You First Foundation Scholarship 2019 Recipients
In 2019, the You First Foundation was fortunate enough to be able to award 12 scholarships to qualifying students who have experienced a traumatic medical event at some point in their lives. In total, the foundation has donated over $60,000 this year in scholarships and local funding efforts for groups like Healthbridge Children’s Hospital and Houston Children's Charity. Your support truly makes all the difference.
This Year’s Scholarship Winners
Thanks to the support of community members like you, the You First Foundation was able to award $3,000 Scholarships to each of these students in 2019:
Alexandra Baccinelli – College of Mainland
Alexandra Baccinelli is currently enrolled at the College of Mainland for her associate degree. In late 2017, just after experiencing devastation from Hurricane Harvey, the Santa Fe, Texas, native learned that her mother had an advanced brain tumor. During her mother’s medical journey, Baccinelli found comfort through her love of animals. She dreams to one day graduate as a veterinarian in order to help give back to the animals that gave her so much.
Thomas Ballinger – Washington State University
Thomas Ballinger is currently enrolled at Washington State University for genetics and cell biology and music performance. Originally from Reno, Nevada, Ballinger hopes that his experience of growing up with a single mother who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome will help others who may be in a similar position. Ballinger plans to major in genetics in order to lessen or eliminate addiction and other genetic diseases.
Guyanna Bedington – University of Portland
Guyanna Bedington of Portland, Oregon, is currently enrolled at the University of Portland for an accounting degree. Shortly after graduating from high school, Bedington’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 metastasized colon cancer. After her mother’s death, Bedington found healing in helping others feel stronger about themselves and their opportunities. Bedington hopes to use her accounting degree to help businesses work better in order to positively impact the world.
Justin Blanchford – University of Texas, Austin
Justin Blanchford, a native of Fremont, California, is currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin for his Bachelor of Science. After being diagnosed at the age of five with precocious puberty, a growth disorder caused by a hypothalamic haratoma, Blanchford began experiencing seizures. Eventually diagnosed with epilepsy, Blanchford turned to writing as a form of healing. In 2016, Blanchford published Mind and Miracle, an autobiographical novel about his experience. Blanchford plans to graduate with a degree in computer science so that he can better understand software-based technology in order to help change the world.
Sydney-Grace Guidy – Goucher College
Sydney-Grace Guidy of Silver Spring, Maryland, will attend Goucher College at the start of the 2019 school year. Growing up, Guidy’s mother suffered from various forms of cancer before ultimately succumbing to the disease in 2017. On the brink of homelessness due to debt incurred from her mother’s health issues, Guidy and five friends founded F.O.R.W.A.R.D, a club whose mission was to provide relief from depression, suicide, anxiety, abuse, self-harm and discrimination. Guidy plans to use her higher education to continue helping those in need find hope in times of grave despair.
Kristen Holliday – Clarkson University
Kristen Holliday is currently enrolled at Clarkson University for a degree in biomolecular science. Born in Claypool, Arizona, Holliday’s life was changed in early 2008 when her mother was involved in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. While her mother survived, her quality of life was forever changed. Holliday spent most of her childhood into her teen years caring for her mother. Holliday hopes that by graduating with a degree in bimolecular engineering she will be able to help find a cure for those living with genetic diseases.
Michael Manatooth – Dartmouth College
Michael Manatooth of Mountain View, California, is enrolled at Dartmouth College for his Bachelor of Arts in economics and Native American studies. After losing his father to a massive seizure, Manatooth was enrolled in the foster care system. At 16, Manatooth started a full-time job in order to support himself through high school. Even through times of homelessness, Manatooth continued to attend school and eventually became the first of his family to graduate high school. After suffering medical setbacks of his own, Manatooth hopes that this scholarship will allow him to overcome his financial burdens and complete his education at Dartmouth.
Jacob Meadows – University of Cincinnati
Jacob Meadows of Loveland, Ohio, is currently attending the University of Cincinnati for his Bachelor of Entrepreneurship with a minor in design. At the age of 15, Meadows was invited to participate in college courses for early college credit. At the time, Meadows had maintained a 4.92 GPA and had recently scored a 33 on his ACT. However, in an instant, Meadows life was changed. His father had suffered a massive stroke and required around the clock care. Meadow’s priorities shifted from student to caregiver in order to assist his family during this time. Despite all of these hardships, Meadow graduated from high school as valedictorian of his class. Meadow hopes that by earning a degree from the University of Cincinnati, he will be able to not only help his community, but also help his family reach financial security.
Presley Narcisse – Harriet Wilkes Honors College
Presley Narcisse of Boynton Beach, Florida, is currently enrolled at Harriet Wilkes Honors College for a biology degree. After Narcisse’s freshman year of high school, his father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. After his father’s death, Narcisse acted as head of household for his family while his mother continued her full-time job. Narcisse continued to excel in school and eventually was accepted into the Harriet Wilkes Honors College where he hopes to graduate and eventually enter into medical school.
Taylor O’Neal – The University of Texas, Arlington
Taylor O’Neal is currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington for a degree in education. O’Neal, originally from Pearland, Texas, lost her mother while she was delivering O’Neal. In addition to her loss, O’Neal spent a majority of her childhood and teen years in hospitals battling personal health issues. O’Neal hopes to graduate with a dual degree in special education and elementary education so that she can eventually become a special education teacher and leave a life-long positive impact on the students she teaches.
Cheyanne Perry – North Greenville University
Cheyanne Perry of Easley, South Carolina, is currently enrolled at North Greenville University with plans to receive her bachelor’s in psychology. Growing up with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Perry was no stranger to medical hardships. However, in September 2018, Perry was on the verge of intestinal failure. While she underwent many surgeries during this time to alleviate the damage, Perry is currently awaiting an intestinal transplant. With the future of her transplant uncertain, Perry continues to live each day to the fullest and plans to continue her schooling full time in the hopes of graduating and helping others navigate the psychological repercussions of chronic illnesses.
Sarah Ryan – Florida State University
Sarah Ryan of Naples, Florida, is currently enrolled at Florida State University to obtain her bachelor’s degree. In addition to undergoing brain surgery during her high school years, Ryan’s younger sister was Baker Acted over 15 times in a four-month span. While Ryan and her family work together to ensure her sister receives the help she needs, Ryan continues to study full time. While her sister’s situation has weighed heavily on Ryan and her family, Ryan has discovered a passion for helping young children and she hopes that by becoming a teacher, she will be able to help families and children in need.