to advocate for sustainable practices and sound environmental policies, safeguarding our planet for future generations. I strive to inspire and empower marginalized communities, providing them with the tools and resources needed to overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams. I envision myself establishing mentorship programs, fostering educational opportunities, and amplifying underrepresented voices. Through my journey, I have come to understand that my achievements are not solely for personal gain, but to uplift and empower those around me. My journey as a non-native English speaker, first-generation Bosnian and Muslim-American, and first-generation student has bestowed upon me profound insights, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of success. My greatest achievement to date has been the realization of my own potential, breaking through barriers and embracing my cultural heritage. It has taught me the transformative power of determination and illuminated the path to a future where I can effect positive environmental and social change. With an unwavering spirit and a commitment to social justice and environmental sustainability, I embark upon the next chapter of my journey. I am determined to make a lasting impact, leaving a meaningful mark on the world and empowering others to rise above their circumstances. It is through resilience, cultural pride, and a profound belief in the power of education that I will continue to soar, lighting the way for others to follow.
Christopher Jimenez
University of La VerneMontebello, CA
My most significant achievement to date has to be running for public office during the Covid-19 pandemic. I cannot begin to emphasize how challenging this was to my family, volunteers, friends, voters, and me. The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the world, but this did not mean our government would stop functioning. There were still issues to be addressed, laws to pass, and elections to be won. I boldly decided to run for the City Clerk position in my city. As a Hispanic, 26-year-old adult working full-time to support my family, I was seen as the underdog. "Wait your turn" and "You are not ready" are comments I heard from the elite politicians, but that did not stop me. It was the encouraging words from my family and friends that pushed me and motivated me. My inner self told me that I, Christopher Jimenez, son of two immigrant parents, could do this job and be elected. My journey began in July of 2020, and my team and I adapted a way to communicate with voters via Zoom meetings, phone calls, text messages, and talking to each other six feet apart. We adapted virtual fundraisers. I hosted a virtual meet and greet to answer questions and share more about my platform. I wanted to ensure everyone in my city knew that even though a pandemic was invading our country, their voice and vote still mattered. On November 3, 2020, at 8:00 p.m., the polls closed, and that's when reality started to creep in. It took about two hours to get the first results, and I was at the top in the first place. The results were not finalized until the end of November due to all the mail-in ballots and the limited of poll workers due to the pandemic. Once the election was certified, the 26-year-old Christopher Jimenez was elected the youngest City Clerk in the city. If five-year-old Christopher saw the future Christopher, he would know that his struggles at that time would all be worth it. To think a Hispanic kid from Boyle Heights, living in a cramped apartment with a big family, will one day hold elected office would be unthinkable. But that is a beautiful example of the American Dream. This election taught me a lot about myself. It taught me resilience, hope, and determination. Resilience: Although I had voices telling me not to run for public office or wait my turn, I knew deep down that I wanted to do this. I knew that I would be the right person for the job. I would not let a person with ties to the elite politicians run for this position only because they could and had the money. The City Clerk position is about upholding the pillars of transparency and integrity. At that time, I did not see that in the other candidate. This election taught me hope because even though we as a country were dealing with a pandemic, people showed that they cared for others. It was through stories of compassion and hope from neighbors, nurses, and first responders. Hearing firsthand what the pandemic looked like at the front lines and their willingness to stay civically engaged is what hope is. Determination because I knew what was at stake during this election, and I knew if elected, I would become the example of whether electing young people was a good idea or flawed. I was determined to mentor other generations, a reason to continue to fight for their dreams and goals. My story does not necessarily have to fit the narrative of running for public office. What I hope to achieve in the future is that my story inspires the next person to return to college and finish that degree, apply for that big job, take that cross-country trip, and know your worth. I do want to see more young people run for office. To build a great future for ourselves and our kids, we must begin to take action, which begins at the local level and with us. As the City Clerk, I have successfully registered people to vote more than ever before, brought transparency and engagement to our government, and been proactive with our residents. My story isn't over yet, and I know much more work must be done. Wherever this path leads me, I hope and plan to continue advocating for change and helping as many people as I can.
Nickolas Kaleimanuokekai Lum
Lewis & Clark CollegeOakland, CA
It is 2023 and I have survived living in East Oakland. I made it through a pandemic, riots, looting, protests, crime, sideshows, garbage laden and an overwhelming amount of unhoused people. I moved here after 6th grade from Stockton, California. My Dad had passed away from a heart attack at the age of 33, and I was alone with my Mom. Living in an urban city is much harder than the suburbs. You become street-smart. It’s do or die. We hear fireworks or we hear gunshots. It’s a nightly game for the citizens of Oakland. A City that has an uptick of home invasions, and an abundance of gangs and drugs. Being a minority in a city full of minorities, and entering middle school as an outsider was difficult. I didn’t fit in. I had no shoe game. I didn’t listen to the right music. The kids made fun of me or tried to start fights to see what I was made of. The pandemic hit and my room turned into my classroom. All my classmates were stuck inside my Chromebook. I would get to see them on zoom, if only they turned on their cameras. For almost 2 years, I was isolated. Scared to catch covid, so that I wouldn’t get my Grandma sick. Anxiety about the society I lived in increased. Why were people fighting over toilet paper? I turned to football as my way out. I attended every camp, went to every practice and spent all my time in the gym. My coaches put it in my head that playing football in college, went hand-in-hand with good grades. That was my escape plan. I had to put in work in the classroom and keep my grades above a 3.5 GPA. I became Captain of any team I was on. I set the tone on the field and made a name for myself with the opposing schools. Coaches would tell me they tweaked their offenses to avoid my defensive plays. They would run plays on the opposite side of the field. I would hunt for the ball. I play like I am hungry, because I am. I take pride in all that I do. My hard work paid off as I was recruited to play football at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. I survived. I plan on making a difference and getting a degree to help better myself and my family. I need this scholarship financially because I am the first person in my family to go to college. Football opened the door to my college acceptance; however, it did not cover all the costs of my tuition. Unfortunately, I do not have a college-fund. I would be forever grateful to be awarded this scholarship. Mahalo.
Aireus Robinson
Georgia State University-Perimeter CollegeDecatur, GA
Dear WCEJ Thornton Foundation, My journey towards my present course of study, computer science and journalism, at Georgia State University, is a tale of resilience and perseverance. Regardless of the adversities I faced, my love for storytelling and technology has guided me to my greatest achievement, the establishment of Spacebar, a tea and coffee mixology business, and the conception of Juntos, a platform designed to combat colorism and uplift marginalized communities. From the culturally vibrant streets of California to the buzzing specialty coffee industry of San Francisco, I learned invaluable lessons about community engagement, artistic expression, and the importance of social justice. My financially strapped beginnings may seem like a hurdle, but they fueled my motivation to succeed and gave me a unique perspective on life. I was able to see the world through a lens that numerous others do not get to experience, and this grounded me in my principles and my mission to elevate those less privileged. Being a part of the coffee industry, I could observe the struggles of international coffee producers. I saw the parallel between their struggles and the struggles of marginalized individuals of those like myself. This understanding sparked the idea of Spacebar, a venture that combines coffee, mixology, and event planning to create immersive sensory experiences while fostering partnerships with artists and promoting sustainability. The journey to establishing Spacebar was not without its trials. Juggling academics, part-time work, and my entrepreneurial endeavors, while battling impostor syndrome and providing for my family, was a constant challenge. I had to grow up faster than most, taking on financial responsibilities at a young age due to familial complications. However, these challenges only strengthened my resolve to succeed and helped me find my hidden resilience. The creation of Spacebar is my greatest achievement to date, but it’s just the beginning. My future aspirations include establishing Juntos, an initiative to link Afro-Latino voices to combat colorism and uplift marginalized communities. The lessons I learned from my experiences in the coffee industry and from an internship at Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality will be instrumental in making Juntos a reality. However, the looming financial constraints of my low-income background pose a significant hurdle in achieving these dreams. The WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship would not only alleviate these financial burdens but would also provide me with a platform to further my education and make Juntos a reality. The experiences I gained from working in the specialty coffee industry, as well as my internship at Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, have honed my skills in editorial content creation, project management, branding, and marketing. Coupled with my academic expertise in computer science and journalism, I believe I have the potential to make significant impacts in the world, given the right opportunities. In conclusion, I am a resilient individual with a passion for storytelling and technology who is dedicated to uplifting marginalized communities. Despite my financial constraints, I remain focused on my academic goals and entrepreneurial endeavors. A scholarship from the WCEJ Thornton Foundation would not only provide me with the financial assistance I desperately need but also serve as a testament to my resilience, ambition, and perseverance. It would be an affirmation of my efforts and dedication, as well as a catalyst for my future endeavors. Thank you for considering my application.
Desiree Smith
Denison UniversityWarrensville Heights, OH
I chose not to be trapped! The word "trapped" is defined by Merriam-Webster as when one is placed in a restricted position. All my life I have seen my family trapped in more ways than one from my mother not having a driver's license and literally being stuck at home to my father being trapped in financial debt, constricting him from achieving financial freedom and going on vacation and genuinely relaxing because he always had to work to lower his debt and stop his interest from increasing. This path of being trapped causes one to lean on others for help to get them out of that feeling and moment of entrapment. When I was 16 years old, I was in my teenage period of entrapment, via not having my driver's license. I wanted to drive to help with the burden of taking me to school each morning and help alleviate my grandmother from going to my mother and me to work every single day at the ripe age of 70 years old. This license was my way to be freed of dependency and struggles. I felt that if I had my driver's license I could relieve many issues concerning my family and friends as well. I wanted to help in one way or another. Now, passing the driver's test was so hard for me. I took extra classes because I kept having a hard time staying under the speed limit and not making sharp right turns. In addition to taking extra driving classes, I also practiced with my dad multiple times as well, practicing how to properly parallel park and look through my mirrors. When the time for the test came, I failed. I cried so hard and even stayed in the car for 5 hours after getting home because I was so ashamed of not accomplishing my dream. After crying for those 5 hours, I picked up my courage and called the license bureau, and reschedule my next test. For this new test, I took my time, focusing on looking through the mirrors to make sure my tires were aligned properly with the cones. I did not want to fail or let the pressure get the best of me. By taking my time and focusing on the important parts of the test, I was able to pass with flying colors. This accomplishment and experience showed me how to take initiative in my life and plan what I want because I am the one who set up the extra driving classes as well as my driving appointments. I was so focused on driving, yet I still was able to achieve high grades in all my classes. I learned how to maneuver through life and not let any obstacles conquer me. This idea of driving was one accomplishment of many, and I cannot wait to achieve more. Overall, what I hope to achieve in the future is to go to medical school and become a doctor, practicing internal medicine and surgery. I want to help people and save their lives. I want to challenge myself as well by pursuing this goal because by becoming a surgeon, I am pushing myself and learning how to handle criticism, preparing me for everyday life and the possibilities that life will throw at me. Being a doctor is all I have wanted to be, and with my motivation, I know I can acquire it.
Levi Miedema
Wheaton College (IL)Hudsonville, MI
Of all of the experiences in my life, none was as personally transformative as my time spent as a volunteer at Holland Hospital. Not only did this experience allow me to effect meaningful change in the community around me, but it also changed me as a person in ways greater than I could have ever thought. Perhaps more than any other experience in my life, it was this opportunity that provided me with the motivation and desire to serve under-resourced communities, both domestically and abroad. My experience as a volunteer at Holland Hospital forced me to reexamine the lenses through which I had, for so long, viewed the world, something that shaped me into a more loving and compassionate person, as well as one that desired to make a difference. In addition to growing up in an abusive home, I regularly fought the restrictions of the school and church in which I was raised. Among their many restrictions, these institutions told me that I could not serve those who looked different than I did and could not participate in activities not tied to the church. However, as a part of the curiosity that accompanied my high school studies of the Spanish language and culture, I chose to disregard their rules and, instead, serve at the nearby hospital. The patients and coworkers that I met there pushed me to see a world to which I had for so long been blinded, something that brought me an incredible amount of freedom. My three years in this hospital allowed me to see the pain of others, opened and filled my heart with a compassion that I had never known, and forever changed the way that I saw others, particularly those who looked different than I did. The nature of the hospital’s surroundings allowed me to serve the local Latinx community and, for the first time in my life, I saw hurting people behind the once-foreign language and culture. The opportunity that I had to serve others who were going through extremely difficult circumstances by offering them the gift of flowers, food, or even just a simple, kind smile, was incredibly rewarding and fueled my desire to serve those both in the communities and world around me who were in similar circumstances. Whereas my time before volunteering was characterized by a superiority complex and lack of compassion, my work forced me to not only think about the experiences of others but also share in the pain that has been a part of the Hispanic culture for centuries as well as ask myself what I could do to alleviate a portion of that suffering. As a whole, my volunteer experience has implanted within me an attitude of empathy and compassion, a mindset that has forced me to recognize that I am no better than others. All without mentioning my time spent tutoring Latinx students at Puente del Pueblo in West Chicago, establishing and maintaining a campus garden that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to intercity Chicago residents, or my nearly eight years of workplace experience translating instructions into Spanish for non-English speaking employees, the experience of volunteering at Holland Hospital provided me with the motivation to make a lasting impact on the field of medicine in underserved communities. In conclusion, my time as a volunteer at Holland Hospital opened my heart to the experiences of others, lessened my desire to assert my own assumptions and opinions and forced me to reevaluate the ideas that I had taken as fact for so long. For this reason, my volunteer experience at Holland Hospital, perhaps more than any other experience in my life, not only left a positive impact on those whom I served but also changed me in ways more profound than I could have ever thought. It is because of this experience that I have become a person deeply committed to serving others both in the communities and the world around me with a heart that will not give up until that task is completed.
Ivette Flores
Columbia Basin CollegePasco, WA
7 June 2023 To Whom It May Concern, My name is Ivette Flores, and I am a first-generation, undergraduate student pursuing a career in the medical field. My career goal is to work as a Registered Nurse. I would like to share a couple of prime and meaningful examples of personal accomplishments that have helped me in my pursuit of these goals. These showcase my courage, strength, and commitment in the past, to assure you that I will be committed to this nursing journey. First, I attended “The Washington Youth Academy,” which is a boot-camp structured program that I attended from January 2016 to June 2016. The academy is made up of a 22-week physically intensive residential-phase program. When they woke us up at 445am, we had to be productive throughout the day for 16 hours, then we had to be in bed by 845pm and sleep for 8 hours. We ran 2 miles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday mornings, and Sundays we usually had no physical training (but we did still). I lived in a fort with forty other females ages 16-18 years old, for 6 months. Additionally, I heard about the Job Corps program while I was attending the WYA, so I looked into it as soon as I got home from that physically intensive program. I got a call saying that the Job Corps I chose had an open bed and they were ready for me, so I left for Tongue Point Job Corps center 5 months after I was done with the academy. For those who are not familiar with Job Corps, it is a self-paced usually 24-month-long program that offers free education and vocational training to anyone usually between the ages of 16-24 years old. I attended the Job Corps program from November 15th, 2016, until April 7th, 2018. While I resided there, I took classes toward finishing my high school diploma (since I was still only 17), along with classes toward earning my Medical Assistant certification. "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually, it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." The thing that both those experiences taught me was that when I set my mind on something, I do whatever it takes to finish. I can do whatever I set my mind to. I am a Certified Medical Assistant, and this profession has been a great stepping stone for becoming a Registered Nurse. Because of my current profession as a Certified Medical Assistant, I can connect with others in ways that I would never have been able to if I never got into working in the medical field. I learned that I could make a difference in people’s lives. Healthcare is truly my calling, and I want to become a nurse to help my community. After I receive my nursing degree, I plan to work at a local hospital in my town, gain experience, and be trained in many areas, and most importantly I strive to provide the best high-quality care for my future patients. The reason that the nursing industry interests me as a career choice is that it is a fulfilling and rewarding career that would allow me to be able to help others and make a difference in their lives. Something from my past that I can say aided in my decision to go back to school and become a nurse was my great-grandfather passing away from a cerebral brain bleed back in December 2019, which is the hardest thing I have ever endured in my life. Experiencing that heartache reassured me of my decision of returning to school to become a nurse. I humbly submit my application for your WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship. The way in which your scholarship will help me by would be covering any potential shortfalls and aiding in my educational costs, such as tuition, books, scrubs, and any other expenditures that may be vital for me to be successful. I am near achieving my dream career, and I will not stop until I reach my goal. With warm regards, Ivette Flores
Nemawae Hines
University of the PacificStockton, CA
Dreams don't sprout overnight; they demand unwavering dedication. They demand a spirit that refuses to back down in the face of adversity. I know this truth intimately, as I have triumphed over numerous hurdles that threatened to overshadow my potential. Financial struggles, an unstable home life, and a host of other unique circumstances have all been formidable foes in my path. But I refuse to be a runaway. I refuse to escape from the challenges that life throws at me. Instead, I have chosen to confront them head-on, transforming them into catalysts that propel me towards my goals. And now, I am poised to take my ambitions to new heights. Allow me to share a glimpse of my journey, one that has shaped me into the person I am today. Picture a young child caught between two worlds—moments of stability in a house with food, a bed, and a warm shower, juxtaposed with nights spent in a car or makeshift shelters crafted from abandoned shopping carts. Sand in my clothes, hair, and mouth—each grain a reminder of the challenging road I traversed. My biological father and I sought solace on the beaches of Salinas, sleeping beside crackling bonfires, relying on church services for fleeting respite and sustenance. The harsh reality of poverty colored my existence, leaving me attending school in threadbare clothes, my hygiene neglected for days on end. And yet, through it all, I masked my struggles, concealing them from prying eyes. Fast forward to 2021, and life dealt me another unexpected blow—the throes of homelessness once again threatened to consume me. As the world grappled with a global pandemic, I found myself alone, my last refuge of couches already occupied by others seeking shelter. A nomad in search of stability, I navigated the uncertainty, plagued by relentless hunger and a nagging sense of failure. But it was during those trying moments that I discovered my true strength. I realized that within me lay an indomitable spirit, capable of weathering any storm. I secured a job as a waiter and, against all odds, rented a room in my ex-stepdad's house. That small room became a sanctuary, a respite from the structural violence of poverty that had haunted me for far too long. My experiences ignited a fire within me—an unquenchable desire to extend a helping hand to those facing similar struggles. It was during my time as the Community Involvement Coordinator at the YMCA of San Joaquin County that I truly found my calling. Collaborating with a dedicated team, we devised strategies to bridge the gap between underprivileged communities and essential resources. My experiences as the Community Involvement Coordinator for the YMCA of San Joaquin County have further deepened my commitment to empower communities. Working tirelessly to develop culturally relevant outreach initiatives, forge partnerships, and secure grants, I have witnessed the transformative power of collaborative efforts. Events like the Trunk or Treat and Winter Bash not only brought joy and celebration to families but also served as platforms to disseminate crucial information, such as the importance of vaccinations. These endeavors showcased the power of community engagement and underscored my unwavering belief in the potential for positive change. My personal journey has taught me that resilience knows no bounds. It is the guiding force that propels me forward, even in the face of adversity. It is this resilience, nurtured by my personal experiences, that drives me to pursue higher education and dedicate my life to empowering marginalized communities. As I conclude, I am reminded of the words of Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Together, let us be that small group, igniting a ripple of change that transcends boundaries and transforms lives.
bianca arizmendi
Texas A & M University-KingsvilleKingsville, TX
I was born and raised in a border town where most of the community is considered to be the lower-income class who came from Mexico in pursuit of a better life. It wasn't any different for me growing up. My mom was a single parent who immigrated to the United States when she was a teenager. So for most of our lives, we've had to struggle financially when it came to paying bills or personal expenses. I remember not being able to do some of the extracurricular activities at school because we didn't have the money to spend on it. When it came to picking which college I would attend for the next four years it was ideal for me to go to a community college and live at home, but I dreamed about attending a university that gave me more opportunity for my degree than a community college would. I wanted to be one of the few percent of Hispanic women that leave the Rio Grande Valley and graduated from a state university. I believe that my greatest achievement was making my own choice and applying to Texas A&M Kingsville University because I've accomplished so much since being accepted. I have obtained leadership positions in my student organizations, officer positions, and getting to attend conventions representing my student organizations. I've also achieved my academic goals by maintaining a 3.6 GPA, getting on the dean's list, and obtaining SCLA honors. This experience taught me that my financial status doesn't define what I can do. I've had to work one or two jobs and cut a lot of things out of my budget just to continue being able to pay for school, but I wouldn't go back and change my decision. Coming into college as a freshman I never thought I would be capable of doing all the things I’ve accomplished within the last three years. I hope in the future I achieve my goals of graduating with a master's in business and working for an organization that helps people in low-income areas. To be able to help my family financially so that they don't have to stress about paying bills or living paycheck to paycheck. If I were to win the WCEJ Foundation Low-Income Scholarship I would be very grateful because it would give me the opportunity to continue with my education and relieve the financial stress my family and I have gone through. I want to prove that all the hardships and struggles were worth it in the end.
Chanrangsey Chheng
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community CollegeMars Hill, NC
Keirah Jones
University of California-MercedFresno, CA
My greatest achievement to date would have to be graduating high school a year early. I faced many obstacles I wasn't sure I would overcome but instead of letting that fear take over I persevered and worked harder. I had to take summer credit every summer to receive extra credits, I have a single mother with 10 siblings, and with me being the second oldest but oldest girl I had a lot of home responsibility. With 2 of my siblings having heart issues there were many doctor's appointments causing me to stay home from school often to babysit. Though this made maintaining my grades more difficult I was still able to maintain mostly straight A's. This was the case for the last 2 years of high school as the first years was online due to covid. My mom couldn't afford a babysitter and we often couldn't afford to get to my law and policy presentations for my dual enrollment course. Struggling to get there though didn't stop me from getting there; at times I would take the city bus or ask different family members. None of this made me feel any negative way about my mom because I feel this instilled perseverance within me. I've had teachers tell me to look into different colleges than the ones I had hoped to get into simply because they were expensive while others were encouraged to apply to those schools and this did have a very big impact on me. At first, I thought it was because I wasn't good enough but I realized it was simply because of my financial status and I didn't want that to define me for my entire life. I have a dream to be an attorney and help people and I refuse to let how I grew up affect that. So, I took Summer classes every Summer to receive extra credits, stayed after school to learn or teach myself materials I wasn't in class to learn, and endured a lot of sleepless nights studying for tests. This hard work allowed me to be a first-gen high school grad a year early. I understood going to college would be hard and I still understand that but I don't plan to let my financial situation be the reason I can't pursue higher education and be an example to others in a similar position to mine. This has taught me not to envy anyone for what they have because if you work hard enough you can be at the same place as those people even if you started with less. This also taught me to persevere and it overall strengthened my self-discipline, I realize now that I can do anything I put my mind to regardless of my situation; this is something I wish I knew in middle school. Graduating early taught me that and I hope to continue with my education and in the future become one of the best Criminal Defense attorneys that provides equal representation I will even do pro-bono work because I feel like no one deserves to be represented lazily due to their economic status. The wrongful convictions need to stop and I plan to make that happen.
Brooklyn Luckett
Clark Atlanta UniversityDenver, CO
"I alone can't change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples". This is a quote given by Mother Teresa that I did not understand well as a child. How could one person have any big effect in the world if they are only one voice? That's a question I often thought about and was not able to get my answer until it came to play in my own life. I discovered that people make change by having determination and hope no matter if it's in a group or an individual. Once you find something you are passionate about there is a chance you could make a change but only if you are determined to. With that being said my greatest accomplishment is that I was able to get a school renamed due to the racist history behind the name. I attended a school called Denver School of Science and Technology ( Dsst) . There are multiple campuses so each is named after its community. I attended the Stapleton campus , so our school was called DSST:Stapleton. While there I learned that our school was named after Ben Stapleton. Ben Stapleton was the mayor of Denver for two periods and also served as a Ku Klux Klan member. After hearing that I took it on as my job to find a way get rid of this negative stigma behind the school's name. With me being an African American I believe that people like me deserve to feel safe here and not be reminded of this horrible past. I decided to write an essay, and it ended up receiving a lot of attention. The attention continued to grow and grow to the point I was asked to speak out more on this topic. From there I did a 9 news interview, was on a local radio talk show, got quoted in a book , and was even interviewed and featured in a New York Times article. It was mind blowing, I had never imaged seeing my name in a New York Times article. Although it was a very exciting thing, I knew this was only the beginning. After months of hard work I was able to present my idea to the school board. After 3 meetings with the board eventually the idea to change the name was approved. From there we brainstormed ideas together and then surveyed them to the school. The name DSST Montview was then decided on. This experience taught me to truly believe in myself and work towards what I want because anything is possible. Me speaking up encouraged others who also cared about the same issue to speak up because the neighborhood was changed also shortly after this project. I also learned I like to help people. Because I like to help people I am pursuing a chemical engineering degree which I will use to create medicines and cures.
Amber Wang
University of California-BerkeleyCerritos, CA
Amaiya Brown
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical UniversityMiami, FL
My greatest achievement is being Editor-in-Chief of my schools’ yearbook. During that time, I organized events like field trips and Senior Breakfast, advertised our yearbook and ads to students, made and sold Boo Grams to raise money. While doing this I managed to design and take pictures for at least 5-10 pages a month in the yearbook and edit pages for other students. Beside yearbook, I able to use my design and marketing skills when I did an internship for The Elijah Network Family and Community Alliance which is a non-profit organization that combats underage substance use through informing the South Miami-Dade community about the dangers of substance use and what you can do to help others who use substance use. While at The Elijah Network my role was making campaign flyers and presentations regarding information about teenage substance use that could inform teens and their families. I gave feedback that could make their organization better and that could connect with teens from a teens point of view. I have been involved in being a volunteer at Kia Kidz Martial Arts Center for the past three summers and throughout the school year. Kia Kidz is a non-profit organization that specializes in helping kids with Special Needs learn how to walk, communicate verbally, and learn Jiu-Jitsu and self-defense, it was not until I started volunteering there that I gained self-confidence and the love of people who meant a lot to me. My role as a counselor was to look over and assist kids with and without Special Needs from ages 3 to 17 in camp activities. The activities consist of teaching academics like reading, writing, and math and Jiu-Jitsu to kids. Apart from academics the camp consisted of field trips and group talk sessions where campers were able to learn about nature, art, discipline, and respect for others. From the group sessions I was able to communicate with them and talk about how they feel and what I can do to make the camp experience better. Becoming at first a counselor and now a student at Kia Kidz has helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses but also made me a better person. Beside volunteering I created, along with my friend Jada, Jacquel's Project. Jacquel’s Project is a service project that is dedicated to Jada’s late sister Jacquel and youth that have Leukemia, which is what Jacquel passed away from. For this project we work with Nicklaus Children's Hospital because that is where Jacquel received her treatment, to assist children with Leukemia and their families. The first event that we did was making 50 goodie bags which contained candy and toys for kids in the Leukemia department and 7 other departments at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in November 2021. Recently, Jada and I donated fairy gift sets from Chemo Fairies to the kids at the hospital. We are planning Chemo drives in which we will have Chemo baskets donated to us for the hospital which contain items for the kids and items that can help their families like gift cards for food or gas. I received a Silver Knight Honorable Mention for the Journalism category from The Miami Herald for volunteering at Kia Kidz and for my service in Jacquel’s Project aside this I also received a National African American Recognition from College Board for my PSAT scores. All the volunteering, internships, and service project that I participated are part of the achievements that make me who I am today, and I am happy to say that I was apart of all of them. I hope to achievement working in the medical field and helping others the way that my community has helped myself and others.
Amor Goetz
University of California-San DiegoSan Diego, CA
In 2019, I applied to become part of a program called Healing Hearts Across the Border (HHAB). I was instantly drawn to the program because I was raised in Tijuana and lived there for fourteen years. Therefore, I knew how significant programs such as HHAB were for my homeland due to the great necessity for medical assistance. The thought of becoming a physician inspired me to move to the United States. I recognized that my country was very limited in resources and in order to create a bigger impact on my community I wanted to pursue better academic opportunities abroad. HHAB became the first opening to the realm of possibilities that I have experienced to not just give back, but to also instill a sense of hope in my community and thus myself. This sense of hope instilled by broadening their understanding about their underlying conditions would ignite their motivation to create long-lasting changes to their healthcare. HHAB reminded me of the reason why I decided at the age of 14 to leave my parents to not just dream, but accomplish that dream of becoming a physician. When I started college, reality hit me. I had to start working full-time to pay rent, transportation and school expenses. I had to balance work, school and family while learning how to become an adult and how to become a successful student. I lost hope, and I stopped believing in myself. My dream of becoming a physician was slowly fading before my eyes. However, when I first heard that I was accepted into the HHAB program, a light of hope sparked within me. The opportunity to provide free medical services to my hometown warmed my soul. From first-hand experience, I had seen and felt the hunger of my people for medical treatments. My first clinic day was a pivotal moment for my career decision, because I realized how much of an impact medical assistance had on underserved communities. It is not just about giving to the people but instilling hope in the patients. It is the type of longing that will motivate them to create a long-lasting impact on their health. It is an opened door for disease prevention, treatment, and health management that positively contributes to the overall well-being of the patient. While at the clinic, I was one of the few that spoke Spanish which allowed me to create a strong rapport with the patients that I once proudly knew as my community. I remember translating for a lady named Cecilia that was accompanied by her grandson, and I instantly had a flashback to when I was younger and used to accompany my grandmother to the hospital IMSS (The Mexican Institute of Social Security). Also, Cecilia did not know how to read, so Dr. Mia recommended to make up a system for her by drawing a sun for the medication that she needed to take in the morning and by drawing a moon for the medication she needed to take at night. I understood Cecilia’s needs for medical resources, but I also learned to understand how intrinsically beneficial the explanation and the aforementioned system was for her. Covering the community’s medical needs is essential to their health, but educating the patients by simplifying medical procedures, understanding their background and personal deficiencies, is what creates the change. Cecilia comprehended the basis of her underlying condition. This instilled a sense of concern that created a motive for her to take the initiative to continue forward with her treatment. Immediately, a burst of joy radiated through my body when her sense of hope was reflected through her watery eyes and her smile. Providing medical services and participating in similar organizations like HHAB have broadened my sense of empathy, and thus have ignited my motor to continue pursuing a career in healthcare. These organizations have inspired me to push forward despite numerous obstacles, because I started perceiving my knowledge as a tool for people; a toolbox that will serve them and will grow by striving for a higher education. Obtaining this opportunity to strive for a higher education in the United States made me aware of the responsibility I held as a Mexican American for underserved populations not just in Tijuana but also all around the United States. Therefore, the needs of the people have become the gas to my motor in order to pursue a career in healthcare.
Ruby Isidro-Lopez
San Jose State UniversityMilpitas, CA
At the age of seventeen, I was embarking on the beginning of my senior year. As a first-generation student, the greatest achievement that I was looking forward to was being recognized at my high school graduation as the class of 2020. However, little did I know that my greatest achievement was supporting a household while also completing my senior year. During the fall of my senior year, my mom became sick and was not able to work. It was unclear how long she was not going to be able to work. Because of this, I had to take on the responsibility of helping my dad financially to support the household. I then realized that my senior year was about to become much more occupied than I originally thought. Although I had a part-time job, it was not enough to help my dad make ends meet. I needed to at least complete 20-25 hours of work a week. In addition, As my parents have a house cleaning business, I helped my dad as my mom could not go with him. During the week, I would to go school in the morning, and if I was not working at the ALDO shoe store, I was helping my dad clean houses. On the weekends, I would clean houses in the morning with my dad, work at the shoe store in the afternoon, and complete my homework at night. I had to step up and show my family that I could handle new responsibilities, while also showing up for myself to see how much I was truly capable of managing. I had to learn how to become self-motivated and resilient in order to keep myself on top of my responsibilities, extracurriculars, and navigating the college application process. I had continued this busy schedule right up until we had to shelter in place due to the pandemic. It was a very critical time, where I often felt that I had to please everyone. I had to be perfect. However, my parents always reminded me that school came first, and although I was now given more responsibilities, my first priority was being a student and staying on top of my school work. It was not always easy, as I also worried about my mom's well-being constantly. This experience introduced me to adulthood. I learned about personal finance. I learned how to budget my money. Instead of saving money for things that I wanted, I had to save for things that I needed. I learned about self-control in the midst of this time. I had to learn how to control my emotions, and also remind myself that I was still a child, and doing the best that I could with what I had. Not only that, but my biggest takeaway was learning about how much I could handle. I learned about time management and explored how to improve my mental health. I learned that in order to take care of my family, I also need to take care of myself. Two years ago, I hoped that I would continue to be self-reliant and independent. Now that I am finishing my bachelor's degree, I am working to improve my ability to manage my finances, my time, and my mental health. In order to sustain me after I graduate and start working in my field of study, I intend to keep improving these talents.
Arturo Servin
MidAmerica Nazarene UniversityKansas City, KS
Throughout my upbringing, I have faced many challenges. I grew up in an underserved, rural, Spanish-speaking community that didn’t put precedence on education. Growing up in a low-income home meant I didn’t have access to many of the resources necessary for me to excel in school. My family spoke Spanish, so it wasn’t until kindergarten that I began to learn English. I didn’t have access to a computer until late in high school, making it difficult to complete homework, papers, and online tests. Growing up this way made it difficult for me to communicate and participate in schoolwork with my peers and teachers and I felt from a young age as if I did not belong. I overcame these adversities by working hard to give myself more opportunities. I would spend extended hours after school utilizing my school’s resources to write papers, research, and learn typing skills. I also started a lawn mowing and yard maintenance business to decrease the financial stress on my parents. Once I moved away to attend college, I developed new study habits by reaching out to professors, spearheading study groups, and finding free resources online. As I began studying, learning, and growing, my worldview widened. I began to believe that my dreams of higher education and becoming a professional was not out of reach. Empowered with this knowledge, once I graduated, I became an EMT. It was during this time that I experienced my greatest achievement to date. While working in the Emergency Department late one night, a Spanish-speaking patient came in by ambulance. The only information we received from Emergency Medical Services was that the patient was a middle-aged female who was found unconscious by a coworker, in a prone position on the floor, blood pooling around her mouth; she was a Jane Doe. I immediately began taking vital signs. The doctor came in and started asking a series of rapid-fire questions that were all returned with silence. Through the chaos, I asked in Spanish, “What is your name?” Her head whipped around and her wide eyes met mine. She hastily responded with her name and I watched as the panic drained from her face. I introduced myself and began translating for her and the doctor. As the only bilingual staff member in the ED, it became very clear to me that I was the bridge between this patient and her ability to receive proper care. Although my upbringing was not ideal, it provided me with the necessary skills to empathize with and help treat this Spanish-speaking patient. She expressed her gratitude for having someone interpret for her and voiced that this was the first time she was able to clearly communicate with a medical provider, words that I will not soon forget. This experience taught me to embrace my identity and to use my compassion, resilience, and resourcefulness to help and empower others. I understand that every individual has a unique upbringing, cultural background, and life experiences, and no matter an individual’s race, gender, etc. everyone experiences life differently. The challenges that I have overcome have made me sensitive to the struggles minorities have and have made me aware that these struggles can affect generations of communities financially, emotionally, and educationally. That is why I am passionate about being part of a new generation of nurses that focus on breaking down the barriers in healthcare that are directly affecting disadvantaged populations. Although challenging, I am thankful for my experiences as they allow me to connect with others through empathy and have allowed me to forge a new path for myself through resilience. I will use these traits to continue learning and growing and will take them with me into my career to foster positive, trustworthy environments for patients.
Gabriella Armatis
Columbia Basin CollegeWest Richland, WA
My greatest achievement is returning to school as a non-traditional American Indian mother during the pandemic. I am a mother of an 8-year-old special needs child. My daughter and family are the most important highlight of my life. When my daughter looks at me, I know she is proud, and that is the only kind of key accomplishment I need. Academically, I accepted a Research Assistant position in my first year of college in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, while providing my special needs child education while she had to stay home and stay safe. The value gained through this experience has honestly been one of the most challenging things I have been a part of and continue to be a part of. When I first accepted this Research Assistant position, I was very hesitant due to my lack of knowledge and experience in the field. I found myself constantly questioning what I have to contribute to someone who is a great teacher and an academic as well? I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to carry out the expected responsibilities, and imposter syndrome would put me into a choke-hold. As a Research Assistant, I have developed many skills that I can carry into future studies. My participation in this study has sharpened my critical thinking, leadership capabilities, and overall professional communication. I have been assigned deadlines and tasks and have been held accountable for the timely delivery of the work and the quality of work I complete. I have gained skills in journal keeping and improved my writing skills for different audiences. I have gained better critical reading abilities, ethics of business practices, and a better understanding of the importance of scope practices. I have also gained research skills that I can take with me into my career once I have finished my studies. I now understand complex information, collect and organize important historical data, and extract salient information from longer or secondary resources. I have sharpened my skills in formulating original ideas and cultivating cross-disciplinary sensibilities. My mind has been expanded to other thoughts of other beings and beyond one’s myopic perspective. I have a broader sense of global perspective and cultivation of empathy. This research position has been one of the most inspiring and influential aspects of my college experience. Professor Slater has provided me with a myriad of skills and opportunities that I never thought I would be capable of or even smart enough to take part in. What I thought was once insurmountable is now very attainable. Being her Research Assistant was truly a deeply emotional and academically invigorating experience, and I will never regret it. All these things are amazing, and I am incredibly humbled and grateful for each and every one of these aspects of my life. However, all roads lead back to when people ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up; she says she wants to be smart like her mom. For now, that is who I am; I am still becoming. Stay tuned for what is next.
Hailey Roberts
Baylor UniversityWaco, TX
Starting in 8th grade I started saving up money to buy my own car because I knew I wouldn't be able to get one if I didn't help out. Every paycheck I received until I turned 17 was put into a savings account. Finally, when the time came to buy a car I was able to get what I wanted and pay for it in full with my own money. I didn't realize how proud this would make me feel. But knowing I own my car and I did that is motivating me for the future. I am doing the same thing again now but instead of a car, I'm trying to save money to be able to complete my bachelor's in Neuroscience. I have been working part-time while being a full-time student. This summer I am hoping to use all my time to work and save money so I can continue school in the fall.
Patrick Taylor
Western Carolina UniversityCandler, NC
Mental health was not something I thought about for a very long time. And it showed. My life up until about 3 years ago was on somewhat of a path. Although I never graduated from college, I was building up what I thought to be a somewhat fulfilling life (maybe not financially speaking) and yet, I was extremely unhappy. I had done some college in music and I had gotten in with a group and scene and played in bands, at churches, plays, taught lessons, and even did so professionally for a few short years. I moved to a new town and decided to try my luck there, only to realize that there was an underlying issue affecting my actual success. I believed that Depression and Anxiety were other peoples problems, definitely not my problems. But alas I was wrong. My previous drug and alcohol abuse in my early twenties had left me without a clear head, and with underlying issues. While I should have been building friendships and a life, I was busy partying and doing drugs. Using mostly pills and other substances, I tried to "fix" myself. While I spent my late teens and early twenties in a drug filled haze, my peers were graduating college, starting families, and building successful careers. At one point I decided that I'd had enough (after a friend had passed away, I had loaded gun pulled on me, and another sent to prison) and moved 6 hours away to attend college with a friend who was also trying to get clean. If I had stayed there I would have most likely ended up dead or in jail. I got sober, but I never sought help. Which led to other underlying problems, mostly Depression and Anxiety. After finally admitting that I had something to address I sought out therapy. And it changed my life. I was able to focus more and increased my level of self awareness to understand the issues that I would deal with. Without this intervention, I have no doubt that I would not have had a change in the pattern of self-deprivation. I would have lingered in self doubt and depression until it might have ended me. But I found help, and it worked. This led me to pursue a career and mental health and music therapy. I’d like to make a difference in someone’s life the way my doctor made a difference in mine. I don’t think anyone should have to go through life without knowing that they can overcome mental health issues if they so choose. This year I returned to school to double major in music and psychology and have been very successful. With only one week left before exams my grade average is at a 99.9. And so I am on a new path. I’m a bit older, wiser, and more focused. I won’t have as much time to make a difference as someone younger might have, but that’s ok. If only one person is helped, I will have considered my endeavors a success. Hopefully I can help many more.
Elijah Michel
University of RichmondJacksonville, FL
"Take therefore no thought of the morrow…Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." - Matthew 6:34 These are the words I repeated throughout the fall of 2020, as I struggled with the demands of working while in school. Since I entered college, I resolved to pay my tuition at the University of Richmond – a private institution – without the help of student loans. Knowing the impact of debt on my family's finances and low-income, Black communities, I worked to avoid that obligation. Budgeting carefully, I planned to save $2000 for the Fall 2020 semester, alongside leftover money from scholarships. So, I decided to work nearly 20 hours on weekends while pursuing my studies during the week, which proved to be one of the most remarkable achievements in my life. Without support from home, I found creative solutions to strict resources in a global pandemic. The university suspended its weekend shuttle during COVID-19, forcing me to find alternative transportation to work; I combined using the city bus with walking for 45 minutes and riding with a friend back home. Though I do not jump at the idea of hour-long commutes, I found ways to enjoy it, like listening to music and envisioning choreography for my dance crew along the way. As constantly buying Hot Pockets and pizza for lunch breaks became unsustainable, I began bringing meals from the university dining hall, saving more money and eating healthier every weekend. Framing these new choices as contributing to my physical and mental well-being helped me embrace them, approaching obstacles with an open mind. As time progressed, I ran into difficulties managing my work and faced several setbacks to my goal. Given multiple commitments outside of my job, including school, church, and personal upkeep, much of my time off work became constrained and stressful. Moreover, I suffered a bad ankle sprain my last few weeks, which was discouraging and proved a hindrance to work. Before I was able to get an ACE bandage, I – quite innovatively – put two cosmetic arm sleeves on my ankle for support and compression, spurring some laughs about the situation. Thankfully, a few of my friends offered me rides to and back from the store, which took a lot of pressure off my ankle. While I did have to stand at work in absence of a doctor's note and even walked to work once, I finished out my last shifts at the store, sprained ankle in tow. In the end, I still fell short of my savings goal and took out a loan. My hometown's store declined my transfer request and I had to pay for a family member’s car repairs, leaving me without work and with unpaid dues. However, I still count this ordeal as an achievement, because I pushed through adversity and adapted to my circumstances. I realized how ambitious and resilient I can be, and how my upbringing instilled great willpower and discipline within me. Conversely, knowing how difficult my situation was, I learned that I could rely on God and the people around me to pull me through where I could not control the input or the outcome. Repeating that verse from the Book of Matthew helped me remember to take each day at a time, without worrying about whether I would make it – I had to have faith that I would. It also emboldened my deep passion to prevent current and future generations from experiencing hardships like mine. As a Political Science major, I study means-tested programs like SNAP, Medicaid, unemployment, and educational aid, seeking to eliminate the material and mental barriers that prevent social mobility. I intend to expand social policy to ensure fair and equitable resources, which will help us better value the lives and livelihoods of all people in the U.S. and beyond. I hope to create a future where any job can satisfy basic needs and pursue opportunities like education without desolation or sacrifice. Doing that work may have been my greatest achievement, but I want to remove the need for anyone to reach it.
Freya Ngo
Brown UniversityRenton, WA
Deafening screams of children in the night, ripped curtains draping over metal bar windows, and a black, green-hued mold on the flaking wall surrounded a crowd of patients and families unable to afford medical care. I was hospitalized for appendicitis at six years old. Laying on my bed, I watched the other patients for days with dread. Understaffed and underfunded, the hospital left them unattended and in pain. Yellow-stained bed sheets remained for days as no nurses looked after the patients, who reeked of sweat and excrement. The abuse and neglect at the hospital forced me to grasp the frightening reality of the community I came from. A few inches from my house were rotting roadkills, piles of trash, and homeless people. Driving down the road, I often saw vendors straddling their carts around the block and vagrants begging on the street to provide for their families. I always had the knowledge that these things existed, but only after my stay at the hospital did I begin to form empathy for the hardships they caused. Observing the world around me more closely, my passion for helping people grew. However, I simultaneously became aware of my role and class. I was a part of the deprived community that I wanted to help. Living in a communist country and coming from a low-income background, I knew I had limited opportunities. Did that mean I couldn’t help people? One day, I met a young girl, plodding on the sidewalk, dressed in shabby, torn clothing, accessorized with a Hello Kitty fanny pack and flip flops with a strap missing. She was selling lottery tickets. (Children from impoverished families in Vietnam typically cannot afford education and basic living necessities and, thus, take menial jobs, often on the streets, to support their families). Many passersby, disgusted by her sunburnt skin smeared in grease and dirt from head to toe, turned her away. It had been a familiar sight, but that day, I felt a pang in my chest. I immediately begged my father to give the girl whatever he had. When he bought a twenty Dong ticket (equivalent to less than one USD), her eyes glistened with joy; I finally understood how much so little could mean. Since then, I have overcome my socioeconomic challenges to build a better community for those around me. Working with Vietnamese refugees and immigrants, advocating for women in STEM and Asian inclusivity, tutoring kids from low-income backgrounds, and addressing misconceptions and stigmas around women’s health have shown me the true impacts of social injustice, reinforced my understanding of and sympathy for others’ struggles, and inspired me to extend my commitment to advocacy by encouraging my peers to take action. While my contributions so far have yet to change the world, I can see the difference I have made. Using the knowledge and experience I have gained and will gain, I wish to return to Vietnam after my undergraduate study and extend my help to rural areas, where the most basic needs, such as healthcare and safe housing, are considered privileges. Becoming an advocate for people from various backgrounds and cultures also requires me to obtain preponderant knowledge of the law, politics, and society. What I need now is to be connected with passionate people with diverse interests, backgrounds, and goals and empowered by an interdisciplinary education so that I can understand the issues faced by the people I aim to help. An interdisciplinary study in economics and politics will provide me with a broader understanding of social issues and push me to critically reflect on how I can tackle local and global atrocities and effectively address these complex issues. Returning to Vietnam is a strong professional goal of mine. I hope to pursue a career in human rights law to advocate for the Vietnamese citizens still facing the hardships I endured as a child, such as poverty, corruption, class disparity, and improper healthcare, and provide them with a support system I lacked. My adversities do not define me; I own them. I have chosen to use my challenges and story to take action and help others not undergo what I went through. I look back with no indignation, but an appreciation as my struggles have taught me resilience, strength, and hard work. Being educated in America with endless opportunities before me, I strive to succeed, explore the world, and uplift the lives of everyone I encounter.
Victoriano Ponce
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical CollegeLos Angeles, CA
During my freshman year of high school I started to experience a myriad of family problems. The problems escalated to the point of me moving to live with my grandparents. The challenges I was going through during this time affected my grades. I worked hard to keep up as best as I could, but stumbled while I got my life back on track. Moving in with my grandparents meant that I now live in East Los Angeles, and commute to Hacienda Heights California, a 19 mile commute. My grandparents who have been extremely supportive, couldn't afford to get me to and from school every day. I started to work on the weekends, to pay for my gas. At first it was a juggle trying to balance high school, water polo, swimming and work, but I did it! I started to get better grades and I challenged myself with enrolling at East Los Angeles College and took a winter course. I enjoyed being part of the college community and decided I wanted to take more courses. During my second semester of sophomore year, we were all hit with the global coronavirus pandemic. Instead of viewing this time as a negative time, I took advantage and began to take more college level courses. The last two years of high school were a time I felt that I matured the most in my academic growth. I was dual enrolled in community college to further my formal education. My grades are better reflected in my college courses, than my high school. I continue to take courses at East Los Angeles College including English 101 and Oceano 001 and have currently completed spring courses for the academic year 2021/2022. Another achievement that I am extremely proud of is being in the "Part-Time Dean's Honor List," since Fall of 2020. As a Mexican student that lives in East Los Angeles, I strive to be the best student, community member, family member, and more. During the pandemic, I was well aware of the social-economic differences for attaining an appropriate education. Many of my fellow neighbors lacked bandwidth, laptops, private meeting spaces, supplies, and many things that would enable and close learning gaps to help them succeed during these challenging times. I also noticed that people who attended college and had a degree, did not lack these resources; this is who I strive to be. I want to attend University to continue working on my academic and professional growth, become someone who makes positive changes, and come back to East Los Angeles to inspire others. I attended Para Los Ninos Charter Elementary School as a kindergartner and first-grader. This school is located in the midst of an extremely dangerous community named Skid-Row. I always knew that I wanted to come back and volunteer in any way I could to help provide quality education to the students that need it the most. The students at this school come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds with families that do their best to provide for their children. During the pandemic, I had completed a few courses at my local community college. This allowed me to have a free first period. I used this time to log into distance learning through zoom, with a 4th-grade classroom at Para Los Ninos and volunteered my time to help in any way I could. I was put into break-out rooms to help with math, reading, and more. This was an opportunity for me to give back to a community that was the foundation of my educational journey. Many people might see everything that I have been through as a challenge, but I see it as a blessing in disguise that has helped me prepare for University.
Doyup Kwon
University of Notre DameTorrance, CA
Athlete. Me. Overweight, glasses-clad, and a failure at anything that had to do with a ball. I couldn't imagine ever being called such a term. Yet the access card that identified me reminded me what I was at the meet for-to swim the 100 yard butterfly. I no longer fit my own image of myself. For much of my life, I had used the labels that others put on me-"nerd, geek, chubby"-as crutches, excuses to stay confined within my box and attempt nothing new. So, when my mom forced me to join the swim team, I was terrified, fully convinced that I didn't belong anywhere near a pool. After the longest two hours of my life, I begged my parents to let me quit. But as the days went on, I spent so much time in the water that I started to feel freer there than on land, and became comfortable with pushing my physical and mental limits. I discovered that hard work yields improvement and that improvement builds confidence, and forged a stronger and more fulfilling version of myself through the sport. For the first time in my life, I could call myself "fit," and utilized swimming to feel good about myself, my body, and the things that I was doing. I wasn't an athlete until I built up the courage to be one. As I reshaped my body for racing, I also reshaped my thinking, drastically altering my outlook on the world. So many other hidden joys revealed themselves to me after I made the small effort to try them-I embarked on countless adventures through the Boy Scouts, gained independence and metaphorically crossed into “adulthood” by becoming an Eagle Scout, took the plunge and thrive socially at a university where the vast majority of students have completely different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds from me, and now constantly look for new ways to push my boundaries. Deciding to join and stick with the swim team, struggling through all of the challenges that it has thrown at me and fighting to become the best version of myself to this day remains my single greatest achievement to date. I have used the experiences I've had on my self-discovery journey to bolster my academics and education, and even strengthen my relationships with others. Even today, it's hard to call myself an "athlete." But my life experiences have taught me to open myself up to as much as possible. I now actively seek discomfort, putting myself in positions far outside of my old box. In the future, I hope to translate this newfound passion for discomfort and exploration by pursuing a career in research and transportation engineering innovation. Being comfortable with failure and open to traversing unexpected paths is central to the research and academia world, and I know that my experiences with overcoming self-doubt and my own uncertainties will help me immensely in pushing forward to forge a better future for others through the creation of effective urban systems. By applying myself to every opportunity that crosses my path, I will expose myself to a world I couldn't see before. Whether or not I succeed in what I attempt, I will be content in knowing that more adventures will offer themselves with every new day.
Jay More
University of Michigan-Ann ArborPalatine, IL
Taylor Gwinn
University of South Carolina-ColumbiaHyattsville, MD
Peter Thompson
American InterContinental UniversityDayton, OH
My greatest achievement recently was to register for college. Currently enrolled at American Intercontinental University for my bachelor's degree in business administration. Regestring in college after graduating highschool in 1976 at 63 years young is a big accomplishment. Achieving a grade point average between 3.9 and 4.0 is even more breath taking. The motivation of a person going to high school in the South Bronx of New York, where teaches were threatened, robbed after school, playing music in class, police officers patrolling the hallways in the 70's. Thinking back if those years were scary, until the 90"s when I found out Colen Powell attended the same high school, but earlier than I did was inparational. I have never performed as an over achiever in the past, one could say that I never found a purpose. My brother attended community college in New York, and never received a degree, and I never found the need or the importance of college. My brother told me if you don't have a goal or the career you chose doesn't require college don't enroll. In 2019, I was speaking with my wife, we have two children with intellectual problems, they both had IEP"a in school. Michael the oldest out girls in front of education, cutting class, being disruptive. We found out that Michael could not pass state testing due to his disability. The high school said Michael could graduate with a superintendent review, Michael was 19 soon to be 20 years old. The question was allow him to get left back and risk dropping out, or let him graduate then try to elevate his later on. The conclusion was let Michael graduate with a low reading level, limited mathematical skills. What a burden to take on, Michael talked about going to college, joining the military. Michael would find out later, he could not pass entery tests for college or the military. Michael became very disappointed finally understanding the importance of school, questions arose about why and how this happened. Michael always asked why upon the graduating ceremony his diploma not in the cover. We told him they a still printing them out. The real reason was the superintendent had not signed off, and he was being passed regardless of his grades. After applying for college, and the military with low scores, we decided to tell him how he graduated. Michael became rebellious, and disassocated with education. He tried several times to obtain his driver's permit with no success. I told Michael I would help him if he was willing to lean. Michael decided to take advantage of my help, we used flash cards made up of guestions on the driver's test course. Michael decided to take the test upon turning twenty two in 2022, he passed the test missing only five questions. Michael's confidence level increases, and has now decided that education was important. Working with flash cards he has aquired the ability to learn. In 2020, I decided to prepare and submit an application for a 501(3)(c), and in 2021 was approved. I devote this achievement to Michael. The nonprofit organization focuses on providing education to foster youths with learning disabilities, provide life skills, vocational learning, by using new technology such as holograms, 3 dimentional technology. I believe that education needs to change from the old way, different from what Horance Mann first introduced in the 1800's. Youths should not just get a pass, society will suffer in the long run without proper education or the lack of life skills. Colleges are suffering from highschool education in the United States, we need to make a change, or our youth will suffer graduating without a proper education. After enrollment at The American Intercontinental University my fear was the academic challenge. After graduating in 1976, could I meet the challenge or fail. I have surprised myself achieving a grade point average between 3.9 and a 4.0. My determination to succeed and the confidence to succeed has given me the inspiration to accomplish my goal with the nonprofit organization. In my heart the ability to change the life of youths has sky rocketed. I have a purpose to make this happen, that is my goal if I can just find financial assistance. Respectfully submitted, Peter Thompson
Matilda Braun
Pennsylvania State University-Main CampusState College, PA
When I was little I hated school, and if I am being honest that hatred stayed with me for a very long time. It was long hours of boring activities, and classmates that I didn't like very much, all morning I would be waiting for the last bell to ring so I could go home and start the real learning, I would spend my afternoons researching topics that I was passionate about, I would read for hours and hours about things they never taught me at school, all of my life I have had this idea that school sucks because all the really useful learning was outside of the classroom. With time I turned this hatred for school into a passion for learning, I started enjoying the fun facts my chemistry teacher gave me, I started to see a purpose on the dreaded physics exercises and the math problems. Slowly school became everything to me, I started to enjoy it, I made friends and when they all complained about the literature homework I would hide my excitement to get home and write all of the essays and complete all of the workbook pages. I loved school. Of course, there were parts that I didn't like, and I still preferred my own little classroom at home, but school became a not-so-bad place after all. As my high school years started I realized how much I would love college, everytime my teachers mentioned college, my attention would sharpen and all I could think about was this amazing place where you get to choose what to study, finally, a place where I could practice my passion for learning alongside other people with similar interests as mine. It was a dream come true. My biggest achievement so far is being accepted to Penn State University, I had a plan, and this was only the next step. As a Latina woman, it is a bigger deal, I would have to move away from home (every Latin family's worst nightmare) and it was economically challenging, my family doesn't like to make me feel the economic aspect of it is a problem, but being honest it was, it was a big problem. Applying for financial aid is one of the most stressful things I have ever have to do, right next to receiving my awarded financial aid summary, it was not enough. So I gave up on the idea of attending Penn State for a while, it is too expensive and my family could never afford it, so I started making different plans: community college, a gap year working and saving up, applying to a million scholarships so I could afford it... To be honest it was a bit discouraging realizing attending my dream school was actually just that, a dream. But a few weeks ago I decided that I won't give up on it just yet, I am a strong woman, and I will work hard to get where I want to be, I want to be a STEM major, I want the Computer Science field to be open for everyone, I want that 3% of Latina women working in STEM-related fields to grow a little bit every day, and I will start by doing it myself, I want to prove something to myself, I want to prove I am capable of achieving anything I want. And I want to show my family that even though it is hard, it is also possible. And that money won't stop me, I will get to the place I belong no matter what, I want to be a role model for young Latin girls with a passion for math, science, technology, and most importantly, for girls with a passion for learning.
valisha pearson
Tulsa Community CollegeTulsa, OK
My greatest achievement to date is receiving my high school diploma. I am 32 years old and it took me 13 years to go back to school and continue my education. I was inspired by my cousin to enroll in a program that allows you to get your high school diploma at your own pace. I was surprised at how easily I was able to adjust to the school environment and I really enjoyed being back in the classroom. I excelled in my classes rather quickly by being self-disciplined and practicing good time management skills. I learned so much about myself during this time. I was much more patient than I thought I was. I was able to balance my life as a single parent, work a part-time job, and go to school all at the same time and I was so proud of myself. It was a major accomplishment for me to complete these goals because of all the tragedies and health issues that I have faced while trying to accomplish them. All my hard work and grit was really starting to pay off for me. I remained focused on my goals so that I could ultimately enroll in college like I always dreamed of doing. In the fall of 2020 I enrolled in college courses even though we were in the middle of a pandemic because I didn't want to let opportunities pass me by ever again. I wanted to make sure that I secured my future and followed all of my dreams. I want to become a business owner one day so I realized that I had to take my future into my own hands. I am majoring in Business Administration and I have completed two semesters so far. I am a straight A student and I am very excited about what my future may hold. In the next 5 years I plan to own my own business and ultimately pursue my bachelor's degree in Business Management. I believe that opening a business would be a great addition to my local community and help me grow as an individual. All of my hard work and dedication will open up new doors and opportunities for me. I have always wanted to help my community and I believe that I am heading in the right direction to accomplish this goal. I am extremely proud of myself and I know that my future is bright.
Faith Folorunso
The University of Texas at AustinAustin, TX
Nathaniel Savel
Barnes-Jewish College Goldfarb School of NursingPalmer, AK
I am a life-long Alaskan who spent my elementary years in a rural Alaskan Native village one-room schoolhouse with my dad as the teacher. Health care and health care education were minimal. Children in my class suffered from physical, sexual, and mental abuse. Although a dry village, alcoholism and drug addiction plagued the community. The school was the only source for health and social education. This same story reads throughout rural Alaska and many communities in the US. I made a commitment to make a difference in our communities. My life experiences have prepared me well for this goal. As a high school student, Butte Volunteer Fire Department offered me my first experience with emergency services. As a firefighter trainee, I trained alongside fellow community members. I continue to be grateful for that opportunity. Following graduation from Palmer High School, I began work as a firefighter/EMT for the University of AK Fire Department (UFD) with a promotion to Lieutenant and lead medic on an Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance, quite an achievement at age 22. I have always wanted to be involved in emergency management and health-related fields. I want to help people. It is the passion of many to want to help others, but I am inspired to be directly involved. I wanted the first-hand opportunity to save peoples’ lives and make a difference in the world. While Hollywood dramas often show the heroics of firefighters rushing into burning buildings and nurses covering gunshot wounds in an ER, the daily work of emergency health and safety providers goes far beyond that portrayal. Firefighters/EMTs and nurses are responsible for disaster preparedness, responding to medical emergencies, and educating the public. Most emergency health and safety personnel work go on behind the scenes to help keep communities safe. Duties don’t end at the fire station or hospital, firefighters/EMTs and nurses work diligently to prepare and educate their communities. I will bring that experience and commitment to Mat-Su which I will utilize as a nurse and a volunteer firefighter/EMT. Giving back to the community has always been a strong commitment of mine. My past and current volunteer efforts include Special Olympics, youth sports, and community health and safety education. A nurse has a natural opportunity to give back to communities in the highest capacity. With a versatile health background, one can provide services to rural communities that lack adequate healthcare, sporting, or community events just to name a few. I’m excited about returning to some of my previous Mat-Su commitments like coaching, camp counselor, Special Olympics, and Red Cross. I look forward to completing school and giving back to the community I grew up in.
Jessica Sofía Segovia Pacheco
City University of SeattleChula Vista, CA
I am a twenty-year-old woman living in Mexico-USA, and I have been writing for almost fifteen years. Before I learned to read, I drew comics and told my family stories. As I grew up, I wrote stories at the back of my school pages, in the margins, in napkins. When I was twelve years old, I wrote my first poem. At thirteen years old, my first novel. Publishing a book was a distant dream to me. I thought I had to wait for someone to discover my talent and publish my art, but I decided to stop dreaming and start acting. It was December 2017 when I decided it was time to publish my book. I had been writing a series of real stories about the situation of homelessness in Tijuana. I helped my mother with a health study about this community and learned their narratives. The pages tell the story of how people became addicted to heroin and lost everything they owned. This book intends to make the homeless community visible and to open a discussion about the correlation between mental health, violence, and substance abuse. During my journey to achieve my dream, I learned the process of independent publishing. It was a try and failure process at first. I had to find a teacher who was willing to help me improve the text. I had to learn the basics of photography and editing for the book cover. The last step was to learn how to publish it on Amazon. Six months later, my book was complete. I published my first independent book at seventeen, and since then, I have three books published: "Cuentos de mamá: Historias de heroína", "Amada Muerte", and "Ánima". For the last two books, I hire local girl artists to design the cover. One of the lessons I carry with me through life is that I must search for information, whether it is for a government application, for school, or for fun. The answers are not always clear as day, but in the process, I learn. Another lesson is that if I want something, I will not stop until I create a plan to achieve it. And the last one: people who are willing to change the world are not discouraged by adversity. I learned that my connection to art is more than personal. I describe my writing as another form of therapy and processing emotions, nevertheless, I have a greater vision for its purpose. When I was a kid, I wished for books and movies to be about girls like me, showing that we can be powerful, insightful, strong, and determined. But almost every memorable story has a male protagonist, and women's stories are categorized as a separate gender. I want to change that. My books will empower oppressed communities. My art will be in favor of diversity and inclusion. For me, writing is a form of protest, and the writers their fighters. Today, I am writing the book I wish I would have read when I was a kid. This scholarship will help me achieve my goal because I have many projects planned, and I am currently worried about paying my school tuition. My parents and I earn money in Mexican currency, and my college is in the U.S.A. I try to help my parents with my education by working a part-time job, but it is not enough. Working and studying leave me with little time to keep writing books. Winning this scholarship can help me achieve my dreams and lift some weight off my parents. My next book has women, POC, deaf people, and LGBTQ+ representation. The novel can help these communities feel validated while reading an engaging story. My biggest ambition is to become a best seller author and filmmaker because I want my ideas to change the world. Thinking of writing is like breathing. The sound of the letters being written is my heartbeat, and the story my reason for living.
Tehmoor Hassan
Colorado State University-Fort CollinsAurora, CO
Staying On Top There have been several times in my life when I showed grit, and I have always had a growth mindset. For me, it is important to keep trying even when all hope gets lost; “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. This especially applies to me in school but also in my personal life since I’ve had eczema since I was a child - and it got worse ever since I hit puberty. Despite this, I have managed to stay ahead of my grade by going to college with more than 60 credits and a general associate's degree. I have also been in scouts since I was 15. Another thing is the numerous times I’ve had to bike and walk to my piano lessons, the store or the library in weather conditions ranging from pouring rain to heavy snow. Around puberty my eczema started spreading to my arms, legs, back, chest, and face, but before then it only really had been under my feet. Eczema is not just dry skin, but also the unbearable urge to itch that is very hard to control. This causes not only extreme discomfort as the outer layers of skin start peeling off, but also can be embarrassing in social situations, and disrupts my life in many other ways as well. I cannot sleep well; studying for tests and paying attention in class can also be a huge challenge. Over the course of that moment until now I used many different ointments and creams, participated in a research study where scientists have tape-stripped and measured the moistness of my skin to study the effects of whatever drugs they were trying on me, and I have even had to stay in a hospital for a full week for “intensive eczema therapy”. Throughout all this, I have still focused on school and other activities such as piano and scouts. Often it has gotten bad enough that my skin got cracked open and I bled a bit but I still stayed on top. All of this is how I showed GRIT when my eczema was not under control. I started going to piano about three years ago, and I have had a job since December of last year. When I started taking piano lessons I made sure to practice every day even if I had a lot of stuff going on that day (I was in scouts and krav maga - a martial arts - for a bit). Also on numerous occasions I have had to walk to piano (about an 1 hour walk there and back) in snow storms and downpours. During all of these struggles I failed Calculus 1 but I retook it and passed and I am still graduating with an Associates degree and Calculus 2 with an A. No matter what, I am not giving up on piano or my goal to get a major in math and computer science. Currently I have a job as a Laundry Attendant and Dietary Aide which I have had since December of last year. I am saving up for as much of college as I can with each paycheck; and I have already saved $5000. Although I know I won’t be able to fully pay for college with my job I believe by applying to as many scholarships as I can, I will be able to get some of the money through there. Finally, the reason why I think I deserve this scholarship is because I have worked very hard over my life in school and helped out wherever I could. I have battled eczema and balanced piano lessons, scouting, martial arts and school. I have overcome obstacles such as a divorce and an abusive dad (I live with my mom in Colorado, my dad lives in Texas). I have lived with my mom and brothers in our current house for about 5 years now and I have supported my family and I have been a responsible older brother. I have done all of this and stayed on top of my life, school, and my family. I made it all the way to college!
Lin Lin
Duke UniversityMount Pleasant, PA
Turning seventeen, with seven stomachs around a table, with Olive Garden’s breadsticks: “10.” The flu shot debilitated me, leaving mounds of homework piled up on my desk: “2.” Did not sleep for three nights to finish reading the Harry Potter series: “9.” What started as an exercise in mindfulness in English class, became a way of life for me. Snippets of my daily life started coming together as my “Happiness Memoir,” and each snippet was assigned a “Happy” number from 1-10. This numerical cataloguing of memories allows for deep reflection, realization, and goal setting. A “9” scribbled on September 30, 2018. I was dripping with sweat, selling hot dogs and burgers in the Fall Festival to help fund bingo nights for a nursing home. A couple of months later on March 23, 2019, I was responsible for a five-year-old boy for Kindergarten Registration:“8.” He told me, “I want to be the president,” with fearlessness and during pizza, his smile shining with grease and a devious sparkle in his eyes reminded me that big dreams are mobilizers of human spirit. My Happiness Memoir doesn’t only mirror my emotions and thoughts, it is an indication of self-satisfaction I get from gifting happiness to others. Whenever my “Happy” numbers are low, I visit the animal shelter. All the dogs in their kennels would wag their tails, body shivering from excitement, and Cindy, a pitbull had barbed wire fencing on top of hers to prevent her from jumping out. She had the label “pitbull” that garnered everybody’s distrust and bias. Like Cindy, my label “Asian American” set me standing 100m before the starting line, and I had to double my attempts to obtain a place equivalent to a mediocre white classmate. A year ago, I was sitting in the small kennel with lightheadedness, accelerated heart rate, and nausea. As I extended my clammy hand, Cindy backed further against the wall, snarling. The 42”x28” constricted my throat like a boa taking my confidence, and each unacceptance from her left me feeling useless and distraught: “0.” After several days of sitting with her, my tear ducts a dam ready to burst, she slowly approached and sat beside me. Cindy, my support system, has taught me patience and trust. Placing top of my class, leading events for Make-A-Wish, helping Cindy, and being enrolled in Advanced Placement courses has honed my compassion and confidence: “10.” A memoir can be a hall of fame, but it can be a list of faults, pressures, and grueling difficulties. The experiences in my Happiness Memoir and the numbers charted do not define who I am, but rather it is a cosine chart filled with peaks and valleys throughout my life. At times, my valleys will be numbered “0,” but I also know that by owning outcomes and helping to empower myself and others, there will always be ample peaks measuring “10.”
Paige Mandy
Western Governors UniversityStuarts Draft, VA
Not leaving for college mid-pandemic? A sound financial decision. Deciding to instead volunteer as a farmhand for remote operations across the U.S? Questionable. I have always been a spontaneous person. My mother taught me at an early age to take every opportunity that presents itself in life. For 18 years, that conviction held steady. That is until I found myself on a farm smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, itching at the angry hives that painted my sun-fried skin, picking up pounds of rotted and bug-ridden squash. As I previously stated, this venture was a questionable decision. The first night I spent on Bio-way farm in South Carolina was memorable (to say the least). At dinner, my host handed me a map of her hundred sprawling acres. Specific fields were scribbled over with sweat-smudged ink so that only the words "Mind the..." were legible. My host warned of sun-poisoning, heatstroke, black widows, snake bites, and fire ants. I listened intently, anticipating her following plans of action in the off chance those hazardous scenarios were to unfold. My host, however, promptly took back the map and announced it was time to settle in for the night. I trudged off to bed, feeling quite in over my head. Within seven days, I'd had a close call with all of the dangers detailed over our initial dinner. I had taken to not-very jokingly referring to every meal as my "last supper." Humor had always been my failsafe, a coping mechanism that got me through the toughest of situations with a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart. It was out in that squash field, being suffocated by one-hundred and eight degrees of wet heat, that I realized humor wouldn't be enough this time around. I needed to dig deeper and search for the underlying lesson this opportunity was granting me. I stepped in a fire ant hill before I could begin brainstorming too intensely, however, so any grand realizations were put on indefinite hold. My epiphany wouldn't come for another two weeks. By that time, I had pulled weeds in the pouring rain, gathered thousands of cherry tomatoes, and discovered my minor eggplant allergy. I was cleaning garlic, immersed in a rhythm of motion when I was finally able to articulate the reason for my wild excursion. Life didn't owe me an explanation or some awe-inspiring lesson. It was my responsibility to forge meaning from the meaningless. I could no longer be a bystander of my own life. The prospect of not only gaining experiences but actively defining them was foreign. Working on Bio-way farms is my greatest achievement to date. It was a series of trials and adventures that culminated into one vital self-discovery. It is not enough to passively obtain experiences. I must actively determine and create value in the face of adversity. My time on the farm cemented my future ambition of becoming an elementary educator. I will teach my students the importance of agency in both education and daily living. After spending so many years obliviously complacent, I have a yearning to ensure that stance is not adopted by others. Though my time on Bio-way farms was taxing, it strengthened my character and secured my career path. Once my month at Bio-way farm was up, I went on to volunteer at a homestead in Albany, New York. There, I appreciated every spade-blister, bear encounter, and poison ivy rash. Not because they were particularly pleasant events, but because I could confidently define them and catalog the experience in an ever-expanding bank of knowledge.
Osayuwamen Ede-Osifo
Brown UniversityProvidence, RI
Sarah Ali
University of Alabama at BirminghamHoover, AL
The strong smell of disinfectant infiltrated my nostrils. The fluorescent lights and white walls pierced my eyes. I looked down at my trembling hands, twisting and turning them as if doing so would hold down the turmoil inside me. Despair roamed the room, expelled on the breath of fearful family members like me who were doing their best to bite down on the pain that brought them here. It was Thanksgiving Day, and instead of counting our blessings at the dinner table, I found myself sitting at my brother's bedside as a long, flat, piercing sound penetrated my ears. My brother had passed away. I watched as his body vanished into what had been fragmented by a heart attack. The plaques and blockages that accumulated in his heart now seeped into our daily lives. It was as if I was touched by something chronic; something that wasn’t fatal, but still felt like it could be. In search of an outlet to conquer this emotional numbness, I sought to channel my energy into something more restorative. In December 2018, I volunteered at Cannan Orphanage in Mombasa, Kenya with an international platform called Global Encounters. As a group of 40 people that were selected from a body of Ismaili Muslim students, my connections with the children were acutely intimate. The carefree attitudes and contagious smiles I was greeted with would have never led me to question their compromised quality of life. The children bathed in saltwater, used their fingers to brush their teeth, and cared for their menstrual cycles with cardboard boxes and brown paper bags. As I witnessed their hardships, a growing sense of responsibility stirred within me. I no longer felt numb. An accumulation of every touching story from Cannan Orphanage resulted in Vijiti, a local and globally-focused nonprofit organization that I founded. Vijiti delivers medical supplies and creates hygiene curriculum for schools to uplift marginalized areas in Africa and Asia. My peers now help the cause through the Vijiti Club at my high school. With the help of our volunteers, Vijiti has served 3,000 care packages on a global scale and has designed a health curriculum for seven schools this past year. Not only did starting Vijiti give me a sense of control, but for the first time, I realized that I had the power to do something: I could prevent another family from experiencing pain and loss similar to mine. The memory of my brother dying will always be sad and it will always hurt, but experiences like these have shaped me just as much as the joyful ones have. And just as permanently. My life lacked a purpose after my brother’s life was gone, but his death gave life to Vijiti, and Vijiti gave more meaning to my life. And this is how I honor my brother: by making sure his death isn’t a black hole that sucked me in, but instead the spark I needed to be able to burn brighter.
Mihir Mirch
University of California-BerkeleyBerkeley, CA
The woman on the screen was limping, blood seeping through a bandage that covered half her face. Surrounded by the rubble, she held her baby, who was crying incessantly. As I sat in my chair while watching this news segment, I was paralyzed. My dad was just as frozen as I was. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake took place in Nepal in 2015. This catastrophe devastated millions, depriving them of food, shelter, and hope. Though I was on the opposite side of the world, my family in India felt the effects of such devastation, and through them, so did I. I would not leave my room that night, and I couldn’t sleep; I just sat and prayed that there wouldn’t be an aftershock. It all looked like a bad dream, but this wasn’t a fictional dystopia, it was reality. When I got up the next morning, I tried to set aside my fears, but I knew that the interim tents for housing and the scant food would not be enough. I was driven to spearhead an initiative for the babies that faced malnourishment and the women that were burying their husbands. At my next Indian Classical Music classes, I heard friends discuss the traumas from Nepal. With relief, I realized I wasn’t alone. I had the perfect group that was driven to aid these victims. I took the initiative to lead my friends from music class to help feed and shelter affected peoples through musical expression. My plan was to mix Indian and American music and fund efforts through performances. I stayed after class for an hour weekly with my peers to work on our performance. I assigned team members and created a mashup with a friend, Keshav. We committed hours every day to finish a piece that would be presented to thousands of people in our community. I was very passionate about sharing my ideas with the world, even working until 3 a.m. for my song. I reached out to my teacher, Mahesh Kale, for help identifying a venue, and he recommended a sizable theater in Sunnyvale, California. After several weeks of coordinating a marketing campaign, I realized my vision for bringing together a community and a group of artists to share their voices and give light to a global issue. Along with a standing ovation, our group received $5,000 for Nepal relief efforts. After this event, I learned something about myself: I could apply my skills and talents to address the problems of today. I decided to try using chess, computer science, and math to make a similar difference. In the years that followed, I volunteered as a Bay Area Chess coach and a math tutor at Tutree and Buddies4Math in my local community. I also brought life to recycled computers using my computer science knowledge to give disadvantaged students access to educational platforms like YouTube and Khan Academy. I used my knowledge in Ubuntu/Lubuntu OS to provide such platforms and help further bridge the digital divide in America. I even raised funds for The Global Uplift Project which contributes to providing education for over 200 students in Kirinyaga Country, Kenya with improved educational facilities and curriculums. The healing in Nepal that I took a proud part in molded me into a fearless and resilient leader who understands that though there are dark times, it is important to remain persistent in fostering hope. In college, I look forward to using my skills to keep making a positive impact in more communities and to enlighten more students on their path to success in their academic careers. Currently, I have been accepted into the early admission pool of applicants at the University of California, Berkeley, and I plan to attend this Fall in the Computer Science major. I plan to challenge the status quo and inspire change in my local community and in communities around the world with profound resilience. I was also selected as a finalist in the Division of Equity and Inclusion where I plan to use my skillset in music to continue volunteering for my local community in Berkeley, California, and around the world. At Berkeley, I also plan to participate in Peace Corps and continuously use my resources for societal good.
Alejandro Quintero
University of FloridaGainesville, FL
The most interesting part about me is my origin for sure, as it is an aspect I take great pride in. Although I was born in Colombia, I moved to the USA when I was four years old and became an American citizen in the 5th grade. My Colombian origin has made me very culturally diverse and accepting of different backgrounds and the celebrations and values that come with each specific culture. I also was raised without a father, with that and by going through YMCA Leader's Club and EDGE/Life Teen, I have been able to be vulnerable and willing to show weakness, which has helped me grow and develop as a leader through the theory of a "servant leader". My immigrant background has pushed me to demonstrate that Hispanics can be just as achievers and hard-working as everyone else in an academic environment, evolving to become a significant driving force in my education. Through volunteering, I have improved my willingness to communicate and compromise and increased my desire to form strong bonds within my community. I have learned to recognize some people do not have the same opportunities as me, meaning I not only need to take advantage of those opportunities but help and share with those who do not have access to them. I have experienced challenges in my life moving from Colombia to the USA, the outcome became promising because of the constant support in my life from my family and community. My high school career has been characterized by balance, with me having to maintain community service, extracurricular clubs, my job, and my brief stint in youth sports while sustaining a decent academic performance. I have focused on balance to find success in all aspects of my life. I believe my greatest achievement to date has been to keep a balanced perspective to achieve my goals. On top of the balance I had to maintain in high school that I will keep enforcing during my college career, winning this scholarship would help me achieve my goals by allowing me to attend and finish college with minimum debt, which would be helpful since I am the first member of my family to attend college in the USA, and therefore this gives me more possible opportunities than my family had in Colombia. I will be attending the University of Florida College of Engineering in Gainesville, and for me to do this, I need to adapt and fend for myself. Cartagena, my hometown in Colombia, has many problems in comparison to the infrastructure level we have in the USA. I want to study civil engineering, so I can find sustainable and feasible solutions to the infrastructure problems in cities and communities like Cartagena, helping them to achieve a better quality of life and progress. I am aware these communities are all over the world, creating global opportunities for engineering and its applications. It would be tremendous to be part of development projects around the world.
Fatema Traore
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh CampusMcKees Rocks, PA
Growing up, my family struggled a lot with money. My parents got divorced when I was still in middle school and my mom was left to raise 5 children on her own. I wasn’t the typical child who got to hang out with my friends and go to movies growing up. Instead, I spent my days staying home and teaching my mom to read and write. On warm hot summer days when everyone was at the pool, I was at work trying to squeeze in a few extra hours to meet the month’s rent. There were times when my siblings and I had to live out of our car or in cheap motels because we could not afford to live in our home. We even had to live in a shelter for a few months at one point. I am sharing my story, not to gain sympathy, but to simply show where my passion and commitment towards helping others has stemmed from. Living this life taught me the importance of being willing to help and assist others. Despite struggling so much throughout my young adult life, I managed to graduate high school at the top of my class and get accepted into my dream college. Fast-forwarding to today, I am currently a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh where I am majoring in Political Science and work towards obtaining a certificate in Non-Profit Management. I hope to someday establish my own non-profit organization aimed at providing social services to families struggling with poverty throughout Pittsburgh the way my family and I did over the years. Growing up in a poor community, I was able to see first-hand just how difficult and detrimental it is to live in poverty. I cannot count on my fingers how many times my siblings and I went to bed hungry or freezing cold in the winter when our gas was shut off because he hadn't been able to afford the month's rent. No one, especially no child, should have to live this way. I spent the first decade and a half of my life not even living but fighting to simply survive. If I can find a way to offer even the smallest bit of assistance to other struggling families through Pittsburgh, I want to be able to do just that. In fact, that it just what I plan to do. To better prepare myself for my future in assisting others, I have spent the past 2 years volunteering and helping people through different organizations and programs throughout the Pittsburgh area. I have worked with Jumpstart, a national organization aimed at bridging the kindergarten readiness gap within urban communities. Through my work with Jumpstart, I have worked with my amazing team to design lesson plans for young pre-schoolers and have spent a few hours each week working with these students. Also, I currently mentor under Strong Women Strong Girls where I meet with a group of young girls each week and conduct lesson plans centered around female empowerment and leadership. Further, I spend a lot of time tutoring with Keep-It-Real where I dedicate a few hours each week tutoring young children from the Somali-Bantu community here in Pittsburgh. Equally important, I currently serve as an ambassador for the Pitt To You Program where I represent the University of Pittsburgh in a global setting. In this role, I connect with incoming international Pitt students and find ways to provide these students with information and resources aimed at ensuring they have a comfortable and successful transition to their new college lives. I am also involved in numerous other organizations here on my campus that all work to assist different communities throughout Pittsburgh. This summer, I even plan on working closely with the community outreach members representing Representative Jake Wheatley of the 19th congressional district. I say all of this to show you all that I am deeply committed to finding ways to assist all people within different communities. Given this, my greatest achievement to date is that I am and always have been resilient. I managed to make something of myself despite having so little as a child.
Brandi O'Berry
Coastal Pines Technical CollegeFolkston, GA
I think my greatest achievement to date is deciding as a full-time worker and mom at the age of thirty-two it was time to go back to school. This in itself is no small feat. I work hard every day juggling a full-time job and responsibilities as a mother and wife. I then go on to be a student in college. Do not get me wrong I do have a lot of support from my husband and family. However, the main tasks are on me. I have to make a schedule that works for all of my tasks as well as everyone else in my family. I have to make sure everyone else has everything they need to get through their day. So far this experience has taught me to never underestimate myself. I can do anything I set my mind and effort to. I am a strong woman who has a lot on her plate but does not allow it to discourage me from my goals. I have learned to better manage my schedule and to just breathe because with life nothing ever goes as planned. I prepare for the unexpected and pray a lot more than I ever have. Being flexible is another change I have learned. I now know not everything will go my way but that is no reason to give up or give in. The goals I have set for myself in the future are hard but very obtainable. I want to finish college and begin a successful career. Not a paycheck to paycheck job, but a career that I love doing. I do not want to feel miserable or stuck at my workplace. I want the enjoyment of being able to help people while doing my job. I want to be able to show my children you can achieve anything you set your mind to. It does not matter your age or circumstance. I want my children to know that hard work pays off and is recognized. My biggest goal is I want my family to be proud of me and my hard work. I want them to see that I made it through my struggles and did not give up.
Samantha Paul
University of Alaska FairbanksBethel, AK
Amanda Bonesteel
Northern Michigan UniversitySKANDIA, MI
Going back to college after having dropped out many years ago I think is my greatest achievement so far, because for years the fear of failure kept me from going back. Even though I have had many different types of achievements in my life, none were as intimidating as going back to school. In elementary the teachers told me I was a poor student- I didn't listen enough, do enough homework, or pay attention. In junior high, I failed one class and received poor grades in many others. Somehow in high school I ended up graduating with high honors and did quite well, and in that process, I learned that I had always needed glasses, for one thing, and that I had been bored in my previous classes prior to high school. In 9th grade I got prescription eyeglasses and lo and behold, I could see the blackboard! My English teacher asked me why I was in "basic English"- the only response I had was that I hadn't done enough homework in junior high. He promptly put me in advanced courses, where I proceeded to successfully pass with flying colors. Unfortunately, all those previous years of being told that I wasn't a good student, getting poor grades, and subsequently dropping out of college the first time after two months really made me internalize that I was a bad student and that I would never get a college degree. I concentrated on work, got married, had my daughter, and worked some more. I've since been in a few different careers, moved around the country, volunteered overseas and in my community, and successfully completed a 4-year apprenticeship. Yet even for all that, the thought of going back to college terrified me. "I won't do my homework", "I'll fail", or "I'll get bored and drop out" were some of my fears. None of those things have happened. In 2019 I enrolled back the very same college I had dropped out of back in 1999, and to date I am a sophomore and holding a 3.85 g.p.a., am a campus leader, an AmeriCorps VISTA in my community, and I volunteer at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in my (limited!) spare time. Putting myself through college has been an amazing experience, instead of a terrifying one. My first semester I had a 4.0 g.p.a., and that boosted my confidence so much that I knew I could and would succeed. I am on track to study abroad and finish my Bachelor of Science in Sociology an entire semester early due to my dedication and hard work. This is why going to college is my greatest achievement yet- because I overcame what I was afraid of. I faced my biggest fear, that of failure, and I came out on top.
Renata Barona
The University of Texas at TylerLewisville, TX
At the age of nine, I was diagnosed with an aneurysm in the aorta which required surgery and a month-long hospitalization. I was treated at a government hospital, and though it was one of the best in Mexico City, I witnessed poverty, hunger, and malnutrition there. I lived in Mexico City for fifteen years but had never really seen extreme poverty until that time. Families were charged based on income and some only made 1000 pesos a month (about $50). People traveled from all over Mexico to get the medical attention they needed, and when they got to the hospital their families had no place to stay and no money for food. I wanted to help. I came up with the idea of a bake sale to raise money because in Mexico we are known for showing love through our food. After selling all 956 brownies and 1543 gummy lollipops, the money we earned was enough to cover the cost of several surgeries for those in need. Afterward, my mom and I started a fundraiser called “De Corazón a Corazón” (from the heart to the heart), which paid for many surgeries. The first person I helped was Monica, and after her surgery, Monica's family called me to say that they had some money left over that they wanted to give back; they still needed money for medicine and transportation, so instead of returning any money, I asked them to help with the cooking of the brownies. So every year when the bake sale started again, more people gathered together to cook. This is one of the greatest achievements of my life because what started as one of the scariest moments in my life led to the possibility of saving lives. This experience showed me I was stronger than I thought I was and it showed me that when people work together, many things can be accomplished. Furthermore, my future career involves working with people with down syndrome, autism, and other special abilities. Throughout the past years, I have been involved in the Special Education community by volunteering at the Special Olympics and classes. It has been a wonderful experience that changed my life and made me sure of what I want to do for my future career. I will focus on double majoring in Psychology and Communication Sciences and Disabilities which focuses on a wide variety of problems in speech, language, and hearing. My goal is to try and make the world a more inclusive place and ten years from now, I see myself finishing my Ph.D., and on the way to becoming one of the best special needs therapists. I want to make a change in the world and integrate people with special abilities into society and abolish the negative stigma society has portrayed in these individuals. I want to open a clinic where I help people with special needs form relationships and teach them how to be independent and care for themselves. Finally, I see myself having a beautiful family and teaching my kids about the importance of respect and equality in a society because it is not the world you leave to your children, but the children you leave to the world that will make a difference. I want to show the world that people with special abilities are as capable as any other person in the world, but to accomplish my dreams of helping others, I am in desperate need of a scholarship to continue and further my education and help people in the future.
Trinity Peacock
Vanderbilt UniversityWilliston, FL
Ah, 2020, the year of chaos and uncertainty. COVID-19 has completely changed our lives in a matter of months. My family has faced our share of problems, as have many other families, and the virus even took three very close family members of mine. Despite these challenging times, many great things have arisen in my life. One of my most rewarding achievements has been creating a service project centered around women's health, "Project Pink." Since I was a young girl, I have had the innate drive to help others. So much so that at the age of seven, after the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010, I wrote a 100-page book about the devastating event and how my family would adopt two affected children. The book was written on looseleaf paper, included cutout images, and was held together with an added pink and purple ribbon strung through the holes. Even at that age, I knew I wanted to contribute substantially to the lives of others. I used whatever materials I had available to express my vision. Unfortunately, adoption was not as simple as I thought. In later years, I turned my focus to volunteer work. I have been a tutor to various family members for many years, which led to me volunteering for a middle school intensive reading class. I wanted to volunteer with the local nonprofit organizations but did not precisely know how to go about it. Then, amid the latest public health crisis, I finally found the purpose and courage to start my own. Over the years, I have seen the importance of feminine products. I have also seen a striking lack of access to them. Being a female myself, I know how ridiculously expensive it can be to purchase the necessary feminine products. As I entered my senior year and started my college career, I am preparing to positively impact all women's lives, starting with Project Pink. Our mission statement is "Impacting lives, one pink product at a time." We prepare individual Blessing Bags and fill them with feminine products such as menstrual products, women's deodorant, and other general items like toothpaste and toothbrushes. Project Pink is starting on the microscale and donating to local homeless shelters because there is always a demand for these kinds of products. I have support and sponsorships from school clubs, such as the Interact Club, the National Honor Society, and county organizations such as Williston Rotary Club and local churches. I have lofty goals to expand Project Pink to help more women, nationally and globally, and ultimately influence policy to make these items cheaper and more accessible. Women should not be forced to choose between a menstrual product or their next meal. Believe it or not, this is a longstanding issue right here in the United States. "Period poverty" is a global systemic problem faced by women all over the country and the world who do not have access to safe, hygienic products to help regulate their menses with dignity. Women resort to making homemade pads, using rags, toilet paper, tissues, cloth, amongst other unfit materials. This is not only unpleasant to wear, but also dangerous. Women subject to these conditions are susceptible to developing harmful infections. Project Pink aims to intervene in the lack of accessibility to the proper feminine hygiene products. All women deserve to have the confidence of knowing that they will have easy access to a necessity as simple as a tampon. The COVID-19 crisis caused a tremendous amount of disorder and confusion, but it also prompted me to begin an incredible service project. Project Pink is dedicated to providing women with the necessary products and bringing awareness to these products' not being readily accessible. Those who offer help and I are committed to making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. Project Pink is impacting lives, one pink product at a time.
Taylor Young
United States Coast Guard AcademyNew London, CT
My greatest achievement to date is when a mentee received best cadet at an encampment. I was in Civil Air Patrol (CAP) while I was in high school. I finished CAP as a Captain. During my time in CAP I was the aviation officer, special event officer, and squadron commander for two terms. However, a wonderful experience that I was privileged with, was being selected as a flight commander. I was an LT at the time, and this encampment was held at the state level in Missouri. Encampment was used to initiate the incoming cadets to develop leaders of character in an increased stressful environment. Myself as well as my partner (flight sergeant) were made responsible for 18 cadets. Throughout the week we trained these cadets by use of motivation, inspiration, and discipline to develop them into leaders of character for themselves as well as their peers. There was a cadet in particular who I saw have amazing potential. He had a heart of gold and would help his wingmen even if he wasn't able to complete his own task that he was assigned. He worked hard to continue improving himself for his wingmen and himself. It was this fire that I saw in him, that made me fail him on every single inspection. He had one of the best beds made I had ever seen and I failed him because there was one piece of lint on his bunk. Post-inspections I would pull him aside and congratulate him on having the best bunk, however I would help him understand that if he could meet this standard then so should everyone else in this flight because they have someone like him to teach them. The inspections got better as the week went on and I knew my numbers weren't pertinent to the final numbers of our flight. Therefore, during the final inspection where I saw near perfect bunks. I walked down the rows of bunks and failed every single one. I didn't even look or take out my ruler to measure their bunk, I simply walked down and failed them all as loudly as I could. At the end I stopped and told them that the examiner, conducting their final inspection whose numbers mattered, was going to come in shortly. I told them that they had made it through the week and no matter what I or the examiner was going to say about their performance in the next 30 minutes, that it didn't matter as long as they could look at one another and be proud of the people they are standing next to one another. As long as they were proud of the people they had become, and as long as they were proud of the work they had completed together, they had successfully completed encampment regardless of what the numbers will tell them. After their final inspections, the cadet who I had failed multiple times for simply having a piece of lint on their bunk came up to me and shook my hand. He said he was proud of who he had developed to be and proud to be taught by me. I watched this cadet receive his award to as best encampment cadet, and I had never been prouder. I was awarded with best encampment officer, and received commemoration for my work as commander, however none of that compared to watching someone I had mentored receive an award that he deserved. I like to believe I helped him achieve his award. I learned that not every leadership tactic I did was successful, however as long as I remained respectful of the people I was leading and they shared a common goal, the mission was going to be completed. I learned that I had the possibility to be a great leader one day. I remained in contact with him for a bit after that, mentoring him through classes and life. He was my first successful leadership story and I am proud of the person he became. In the future I want to take my leadership skills, develop and refine them, to be the best leader in the US Coast Guard I can be. I want to work hard to be the best aviator and leader that future coast guardsmen can be proud to have been led by.
Mariaelena Tejada
Pace UniversityNew York, NY
Throughout my 20 years of life, I am grateful for all my achievements and experiences from being a start intern at PwC to passing my road test on the first try. My proudest achievement to date is opening a savings account. It may seem like something trivial but growing up I always dreamed of having my own savings account. I love the idea that with discipline, I can help pay for my tuition and even buy my own lunch rather than placing all the burden on my mother. There is a lack of financial literacy among low-income individuals. A savings account is one of the most underrated assets. In elementary school and middle school, I never learned much about interest, credit cards, or savings accounts. Living paycheck to paycheck my mother never had the luxury of placing money aside for the future. Having a savings account for me is more than saving money for a vacation or a nice car, a savings account is an investment in my future. Because I have a savings account I am able to begin paying off my student loans and it could afford me the opportunity to move out on my own after college. After receiving my accounting degree from Pace University, I hope to work full-time for PwC or Deloitte. I chose to study accounting because I want to be able to educate others in my neighborhood on any financial questions that they may have. I would like to be a full-time accountant focusing primarily on income taxes in addition to being a resource in my area year-round. Any questions they may have I hope they will come to me, even if it may not be tax-related. I dream that one day, I'll have the opportunity to present and discuss financial literacy in schools across the country. It's never too early or too late for people to learn about savings accounts, CDs, and credit cards. Having the knowledge and ability to open a savings account is my proudest achievement to date. Through this savings account, I have learned how large the disparity of financial literacy is for many individuals. If others had an equal opportunity they too could be able to invest in their future.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Jul 16, 2024. Winners will be announced on Aug 16, 2024.