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

 September 20, 2017
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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.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
0.99% – 11.98%1Undergraduate

Visit College Ave

1.13% – 11.23%*,2Undergraduate

Visit SallieMae

0.99% – 11.44%3Undergraduate

Visit Earnest

1.50% – 11.33%4Undergraduate

Visit Ascent

1.12% – 11.23%5Undergraduate

Visit SoFi

1.15% – 11.01%6Undergraduate



Visit FundingU

3.80% – 9.36%8Undergraduate

Visit CommonBond

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 8/9/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

3 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
  2. Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
    Rates shown include 0.25% APR discount when client agrees to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment. Use of autopay is not required to receive an Earnest loan.

    Available Terms
    For Cosigned loans – 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years. 
    Primary Only – 10, 12, 15 years

    In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).

4 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit:

Rates are effective as of 10/01/2021 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit:

1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, please visit Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

Sofi Disclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.66% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.90% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.10% to 11.34% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.08% to 10.86% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.05% to 11.29% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 10.66% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.20% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (>

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.15% – 11.01% (1.15% – 10.24 APR)Fixed interest rates range from 4.18% – 11.70% (4.18% – 10.83% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 10.66% (1.89% – 10.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.64% – 11.23%% (4.64% – 10.95% APR).

Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 9.22% (1.89% – 8.50% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.38% – 10.44% (4.38% – 9.72% APR).

Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 8.02% (1.89% – 7.72% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.28% – 9.24% (4.28% – 8.94% APR).

Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.97% – 7.06% (1.97% – 7.06% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.94% – 8.58% (4.94% – 8.58% APR).

Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.44% – 9.58% (4.44% – 9.52% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).

Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.53% – 7.03% (3.53% – 6.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).

Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of June 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.09%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer.  Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.

Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.

Funding U Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.

8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.  If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.