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2016 Recipients

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2016 CPF Scholarship Recipients!

Thanks to generous donor support, we are pleased to award
$15,000 in college scholarships this year.

CPF gratefully acknowledges the generous contributions made to the Peter Randall, MD/Don LaRossa, MD and Gip Seaver, PhD College Scholarship Funds. These special funds recognize the work of Dr. Peter Randall, Dr. Don LaRossa, and Dr. Earl “Gip” Seaver, all of whom have worked diligently to enhance the quality of life for individuals affected by cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial anomalies. 

Get to know our 2016 CPF Scholars:
Chris | Boone | Joseph | Kente | Madison | Bracee | Ashlynn | Zach | Aurika | Julia | Nathan | Andrew | Russell | Gabrielle | Morgan | Pauline | Bridget | Amber | Sarah | Nicholas R. | Kristin | Nicholas S. | Sara | Delaney | Beth | Hannah


Christopher Allen

From: Washington, D.C.
Attending: University of Virginia

Allen, Christopher pic_cropI am most grateful to be a recipient of a Cleft Palate Foundation Scholarship. The scholarship will help fund my studies in Economics and Chinese at the University of Virginia, which will hopefully include my dream of studying abroad, potentially in Beijing.

I was born with a hemangioma. My lip was operated on several times by brilliant surgeons at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle and at the National Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C. Never-ending support from my family and the surgeons’ expertise have helped make me who I am today.

Basketball is my current passion. As a member of a U.S. foreign-service family that frequently moves countries and continents, basketball has always been a key way for me to meet people and explore each location. In Brunei Darussalam, where I am currently living, playing basketball for my school, in 3-on-3 tournaments, and on the streets has led to many special memories.

In addition to basketball, I have been lucky to participate in community service here in Brunei, getting to know many sides of this diverse country. Distributing donated food in Kampong Ayer, an impoverished water village, has been especially meaningful.

I would again like to thank my family, the surgeons and staff at the Children’s Hospitals of Seattle and Washington D.C., and the Cleft Palate Foundation for opening doors for me and enabling me to live my life to the fullest.


Boone Alway

From: Scottville, MI
Attending: Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy

Alway, Boone pic_cropI cannot say thank you enough to the CPF Scholarship Committee for allowing me to be one of the 2016 scholarship recipients. What an honor this is, especially knowing that there are many deserving applicants who have had craniofacial struggles in their lives.

I was diagnosed with craniosynostosis at two months old. The next eleven years would mean surgeries and trips to craniofacial clinics in two states. At age 2 ½, I contracted bacterial meningitis, spending nine days in the hospital and having to relearn to walk. I then tore my ACL my junior year in high school which required more surgery and rehab. Through all of this, I have learned that perseverance and determination can overcome any obstacle. This lesson has pushed me to set and meet high goals for myself.

When I was four years old, I stated playing soccer and fell in love with being a goalkeeper. Over the next thirteen years, I played for various teams. I took the opportunity to referee and donate my time coaching other potential goalkeepers each time I was asked to do so. When I was a sophomore in high school, I decided to try out for a state premier team ninety miles away in order to improve my game. I made the team and traveled one to five times per week 180 miles round trip to play with this team. I have done this now for three years. It was this team that gave me the exposure I needed to be seen by a scout for Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy in Leeds, England and asked to join the team overseas.

I can honestly say that had it not been for the medical obstacles I have overcome in my life, I would never have had the nerve or confidence to pursue soccer at the state premier level and would not have the opportunities I have now. I do plan to attend RIASA in Leeds, England in the fall and study International Business and Sports Management while playing soccer and obtaining my professional coaching licenses. My hope is to play soccer professionally or coach professionally in the future. However, my true goal will always be spreading the love of the game to younger kids and being a positive role model for them. I am living proof that determination and perseverance can overcome any obstacle and no goal is out of reach for those who are willing to put in the work and dedication needed to overcome adversity.


Joseph Arriola

From: South River, NJ
Attending: Rutgers University

Arriola, Joseph pic_cropBefore I begin, I would like to graciously thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for generously giving me a scholarship for my college education. But more than the financial assistance, it is very reassuring to know that people born with cleft like me are not alone in our journey, that there is a foundation that actually looks after our welfare. For this, my heartfelt gratitude.

I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate to a loving and caring family who has molded me into the person I am today. Like many other people who have similar conditions, I had to overcome obstacles such as needing to put extra effort in my speech and getting bullied and mocked by peers, teachers and strangers. However, more than these obstacles, my cleft has given me an abundance of blessings. It was through my cleft that I have experienced unconditional love, kindness and compassion from family, friends and even strangers. It was through my cleft that I have learned and developed traits like courage, humility and resiliency. Most importantly, it was through my cleft that I have strengthened my faith in God. This entire journey with my cleft has become the motivational force behind my dream to become a doctor involved in the treatment of cleft.

When I was younger, I was taught that being grateful is not simply saying thank you. True gratitude comes full circle by paying forward or reciprocating the graces I have been given. Since I was ten, I have always wanted to become a doctor. I want to become a doctor because I want to give back and share all the graces I have been blessed with since I was born. I hope that when I am older I can make an impact on at least one person’s life the same way my kind and caring doctors made an impact on my life. In college, I am planning on majoring in Biology at Rutgers so I can follow a premed track to pursue my dream. Although my dream is to become a doctor, I also hope to someday be able to write inspirational stories of characters with my condition or with similar conditions and their journeys.

Now that I am going to college, I will continue to work hard and with the help of the foundation, the support and love of family and friends, and guidance and dedication of teachers and mentors, I hope to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor and be a role model for other people especially those with similar conditions. I also hope to one day have the opportunity to reciprocate the foundation’s generosity in my own little way.


Curtis “Kente” Bishop – CPF Vocational Scholarship Award

From: Ashburn, VA
Attending: George Mason University

Bishop, Curtis picMy name is Curtis “Kente” Bishop. I would like to sincerely thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for the generosity in awarding me a scholarship. I was so happily surprised to learn of the scholarship granted to me. It will no doubt be very beneficial to me as I continue with my education to become a Sign Language Interpreter professional. I was born with cleft palate and cleft lip and have undergone a number of surgeries and dental work.

I was born in Buffalo New York. I grew up in New York but I moved to Virginia when I was 12 years old. I live with my mom who has always told me she is my biggest fan! I have an older brother who’s a preacher by profession and has encouraged me to always stand up and stand out.

I have been a grateful sophomore at George Mason University this 2015-2016 year and I will move forward with my concentration in Sign Language as I go into my junior year. I will be working with the youth and truly seek to mentor elementary school students.

My hobbies include break dancing, playing video games and playing basketball for the Special Olympics. I also like writing poetry and short stories. As I grow and develop, I hope to mentor little kids. When I first started working with little kids, I was in my sophomore year at Stone Bridge High School working at Sanders Corner Elementary School. My favorite quote is, “No matter when life gets hard you know you can’t forget, you got to take that baby step, the best part hasn’t happened yet; but still you need to understand you can’t get stuck in the sand, get up and make a plan. Do the best you can.”

As I grow and mature, I am working to be as successful as I can be! I am truly excited to move away and undergo the academic stimulation I will receive at George Mason University. Thank you Cleft Palate Foundation for honoring me with this scholarship award.


Madison Carmenate

From: Altadena, CA
Attending: Pasadena City College

This scholarship means a lot to me. It enables me to have the opportunity to help pay for school. Perhaps then I can use other money toward a much needed computer. I am planning to study Film Production.  I want to create a film to help others in sharing their own personal story. My goals are after obtaining a college degree to also be a motivational speaker as well.  I enjoy taking pictures and look forward to those classes as well.   I have enjoyed being in Girl Scouts for the past 12 years. I enjoyed especially completing my Gold Award. I taught families in the hospital how to blog. In order to keep family and friends updated. To also inspire others by sharing their story.

I have experienced a lot in my life. I have had over 30 surgeries and procedures and I want others to read my story, know me, and realize dreams do come true. You may have to put them on hold for awhile, but if there is a will there is a way.  Thank you to the Cleft Palate Foundation in helping me with the first step in getting there.


Bracee Dudley

From: West Lafayette, IN
Attending: Purdue University


Ashlynn Etzler

From: Clarksville, TN
Attending: Austin Peay State University

Etzler, Ashlynn picFeeling completely humbled and honored, I would like to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for selecting me to receive the 2016 CPF scholarship! I’m currently studying engineering technology at Austin Peay State University but I’m still not sure exactly what I’d like my career to be. While planning to transfer to a college in Virginia next year, I’d love to pursue studying music, English, and mathematics, with a minor in either Russian or Arabic. In my free time I enjoy boxing, volunteering at homeless shelters within my community, playing the piano, writing poetry and short stories, and I love to go on car rides with my dog.

I was born with a unilateral complete cleft lip and a sub-mucous cleft palate. My left nostril was completely closed until I was about eight years old. I’ve had over eleven surgeries and I’m sure I’ll have to undergo at least a few more. Whether it was dealing with ear infections, having painful surgeries that made me wear a mask over my face for a week, or trying to breathe using just one nostril, I’ve definitely had a lot of challenges to overcome. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me!

Lastly, I wanted to give a shout out to the Portsmouth Craniofacial Team in Portsmouth, Virginia and also to Dr. Wendell’s Orthodontist team in Williamsburg Virginia for both being a great group of people that helped me overcome my birth defect. Also, I will forever be grateful for my family’s support, especially my mom. Again, thank you for helping me to continue my college education!


Zach Green

From: Hebron, OH
Attending: Berklee College of Music

Green, Zach picI am incredibly thankful to have been selected as a recipient of the 2016 Cleft Palate Foundation Scholarship! I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. I endured various surgeries in my early childhood, speech therapy, and having braces for five years; I am immensely grateful for my doctors, teachers, family, and friends for always supporting me. Being “different” has been something I’ve faced throughout my entire life, but I never let that get in the way of following my dreams.

I’m super excited to be attending my dream school, Berklee College of Music, in the fall to pursue my passion for contemporary music. My goal is to enter the music industry as a producer and songwriter; I’ve already had a great amount of experience arranging and composing music for marching band and jazz band for my high school, as well as playing numerous instruments. With this musical background, I hope to continue my studies to pave the way for my future in music.

Again, thanks so much to the Cleft Palate Foundation for this generous scholarship!


Aurika Herrera – CPF Community College Scholarship Award

From: Salt Lake City, UT
Attending: Salt Lake Community College

Herrera, Aurika pic_cropI am honored to receive the Cleft Palate Foundation Scholarship. Thank you to the donors, and the Cleft Palate Foundation for helping me financially get to the road of success. This scholarship means the availability to buy school supplies and books. With this scholarship I will have enough funding to cover my first year of college. In the fall of 2016 I will be attending Salt Lake Community College and I will be studying Forensic Science. After college I am planning on becoming a Forensic Scientist and solving crimes. Ever since I was a child I enjoyed anything that had to do with solving crimes whether it’s watching the Investigation channel or learning to collect DNA. Aside from solving crime I also like preventing crime. From 2013-2016, I have been a part of two clubs. The first club is Salt Lake City Peer Court, which is an alternative from juvenile court. In SLC Peer Court it is my job as an advocate and mentor (volunteer), to help mentor my peers and lead them to success. The second club I was in is West High Teen Outreach Program, which is another volunteer group which helps out with our youth, whether it comes to feeding the homeless youth of Salt Lake City to tutoring elementary students. Lastly I would like to restate that I am very blessed to receive this scholarship.


Julia Hessling – Peter Randall, MD / Don LaRossa, MD Scholarship Award

From: Hawley, PA
Attending: Susquehanna University

Hessling, Julia picI cannot even begin to express my sincere gratitude for how generous this offer from The Cleft Palate Foundation is. This scholarship has way more meaning than I can even begin to describe! Dr. LaRossa was the reason I survived my first few months of life and why I am fortunate to look wonderfully the way I do! He performed my big surgeries from when I was a little newborn baby all the way up to when I was a middle school teenager, and when I found out he had passed on, all I wish I could have gotten to do was say one more BIG thank you for all he’d done for me, and then one last goodbye. Every year my parents and I take a trip down to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for my annual team check-up, and every time all I wanted was to see him. He made me feel accepted, as if I had no differences standing between me and anyone else in the world, welcomed, as though I was his own child, and safe where I could literally trust him with my life. I remember writing a paper for my fifth grade class on who my hero was, and I undoubtedly picked him. I wish he could’ve seen it, but I know for sure that now he is definitely looking down on me and making sure I am safe, healthy, and happy. This scholarship was the way that the man who helped me look amazing and feel amazing after being born with a bilateral cleft palate and lip was able to show that he is still there for me, and will always be a big part of my life, while holding a dear place in my heart. He’d always encourage me to do my very best to thrive, and I know attending college is the starting point to that successful pathway he’d want any of his patients to endure. With the help of this scholarship, I am one step closer toward thoroughly fulfilling whatever life has in store for me. I am about to be a rising junior in college at Susquehanna University, and all I can say is how much this generous offer that is offered to those who have craniofacial complications (like me!) means to me, especially with all the costs that come along with attending school.

I am currently a Business Administration major, with the possibility of a Finance or Marketing Emphasis/Minor at SU. I hope one day to work for a successful company which I can help reach its best potential through my unique vision and ideas of strategies to benefit not only the company as a whole but its consumers/customer base. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll see me as CEO for a big-name business showing them who’s boss! I have made Dean’s List all of my semesters at University and have been inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society, and have maintained a 3.8 GPA.

I am a BIG fitness guru. I am a dedicated long-distance runner, running on average 7-8 miles a day. Running is my escape, my hobby, my addiction! I can’t go a day without running without going crazy, and I love to lift weights too. I am very health conscious and live a very active, healthy lifestyle. I live through playing/watching sports also. From basketball, softball, field hockey, track and field, ping-pong, and golf, I play them all! I actually played in the Babe Ruth World Series for Softball when I was around 14-15 years old (I got to play against Australians which was a neat experience to hear about their culture), and I won many championships for each sport. That is what my favorite part about living in a welcoming and pleasant community is; that I can play sports and have great competition with tons of different kids while still having so much fun. When my team and I were going to state, regionals, and then World Series, I recall the entire town keeping up with how we were doing and our record, and them all donating to help us be able to go through to the tournaments. I just love unity and fun between anyone I come across with, because it just warms my heart of how thoughtful many can be and how wonderful the world can be!

As for an interesting experience I’ve had, my family and myself are huge New York Giants fans. I get to attend a couple games here and there. The one time I was at a ball game, I decided to run down the thousand seated bleachers to shout out trying to grab the attention of my favorite player at that time, Osi Umenyiora. To my surprise he heard me. My very own favorite Giants player heard my voice calling his name and he looked up at me straight in the eye. I was so startled that I didn’t know what to do besides point to my head, which led to him taking his uniquely-made-for-players-only NY Giants hat off his sweaty head and hand it to me! I was in complete disbelief, but it was such an amazing experience and so fun to get to tell everyone back home how I got a Giants players attention and own hat that he was wearing!

I just want to put it out there that anything is possible. If you want to become an astronaut, go become an astronaut and wave to us from the moon. If you want to rule the country, go run for president one day! If you want to live in a two-story suburban home with your significant other and/or kids and run around the yard all day chasing your dog, then go and make it happen! If you want to become the next Beyoncé, stand up tall and put a ring on it, cause never forget… you’re irreplaceable! There’s only one you. One person who can claim your body, name, and the whole story behind it all. We are all unique, we all have different visions and dreams, we all go through different obstacles, but in the end I want YOU to do what YOU want to do and enjoy every minute of it. Never let a minute go by without a smile on your face. Give thanks, go outside, read a book, live YOUR life, do what makes you happy, and just be. Thank you again for this scholarship opportunity.



From: San Ramon, CA
Attending: Boise State University

James, Nathan picI express my sincere gratitude for the Cleft Palate Foundation College Scholarship.  It reminds me that despite my physical difference, I can still achieve, and others place trust in my continued success.  The scholarship will also alleviate some of the pressure on my family’s finances.  While in college, I will pursue my interests in American Politics, find ways to become involved in the community, and look for new interests to explore.  Right now, I am considering majors in Secondary Education, Political Science, and Mathematics.  I will also seek information about careers in National Security.

One community activity that I particularly enjoy is volunteer coaching for youth flag football leagues.  This allows me to work with youths to develop their athletic and teamwork skills, and help them grow as individuals.  I grow as well through my volunteer service; my leadership skills are challenged by others and by unexpected situations that may arise.  One interesting experience I enjoyed last summer was a week-long program I attended at the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) in Washington, D.C.  I participated in the program on American Political Action and Public Policy.  While there, I worked alongside other passionate individuals on mock Presidential campaigns, mock Senate committees and debates, and various team-building exercises; I also got a chance to visit some of the monuments and museums in the nation’s capital.  The experience increased my interest in American Politics and gave me insight into college life, as I stayed at American University for the entire week I was there.


Andrew Kline – Earl “Gip” Seaver, PhD Scholarship Award

From: North Aurora, IL
Attending: Loyola University Chicago


Russell Llave

From: Phoenix, AZ
Attending: Duke University

I am very grateful for receiving this scholarship as it will lessen the financial strain of college. I was born with a cleft lip. Thanks to my great doctors and my supportive parents, I had multiple surgeries, speech therapy, and many years with braces. Now, all that’s left of the cleft lip is a tiny scar above my mouth.

In high school, I was fascinated with all the science classes I had taken. So, during my junior year, I contacted professors at my local university and performed research at a biomedical engineering lab. After that, I decided to major in biomedical engineering in college.

Outside of the classroom, I frequently volunteered in and out of my school. Some of my favorite places to volunteer are Feed my Starving Children, where I packed food that would be sent to areas in the world that needed it, and the Barton House, a place that takes care of individuals with Alzheimer’s. There, during Christmas time, I played piano for them and decorated their homes. My friends and I also created a tutoring organization where we privately tutor kids and donate the money from that private tutoring to organizations that educate special needs children.

In my free time, I love playing games, whether it be sports (my favorites are basketball, football, and ping pong), card games, board games, or video games. I also enjoy reading books and playing piano.

Thanks again to the Cleft Palate Foundation for selecting me as a scholarship recipient!


Gabrielle Martini

From: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Attending: University of Florida

Martini, Gabrielle picI am incredibly honored to be a recipient of the Cleft Palate Foundation Scholarship. This scholarship is not only an inspiration but also a motivation for me to continue my hard work during and after college. I am a woman with many aspirations, and I have a goal to gain knowledge and receive a strong education.

I am currently a student at Dwyer High School in the Academy of Finance Program. This summer, I will be attending the University of Florida with a goal to study medicine. I want to attend graduate school and eventually become a plastic surgeon. Throughout my life, I have had several plastic surgeries to repair my cleft palate and revise tracheotomy, g-tube and j-tube scars. After recognizing the impact that these surgeons had on my life, I have been driven to reciprocate and help others.

Currently, I run cross country and track, and play basketball and lacrosse. I love to go the beach, attend concerts, and hang out with friends. My community is very important to me. Thus, I have made it imperative that I do whatever I can in my power to get involved and give back to the community of people who once helped save my life. Throughout my four years of high school, I was involved with a special needs program (The Outreach Program for Soccer) and have become a leader of 5 clubs at my school. In addition to my active leadership, I have worked hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA and hold a class rank in the top 7%.

Having a cleft palate was one of the hardest things I have had to overcome physically and socially. However, it has only made me a stronger person. I am so thankful to have a support team of parents, siblings and friends who have been there for me through my countless surgeries.

Thank you so much for awarding me this amazing scholarship!


Morgan Mitchell – Virginia “Ginger” Hinton, PhD Scholarship Award

From: Spanish Fort, AL
Attending: University of Southern Mississippi

Mitchell, Morgan picI would like to first express my sincere thanks to the Cleft Palate Foundation for awarding me the Ginger Hinton Scholarship. I am so honored to receive this remarkable award; it is so special to be recognized for all of my hard work and persistence after being born with a unilateral cleft lip. I am so grateful for my wonderful team of doctors and orthodontists – Dr. John Grant and Dr. Peter Waite from Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Dr. Kevin Pickett and Dr. Steadman McMurphy from Spanish Fort – and their generous efforts in perfecting my smile.

This year I had the opportunity to be a senior intern at the public library in my town, and this is actually what inspired me to major in Library and Information Sciences at the Honors College of the University of Southern Mississippi. I loved every part of it, from shelving books to working at the desk. Reading is my favorite hobby since it allows me to travel to different worlds, so being surrounded by shelves and shelves of books every day as a librarian seemed like the perfect career for me. My new ambitious dream is to intern at an Ivy League school library or even study abroad in London. I think it is important to have big goals that push me to always do my best in the effort to achieve them.

In high school, I was a member of the National Honor Society and President of Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society. While balancing the workload of an AP student, I also played percussion in both the marching and symphonic bands at my school. I participated in Key Club and earned the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards as a Girl Scout, as well as the Presidential Service Award for completing at least one hundred hours of service in my community. For my Gold Award, I founded Delicate Embrace Angel Gowns, a program that supplies bereavement gowns for infants that do not make it out of the hospital. This project was especially important to me because, with my own birth defects, I understand that not every baby is born healthy. I wanted to do something to help the mourning parents who have lost their loved one.

Thank you once again to Cleft Palate Foundation for their kind contribution to my studies and academics! Being gifted with this scholarship has shown me that anything is possible with a little bit of perseverance and dedication.



From: Torrance, CA
Attending: University of California- Berkeley

Ni, Pauline picNi, Pauline picNi, Pauline picNi, Pauline pic_resizeI am very honored and grateful to be recognized by the Cleft Palate Foundation as a scholarship recipient. This scholarship will undoubtedly enrich my experiences in college as I pursue my academic endeavors. During the fall, I will be attending the University of California – Berkeley, where I plan on majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis on neurobiology. Throughout high school, I participated in the school marching band and drumline. Outside of school, I volunteered at the Torrance Chinese School and local hospital. As someone who was born with a cleft lip, I understand the countless sacrifices my parents had to make in order to raise me. With the help of this scholarship, I hope to fulfill my potentials and assure my parents that the sacrifices they made have truly helped me achieve success.


Bridget Nolan

From: North Scituate, RI
Attending: Sacred Heart University

Nolan, Bridget picFirst off, I would like to share my extreme gratitude for the Cleft Palate Foundation for chosing me as one of their scholarship recipients this year. While receiving any scholarship is a huge accomplishment, I am especially honored to receive this one because of the people this organization aims to help. I was born with Hemifacial Microsomia/Goldenhar syndrome, and have endured countless operations to correct this condition. This fall I will be attending Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. I am in the accelerated 3+3 Doctor of Physical Therapy program, and will be majoring in exercise science. When I graduate I plan to specialize as a physical therapist for deaf athletes.

I have always enjoyed playing sports. Throughout my life I have tried many sports, but I loved gymnastics, lacrosse and soccer. I played lacrosse and soccer for my high school teams, and competed as a gymnast for an outside team. Along with sports, I played in my school’s band as a clarinetist for 5 years and was vice president of the chess club. Because I missed a lot of school time from surgeries and doctors appointments, I had to be good at picking things up quickly. This helped me in all aspects of my life. Academically, I was ranked 7th in my grade and was inducted into National Honors Society, Rhode Island Honors Society and MENSA. Having good grades was important to me because I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field because I wanted to give back to the community that has helped me extensively.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always loved to be a part of things and help people in any way I could. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work for my church, and at a hospital nearby. When I’m not playing sports, at school or doing volunteer work, I also love the beach. Living in the ocean state, I’ve spent a lot of time in the water, and I love to surf. Despite having to face many obstacles because of my hemifacial microsomia, I’ve been able to live a pretty normal life thanks to my doctors and organizations like the Cleft Palate Foundation. Once again, I would just like to give a big thank you to the Cleft Palate foundation for the scholarship, and for all the work they do to help people with cleft palates and craniofacial abnormalities.



From: Pembroke Pines, FL
Attending: University of Florida

Pristas, Amber picI am appreciative and honored that the Cleft Palate Association has selected me to be a recipient of one of the 2016 scholarships. Being born with Van der Woude Syndrome meant that I had a submucous cleft palate, lip pits, and am missing some of my adult teeth. For many years, I went for speech therapy and also had multiple surgeries. However, this diagnosis, has made me into the strong individual I am today.

Attending the University of Florida has been a goal of mine for most of my life so I am extremely excited to be starting school there this summer. This scholarship will help me with the many college expenses. My plan is to study Health Sciences and hopefully do medical research while at UF.

Being involved in community service has been an important part of my life so far, and I hope to continue to help others through my college years and after.

In high school, I was involved in Student Government, cheerleading, and various other extracurricular activities. For three years, I volunteered as a junior coach at West Pembroke Pines Optimist. It was an amazing experience because I wasn’t just teaching the children how to cheer, but I was also serving as a role model for these young girls and setting them on the right path. The most rewarding project I worked on, though, was Paint for Amber’s Passion, raising an estimate of $3,000. Planning and hosting this event for Make-a-Wish was something that I will be proud of forever. This past year, as a senior in high school, I interned at Chapel Trail Elementary for a kindergarten class. This opportunity was one I’ll never forget, and it’s taught me important skills that I can use for the rest of my life.



From: Ocala, FL
Attending: Rutgers University

Redheffer, Sarah picI am extremely grateful to be chosen to accept this scholarship. As a young student on the brink of the future, every little bit helps. I am not simply referring to the monetary gain, but to the support the Cleft Palate Foundation has given by recognizing me. I was born in the Czech Republic with unilateral deafness and aural atresia. The most major impact this condition has had is its effect on my self-esteem. Coupled with moving to the United States, I became an introverted child, all too aware of my differences.

It was art and inspiration that brought me out of this shell. By the age of six I was enrolled in dance lessons. In ballet class I was not the foreign girl with the funny accent, we were all students of movement, learning for the first time. I soon fell in love with the art and gained not only in artistry but confidence. Throughout my high school career I dedicated up to twenty hours a week to dance. Not only as student but also as part of the Marion Ballet Theatre in which I participated in at least two full-scale productions a year. I also became involved in choreography, making pieces for the Ocala Dance Festival as well as the Domestic Violence Convention. My artistic fervor transferred to my academic career as I strove to challenge myself and I am proud to have graduated with highest honors from the IB program.

As for the future, I plan to marry art and academia. I will be attending Rutgers University in the fall and double majoring in modern dance and international relations. I hope to dance in a company out of college but I am aware that the career of a dancer is often short and unstable. After I am no longer dance I want to join the Peace Corps. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have been so lucky to have and want to give back and make a tangible difference. This will also contribute to my aspiration to use my international relations degree to work for the state department in a U.S embassy.

The Cleft Palate Foundation provides me, and so many others, the chance to follow these dreams that will hopefully end in success. Yet it is not necessarily the end prize that is the most important, but the growth and acceptance of yourself as a person. I am not the first to feel the keen sting from being different. In many ways I am lucky because I could cover part of the difference with my hair. But I no longer feel the need to hide. So be it, if I feel like wearing my hair in a ponytail, I shall. But this extends farther than a hairstyle; I have learned that differences are not something to be ashamed of. Uniqueness should be celebrated no matter the form.


Nicolas Rinehart

From: El Reno, OK
Attending: Texas Christian University

I would like to start off by saying thank you to the Cleft Palate Foundation as well as my wonderful team of doctors I have had over my life. I was born with a rare type of facial cleft. Throughout my life I have always tried to not let my cleft be something that holds me back, but instead propels me to greatness. At El Reno High School, I have been a member of the choir, student council, class valedictorian and have served as a 4-year member of the tennis team. This past year I was awarded Oklahoma Academic All-State as one of the top 100 academic achievers in my state. I enjoy participating in various community service projects such as Refuge Fellowship where we go and provide worship and dinner for the homeless of Oklahoma City. After high school I will be attending Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth and majoring in chemistry with premed track. I will use the scholarship money to pay for tuition and room fees at TCU. My ultimate goal is to go to med school and become an ophthalmologist or cleft surgeon so I can help children who were in a similar circumstance as myself. I think that as a doctor working with other children who have clefts, I would be able to have empathy for both the patient and the parents. I would encourage other people who have clefts to share their story of their journey and to view your cleft as something that makes you unique and special. My favorite bible verse when I get discouraged about any situation I may be in would be Matthew 19:26 in which Jesus says “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


Kristin Robinson

From: Savage, MN
Attending: University of Minnesota- Twin Cities

Robinson, Kristin pic_cropFrom the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for choosing me to be a recipient of this scholarship. I will always remember that the foundation helped me achieve my goals of a higher education.

I was born with a cleft palate and had several surgeries as I grew up. I am forever grateful to the team of specialists that worked with me through the years at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Also, I am thankful for my speech therapist at my elementary school for working with me.

At Burnsville High School, I have participated in National Honor Society, Youth Service, and Cross Country. This fall was my fifth year on my Cross Country team, and I was honored to be voted as captain. I won’t be running in Cross Country in college, but I will continue to run as much as I can. Sometime in the next couple years, I am planning to run a marathon. I also enjoy photography, films, and reading anything I can get my hands on.

This fall, I am attending the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. My major will be in biochemistry with a minor in Spanish studies. During high school, I was lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to learn about their culture, ecosystem, and immerse myself in the language. It was an experience that inspired me to travel to other Spanish-speaking countries while studying abroad and later in my career to conduct field research. After receiving my bachelors degree, I will go on to graduate school to get a PhD in my field of study. This will help me gain a leadership position while conducting scientific research for my career. Currently, I am planning to have a medical or environmental focus in my career. My dream is to help as many people as I can through my research and in my personal life.


Nicholas Shoemaker

From: Alpine, CA
Attending: Utah Valley University

Shoemaker, Nicholas pic_cropThank you so much to the Cleft Palate Foundation for this Scholarship. This award will help with costs of attending college at Utah Valley University this fall and possibly allow me to participate in extra-curricular activities while studying and earning my degree in Mechanical Engineering.

I very much enjoy and am very passionate about mountain biking; it’s just so much fun and exhilarating. I have been on two wheels since I was two and have always enjoyed it. During my freshmen year of high school, my friends and I saved our money, bought mountain bikes, and started to ride together. We were all hooked. Since then I have been able to progress in my skills, meet new people, and just have a great time with friends out on the trails. My local bike shop every Wednesday does a shop ride where we all pile into a van and put our bikes on their trailer and they shuttle us to trails. I look forward to it every week and it’s a lot of fun. I am also involved in scouting and just earned my Eagle Scout Award. I enjoy scouting very much too from serving and helping others to fun and exciting adventures.

One of my goals for the future is to have a career within the mountain bike industry. If I can snatch a career in the mountain bike industry, I will have fun while on the clock and off the clock as well. In particular, I want to work for a bike company named Specialized. I would like to be in the designing field to help create faster and better bikes. My plan to fulfill this goal is to attend Utah Valley University majoring in Mechanical Engineering and go on to take all the courses I would need in order to fit the qualifications to work and design for Specialized. Achieving my career as a Mechanical Engineer and working at my dream job at Specialized blended with service to others in my community and church will foster a balance between my commitment to succeed in my future career and engaging in things I love.

Once again, thank you for the scholarship! I feel honored to have received this award from the Cleft Palate Foundation as it will help with the costs of schooling which can be very expensive.


Sara Skarshaug

From: Traverse City, MI
Attending: University of Indianapolis

Skarshaug, Sarah picI would like to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for selecting me to be a recipient of this fantastic scholarship, I’m so grateful for all they have done for students such as myself! I was born with Crouzons Syndrome and thanks to the outstanding surgeons at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott hospital, I have been able to participate in a variety of activities throughout my life.

I have been an avid figure skater for 10 years, and I have been a member of the Traverse City Combined High School Figure Skating Team for all four years of high school. Additionally, I have been a member of National Honor Society and Key Club during my high school career, as well as a Freshmen Mentor.

My experiences with Crouzons Syndrome have allowed me to become interested in the different aspects of the medical field. Throughout my life I have developed a passion for helping others, and the profession I feel helped me the most both emotionally and physically is occupational therapy. That’s why I have chosen to continue my education at the University of Indianapolis. I can’t wait to start a career in the field that has done so much to help me recover from the surgeries that come with my condition.

I’m so thankful for support the Cleft Palate Foundation and the help they have given to so many students like me who want to pursue a college education! This scholarship will help me reach my academic goals and reach my full potential in college. I would like to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation once again for this great honor!


Delaney VanWey

From: Gowanda, NY
Attending: Syracuse University

VanWey, Delaney picI would like to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for honoring me with a scholarship this year. They have an incredible pool of talent to draw from and I am honored to be among those selected. It means the world to me to have continued support of my college endeavors, as it is extremely difficult nowadays to have a job that can fully support you while also taking classes and participating in extra-curricular activities.

While attending Syracuse University, I have kept myself busy by taking on two majors and a minor in addition to being a leader in a club and an editor for my school newspaper, The Daily Orange. My majors are Newspaper and Online Journalism and International Relations, with a minor in Spanish. My focus is in Latin America, which I will expand on when I study in Chile for 5 months next semester, with an additional month in Ecuador. I hope to someday write about issues in Latin America or in Latino communities in the United States, in order to help give a voice to underrepresented people.

I love to travel and have been to Costa Rica, Mexico, Italy, Hawaii and Cozumel. I’m excited to be adding Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador and Peru to my list next semester through a Spanish-intensive study abroad program. I also enjoy working with internationally focused organizations. The Syracuse University chapter of Nourish International, for which I am Marketing Director, partners with a local nonprofit in the Oyam District of Uganda every year to build small economic and health projects that locals continue developing after we leave. I also enjoy going to concerts and try to go to as many as I can.

With a cleft lip and cleft palate, it was difficult for me to be confident growing up. Legions of doctors, nurses and family members have helped support me over the years and have given me the power to speak up for myself and pursue my goals. Organizations like the Cleft Palate Foundation help give kids like me the ability to pursue their future.


Beth Wuger

From: Claremont, MN
Attending: University of Minnesota- Twin Cities

Wuger, Beth picI cannot express enough gratitude for being selected as one of the recipients of Cleft Palate Foundation scholarships. As soon as I saw “Congratulations,” happiness flooded over me. This scholarship means a great deal to me; it recognizes students who—like me—have had challenges with cleft lip and palate while achieving the best in their education. Cleft Palate Foundation’s generosity will provide me a better opportunity to reach my academic goals in college.

I was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate and was treated by my excellent team of doctors at Mayo Clinic. They have helped me to overcome the many challenges since my birth. I am also thankful for my friends and family who have been loving and supportive through the hardships. Although, I would never ask to be born without cleft lip and palate; it has made me a better person.

In the fall, I will attend the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities majoring in Art. All throughout my life, I have been fond of putting my creative works of my imagination onto paper. Over the years, being exposed to the wonders of animation of the Disney Renaissance, I fell in love with the idea to one day animate a movie such as Beauty and the Beast. Watching movie after movie, I realized how much they really effected my dreams and goals as a child. Animation makes many other people very happy. I wish to do the same for the many generations to come.


Hannah Yackley

From: Saint Stephen, MN
Attending: University of Wisconsin La Crosse

Yackley, Hannah picI am incredibly honored to be one of the 2016 Cleft Palate Foundation Scholarship recipients. This scholarship will help me greatly in my education next year, and I am proud to represent this organization in my studies. It is extremely rewarding to be recognized for my accomplishments by an organization that is so dear to my heart. I was born with a cleft palate and will have received five major surgeries throughout my lifetime by the time I start school; one of these surgeries will occur shortly after my high school graduation. Living with a cleft can be extremely difficult, and this scholarship offers a sense of hope to everybody who has been affected by a craniofacial defect in his or her lifetime.

Throughout my high school experience, I have been heavily involved in extracurricular activities. I have served as the president of my student council, a member of my school’s dance team, a member of the National Honor’s Society, a school board representative, and the president of my school’s Spanish Club. These activities have helped me to realize my passion for helping others. I hope to join similar activities next year at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. In my free time I enjoy rollerblading, camping, kayaking, reading, and spending time with family and friends. My greatest accomplishment was being named a central Minnesota 2 Under 20 winner, which recognizes two young adults each year in the categories of leadership, service, and academics.

I will be studying microbiology and Spanish next year in college. I am incredibly passionate about these topics and hope to use both for a career in the medical field. I hope to someday become an immunologist and work on treatments for prevalent diseases. My doctors and surgeons have inspired me to work to enhance the lives of others in my future. Being in a medical setting so often sparked my interest in the field at a young age. My ultimate dream is to someday work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

I am incredibly thankful for my family, friends, and amazing doctors who have helped me throughout this journey. I would also like to sincerely thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for its devotion towards the well being of others and for this scholarship. I would not be the person that I am today without my cleft palate, and I hope other people affected by similar situations will surpass the challenges and reach their own goals in life. I have no regrets in my medical journey, and I know this experience has made me a stronger and more determined young woman. Thank you again for selecting me as a recipient for this wonderful award.



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