Meet the 6 Amazing Winners of Our Spring 2018 Student Loan Hero Scholarship

 February 12, 2018
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Student Loan Hero is excited to announce the six winners of our spring 2018 scholarship.

After reviewing hundreds of applications, our financial experts selected six amazing students who impressed us with their drive and commitment to their education.

Not only are these students determined to reach their goals, but they also demonstrated incredible resilience in overcoming challenging circumstances in their lives.

We sincerely hope these scholarships — $5,000 for two students and $2,000 for four students — will relieve some financial pressure as they work toward their degrees.

Here are the unforgettable stories of the six winners of the Student Loan Hero $5K Scholarship for spring 2018.

Amanda Boykin, University of Cincinnati

Main prize: $5,000

Amanda Boykin scholarship winner

Having graduated from Wright State University with her Bachelor of Science in nursing, Amanda Boykin now studies at the University of Cincinnati to become a family nurse practitioner. She works in the neonatal intensive care unit and plans to use her degree to provide care for underprivileged and underserved communities.

Amanda grew up in an underprivileged community herself, and her family struggled with drug addiction, abuse, and poverty. She had to leave her home at the age of 13 and spent years bouncing from one unstable relative’s home to another. At one point, Amanda survived as a homeless teen before finally finding a long-term home.

Despite these hardships, Amanda became the first person in her family to attend college.

“As a child, college was never seen as an option for me,” explains Amanda. “I didn’t believe I was smart enough to obtain a degree. I now recognize the ecological and generational factors that influenced my mindset.”

Now, Amanda hopes to work with disadvantaged youth, particularly young women, to help them improve their circumstances.

“I hope to be able to show them that it is possible,” says Amanda. “We can ‘get out.’ They can overcome the sociological, socioeconomic, and ecological factors that they struggle with every day.”

Jiana Graham, Temple University

Main prize: $5,000

Jiana Graham scholarship winner

Jiana Graham is a freshman at Temple University studying global studies and sociology with a minor in Spanish. A child of immigrants from Jamaica, Jiana plans to use her degree to work with women and underserved populations in developing countries.

After immigrating from Jamaica, Jiana’s mother struggled as a single parent of five. Despite her financial struggles, she studied to become a nurse. Now, she manages to take the family back to Jamaica every year so they can see where she came from.

“Going back to Jamaica every year and seeing how radically different these two places are keeps me grounded and opens my eyes to how lucky I am to live in the United States,” says Jiana.

“I want to be prepared to make an impact in countries less fortunate than our own,” adds Jiana, pointing to countries such as India and Yemen, where societal norms can limit women’s freedom.

With her education in international relations and sociology, Jiana aspires to travel the world and empower women.

Mariia Anosova, Millersville University

Runner-up prize: $2,000

After struggling with hunger and poverty in post-Soviet Ukraine, Mariia Anosova came to the U.S. for an education and to help her family. She’s enrolled in a family nurse practitioner program at Millersville University, and she hopes to support her family and one day reunite with them on American soil.

After high school, Mariia jumped at the “miraculous chance” to come to the U.S. through Rotary International’s exchange program. “Coming to America meant not only an opportunity for a better education but also a chance to help my family,” says Mariia.

“Mostly, I chose to become a nurse because in America it meant a steady income, and in the Ukraine, income equals freedom of choice, a better education for my sister, sufficient food for cold winters, and a stable retirement for my parents,” explains Mariia.

After a childhood marked by struggle, Mariia is working hard to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner and achieving financial stability for herself and her family.

David Beka Binyam, Miami University

Runner-up prize: $2,000

David Beka Binyam is a junior at Miami University majoring in geology with a minor in geographic information systems. Originally from Cameroon, David came to the U.S. through the diversity visa program, a lottery system that awards 55,000 immigrant visas per year.

Throughout his childhood, David struggled with poverty along with his five brothers and sisters. When he was just 13, he started selling grilled nuts on the street to earn money to pay his high school fees.

At 16, he took on construction jobs, which helped him make enough money to enroll at the University of Yaounde in the capital of Cameroon.

“Being successful in life via education has always been my main motivation,” says David.

He hopes getting his degree will provide financial stability for himself, his wife, and their infant son. He plans to use his scholarship to fund a five-week field camp training.

“The trip is quite expensive but fundamental for a geologist student and will allow me to deepen my knowledge, gain practical skills, and be competitive in the professional world,” explains David.

Olivia Janisse, Governors State University

Runner-up prize: $2,000

As a student pursuing her master’s degree in social work at Governors State University in Illinois, Olivia Janisse plans to work as an advocate for people with disabilities. She’s a student member of the National Association of Social Workers, and she works for a nonprofit that helps low-income people qualify for low-cost hearing assistive devices.

Olivia was drawn to this work after suffering profound hearing loss at the age of 11. Her parents had trouble paying for a hearing aid, but assistance programs deemed their income too high to qualify for aid.

She found herself in this gray area again when she went to college. She didn’t qualify for a lot of federal aid but was still struggling financially.

“I took out an incredible amount of private student loan debt not knowing the differences between fixed and variable loans, not knowing that there was no forgiveness of these loans and few opportunities for forbearance,” recalls Olivia.

Since borrowing all that money, Olivia has learned better ways to manage her student debt. She’s now able to educate others on how to pay for school, as well as how to afford the disability assistance they need.

“I feel that as a disability advocate and future social work practitioner, I will practice in a competent way because of the financial hardships I have experienced,” says Olivia. “I am a better person, and the community I have served will benefit.”

Nelson Ross, Wichita State University

Runner-up prize: $2,000

Nelson Ross scholarship winner

Nelson Ross is pursuing his master’s degree in public administration at Wichita State University. Nelson hopes to achieve a career in political science and international relations, particularly as a foreign service officer.

While he’s confident about his career path today, his journey getting there wasn’t easy.

“Paying bills was extremely stressful on my parents while raising my three sisters and me,” says Nelson. “That, combined with my father being left handicapped after multiple strokes and a heart attack, was a major cause of my parent’s divorce in my early teens.”

Nelson got through these hardships with the help of comic books and action figures his father would give him for Christmas and his birthday.

“As a child, and well into my adult life, my dreams have been characterized by comic book superheroes,” says Nelson. “I would protect the world from numerous disasters in all forms alongside the greatest characters of the comic book landscapes.”

Over the years, Nelson realized he wanted to be a force for good in the world, just like his superhero role models. “I want to imitate my fictional idols,” he says.

With his background in public administration, Nelson hopes to promote social justice throughout the world.

Get ready for Student Loan Hero’s fall 2018 scholarship

The spring 2018 scholarship winners have overcome major obstacles to get where they are today. We hope these scholarships will help them reach their goals and are confident they’ll continue to achieve great things.

If you’re a current or soon-to-be college or graduate school student, we invite you to apply for our fall 2018 scholarship contest. The application will be open from March 12 to May 11, and we will notify winners on June 8.

We’re looking forward to hearing your unique stories this spring. In the meantime, check out this guide to find even more opportunities for scholarships.

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