Scholarship America® Announces 2020 Dream Award Recipients - Scholarship America

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Scholarship America® Announces 2020 Dream Award Recipients

By Claire Berge Schmidt

Though this is an especially tough year for students with the uncertainty of the pandemic and learning remotely, Scholarship America is dedicated to supporting students’ dreams and determination. Twenty-one exceptional students have been selected as recipients of Scholarship America’s 2020 Dream Award. The Dream Award is Scholarship America’s renewable scholarship program for students with financial need and who have overcome significant barriers to make it to college. Since the Dream Award was created in 2014, 108 students have been awarded scholarships totaling nearly $2 million.

“This is an impressive group of resilient academic achievers who are focused on building a brighter future for their careers, while also helping their families and communities,” said Robert C. Ballard, president and CEO of Scholarship America. “They have overcome major challenges in their lives including serious illness, abandonment, abuse, family loss, poverty and homelessness, to pursue their dreams for their future. These students demonstrate the power of a scholarship in transforming their lives and paying it forward to help others.”

For six years, Scholarship America has hosted Dreams to Success: a dinner and fundraising event in Washington, DC to honor Dream Award students. Ballard noted that due to COVID-19, the need to support deserving students is greater than ever. Therefore, Scholarship America will convert the 2020 Dreams to Success event into an online Day of Giving on May 7, celebrating the 2020 Dream Award students as well as Dream Award students from previous years. More information on the Day of Giving and how to donate can be found at

Below is a sampling of the 2020 Dream Award recipients. For a complete list, click here.

Thomas Ballinger
Reno, Nevada

Genetics and Cell Biology major, Washington State University: “Since the fifth grade, I was fascinated by the field of genetics. None of my local colleges offered the major and finding a way to pay the out-of-state tuition of $45,000 per year seemed daunting. Many well-meaning friends and family members cautioned me to be realistic and not waste so much time filling out scholarship applications. I was repeatedly urged to stop dreaming. Thank you, Scholarship America for proving them wrong.”

Marissa Gerstner
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

Elementary and Special Education major, Carroll University: “I was thrilled to learn I was selected for this honor and am deeply appreciative of your support. Working with children is my passion and becoming a teacher has always been my dream. The excitement you see in their eyes when learning something new is what I enjoy. The Dream Award will greatly help me in paying my educational expenses, and allow me to concentrate more of my time on studying.  I promise to work hard and eventually give back to others, both as a teacher and possibly a scholarship to other students like myself.”

Breece Phipps
Los Angeles, California

Astronautical Engineering major at the University of Southern California: “I am honored and grateful to receive the Scholarship America Dream Award. My goal is to become an astronaut for NASA. I rely heavily on financial aid to fund my higher education journey. I applied for several scholarships and was continuously overlooked. I was beginning to think my current progress was being dismissed because of my difficult past. I have learned to be grateful for everything I receive.”

Audrey Hammond
Los Angeles, California

Applied Information Management Systems (AIMS) major/African American Studies minor, Loyola Marymount University: “I am honored to be selected as a Dream Award recipient. This scholarship allows me to focus more on gaining the knowledge I need to prepare for my future career. As a Dream Award recipient, I intend to be a guide for fellow first-generation, low-income students.”

Recipients were determined by a Dream Award Selection Committee, headed by Dr. Martha Kanter, the executive director of the College Promise Campaign and a senior fellow at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at New York University. Other selection committee members were: Robert C. Ballard, president and CEO, Scholarship America; Sarita Brown, co-founder and president of Excelencia in Education; Dr. Mildred Garcia, president, American Association of State Colleges and Universities; Kristin Hultquist, renowned national education expert and founding partner of HCM Strategists; and Jim Larimore, Chief Officer, ACT Center for Equity in Learning.