2019 Dream Award Recipients - Scholarship America

2019 Dream Award Recipients Congratulations to Our Dream Award Winners!


Students who receive the Dream Award have completed at least their first year of their college education, have a significant financial need, and have overcome obstacles through sheer determination.

Cynthia Cheng

Cynthia Cheng 

Computer Science, New York University–Tandon School of Engineering  

My aspiration is to become a software developer, facing challenges from building tech to protecting nations against cybersecurity terrorism. My mother works for minimum wage; my father struggles with the physical demands of carpentry. I work part-time to make additional income, at the expense of time I can spend studying. The Dream Award is a tremendous relief. 

Aniska ColeyAniska Coley 

English, City University of New York–Queens College

When I was a child, I dug mines behind our apartment complex in search of diamonds. The idea was to acquire enough money to save the family, to erase the ever-present wrinkle of worry above my parents’ brows. Financial stability is still my primary goal, and receiving my degree is the only way to achieve it.

Jasmine CunninghamJasmine Cunningham

Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Alabama at Birmingham 

My goal is to become a physician-scientist who combines research about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities with principles of biomedical  and neuroengineering to improve patients’ lives. Because of multiple health issues, my journey through college has been longer and different than that of my peers. My mother also has  health issues and finances are often extremely tight. 

Nia DanielsNia Daniels

Fraud Examination, City University of New York–John Jay College of Criminal Justice 

In ninth grade, an unknown individual posted inappropriate messages about me on Facebook. This sparked my interest in fraud examination.  It was difficult to fund my education. My mother is unemployed, raising four girls by herself. My father died after struggling with his health since 9/11. An older sister has mental illness. As a college freshman I was assaulted. These traumatic events don’t define me. I define me.

Janeise DavisJaneise Davis 

Computer Science, Lewis University 

My desire to major in computer science was influenced by a life-changing hip surgery I had when I was 10 years old. Afterwards, I knew I wanted a career where I could combine medical knowledge and technology to help other people facing physical challenges (e.g. blindness and deafness). This desire led me to discover the fields of bionics and prosthetics. 

Alayna EspesethAlayna Espeseth 

Geology, North Dakota State University   

Being diagnosed with cancer at 15 was devastating. I was incredibly scared, not fully understanding what was going on.  Although it has been tough, my experiences have made me into who I am today.  I hope to obtain a degree that can help me succeed as a petroleum geologist and be involved in the discovery and production of oil.

Tristan GassowayTristian Gassoway

Nursing, University of Missouri–Columbia 

As a four-year-old, I experienced a devastating hardship. My siblings and I were separated into different foster homes. We had amazing social workers whose helpfulness and kindness inspired me to want to give children hope for better days. As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, I’ll be able to positively impact children’s lives just as my social workers did for me. 

Bailee GolischBailee Golisch

Pre-Med/Psychology, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse   

One day there will be a new child psychiatrist in northern Wisconsin – me!  As a child no one was there to support me as anxiety and depression took hold. I never want another person to suffer as I did.  My free time is spent managing pain and developing coping skills. Nothing will stand in my way of achieving this career. 

Daniel Hernandez

Daniel Hernandez

Film & Television, Boston University  

A passion for stories, the thrill in hearing them, made me pursue writing. At their core, stories should say something, and as a demiurge, my goal is to underline the common ground we share. Whether as an immigrant or student, I hope my experiences become catalysts for finding connection with audiences, like my current project: a full-length play about a first part-time job.

Charly Gutierrez JimenezCharly Gutierrez Jimenez 

Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida  

My father passed away when I was nine. My mother struggles to put food on our table; I work 30 hours per week to help. Growing up I realized education is imperative to economic well-being.  My passion is  improving quality of life. Pursuing a career as a biomedical engineer will provide the opportunity to improve communities’ health quality conditions.

Sydney KamenSydney Kamen  

Geography/Global Health, Dartmouth College 

At 12 years old, a doctor informed my parents that I would live neither a full life nor one beyond hospital walls. My experiences of being ill as a child, and the team of doctors that gave me a second chance, has profoundly informed my sincere dedication to the improvement of societal health, healthcare access, and equity around the world. Today, I am grateful to be alive, determined to fight against the daily injustices I see and for every human’s right to quality and accessible healthcare. 

Charmaine KiamcoCharmaine Kiamco

Nursing, Washburn University    

An ordinary fever was the beginning of dengue, a life-threatening mosquito-borne virus. During my recuperation I saw the critical role doctors and nurses play. Thus, at nine, I decided I wanted to work in the medical field. Furthering my education will create a domino effect. In my own steps I can uplift our Filipino community and advocate for those in need. 

Nancy Lopez RodriguezNancy Lopez Rodriguez

Finance and Accounting, Kansas State University  

My parents only finished elementary school. Their lack of education meant they didn’t make enough to support a family of eight. I want to be able to go into business and not have to worry about money. As the oldest, a first generation high school graduate and the first to go to college, I am setting the example for my younger siblings. 

Jia MeiJia Mei

Molecular Biology, Colorado College 

My grand plan is to become a molecular anthropologist. I want to study human migration patterns and human ancestral relations. My aspirations are tightly tied to my identity. As a child born under the One Child Policy, I often struggle with the definition and essence of my identity. This internal conflict drives my constant search for meaning in the world.  (Jia is the recipient of the 2019 Chinese-American Dream Award Scholarship, proudly sponsored by the World Journal.)

Marcos Navarro-GarciaMarcos Navarro-Garcia  

Critical Communications and Spanish, Butler University 

I hope to advocate for the advancement of minorities in society and show the world exactly what being a DREAMer is all about.  I want to reassure people they are not alone in their struggles as a minority, motivate them to better themselves and be an inspiration for someone who thinks it is impossible for them to achieve their dreams. 

Michelle NguyenMichelle Nguyen

Political Science, University of North Dakota   

My parents were immigrants from Vietnam. My dad was a refugee from the war. I saw how hard my parents had to work to make living possible in the U.S. The Dream Award has been a reassuring component in my educational journey. I hope to inspire others to make education a priority. 

Patrick PalauPatrick Palau 

Sociology, Brigham Young University  

I was raised by a single mother who passed away from breast cancer when I was 11. After her burial, I was kidnapped by my biological father, who had left when I was two. Trapped with this man, I was mentally, physically and emotionally abused. The trials in my life have been the building blocks of my character today. 

Jennifer RomeroJennifer Romero

Biochemistry, California State University–Long Beach 

My mother was diagnosed with renal kidney failure and has been a dialysis patient for 12 years. I know the struggles a patient undergoes physically and emotionally about scars on their bodies due to surgeries, and that inspires me to become a plastic surgeon. I’proud I will be the first one in my family to graduate high school and attend college.

Amarilis SantiagoAmarilis Santiago 

Nursing, Heritage University   

At 16, I became a mom. I had to grow up faster than I ever intended. People negatively assumed I would leave behind my goals, but I intend to prove them wrong and receive a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. I will set a positive example for my son and prove to him that no unexpected obstacle or challenge can interfere with your dreams.

Ashok SharmaAshok Sharma Jr.

Communications and Social Work, Wichita State University

I am a Kansan kid who is passionate about my community in Wichita. My dream is to give back in some way, while using my adversities as motivation. Victims of mental illness in today’s world and in certain cultures are considered weak, and that is not true. I would like to end stigmas surrounding mental health and raise awareness regarding help available. 

Cassidy WhitehurstCassidy Whitehurst

Legal Studies, George Mason University 

I had a difficult childhood. Surrounded by drugs and alcohol throughout family members, led to numerous difficult situations I had to go through. Nonetheless, I would not wish anything differently. It made me a stronger person. I want to become a civil rights attorney and fight for those who do not have a voice. 

Rosa ZavaletaRosa Zavaleta

Speech Pathology, University of Tulsa 

While language used to be a barrier when I immigrated from Mexico at the age of 7, it is now what I am most passionate about a Speech-Language Pathology major. I realize I am in a very fortunate position to help bilingual kids and because of the Dream Award I am one step closer to this goal.