Meet the 6 Inspiring Winners of Our Fall 2017 Student Loan Hero Scholarship

Student Loan Hero scholarship winners

Student Loan Hero received the greatest number of applications yet for our 2017 fall scholarships.

After careful review of more than 1,300 essay submissions, our financial experts selected six deserving winners. Two students won the main prize of $5,000, while four others will receive the runner-up prize of $2,000.

All six students overcame significant obstacles in their lives, and each one inspires us with their hard work and commitment to their education. We’re thrilled to offer financial support as they work toward their degrees.

These are the inspiring stories of the six winners of Student Loan Hero’s scholarships for the 2017 fall semester.

Michael Jared Crawford, University of Louisville

Main prize: $5,000

Michael Crawford is a design student at the University of Louisville. Although he now maintains a 4.0 GPA, Michael had a long and challenging journey to get to where he is today.

When he was just 12 years old, Michael developed a rare nerve condition called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Not only did doctors cause the condition with their medical negligence, but they repeatedly failed to diagnose it.

“On multiple occasions, I was told that the problem was non-existent,” Michael recalls. “Being told nothing is wrong with you is not only traumatizing but extremely disheartening to hear as a child.”

Fortunately, Michael saw a new doctor who immediately recognized the problem and enrolled him in a rehabilitation program. Although the program helped Michael walk again without pain, it put him and his family into significant debt.

Unfortunately, Michael was kicked out of his home when he was just a junior in high school after revealing his sexual orientation.

“Finishing high school as an orphan essentially was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it made me stronger,” says Michael. “Being independent, both financially and as a person, helped me turn bad situations into opportunities to humble myself and grow.”

Now, Michael uses his difficult past to drive his work as an artist.

“I love to create and I am excited to learn more about my craft so that I can use the knowledge and passion I have to better society,” Michael says.

Samiah Woods, Southern Methodist University

Main prize: $5,000

Samiah Woods is a biology major on the pre-medical track at Southern Methodist University. She aspires to be a pediatric anesthesiologist and is a member of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students. Samiah also volunteers with medically underserved people at Agape Clinic.

“While I have lived a pretty blessed life, there have been hardships that I have had to overcome that have helped me with knowledge of my future career,” says Samiah. In 2015, Samiah’s brother passed away from lymphoma cancer.

“Throughout the summer, I visited him, sometimes many weekends in a row, to be there in his time of need,” Samiah says. After “countless days and nights spent at the hospital,” Samiah became even more committed to her goal of becoming a doctor.

Not only is Samiah driven to help patients, she also wants to increase diversity in STEM fields.

“By being a minority student coming from a disadvantaged home, I plan to educate other minority students from any background on the importance of their participation in these careers,” Samiah explains. “I plan to be an active inspiration of others who are discouraged from participating in these professions.”

Tida Tambedou, Spelman College

Runner-up prize: $2,000

Tida Tambedou is majoring in health science with a minor in public health at Spelman College. She plans to become a physiatrist, a physician who specializes in physical rehabilitation and pain medicine.

Tida also intends to serve in medically underserved communities in the U.S. and developing nations.

“I have seen firsthand the impact of living in poverty as my family is from the Gambia,” Tida says. “Some Gambian families lack basic resources such as adequate nutrition, safe drinking water, and access to basic medical facilities.”

Tida would also like to conduct research on HIV and educate Gambian women on contraception and the practice of female circumcision.

“I believe that education plays a critical role in creating awareness and empowering … women,” says Tida.

Tida logged over 846 community service hours during middle and high school, proving she is more than devoted to helping her community.

“It gives me great pleasure to serve and positively impact the lives of people in my community,” Tida states.

Yadiel Cabrera Alvarado, Florida International University

Runner-up prize: $2,000

Yadiel Alvarado is completing his master’s degree in data science at Florida International University. After earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Puerto Rico, Yadiel is the first in his family to go to graduate school.

Yadiel plans to focus on bioinformatics and work in the field of cancer research.

“My goal is to create data mining applications that will analyze and process big sets of medical data,” Yadiel explains. “By the newly obtained data, doctors may hopefully move one step closer to finding a cure for this illness.”

What makes Yadiel’s successes all the more impressive are the challenges he faced growing up. After his mother became the sole provider for his family, Yadiel and his sister faced tough financial troubles.

“We constantly struggled to pay the bills,” said Yadiel. “There were times that we even had trouble buying groceries.”

Now, Yadiel is confident that his studies will help him achieve professional and financial stability.

“When I finish my graduate degree, I will be able to pursue a higher-paying opportunity outside of … Puerto Rico,” Yadiel states. “This way I can give back to my mother and serve other people.”

Renate Andrea Schmid, California State University, LA

Runner-up prize: $2,000

Renate Schmid is in her third year at California State University, Los Angeles, where she is studying sociology. As a single mother, Renate balances her studies with caring for her two children and working two part-time jobs to support her family.

Renate also aspires to help victims of domestic violence, as she herself was trapped in an abusive relationship for years after high school.

“I lived … without access to the outside world,” Renate states. “Within these constraints college was unimaginable — without transportation, money of my own, or childcare, attending college, having a career, or even a life not dependent on another person’s whims was impossible.”

Once she left this relationship, Renate took back control of her life. She learned to drive, got a full-time job, and “gained the courage to enroll in community college.” Renate has since transferred to Cal State LA to finish her bachelor’s degree.

“Matriculating has given me a gift I will never be able to repay,” says Renate. “The confidence of now attending a four-year college … has transformed my entire life and the lives of my children.”

Renate is confident her degree will help provide financial security for her family, as well as inspire her kids to pursue their own educational dreams.

Amanda Roxanne Parker, Temple University

Runner-up prize: $2,000

Amanda Parker is a sophomore studying civil engineering at Temple University.

“[I] found engineering and completely fell in love,” says Amanda. “Since finding engineering I made a promise to myself to get my bachelor’s degree to show my brothers how important education is and that hard work pays off.”

Not only does Amanda set a good example for her younger brothers, but she also acted as their caretaker from age 16 to 19. With two parents battling drug and alcohol addiction, Amanda had to act as the head of her family from a young age.

She also fought for custody of her siblings for years, working 70 hours per week to afford lawyer fees and living expenses. Although she eventually lost the custody battle, Amanda is hoping to show her brothers a better way of life.

“I want to set an example for my siblings,” Amanda explains. “I know [they’re] watching me and I want to be the best role model I can for [them].” With her hard work, Amanda is breaking the cycle for her family and showing her siblings the pathway to success.

Get ready for our spring 2018 scholarship contest

Congratulations again to the six outstanding winners of our fall 2017 scholarships. We wish them the best of luck as they pursue their exceptional goals.

If you’re a current or soon-to-be college student, we invite you to apply to our spring 2018 scholarship contest. The application will be open from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15 of this year, and we will notify winners on Jan. 2, 2018.

We can’t wait to hear your stories and provide financial support for more students in the year to come. In the meantime, you can use this guide on finding other scholarship opportunities.

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