ACPA Family Services

2012 Recipients

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This year, thanks to the generous support of many donors, the Cleft Palate Foundation is pleased to offer a record 16 scholarships! Selection is based on past academic performance, evidence of leadership skills and/or community and school involvement, as well as strong indications of future academic success. One scholarship is designated for a student enrolled in or planning to enroll in a community, vocational or technical school.  For the remainder of the scholarships, preference is given to rising first-year students in any field and currently enrolled students in a field of study related to the management of craniofacial anomalies (e.g. genetic counseling, speech-language pathology).

CPF gratefully acknowledges the generous contributions made to the Peter Randall, MD/Don LaRossa, MD College Scholarship Fund. Established in 2009, this special fund recognizes the work of Dr. Peter Randall and Dr. Don LaRossa, both of whom have worked to enhance the quality of life for individuals affected by cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial birth defects. Each year, contributions made to this fund are responsible for covering the cost of at least one college scholarship.

Congratulations to each of the 2012 CPF College Scholarship recipients!

John Barbaro
Micheal Barnes
Kelsey Bingham
Maria Lepore
Megan McKee
Herminio Navia III
Elizabeth Reid
Varun Sharma
Sydney Shelton
Kelsey Smith
Karly Terrell
Lauren Upadhyay
Kevin Weschler

John Barbaro

From: Rye Brook, NY
Attending: Columbia College – Columbia University

I extend my gratitude to the Cleft Palate Foundation for honoring me with a scholarship for my undergraduate educational pursuits. I was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate and endured a few surgeries as an infant at New York University Medical Center, where the surgeons repaired my congenital defect beautifully. Over the years, I have received many compliments on how well the initial surgeries were performed, and I am forever grateful that Dr. Court Cutting was able to perform the task with such finesse. In May of 2012 I went back to Dr. Cutting at NYU Medical Center for some additional nose and lip surgery to correct the remaining defects.

Being a cleft lip and palate patient has greatly spurred my curiosity in exploring the sciences, specifically biochemistry and genetics. Many of the more severe existing conditions in which patients suffer from a cleft lip and palate are caused by a medley of chromosomal abnormalities, and I am interested in investigating the proliferation of such genetic conditions on the molecular level. I graduate from Blind Brook High School in Rye Brook, New York in June of 2012 and am attending Columbia College at Columbia University in the City of New York to study biology, chemistry, and neuroscience in Fall 2012.

I feel that this scholarship will enhance my capacity to further explore a colorful variety of research laboratories so as to solidify my scientific interests in the future. I am not entirely certain what I want to do post-college, but right now medicine and biological research appeal to me greatly. I have been a member of a laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center for two years where I am studying human antibody production in yeast, and I have won five research awards for presenting my studies at various research symposiums in Westchester County.

As for extracurricular interests, I have been playing classic and contemporary piano for ten years and also play the trumpet in my high school’s band. Additionally, I have been a member of the school’s track and cross-country teams and currently tutor five high school students in chemistry and Spanish. Again, I would like to thank the Cleft Lip and Palate Foundation for granting me this scholarship and an opportunity to be the best student I can be at Columbia this fall.

Micheal Barnes

From: Lawton, OK
Attending: Oklahoma State University-Stillwater

I will be attending Oklahoma State University this coming fall and will major in Music Education. I plan on using this degree to further pursue my learning to obtain a Master’s in Music Performance. With that, I would like to teach band and/or percussion methods at the high school or colligate level. I love music; it is my life’s passion. I have had the honor to play with numerous honor groups that I made the audition for such as playing in the Oklahoma All-State Orchestra, the U. S. Army All-American Marching Band, and was even selected to play at Carnegie Hall with the 2012 Honors Performance Series. Along with these honors, I was selected as an Oklahoma Academic All-Stater. I have truly been blessed with a family that supports me. I know that I would not be where I am today without them, and this all goes to show that hard work and dedication does pay off. This scholarship means a lot to me. I am very appreciative for the honor of being selected for this award.

Kelsey Bingham

From: Medina, OH
Attending: Bringham Young University

I was born with a unilateral complete cleft palate. I remember practicing speech for endless hours, beginning at age three just to complete simple phonetic exercises. In eighth grade, my voice teacher explained the long journey that lay ahead. In tenth grade, I became part of an auditioned women’s choir for two years. For the last year, I have been a member of the elite choir in my high school of 2400. Though there were definite physical implications to my defect, I faced psychological trials too. Classmates would ask me why I looked different or why my nose looked funny. I would instantly recoil in embarrassment and cover my mouth/nose area. Over the years, I grew confident in my rarity and showed off my “cool” scar. The bitter reality that I would always look different made my acceptance of these differences that much sweeter. My transformation may not have changed the world or inspired millions, but it changed my world and affected me. I will attend Brigham Young University in Utah to major in Chemical Engineering. Although I am majoring in the hard sciences, my minor lies in the fine arts. I will minor in Musical Performance because I have devoted much of my life to music. My cleft palate has taught me perseverance, confidence, and the joy of success. I will rely upon these skills to earn a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Just as I have overcome the difficulties that accompany my cleft palate, I will overcome the challenges that lay ahead. I am so grateful for the generosity of the Cleft Palate Foundation in helping me further my education.

While in high school, I played tennis four years, was Varsity Captain for the past two, and received the Scholar Athlete and Captain’s Award. I have mastered all piano pieces required for Eastman School of Music, Julliard, and other top music conservatories. I picked up the violin two years ago, now I am 5th chair out of 20 in Varsity Orchestra. I am the church leader of 25+ teenage girls and have devoted over 300 hours to community service. In my junior year, I was on University of Akron’s Dean’s List and named a Collegiate Scholar. I am a volunteer tutor, swim teacher, freshman mentor, Spanish Club officer, Orchestra officer, member of the elite Concert Choir, America Rocketry Challenge, National Honor Society, and president of 6 A.M. daily bible school.

Maria Lepore

From: Rochester Hills, MI
Attending: University of Michigan

I am extremely honored to be selected a recipient of the 2012 Cleft Palate Foundation Scholarship. I will attend the University of Michigan in the fall and major in Biology.

I was born in Tomsk, Siberia, Russia and lived in Siberian hospitals and orphanages during the first three years of my life. I was adopted and brought to Michigan in September 1997 and have endured several major surgeries throughout my life to repair this defect.

I have always had a tremendous interest in medicine and the health process. This has led me to pursue an education in medicine. My goal is to become a doctor, help repair medical problems for children, and improve their futures.

Athletics has been a major part of my life. Sports have allowed me to adapt quickly into the community. I began to play soccer when I was six years old. I will graduate high school as captain of both the soccer and cross-country teams. Additionally, I have earned seven varsity letters and all-state status in cross-country. This would have been impossible without the encouragement I received in my early years from family, friends, doctors, nurses, coaches and teachers.

Thank you Cleft Palate Foundation for helping me reach my goals. I am honored to be recognized by you and the generous gift will assist me at the University of Michigan.

Megan McKee

From: Aliso Viejo, CA
Attending: Indiana University

It is a great honor to receive this scholarship from the Cleft Palate Foundation. In the fall, I will be attending Indiana University Bloomington, where I will be majoring in Speech and Hearing Sciences. This will prepare me for a career as a Speech Pathologist. Growing up with a cleft, I always remembered speech therapy as a fun experience in comparison to the numerous visits with doctors and surgeons. I know I want to be able to help other children similar to me, and Speech Pathology will be the perfect way to satisfy this goal.

Since the age of 12, I have become passionately involved with Operation Smile, an organization that provides free surgeries to children around the world born with cleft lip and palate. In high school I founded the Operation Smile Club at my high school to try to inspire others to help this organization that has been so meaningful in my life. This past March, I was privileged to be selected to attend an international medical mission with Operation Smile. I traveled to Asuncion, Paraguay where I served as a student educator, teaching the patients and their families about important medical topics such as dental hygiene, burn care, and nutrition. I even got to observe surgeries in the operating room, and witness the surgeries that I myself had experienced as a child. My mission experience was incredible and I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Herminio Navia III

From: Roseland, NJ
Attending: Georgetown University

It is truly a great honor to be one of the 2012 Cleft Palate Foundation College Scholarship recipients. Although being born with a cleft palate altered my appearance and resulted in several surgeries, I firmly believe that it has not inhibited me in any way. In fact, I found it to be an invaluable learning experience that helped shaped my values as well as my plans for the future.

This fall, I will be attending Georgetown University, majoring in Biochemistry and following an undergraduate premedical program. Having been born with a cleft, my constant exposure to the hospital environment through several operations inspired me to pursue a career in medicine with a tentative specialty in craniofacial surgery. It would be a pleasure to be able to treat and heal those who also experienced being born with the same congenital defect as mine.

Besides my desire to become a doctor, one of my deepest interests lies in music. As a self-taught guitarist and trained vocalist, most of my free time in high school has been dedicated to writing music and recording in my bedroom studio. Even in school, I have been involved in several music organizations such as Jazz Ensemble and Men’s A Cappella Group. I also enjoy sharing my talent with others by teaching children how to play guitar and lending my voice and guitar skills to Mass at my local Catholic Church every week.

Finally, I would like to thank The Amato Center for Facial Surgery for all of the staff’s hard work and dedication to me. Their surgeries have truly made a positive impact on my life. I wish the best of luck to them, the Cleft Palate Foundation and everyone who wishes to apply for this scholarship in the future.

Elizabeth Reid

From: St. Paul, MN
Attending: Northwestern College

As a senior, I can testify that my past three years in college have been the most impactful of my life. I have grown more than I thought possible. I’ve been equipped with the tools I will need to make a difference as a writer and editor. However, as graduation looms on the not-so-distant horizon, the cost of my education is also becoming more real. I’m very thankful for this scholarship that will help me finish strong and enter the work force better able to serve.

At Northwestern I’m studying English: Writing. After graduation, my goal is to work as a writer or editor with a non-profit organization, possibly an inner-city ministry. I’m also interested in tutoring children or adults in writing and will likely write creatively on the side.

I spent the past four months studying abroad in Israel, which was an amazing experience! New experiences included riding a camel, floating in the Dead Sea, and learning bits of three languages: Arabic, Hebrew, and Kurdish.

Volunteering in different non-profit organizations over the past several years has been very significant and meaningful in my life. Last semester, I had the opportunity to serve with Shevet Achim, a ministry in Jerusalem that provides life-saving heart surgeries for underprivileged children from surrounding areas, also bringing together people of different backgrounds in the process. It was such a beautiful thing to see the staff, volunteers, and patients reaching across racial and political boundaries to serve and embrace each other in love. I feel so blessed to have been to participate in this wonderful ministry.

One quote that has inspired me recently is by G.K. Chesterton: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” These words have challenged me to reevaluate the obstacles I encounter in life. What might initially appear as hindrances or “inconveniences” can actually be hidden opportunities for growth and adventure. After all, stories without obstacles aren’t very exciting.

Varun Sharma

From: Del Mar, CA
Attending: Williams College

I am truly honored to be one of the selected recipients of the 2012 Cleft Palate Foundation College Scholarship. I will be attending Williams College this upcoming fall and plan to major in Biology with a Biochemistry & Molecular Biology concentration. Being born with hemifacial microsomia has brought along a myriad challenges but also some fantastic perspectives. Learning to live and to embrace my differences has been incredibly difficult but has prepared me to overcome obstacles of any scale.

The many psychological, social, and physiological challenges associated with craniofacial differences drove me to question the source of my issues: Why was I different? Googling hemifacial microsomia as a third grader opened my eyes to the incredible field of science and medicine. Science is no hobby for me: it is a passion. My love of science led me to mitochondrial metabolism research for the past three summers and geriatrics research for the summer before those three. The incredible care and kindness that my surgeon Dr. Burt Brent showered upon me is an inspiration for me to want to become an empathetic physician. As a result, I have my eye set on hopefully one day earning an MD PhD so that I can practice both clinical medicine as well as continue performing the lab research I love.

Another fundamental characteristic of mine that has helped define and secure my identity has been my participation in athletics. Sports gave me one of the greatest opportunities to fit into a society from which I felt separated. Athletics provided me with the chance to feel ‘normal’, because in any sport it doesn’t matter what someone may look like, but rather how good they are at what they do. Starting from baseball, basketball, football, and tennis as a little kid, I have transitioned into playing Squash. I have been given the incredible opportunity to compete at the National level where I was ranked within the top 20 in the country last season for my age group. I am very excited and proud to have the opportunity to represent Williams College for the next four years as a Varsity Squash athlete.

With amazing support from my family, friends, and community, I have been able to take pride in the all the things I do today. Thank you Cleft Palate Foundation for recognizing me with your generous gift in supporting and encouraging my ambitions for the future.

Sydney Shelton

From: Scottsville, KY
Attending: University of Kentucky

I am so blessed to be one of the recipients of this scholarship. This will aid me in pursuing a degree in Integrated Strategic Communications (Public Relations) at the University of Kentucky.

I was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. Growing up, I overcame many adversities: I was adopted, I was the only Asian in my grade, and I had a scar linked between my left nostril and my upper lip. I always had a secret insecurity about my “flat nose;” however, I never let other’s words get the best of me. I have undergone many surgeries to become more aesthetically pleasing in my standards such as corrective jaw surgery for underbite and plastic surgery for my nose. Still, I grew up thinking I was beautiful, despite what anyone else thought, and I still hold that philosophy today.

I recently became a member of the UK cheer squad- go Wildcats! I aspire to be a role model for anyone who feels their “scar” is holding them back and proof that true beauty comes from within.

Kelsey Smith

From: Waterloo, AL
Attending: Northwest Shoals Community College

I am very blessed and honored to receive this scholarship from the Cleft Palate Foundation. My cleft palate is not noticeable unless you look in the upper part of my mouth and then you can see the scars. I am a twin and was born 2 months premature and had a lot of medical problems. I have been under the awesome care of many doctors especially Dr. Paul Howard and his staff @ Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama and I have come along way. Because of all of his works I was able to be in my high school band for 6 years and play the Clarinet. I am so thankful for him, his staff and the wonderful hospital I have been associated with.

In the fall of 2012 I am planning to attend Northwest Shoals Community College and I will be earning my Cosmetology Degree. I was born with very curly hair and have always wanted to learn to do more with it and I have always enjoyed doing others hair so I decided that I wanted to be a Cosmetologist and Nail Technician. In some peoples eyes this is not a big occupation but I feel that we all have things we are good at and God has helped guide me this direction for my future. I have been in the Cosmetology Department at Central High School for 3 years now and I absolutely love it. A couple times a year we do the Cuts for Cure and we have a special day that we do manicures, cuts, shampoos and etc for the Survivors of Breast Cancer and raising money for the Relay for Life and Light the Night teams. I truly look forward to those days I enjoy it so much. My future plans are to receive my degree in Cosmetology and work a couple of years in the field and then hopefully be able to open my own salon. This scholarship will help me so very much with my cost in college and again I am so very fortunate and blessed to receive this scholarship.

As I said earlier I was a member of the band for 6 years, I have been a member of the Diamond Girls, Skills USA Club 3 years, FCLA(Future Christian Leaders Club), Science Club, Powder Puff Football team, Received an award from the Florence Rotary Club for my good grades, I am also very active in church I have been on numerous mission trips, help teach Vacation Bible School, attended Winterfest, Celebration and Impact. My parents Brent & Felecia Smith have always been a big part of my life and they have been there for me most of all. My parents have taught me that God should ALWAYS be first in your life.

I can do All things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Karly Terrell

From: Missoula, MT
Attending: Montana State University

I am beyond thrilled to be a 2012 CPF College Scholarship Recipient! In the fall I will be attending Montana State University with a desire to study pre-med and eventually pediatric medicine. My future career goals are fueled by my own personal experience with the medical field as a child. I was thrown into the pediatric world immediately after being born with a cleft lip and palate. I underwent my first surgery when I was only six weeks old and three other reparative surgeries before the age of 10. Despite all the time I spent in operating rooms and appointments, I was fortunate enough to never have a bad experience. The doctors and staff sincerely cared about my well-being and recovery. I don’t look at my experience as a curse nor do I want people to be sympathetic; I look at my time spent as a patient in pediatrics as a blessing. My medical history has changed me for the better. Due to my experiences, I am naturally more empathetic towards others who might have disabilities or an altered appearance and physically, it has made me a more strong and resilient individual. I grew up in Missoula, Montana with one of the best childhoods a kid could ever imagine and without that birth defect, I never would have had the experiences that instilled in me the desire to be a part of the pediatric world today. One day I can only hope to be the inspiring doctor in some other child’s life, giving them the same comfort and optimism my doctors once gave me.

Lauren Upadhyay

From: Maplewood, NJ
Attending: Rutgers University

Receiving Cleft Palate Foundation scholarship means so much to me as it will help to alleviate some of the burden of paying for college, allowing me to pursue my educational goals more easily. Being born with a cleft lip and palate has brought with it many challenges and hardships, and I am truly grateful to the wonderful team of doctors at the New Jersey Institute of Craniofacial Surgery at St. Barnabas Medical Center for their expertise and kindness, without which I would not be where I am today.

I enjoy writing and have been an opinions columnist for my school newspaper for the past two years. I also really enjoy music. I joined the marching band this past year and am currently teaching myself to (decently) read music as well as play the snare drum. In the past I’ve played the keyboard and guitar as well. I love reading and spending time outside in my spare time. I also participate in volunteering and community outreach through my church, which I really enjoy. I’ve been on mission trips to Louisiana and West Virginia where we aided in disaster relief efforts.

I will be attending Rutgers University in the fall and plan to major in Biological Sciences. My goal is to eventually go into medicine/medical research so that I may contribute to the ever expanding scientific knowledge base of human illness and help others, ultimately working towards improving the human condition.

I am so thankful to the Cleft Palate Foundation for awarding me this scholarship. It is truly an honor.

Kevin Weschler

From: Miami, FL
Attending: University of Florida

As a current engineering student at the University of Florida, I am continuously surrounded by numerous involvement opportunities. With new events to take part in and exciting leadership positions arising throughout semesters, I soon realized that college is a platform, unlike any other, for individuals to make a real impact on society. And thus, I decided that I would become as involved as possible while I still had access to the resources offered by an accredited university.

I’ve been actively involved in Gator Smiles, a student organization at UF whose sole focus is to raise money to sponsor repair surgeries for orphaned children born with cleft lip & palate. By coordinating the club’s sand volleyball tournament and annual 5k run, I’ve helped boost Gator Smiles’ fundraising efforts. Recently, I was elected the club’s new treasurer.

Moreover, I am a member of Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity (TEP) in which I held the position of philanthropy director. Through my association with Greek life, I’ve facilitated the fundraising of thousands of dollars, much of which has gone towards helping kids with clefts.

In conjunction with my involvement on-campus, my brother and I own a student-run moving company called 2 College Brothers. With locations in Gainesville, Miami, Tallahassee, and Orlando, 2 College Brothers, Inc. provides moving services statewide in Florida. Through toy/clothing drives put on by 2 College Brothers, we’ve collected hundreds of toys for children and over 1,350 pounds of clothing to benefit Goodwill.

I’ve never let my cleft set me back in life. In fact, it has allowed me to view things from a different perspective and aroused an eager want in me to make a difference. I was lucky enough to have my cleft repaired at a young age by a world-renowned surgeon, Dr. Ralph Millard. Although most people don’t notice my cleft, I speak openly about it to those that do. I feel incredibly blessed not only to have been operated by a fantastic surgeon, but also to have had the opportunity and resources to give back to those who weren’t as fortunate as I was. I encourage everyone, especially students, to experience the rewarding feeling of community involvement in any way they see fit.


Other 2012 CPF college scholarship recipients include:

Laura Allen
Prairie Village, KS

Dana McGarty
New Orleans, LA

Lisa Pierce
Plymouth, MI