The Scholar | Fall 2015

The Scholar: A Publication of Scholarship America
Fall 2015

Dream Award Recipients “Represent The Best of American Perseverance”

Recipients of the 2015 Scholarship America Dream Award
Scholarship America was thrilled to announce its 2015 class of Dream Award scholarship recipients last spring, and we are getting ready to start the application process for the 2016 awards.

“These twelve students represent the best of American perseverance toward the dream of a better life,” said Lauren A. Segal, President & CEO of Scholarship America. “Receiving the Scholarship America Dream Award will allow each of these students to focus on their studies, rather than worrying about how to pay for their education.”

The Scholarship America Dream Award is a renewable scholarship program for financially needy students who have overcome significant barriers and have successfully completed their first year of college. Awards were made to students selected from across the nation who are entering their second year or higher of education beyond high school; the scholarships are both renewable and increase in amount each year. Scholarship America awarded nearly $110,000 to this second group of students, with scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 based on the individual student’s financial need. Each student’s award will increase by $1,000 each year to help them successfully finish school and earn their degrees.

“I know that one day I’ll be able to express my gratitude in terms of success, to everyone who contributed to the Dream Award. You have proved to me that with hard work and dedication, I can and will succeed,” said Samantha Lopez, a Freshman Environmental Engineering student at the University of Puget Sound.

Students were introduced via video at the Scholarship America From Dreams to Degrees event on May 19, in Washington, D.C., which honored college students and those who help make their dreams reality.

  • Stephanie Edwards, a sophomore Spanish Education major at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. Hometown: Chatsworth, GA
  • Rashid Elsamra, a junior Biomedical Engineering major at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Hometown: Tallahassee, FL
  • Francisco Juarez, a junior Computer Science major at University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Hometown: West Valley, UT
  • Samantha Lopez, a sophomore Environmental Engineering major at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
  • Amanda O’Kane, a sophomore Biology major at Clarion University of Pennsylvania in Clarion, PA. Hometown: Berwick, PA
  • Celia Ochoa, a junior Chemical Engineering major at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN. Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
  • Linda Rivera, a sophomore Chemical Engineering major at University of Connecticut: Stamford in Stamford, CT. Hometown: Westport, CT*
  • Kimberly Schwartz, a sophomore Business/Economics major at University of California: Berkeley in Berkeley, CA. Hometown: Gridley, CA
  • Mary Sun, a junior Computational Biology, Finance and Healthcare Management and Policy major at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Hometown: Centreville, VA**
  • Jeffrin Wisel, a sophomore Biochemistry major at Ohio State University: Columbus Campus in Columbus, OH. Hometown: Columbus, OH
  • Alisa Yang, a sophomore Finance and Marketing major at University of Georgia in Athens, GA. Hometown: Acworth, GA
  • Hong Jun Zhu, a junior Nuclear Engineering major at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. Hometown: Berlin, NJ*

View the official announcement and hear special thank you messages from recipients on our YouTube channel:

*Scholarship America is pleased to announce that Linda Rivera and Hong Jun Zhu have also received scholarship awards in the past from Scholarship America Dollars for Scholars, a group of more than 500 independent affiliates that raise funds and provide scholarships to students in their communities.

**Mary Sun is the second recipient of the World Journal Dream Award for Chinese American Students, presented by the World Journal.


Congratulations to Ilana Kleynerman: National Student Volunteer of the Year

ilana-headshotThe Scholarship America Dollars for Scholars Student Volunteer Award provides special recognition and a scholarship award to students who embody the spirit of volunteerism that is at the heart of our Dollars for Scholars program. Selected recipients receive a $1,000 scholarship award, with one national award winner able to renew the award for up to three years for a total of $4,000. Ilana was nominated by her local Dollars for Scholars affiliate, Lincoln-Sudbury Scholarship Fund Dollars for Scholars.

Ilana’s go-getter attitude meant she stayed busy as a student, frequently giving back to her community of Sudbury, Massachusetts. She contributed more than 11,000 volunteer hours, which, along with her leadership and academic record, led to her winning nomination.

When Ilana’s family first arrived in the United States, all of these achievements seemed to be worlds away. As the child of Russian immigrants, “starting over was not easy for [my parents],” she said. But their sacrifices for Ilana and her two sisters constantly inspired Ilana to thrive.

Seeing the challenges her parents faced strengthened her own resolve to overcome obstacles—including working at a local café, and as a soccer referee and nanny, to help pay for college. “I would be the one to finance my education,” Ilana said. She worked hard to save money and apply for scholarships, knowing that they would be crucial to her future.

Her family also instilled a sense of community service, even at a young age. Ilana’s Russian language ability, for example, enabled her to translate conversations between Russian-speaking patients and their caregivers at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. It was one of many selfless endeavors that are now paying off for Ilana.

This fall, Ilana will enroll at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Her ability to pursue her dreams of finance and entrepreneurship are possible because of those investing in her, she says. “[The scholarships] are motivation. They’re another way to tell me that I’m doing this because so many people see something in me.”

Your gift to Scholarship America helps a student like Ilana turn her dreams into a degree!


Mark Your Calendars for The 2016 Dreams to Degrees Dinner!

More than 300 education leaders, supporters, students and other special guests joined Scholarship America at our sold-out inaugural Dreams to Degrees event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. in May. It was a night to remember—and we hope to see you at next year’s event!

Dreams To Degrees is set to become an annual tradition, honoring college students and those who help make their success a reality. In 2015, three honorees were recognized for their outstanding work on behalf of students who most need help: Katie Couric, founding donor of the Scholarship America Dream Award; Donald Graham, founding member of TheDream.US and the D.C. College Access Program; and the GM Foundation, creator of the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program.


In addition, students were honored throughout the evening—including a surprise celebration for those who are receiving their degrees in 2015. Finally, Dreams To Degrees will help us impact more students going forward: the event raised more than $500,000, including $68,000 pledged by attendees for the Scholarship America Dream Award.

Mark your calendar for next year’s Dreams To Degrees dinner, which will be held on May 25 at The Mayflower Hotel, in Washington, D.C.

Sponsorship packages are now available, including sponsoring a student’s attendance and full-day experience in our nation’s capital. Please consider sponsoring the 2016 Dreams to Degrees event and help us change more lives through scholarships for postsecondary education!


Scholarship America Announces First Public Policy Agenda

With nearly 60 years of experience in providing and shaping educational supports to students, and as the voice of the private sector in postsecondary education, Scholarship America is proud to announce our first public policy agenda, focused on advancing equity in postsecondary education and strengthening support for low-to-moderate income students.

“The release of this policy agenda represents the next phase of Scholarship America’s policy and advocacy efforts to advance equity in postsecondary education and strengthen support for low-to-moderate income students.”

This public policy agenda is the culmination of two years of research and dialogue on issues such as financial aid award displacement, college costs, student debt, tax benefits, public-private partnerships, college access, persistence and completion.

Building on our work for the past two years, this public policy agenda announces three priorities:

  • Expanding partnerships between the public and private sectors to build capacity and additional supports for students;
  • Ensuring a robust financial aid system that works for students by maximizing and bolstering federal and state financial aid, with the private sector contributing and leveraging support for students who need it most;
  • Requiring institutional transparency, minimum standards and outcomes from all postsecondary institutions to ensure that institutions are serving students well and producing outcomes that advance student success.

“The release of this policy agenda represents the next phase of Scholarship America’s policy and advocacy efforts to advance equity in postsecondary education and strengthen support for low-to-moderate income students,” said Max Espinoza, Senior Vice President of Education Programs and Policy, Scholarship America. “We look forward to sharing our experience and leveraging our broad local and national reach, alongside other policy leaders and advocates, to advance policies that support student access and success.”

Like you, we believe that education has the power to transform lives. By empowering more students and families to pursue and achieve their postsecondary education dreams, we ensure individual prosperity, stronger communities and a more vibrant nation.

Visit for more information on our policy & advocacy work.


Celebrating 2014: Record-Breaking Impact on Students

Learn how you’ve transformed students’ lives by viewing our 2014 Annual Report!

  • More than 125,000 students received over $236 million in scholarship support and assistance.
  • With an increased focus on serving those most in need, Scholarship America is now working to further engage the private sector to support programs and policies that further equity and help students overcome barriers to access, persistence and attainment.
  • In September of 2014, Scholarship America proudly opened an office in Washington, D.C. to better represent the interests of our students and constituents in the national policy arena.
  • 2014 was also a year of national exposure and celebrations: appearing on Katie Couric’s talk show to announce the first class of Dream Award recipients; visiting the White House to discuss ideas for making college more affordable; and celebrating a major milestone for the families of 9/11 victims.

Our 2014 Annual Report is available at


Keep Connected With Scholarship America

Like us, follow us, and spread the word!
Show your support by liking and following our Facebook and Twitter pages, then tell others to do the same. And by sharing our posts, you’ll be giving valuable scholarship advice to the students in your life.

We also invite you to volunteer at the local or national level. Contact the national office (800-537-4180) or find your local Dollars for Scholars affiliate here. Our volunteers come together in communities across America to work on behalf of local students – and they’re always looking for more help!

Finally, your monetary gift makes a huge difference in the lives of students. An education truly is the gift that lasts a lifetime!

Support A Student's Dream!