Cleft Palate Foundation

2011 Recipients

skip to submenu

CPF’s 2011 College Scholarship Recipients

This year, thanks to the generous support of many donors, the Cleft Palate Foundation is pleased to award a college scholarship to each of the following outstanding applicants. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of past academic success, evidence of leadership skills and/or community and school involvement, as well as strong indications of future academic success.

Congratulations to each of the 2011 College Scholarship recipients!

Rebekah Carbone
Mollie Carlson
Elizabeth Fain
Anthony Forno
Ian Giancursio
Alexis Gorney
Catherine Harris
Makenzie Hofer
Taylor LaGrange
Ying Kai Liu
Zachary Nolen
Christopher O’Leary
Melissa Pagnotta
Megan Schinderle
David Scott

Rebekah Carbone

From: Stoneville, NC
Attending: East Carolina University

I am very thankful and honored to receive this scholarship from the Cleft Palate Foundation. My cleft is mostly unnoticeable and I have no speech problems, but I’ve always known that I was different than others around me. I owe the Cleft Team at Wake Forest Medical Center a lot, and would not be where I am today without their talent and skills.

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Rebekah Carbone

In the fall I’m planning to attend East Carolina University to major in Nursing. Since I was young, I’ve always been a giver. I give what I have, and if I don’t have what is needed then I go out and seek it to give! I knew that God had a plan for my life, and in that plan I was to help others. I chose to be a nurse because having a cleft has made me interested in the medical field. Also when I volunteered at our local hospital as a candy striper I fell in love with the profession. I would like to become a labor and delivery nurse, but may change my mind. This scholarship will benefit me because as a nurse, I can help save lives and ease other’s pain. I would love to go overseas on an Operation Smile mission to help children like me and give them hope that they can live normal lives.

I’ve never used my cleft as a crutch, or excuse. I can still do things with my friends and one can barely tell I had a cleft. Throughout my life one constant thing in my life has been dance. I have taken dance for 15 years and love it. My favorite type of dance is clogging, because of the intricate rhythms and awesome sounds made with your feet.

In high school, I have been involved with various service clubs such as Interact Club, Beta Club, and National Honors Society. My favorite place to be is at church, because I get to worship and have fun with the people that I love. In youth group, we go on various trips such as to the soup kitchen and food pantry. I just love the fact that when you are joyous and let God’s love shine through you onto others, you feel unstoppable.

Back to Top

Mollie Carlson

From: Scandia, KS
Attending: Fort Hays State University

I will be starting my senior year of college in the fall of 2011 at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. I will graduate in May 2012 with a B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders. My plan is to continue on to Graduate School (although, I am unsure about where at this point) and get my Masters to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. This scholarship is allowing me to comfortably continue my education. It will allow me to focus more on my studies and less on working. This also is allowing me to represent such an AWESOMEorganization supporting cleft lip and palate! I plan to be an active member of ASHA(American Speech-Language and Hearing Association) and ACPA (American Cleft Palate Association) following Grad School!

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Mollie Carlson

As a freshman in high school I started speaking out against bullying (specifically to those with facial birth defects) to all school aged children, across Kansas, and have continued to do so through college. This has led me to be chosen as an International Patient Representative, speaking across North America on behalf of Shriners Hospitals for Children and Shriners International (the wonderful organization who paid for my medical care for 21 reconstructive surgeries.) As an International Patient Representative for Shriners Hospitals for Children, I am able to share my story and try to make an impact on others, hopefully sparing children that were born like me from such “Peer Abuse” and harassment in schools, etc. Also, I enjoy being a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters, because I know I can be there for a child, knowing the harsh realities of being bullied in school, and hopefully help them to change the vicious cycle of bullying and harassment in schools.

A very special lady (like a mother to me), Patricia Maxwell once told me “Baby Girl, sometimes God gives us ‘roadblocks’, that actually force us to take unfavorable paths, that end up being an incredible journeys!” This has been my life in a nutshell. I didn’t choose this birth defect, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything—-as I have had some incredible opportunities because of it. Growing up, most people doubted me, didn’t think I would make anything of my life. I had a few that DID believe in me and encouraged me along the way—-and in just 12 short months, I will be the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree!

Back to Top

Elizabeth Fain

From: Winston-Salem, NC
Attending: University of St. Augustine

I would like to first express my gratitude for this scholarship. It enables me to continue my doctoral studies in a timely manner by assisting with payment of the expenses. I am an occupational therapist that has spent my whole career focusing on rehabilitating individuals of all ages with various types of disabilities. I am currently pursuing an EdD doctoral degree in education with focus on healthcare at University of St. Augustine. This degree will enable me to teach future occupational therapists and pay it forward. My passion is ethics and being client centered. Since I have been the recipient and provider of healthcare I am well aware of the impact of client centered care and want to ensure that future occupational therapy clinicians are committed to this also.

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Elizabeth Fain

There are several fun facts about myself that I could share. For starters I am the 10th child of 11 brothers and sisters all of the same parents. Yes, it was an awesome childhood. It was this large family and awesome parents that gave me a strong foundation and sense of self such that I was better prepared for the cruel teasing that I would endure in school. My mother learned how to teach me to lip read from a John Tracy Clinic parent home program which helped me to compensate for my hearing impairment.

One passion of mine is animals, and I have trained my personal pets to be a hearing assist service dog, medical alert dog and a therapy dog. I love reading for fun, my Bible, gardening, knitting and exploring outdoors.

My favorite community activities throughout the years have been my involvement with Operation Smile doing a television show promotional, and fund raisers. I have worked as a student organization advisor teaching and enlisting students to make caps for premature babies, and quilts for Victory Camp Junction. I have written a book titled: Good Grief: A Care map for the Grief Journey based on my personal and professional experiences. I am speaking at various workshops to educate others on grief and how to provide encouragement to those traveling the grief journey. I also am very skilled and passionate about feeding techniques for children with various feeding difficulties due to birth defects, prematurity and others. I went on a People to People Ambassador trip to China and taught them feeding techniques for children with cleft palates. I hope to expand on this through research and evidence based practice in the future.

Back to Top

Anthony Forno

From: Robbinsville, NJ
Attending: Rutgers University- New Brunswick

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Anthony Forno

This scholarship means a lot to me. It will help give me a fulfilling college experience and help alleviate the cost. I plan on studying accounting. I hope to live in New York City and also work there after graduation. I love hanging out with my friends. We enjoy going to the Jersey Shore and going on trips to NYC and other places. I want to travel a lot when I get older. I work at an after-school program currently. It is in the elementary school in Robbinsville, my home town. It’s great being able to help the kids with their homework, crafts, and homework.

Never give up on your goals because you never know what can happen in the future. And always try your best.

Back to Top

Ian Giancursio

From: Rochester, NY
Attending: Bentley University

I want to thank you for selecting me as one of your scholarship recipients. Your generous gift will be very helpful in assisting me with this upcoming year at Bentley University. I appreciate your time and consideration, and feel grateful to have been recognized by you. Having been born with a cleft lip and palate has made me a more determined and strong person, as well as a more compassionate person with those who have difficult obstacles to overcome.

Back to Top

Alexis Gorney

From: Southlake, TX
Attending: University of Oklahoma

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Alexis Gorney

I plan on attending the University of Oklahoma this fall to major in chemistry so I can then apply to dental school to become an orthodontist. It has been a dream of mine since I was five-years-old to help other children with the same craniofacial birth defect that I have. I was born with a cleft lip and palate and have endured seven major surgeries and fourteen years of orthodontics to correct my mouth, lip and nose. It fascinates me how very thin wires and tiny brackets can move teeth and change a smile from being extremely crooked to amazingly straight. I finally have a beautiful smile and feel more confident because of it. I want to make a positive difference in the lives of other children who have craniofacial differences while also encouraging them through their difficult journeys of self acceptance. My motto has always been to not let adversity get in the way of your dreams, but rather to face it with a positive outlook. I am prepared to work hard at college and dental school to make my dream a reality and happily leave my adversities far behind me. Thank you Cleft Palate Foundation for awarding me this prestigious scholarship which will help me towards achieving my goals.

Back to Top

Catherine Harris

From: Concord, MA
Attending: Stanford University

I am incredibly honored to receive this scholarship from the Cleft Palate Foundation. I am fortunate to have had the support of the Cleft Team at Children’s Hospital Boston, my parents, and members of the cleft community, and I see this scholarship as yet another form of encouragement that will help me as I enter college.

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Catherine Harris

I’m currently planning on majoring in biology or bioengineering at Stanford, although that could just as easily be chemistry, applied math or economics a few months from now. Regardless of what I end up focusing on in college, I hope to use the amazing opportunities and resources that I’ve been given to improve the lives of others and give back to the communities from which I’ve received so much.

Like most people born with cleft lip and palate, I have undergone many surgeries throughout my life. My summers and school breaks were mostly spent on the couch or in bed, watching movies, waiting for my body to heal itself. The disorientation and discomfort (is that really me in the mirror?) that came each time my face changed never went away entirely, and there are definitely more pleasant ways to spend the summer than in a hospital room, but I will say that the experience of having a cleft has given me a unique perspective on the world and a sense of innate, personal strength that I have relied on as I faced challenges and setbacks in other areas of my life. Because I never chose to define myself based on my own changing appearance, I’ve found that I look to find other people’s “true” selves beneath their skin, and I’ll never be satisfied until I understand the “core” of the world around me, whether that be the heart of a legal argument, the essence of a complex math problem, the underlying thesis of a book, or the molecular interactions that make all of life possible.

Back to Top

Makenzie Hofer

From: Duncannon, PA
Attending: Harrisburg Community College

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Makenzie Hofer

Back to Top

Taylor LaGrange

From: Tell City, IN
Attending: University of Evansville

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Taylor LaGrange

Receiving this scholarship is a great honor and privilege. I plan to attend the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana and major in Computer Engineering. I hope to continue my education in graduate school; however the details are yet to be determined. Throughout much of my life I was told that there are other kids that were born with the same birth defect, a bilateral cleft lip and palate, yet I was skeptical. My parents have introduced me to many people that were born with the same or similar defect as mine and I’ve made many friends through these experiences. Being born with a cleft lip and palate has never hindered me from the completion of any goals or inhibited my abilities as a young, bright, and talented man. Rather, I have used my unique situation to my advantage; I constantly prove that I am able to do anything and everything the same as anyone else can. I have spent many break, vacations, and weekends lying in a bed recovering from surgeries. “That must’ve been really hard on you while you were growing up, Taylor,” you may say, but it wasn’t. I took it all in stride. I understood from a very young age that these surgeries were just going to be a part of my life and there wasn’t much I could do about them, so I never complained, never asked them to stop helping me, never gave up. If there is one message I could give to kids, it’s this: No matter the circumstance, no matter the hardship, no matter the obstacle, always push forward and persevere because in the end, when it’s all said and done, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Back to Top

Ying Kai Liu

From: Chapel Hill, NC
Attending: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sometimes we’re granted things that make us stand out. We may not always enjoy it, but we try to accept ourselves and seek to exploit the benefits of being different. Needless to say, I’ve struggled with having cleft, lip and palate, but I’m extremely thankful towards people who took the time to understand and help me and grateful for the donors of this scholarship who recognize the unique challenges we face and support us to overcome them. My long term goal in life is to one day be able to reciprocate the love given to me and allow others to receive what I had been graced with.

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Ying Kai Liu

I’ve always been one of those people who tend to become interested in whatever I put my heart into, and I’m lucky to have participated in a myriad of activities including teaching English at a rural countryside school, organizing my school’s Asian Night, and mentoring elementary school students in science through fun hands-on experiments. Having recently volunteered at a home for people with mental disabilities, I developed an interest for special education and hope to continue my involvement through college.

Some of my other hobbies include badminton, running, skiing and piano. One not so secretive secret about me is that I have a thing for jumping on beds, possibly the reason why my bed sinks down in the middle.

The funny thing about applications is we end up learning more about ourselves during the process than the application reviewers do. As I wrote my essay, one thing became clearer to me than ever: in the end, I’m my own worst enemy. I just hope that through my pursuit of a career in medicine, cleft will serve as my motivation to strive even further and not be my reason to give up.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Back to Top

Zachary Nolen

From: Oneonta, AL
Attending: Wallace State Community College

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Zachary Nolen

Back to Top

Christopher O’Leary

From: Richland Center, WI
Attending: University of Wisconsin-Stout

I believe that one of the most important components to a successful and fulfilling life is community support and involvement. Through this scholarship the Cleft Palette Foundation is not only showing their support for me financially but symbolically. This kind of support for my academic career helps me to validate that I am on the correct path. It helps to drive me forward at an ever quickening pace.

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, Christopher O’Leary

I hope to turn around and apply my skills to give back to the community for its gracious support. I have always wanted to improve the lives of others which is what lead me toward the field of Cognitive Science even though my undergraduate major is in Information Communication Technologies. Upon completing my undergraduate degree I intend to pursue a doctorate in Cognitive Science so that I may help to pioneer new methods of computational modeling for the mind as well as new techniques to improve the cognitive capacities of artificial intelligences. In addition I will leverage this education and experience to become a professor to help others achieve their own personal academic goals.

In addition to helping people at a more personal level, through volunteering with organizations such as the Red Cross, I currently use my highly technical skills to help a much broader audience through the development and support of Free Software. I am currently a student member of the Free Software Foundation and find fulfillment in advocating for them since using Free Software allows users to be free from restriction, free to learn, and free to have an active role in the development of that software.

Back to Top

Melissa Pagnotta

From: Pine Beach, NJ
Attending: Hofstra University

This scholarship means a lot to me because it allows me to more easily follow my dreams and obtain my goal because I will not be in as much debt. I will be free to pursue my aspirations without having to worry about the burden of owing money. I am so honored that an organization recognizes the challenges children and teens with cleft lip/cleft palate face and reward them for what they’ve overcome.

I am planning to study film and television production, specifically screenwriting. I hope to produce works that present unconventional views and information that is not promoted through the media. I want to provide society with unique ideas so that people can think for themselves rather than believing everything the mainstream media presents us. I also want to make comedies that have genuine comedy and complex plots—unlike the constant immature and inappropriate shows that are publicized each day.

I really enjoy playing the ukulele and tap dancing; I’ve even attempted to do both at the same time but it didn’t turn out so well. Despite my facial deformities, I have pursued performing. I was Peter Pan in this year’s spring musical at my high school. I actually flew! We rented a flying system that was operated by a pulley system. This role was quite a dream come true because ever since I was little I have wanted to play Peter Pan and fly. This year I learned that, no matter what obstacles face, dreams can come true.

My favorite community activity is community theater. I’ve been in three productions produced by local companies. These experiences are the most meaningful to me because I am surrounded by others who have the same passions as I do, I am constantly learning and bettering myself, and I am doing what I love. I am so proud of myself that I had the courage to take a risk and set aside my fear to do what I adore.

Through my 17 years, I’ve learned that the challenges we have are not there to prevent us from succeeding; they are there to make our successes even more gratifying.

Back to Top

Megan Schinderle

From: Eagle, MI
Attending: DePaul University

I am studying psychology at DePaul University because I hope to become a counselor or therapist. I plan to attend graduate school and pursue either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in psychology.

I love art. Painting and drawing are two of my most favorite things to do in my free time. Sometimes expressing myself through written words seems impossible, and being able to put my feelings on a canvas is so therapeutic. I also love listening to music. I am teaching myself to play the piano because I believe that music is another great form of self-expression.

I hope to make a difference in the world. I could not be where I am today without the support and guidance from many people, including my family, friends, and wonderful team of doctors, and I hope in the future I will be able to give back to the people who have given me so much.

I think it is important for people with craniofacial differences to embrace themselves and learn that true beauty lies within. It can be so difficult to try to reach for your dreams when staying inside, hiding from the cruel world, would be so much easier. But I truly believe that it is the people who have obstacles to overcome who have the strength and compassion to do whatever they desire.

Back to Top

David Scott

From: Mystic, CT
Attending: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

I would like to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for giving me the opportunity to represent so many people like myself who were born with a cleft lip and palate. Always being very curious, I am interested in learning how things work and how to apply that knowledge to future problems. Engineering teaches people how to reason out problems and it provides a foundation for them to pursue a large variety of careers later in life if their interests change. As a result, I would like to pursue mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineering has so many opportunities for specialization. It is interconnected with the other branches of engineering such as material science and aerospace engineering and I feel it is a good starting point. I have so many questions and I know engineering can help me find some of the answers. An engineering degree can take me anywhere.

CPF 2011 College Scholarship Recipient, David Scott

I have gone through fourteen surgeries to date with at least one more in the future. In fact I am recovering from one as I am writing these very words. I would like to say my birth defect has not affected the way I carry myself in any way, but it would not be true. It messes with my confidence at times. I wish it did not, but it does. In the end though, it does not matter. I am a better person because of it. I am stronger and I have overcome more obstacles than most people have by the time they are eighteen.

I write songs and sing them while performing them on the guitar. I write poems, short stories, and I am in the process of writing novels (those take a bit longer). It is not what you have, but how you deal with what you have. My surgeries bother me, but I do my best to make sure that other people do not see that. I am an Eagle Scout. I am the valedictorian of my high school class. My birth defect has not hindered me, but made be better. I want to make a difference and I strive to do so. I just cannot wait to see where my life takes me.

Back to Top