Thanks to the generous support of community members like you, the You First Foundation was fortunate enough to be able to award 16 scholarships totaling $46,500 to qualifying students who have experienced a traumatic medical event at some point in their lives. The foundation has donated over $203,588 in scholarships to date.
This Year's Winners
Please join us in congratulating this year's deserving scholarship winners:
When Aaliyah received the news that her father was in a motorcycle accident, her mind immediately went to worst-case scenarios, including the possibility of losing him. Fortunately, her father survived, but he ultimately underwent a below-the-knee leg amputation that could have significantly altered his life if he let it. Due to his perseverance and determination, he was able to walk again only six months after his accident. This left Aaliyah with a new purpose and direction in life: to become a physical therapist.
Aaliyah is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology with a minor in Marketing from the University of North Texas, and she is expected to graduate in 2024. Through her work, she hopes to help others with disabilities realize their capabilities, just like her father did. She serves as a Campus Life Ambassador and is the Public Relations Officer for the university’s Progressive Black Student Organization, where she was awarded Freshman and Rookie of the Year. She also has immediate plans to launch a mentoring program for children with disabilities or who have family members with disabilities. One professor said she has a “heart to learn” and another deemed her a “hard working, well-mannered, committed, life-long learner.”
One of Adannaya’s college professors said Adannaya is “driven in her quest to be a physician.” Truer words could not be spoken. After spending the majority of her freshman spring semester being sick, Adannaya became somewhat of a “medical mystery.” Ultimately, she had to end her freshman year early and return to Houston. There, doctors were finally able to diagnose her with Drug Reaction with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms Syndrome, and Adannaya spent the next three months on bed rest.
Aside from the physical effects, such as skin discoloration and weight gain, Adannaya battled emotional effects as well. But she didn’t let that stop her. Despite appearing unrecognizable to her loved ones, Adannaya said this experience made her resilient rather than defeated. She created an Instagram TV show titled “Keep It Pushing,” which was dedicated to providing motivation and advice to young adults. The show not only helped Adannaya develop editing and public speaking skills, but it pushed her out of her comfort zone and forced her to be vulnerable.
Adannaya dreams of being the first doctor in her family, and she’s determined to make that dream a reality. Her years of service and leadership in organizations such as the NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Scholars have prepared her for the job, as has her education thus far. This fall, Adannaya plans to attend the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine with an anticipated graduation date of 2026.
After losing many of her belongings during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Alexandra was shocked when her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her mother immediately had to undergo surgery to remove the tumor, and during this time, Alexandra stepped up to take on many of her mother’s duties around the house, including care of her little sister, cooking, cleaning, and running errands - all while attending school. This experience brought her family together and shaped who she is today. Those who know her say she has a wonderful personality, and she has been there for her family, friends, and community in times of need. She was involved in her high school’s bowling and sewing clubs and participated in the National Honor Society.
Alexandra is an active volunteer at Habitat for Horses and has recently joined the Canoe Club Houston as its youngest member. She enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and kayaking in her free time. Alexandra plans to earn her Bachelor of Science in Fitness and Human Performance from the University of Clear Lake Houston in 2023.
When Alyssa was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis at age 16, she spent the next two years learning how to adapt to her disability, which included taking daily medications and developing a regimen to decrease her flare-ups. Despite the limitations RRMS caused, Alyssa was determined not to let her disability keep her from achieving her goal of becoming a healthcare provider.
Alyssa has a younger sister with Cerebral palsy, and Alyssa has helped her recover from surgeries and complete physical therapy. Alyssa wants to help individuals who are affected by mental health issues, specifically those who have chronic illnesses or disabilities.
Alyssa remained active in high school, playing on the varsity tennis team, being in the HOSA Club, and completing more than 100 hours of community service. She was particularly moved when serving meals to homeless people, many who had disabilities or mental health issues. Alyssa spoke to them, inquiring about their needs aside from food. She wondered if they had access to good medical care, counselors, and medication. She knew in order to truly help them, she’d need the proper education and training.
In the fall, Alyssa will begin her college career at McLennan Community College. After completing classes there, she wants to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Psychology or a medical degree. Ultimately, she’d like to earn a doctoral degree in the healthcare field and fulfill her passion of helping others.
Avery was just 6 years old when her dad was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, but the impact of the horrific accident lasted for years. Avery’s mother became the primary provider, and the entire family moved in with Avery’s grandparents. Avery’s from a small town, and the community rallied together to help support her family in their time of need. Residents renovated her grandparents’ home to make it accessible, and they put on a benefit to raise money to send Avery’s dad to a facility to help him get rehabilitated. Another hit to the family came five years ago when Avery’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, the community rallied together to host a benefit for Avery’s mother and other residents who were also battling breast cancer.
Despite the hardships her family faced, Avery was a standout athlete in high school, serving as captain of the varsity basketball, varsity softball, and varsity cheer teams. She was involved in her school’s FFA organization, something she was passionate about because of her farming family. Avery kept part-time jobs throughout high school to help her family financially and save for college. She is most proud to have graduated fifth in her class and accumulated more than 30 college hours.
Avery will attend Texas A&M University in the fall and pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology. Working with the occupational therapist who visited her home while her dad was recovering inspired Avery to pursue a career as an occupational therapist.
When Cable found out his sophomore year of high school that he had an atypical brain tumor the size of a fist, he was devastated. As an athlete, he was looking forward to competing on the varsity football team. After undergoing two brain surgeries to remove the tumor, Cable spent a week in the ICU, unable to walk or do anything for himself. Doctors were unsure if he would be able to play sports again.
Cable’s teachers describe him as determined, and his determination, coupled with encouragement and support from his family, helped him work through his setbacks. Nine months after his brain surgery and working tirelessly to get healthy, Cable was back on the field playing the game he loves.
Cable has shared his story with other students and student-athletes who have sustained injuries to help encourage them, and he has also mentored middle-school boys. He’s demonstrated leadership in several organizations, including the National Technical Honor Society, Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy, and the Hopkins Leadership Class. He was a recipient of the Ben Hogan Perseverance Award and was selected as the WFAA Joe Trahan Scholar Athlete of the Week.
Cable will attend Ouachita Baptist University in the fall where plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Christian Studies with a major in Christian Ministry. His career goal is to live a life of service in his community.
Despite being born with severe-to-profound hearing loss, Callie never let that deter her from success. At 2 months old, Callie began sign and oral language therapy, in which she learned how to artificially produce words that weren’t in her range of hearing. Callie made great progress and at the age of 3, her mother entered her into her first public-speaking contest. That ignited a spark in Callie that still burns today.
After years of speech and occupational therapy, Callie’s language skills progressed, and she began competing in speech contests. In the sixth grade, she was named Agriscience Public Speaking Champion at the San Antonio Livestock Show, State Fair of Texas, and Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo. She has gone on to win and place high at state and national contests throughout junior high and high school, including becoming a state champion for both Texas FFA Association and Texas 4-H prepared public speaking competitions in 2020.
Throughout high school, Callie has been actively involved in several organizations and community service projects. She’s hosted public speaking and leadership workshops to inspire others to overcome their fear of presentations. She also has a nonprofit consultancy firm called “Let’s Talk,” where she’s mentored more than 300 youth in researching, writing, learning, memorizing, and practicing speeches.
Callie plans to attend Texas A&M University in the fall where she’ll major in Agricultural Communications and Journalism. Her career aspirations include working in animal nutrition with an emphasis in public speaking and media.
After Charles was diagnosed with leukemia at 17 years old, the three and a half years that followed involved countless doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, and rounds of chemotherapy. He had to use a wheelchair for months, but began walking full time earlier this year. Charles called his experiences enlightening, and they changed the way he approached mental health and physical differences.
Charles volunteered his time working with the Carson Leslie Foundation, which was formed in remembrance of Carson, a young boy who lost his battle with cancer. Charles enjoys bringing moments of joy to the young people in the hospital fighting cancer, sharing his story, and helping lobby for federal support in pediatric cancer research. The foundation’s co-founder described Charles as having a “herculean spirit,” and he’s certainly exhibited that by pushing through fatigue to keep up with his rigorous academic schedule in high school and volunteering in his community.
Charles most recently attended Tarrant County College where he made the dean’s list and earned an associate’s degree in teaching. He has a passion for math and placed seventh in a math competition in college. Prior to his diagnosis, Charles worked part-time jobs and was an Eagle Scout. He worked hard and was awarded full tuition to Texas Christian University, where he’ll be transferring to in the fall. Charles wants to become a high school math teacher, so he can share his passion and give back to the younger generation.
Those who know Daniel know him to be a kind person with a big heart. Daniel, who is autistic, believes that individuals on the autism spectrum are often labeled as lacking empathy, but his actions prove that to be absolutely untrue. When his younger sister Mazzy fell ill a few years ago with Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Daniel did his best to tell a lot of jokes just to see her smile and laugh. Mazzy spent eight weeks in the hospital, and during that time their mother was with her, so it was just Daniel and his father at home. This experience helped Daniel realize just how important family is, and how family should always care for one another. Recently, when Daniel’s mother tore her ACL and meniscus, Daniel stepped up to help any way he could.
Throughout high school, Daniel has been active in serving his community, whether that’s serving meals to homeless families, volunteering at his church’s food pantry, or preparing toiletry bags to hand out to those in need. He is a leader in his church’s youth group and helps with Vacation Bible School. Daniel enjoys playing his viola, reading, and watching anything having to do with history.
Daniel is looking forward to attending the University of Houston-Clear Lake in the fall and studying Chemistry/Engineering. He is expected to graduate in 2026 and would be the first in his family to complete college. While in college, Daniel wants to donate to schools and churches, so they can send children home with food during breaks and holidays.
For years, Faith and her family navigated a world in which her brother, Isaiah, suffered from a terminal condition that caused constant seizures. At times, Faith and her siblings lived with their grandparents while her parents stayed at the hospital with Isaiah. Faith spent many days in the ICU holding Isaiah’s hand, praying he would make it through. After months in ICU, Isaiah was transferred to the rehab floor, much to the joy of his family. But his battle didn’t end there.
After completing rehab, Isaiah returned home and made drastic improvements, but his seizures continued. In November 2021, Isaiah returned to ICU, six hours away from Faith’s hometown. Faith’s parents took turns staying at home with the children while the other parent stayed at the hospital. In March 2022, Isaiah was finally able to return home. He’s now in a vegetative state with feeding tubes, heart monitors, and oxygen monitors and requires around the clock care.
During this difficult experience, Faith helped care for her nine younger siblings, including Isaiah with his new disability. She learned about suctioning, feeding through tubes and G-buttons, shifting his body to prevent sores, and performing CPR. This summer, Faith will attend Camp Blue Haven in New Mexico to lead a Bible study for girls at the camp. Faith plans to share Isaiah’s testimony with the girls and hopes to help counsel them if they’re struggling with anything.
Faith will attend Oklahoma State University in the fall and pursue a degree in recreational therapy. She wants to help people with physical, mental, or developmental complications, and her degree will teach her how to better care for Isaiah.
When Florence was a teen, she and her five siblings couldn’t understand their mother’s behavior, which at times involved angry outbursts and hallucinations. After Florence’s mother was diagnosed with severe depression and schizophrenia, she was prescribed medications that helped, but the episodes would continue for 12 years.
During this time, Florence and her siblings adjusted in many ways. Florence learned all she could about her mother’s condition by asking questions at her doctors’ visits and researching on her own. She became an advocate for her mother and reached out to various organizations for educational materials and support groups. Florence and her siblings worked as a team, sharing caregiving responsibilities for her mother. Sadly, Florence’s mother passed away in 2018. Her mother’s situation helped Florence learn never to underestimate the impact you can have on others.
Florence’s mother was a nurse in a refugee camp in Uganda before she moved her family to Houston. Now, Florence is following in her footsteps. She is studying at Baylor University to become a registered nurse and is expected to graduate in 2023. Florence wants to continue her mother’s legacy and improve the lives of individuals in her community through nursing work, especially those suffering from mental health related issues.
At not even 2 years old, Giana suffered a traumatic experience when she sustained third-degree burns after being submerged in hot water. Although she received skin grafting to reconstruct her skin, the effects of her burned feet, leg, and thigh are lasting. Instead of viewing her scars in a negative way, Giana considers her scars as a testament to her strength and resilience. Giana discovered a passion for dance and despite her limited flexibility due to her burns, she went on to serve as captain of her high school’s dance team. She says she wears her scars with pride, and they’ve given her confidence and taught her a lesson on self-love. Giana’s been an inspiration to her friends, the youth at church, and younger children who have experienced similar situations.
Giana is active in school and within her community. Outside of taking an advanced curriculum, Giana holds many dance accolades, she’s the Company First Sergeant of her school’s JROTC program, she’s served as the Student Council and Senior Class historian, and she has almost 320 hours of community service in high school. She’s a life group leader at her church and participates in a mentorship group for girls called P.U.S.H.
Giana will attend the University of North Texas this fall where she’ll pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She plans to have a professional dance career and wants to use her experience to educate others and let them know that it’s OK to be different.
Linden’s life changed forever in 2015 when she woke up unable to move or feel anything from the waist down. Visits with doctors, including 40 appointments in one year, only left her more confused as doctors not only didn’t know what was wrong with her, but some even accused her of faking her injury. Linden’s condition worsened, leading to digestive issues, pain, a feeding tube, and a host of other problems. Finally, when she traveled to Georgia for physical therapy, doctors there were able to diagnose her with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which stemmed from an incomplete spinal cord injury brought on by a genetic condition.
This experience made Linden realize her own resilience and determination, and it spurred her to become an advocate for her own care as well as for others. Now, as a college student at Texas Lutheran University, Linden is a senator in the Student Body Government, participated in a summer research program at the Environmental Physiology Lab, and has worked as an intern at a rehabilitation facility where she also served as a peer mentor to teens going through the rehab program. In her free time, she enjoys adaptive horseback riding and spending time with family.
Linden plans to graduate in 2024 with a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science and a Bachelor of Science in Biology, with an ultimate goal of becoming a pediatric physical medicine doctor. Knowing how hard it was for her to find a physician that understood her, Linden wants to become a skilled and compassionate physician that is a force for good in her patients’ lives.
Having spent every summer visiting his extended family 1,500 miles away in Utah, Matthew was shocked to learn in 2020 that his six-year-old cousin, Xander, had been diagnosed with cancer. When chemotherapy proved unsuccessful, Matthew’s family started a fundraiser to help pay for a costly bone marrow treatment for Xander. The family set up a donation page, and Matthew designed T-shirts to sell on the website. Xander loved playing with firetrucks and pretending to be a firefighter, so the T-shirt featured a gold ribbon on the front surrounded by a fire chief, and the back of the shirt depicted a hand-drawn gold fire engine. Within a few weeks, Matthew’s family raised enough money for Xander’s surgery. They used the extra donation funds to assist other families they befriended who’d also been impacted by childhood cancer.
Matthew had been active in the Boy Scouts of America since age 11, and he was a member of his high school’s marching and concert band, as well as a member of the National Chinese Honor Society. The summer after his second semester at Wharton County Junior College, Matthew decided to go to Utah and care for Xander, who had been flown back home and placed on hospice care. Matthew cherished those final moments with Xander and learned to value interactions with his loved ones even more. It also influenced Matthew’s decision to pursue a career in the medical field.
Matthew will attend Stephen F. Austin State University in the fall with plans to become an oncologist, so he can continue the fight against cancer.
Thomas’ older brother, Christopher, was diagnosed with autism as a baby. Over the years, Thomas learned how best to communicate with Christopher, which included being patient and understanding. Thomas exercises those same communication methods in school when meeting new people and making friends. He treats everyone with respect and tries to understand people’s behaviors and consider any personal struggles they may be going through.
In 2019, Thomas’ oldest brother, Phillip, sustained a brain injury after a horrible car accident in 2019 and was later diagnosed with epilepsy. Many of the lessons Thomas learned from communicating with Christopher helped him with Phillip. Because of Phillip’s traumatic brain injury, he often needed help with day-to-day tasks, such as reading and writing. Thomas always exhibits patience with Phillip because he understands it takes his brother a little longer to complete certain tasks. In Thomas’ own words, “Phillip needed someone to lean on or just laugh with, and I learned to be that person for him.”
Thomas has been active in his community; he was a member of Boy Scouts of America, volunteered at his church, and volunteered with the Special Olympics. In his free time, he enjoys playing the viola, playing soccer, and playing chess. Thomas will attend Texas State University in the fall to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Orchestra.
When she was born, Yousra’s mother developed postpartum cardiomyopathy, leaving her with a weakened heart. Over the ensuing years, this led to continuous health problems, and when Yousra was just 10, her mother developed a pulmonary embolism, resulting in two heart attacks and, eventually, a brain injury. Through all her mother’s trials, Yousra has been by her side, giving care and help as best she could, including bathing her, administering medication, and checking her vitals. Her challenges also inspired her to volunteer at her local food bank and hospital, comforting and helping those suffering from medical traumas.
Her teachers call her “passionate,” “empathetic,” and “kind.” In high school, she played softball and was a member of the National Honor Society, among other activities, and earned many achievements. As a college student, she has devoted time to Troy Camp, where she was given the opportunity to virtually mentor students at the Los Angeles Unified School District, helping them manage their emotions while living through the coronavirus pandemic.
Yousra attends the University of Southern California where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience with plans to graduate in 2024.