Dream Award Scholars Reflect Diverse Definitions of College Success - Scholarship America

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Dream Award Scholars Reflect Diverse Definitions of College Success

By Matt Konrad

Since the Scholarship America Dream Award was established in 2014, we’ve provided more than $1.5 million in scholarships to 86 Dream Award Scholars. All of them are remarkable students who overcame incredible odds to achieve college success — and all of them faced financial circumstances that threatened to end their college careers short of graduation, until the Dream Award came through with renewable support.

They have many things in common. But they also reflect the incredible diversity of today’s college student. They come from unique backgrounds and they’ve faced a wide array of challenges. What’s more, they’ve focused their skills and passions on a huge range of college majors and future careers. Supporting the Dream Award doesn’t mean supporting just one kind of learner — it means following in the footsteps of founding donor Katie Couric, and providing help and hope for all sorts of futures.

From just the first class of Dream Award Scholars, we met future engineers, veterinarians, software developers, and even a Scholarship America board member (who’s now on hiatus, pursuing her dream of living and learning in France). And a look at the scholars who were honored at the fifth annual Dreams to Success Celebration brings their diversity into even clearer relief.

Those 40 students — largely 2018 and 2019 Dream Award Scholars — represent 29 different majors. Their fields of study run the gamut from science and technology to business to liberal and performing arts. They are future agronomists, psychologists, playwrights and CEOs; many are already founders of startups and nonprofits. All of them are driven by their past circumstances and personal passions, and all of them are pursuing those dreams thanks to supporters of the Dream Award.

Here are just a few of them, in their own words:

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.

Sydney Kamen, Geography and Global Health major at Dartmouth, and founder of So Others Are Protected (SOAP), a charity providing basic sanitation and health solutions in developing nations.

I’ve struggled to find balance between school, work, and extracurricular activities, spending countless nights studying past midnight and waking up early, leaving me with little or no energy. This led me to take out multiple loans to stop working. The Dream Award washes multiple worries away. My dream is to open my own music studio, affordable for low-income families. 

Ana Leyva, Music Education major, Honors Student leader and peer mentor at Minnesota State – Mankato

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.

Cassidy Whitehurst, Legal Studies major and Student Senate member, George Mason University

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.

Jasmine Cunningham, Psychology and Neuroscience Major at University of Alabama-Birmingham, pursuing her degree despite being diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and autism

At the 2019 Dreams to Success Celebration, we also introduced Crystel Minor, a 2018 Dream Award Scholar and pre-med student at Xavier University in New Orleans. Despite growing up in an impoverished and violence-riddled neighborhood, Crystel is using her scholarship to join the ranks of Dream Award recipients-turned-doctors. Click on the video below to watch her story.

Scholarship America’s Dream Award Scholars represent the best in perseverance, grit, determination and focus. Though their educational and career goals are as diverse as they are, one common bond brings them together — scholarship support from the Dream Award has meant less stress and less debt on the way to their degrees. To pledge your support, click below.

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