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2017 Recipients

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2017 CPF Scholarship Recipients!

Many thanks to our generous donors.

CPF gratefully acknowledges 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 2017 CPF Scholars:


Carlos Arias Vivas

From: Stamford, Connecticut
Attending: University of Pennsylvania
Arias Vivas, Carlos pic

The Cleft Palate Foundation’s Scholarship is very important to me because I am honored to be recognized as a scholarship recipient, and I finally found a community of people like me. I am truly honored to have been chosen amongst amazing students who also have a passion for higher education. With this scholarship, I am able to fund my studies and pursue a degree in Communications at the University of Pennsylvania this fall.

I am a current senior at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE) in Stamford, CT. Outside of school, I am very interested in learning languages. Currently, I am trying to master French. I have had the opportunity to take Spanish and French for the past four years. Also, I have had the chance to study abroad to France in high school. Since I fell in love with language learning, I am now interested in pursuing another major in French. In college, I hope to study abroad in France again. Throughout high school, I have been a member and President of the Spanish National Honor Society for the past three years. In addition, I have been a member for the National Honor Society and the Science National Honor Society at my school. I thoroughly enjoy being in all three societies because of what they stand for. I feel that I am working hard in my community through volunteering at events and programs. While trying to juggle all of these extra-curricular activities, I managed to maintain a 4.88 GPA and be in the top 1% of my graduating class.

For the longest time, I did not know about the cleft-craniofacial community.  I thought there were no other students like me in the area. So, it was very hard to relate to other students, and it was difficult to explain to them the scar I had on my lip. However, I am glad that I have found this organization. I realize all the connections I can make with other people in this community now. As I navigate through my college years and beyond, I would love to get more involved in this sector and promote awareness about these very important causes!


Andrew Bardsley

From: Rolesville, North Carolina
Attending: North Carolina State University


Michael Cummings

From: Mills River, North Carolina
Attending: North Carolina State University


Diego Enriquez

From: Chicago, Illinois
Attending: University of Illinois at Chicago

Enriquez, Diego picWord cannot express the gratitude I have for this amazing scholarship the Cleft Palate Foundation has granted me. With this gift, I will be able to focus on my education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and not have as much pressure with regards to financial stability. I will be majoring in Nursing, with the hopes of becoming a Registered Nurse in the near future.

When I was about a year old, I was diagnosed with craniosynostosis. At that time, I was living in Ecuador. I moved to the United States in 2003. Since then, I’ve been living in Chicago. One of my favorite passions is music. Ever since I was a little kid I would be amazed at how impactful music can be on people’s’ lives. The way music can make you feel a particular sensation or emotion; the way it can allow people to communicate without the same linguistic capabilities. Currently, I have been playing the viola at my high school’s Sinfonietta Orchestra and plan to continue with music as a hobby.

One characteristic that I consider essential in ensuring one’s success is determination. This quality can be portrayed through hard work and perseverance. Once one has established their goals, it is imperative to fight for one wants in this world. A driving force willing you to push past the limits that may be placed in your path allows for your dreams to become a reality.

Thank you again Cleft Palate Foundation!


Emily Everlith- Peter Randall, MD / Don LaRossa, MD Scholarship Award

From: Hebron, Connecticut
Attending: Yale University

Everlith, Emily picFirst off, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Cleft Palate Foundation for selecting me as a recipient for this scholarship. While this award is financially supporting my education at Yale University, it means so much more to me than that, because it reminds me that there is such a strong support network for those out there united by common adversity. I was born with unilateral cleft lip and palate; some might allow a birth defect like mine to define and limit them. I, however, have chosen to use the challenges I have faced to help me become a stronger person and help others in the best way that I can.

Growing up with a visible birth defect, I learned resilience at a very young age. Throughout my years in elementary school, I was constantly asked about the “booger” under my nose, forced to explain that it is actually a scar. In addition, I had ten surgeries during my childhood and braces for ten years. Sometimes the surgeries placed limits on simple abilities, like what I could eat and do. For example, when I was in third grade, I had a bone graft operation, which put me on a liquid diet from May through October. While this seems excruciating, I made the best out of the situation, and discovered that you really can put anything in a blender for dinner. These experiences have taught me how to work with such restrictions and never lose my creative optimism.

In the later years of my schooling, I hardly noticed that I was different. Aside from the occasional questions about my scars, I was rarely reminded of my birth defect. As I grew older, however, I became more aware of my flaws. As a typical self-consciousness teenage girl, I was extremely aware of my braces. It was painful seeing all of my friends’ mouths metal-free after only a year or two, while I had a silver smile for over a decade.  Yet, while I am self-conscious about my appearance at times, I am never self-conscious about why I look the way I do. I am not embarrassed by the fact that I was born differently.

When I was in eighth grade, I created a Facebook page called “Emily First Hand: Cleft Lip and Palate and Craniofacial.” I have used this page since then to help spread awareness and companionship all over the world. I reach thousands of viewers, and use the page to help people feel less alone when dealing with this intimidating life experience. In recent years, I have been using the website to sell car magnets in a non-profit fundraiser that I have organized to raise money for Operation Smile, and have raised nearly $10,000 for a cause about which I am truly passionate.

During my high school chemistry class, we watched an emotional video about all the negative health effects of nuclear radiation in Chernobyl, Ukraine. I was both captivated and inspired watching the doctors heal children born with a myriad of defects. The video also caused me to realize how fortunate I am to live in a nation where I am able to easily get the proper operations for my facial and dental issues. Therefore, my ultimate goal in life is to become affiliated in some way with a cleft lip and palate association that works to heal children in Third World countries.

Since arriving at Yale, I have taken many classes within the pre-medicine track in order to lead me towards this goal. I am majoring in the History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health.  Outside of my studies, I spent the majority of my time with my a cappella group, Something Extra. As a child, I was told that my speaking and singing abilities would be extremely limited, so I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to sing at a collegiate level. My a cappella group contains most of my dearest friends, and I was lucky enough to be their musical director this past year. We have traveled a lot together, including locations such as Boston, Dallas, London, Florence, and Rome, making many memories that I know I will cherish for my entire life.

This summer, I will be studying abroad in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to further my education with respect to international history. I am very excited, as it will be my second time leaving the country (the first being when I went on tour with Something Extra). I also a volunteer for the CT Mission of Mercy dental clinics, and I hope to shadow at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in the coming months.

All my life, I have been pushing to not let cleft lip and palate define me as a person, and yet if I am honest, I must admit that it absolutely has defined me, not as a person who has a defect, but rather a person who is grateful, strong and resilient. And now, I have chosen to let it define who I want to be in the world. Despite my numerous operations and a decade of braces, I will forever be thankful for being the one in 1,000 born with cleft lip and palate, and am even more grateful to the Cleft Palate Foundation for supporting me in my life goals.


Luke Harrison

From: Longview, Texas
Attending: Texas A&M University

Harrison, Luke picI am so blessed to have been chosen for this scholarship by the Cleft Palate Foundation. This scholarship will help me pursue a degree in Biomedical Engineering with a possibility of medical school in the future.

I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. Since I was four months old, I have had ten surgeries to correct my cleft, my most recent being a facial reconstruction a year and a half ago. I cannot thank enough the Children’s Medical City team in Dallas, Texas enough, specifically Dr. Byrd and Dr. Ha for giving me my best shot at normality. They are both so talented and caring, and I am so grateful for them.

My passion is the theater. I have had the opportunity to participate in my school’s productions every year of high school. I was able to be Mr. Doolittle in Pygmalion, The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins.

A thought I have for the cleft craniofacial community would be this: If you are someone with a craniofacial birth defect, have faith because the best is always yet to come. It is a difficult journey to travel, but doors are being opened that never would have existed if you had not gone through the things you have. There are so many other people out there that can learn from your story and be inspired by your perseverance and strength. If you are a person who knows of someone like us with a craniofacial defect, understand that we are no different than anyone else. Everyone has a cross to bear, or a problem to deal with; our’s is just a little more obvious than
some. We are a strong group of people who have experienced a lot in a short amount of time, and we love to smile just as much as anyone does. So do not allow something like a birth defect to hinder you from getting to know us as people because we are pretty great people:)

Having this birth defect has been a hindrance in many ways. However, the things it has allowed me to do and the things it has allowed me to find out about myself are amazing. And, honestly, being put through the things I have, has made me a better person; a person who is less judgmental, and more understanding and caring of others.


Hannahmarie Mitchell- CPF Vocational/Technical School Scholarship Award

From: Chino, California
Attending: The Los Angeles Film School

Mitchell, Hannahmarie pic







 Sean-Wyn Ng

From: Mesa, Arizona
Attending: Princeton University

Ng, Sean-Wyn picI am incredibly grateful to have received a scholarship from the Cleft Palate Foundation. I was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate, and I’ve had several surgeries to correct this ever since I was a few months old, but through the expertise of my surgeons and the support of my family, I’ve been able to overcome these obstacles and become who I am today.

In my free time, I enjoy reading novels, playing the cello, and spending time with my six-year old sister. I also volunteer at my local library, teach at my church daycare, and spend time on service projects for my school. Additionally, I love traveling, and I’ve been to Malaysia several times since that’s where my family is from.

I will be attending Princeton University in the fall and will major in a field relating to sociology or chemistry. At Princeton, I hope to join a cultural advocacy group, play in the orchestra, and engage in community service. After college, I plan to either join a nonprofit or attend graduate school in my field of study. Receiving this scholarship has put me on track to pursue my dreams, and I’d like to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for supporting the cleft-craniofacial community through their generosity.


Andrew Paulson

From: Lennox, South Dakota
Attending: Augustana University

Paulson, Andrew picWhen I graduate from high school, I plan to pursue degrees in biology and philosophy. From there, I hope to someday use my biology degree to pursue an advanced degree in medicine. Being born premature with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate, I spent much of my childhood in doctors’ offices and hospitals.  I hope to be able to heal and help others the way I have been helped in my lifetime.  I have always felt a calling to want to help others and I feel pursuing a degree in medicine is one way I can do so.

I have always enjoyed science classes all throughout high school, but biology has been my favorite.  My interest in biology started when I took a genetics course over the summer my freshman year of high school and has continued after I have been able to take further biology courses. Learning about cellular respiration and DNA synthesis amazed me, and caused my interest to grow.  I may have struggled medically with more than 15 surgeries and the need for years of therapies, but I was blessed with the ability to learn.  The challenges of math and science have always intrigued me and made me want to pursue and grow that knowledge.  I am now graduating as Valedictorian, and this scholarship will help me go to the university that I want to attend but is a challenge for my family financially.

When I am not studying I enjoy music, and play the piano, percussion in a variety of instruments, and sing tenor in a number of choirs.

I have learned that my cleft does not define me.  It has brought me unmeasurable pain and suffering, but the lessons it has taught me have also brought me joy.  I’ve learned that I am stronger than I ever thought possible, I’m loved more than I ever realized, and that God’s grace will help me carry any cross I will ever bear.  I’ve also learned that I want to be a physician – to help those going through the pain and suffering that I have felt, and let them know I will be by their side too.


Laura Perrault

From: Salem, New Hampshire
Attending: Boston College

Perrault, Laura picMy name is Laura Perrault, and I will be attending Boston College in the Fall to study Chemistry and Mathematics hopefully with a minor in leadership! I believe that this is the right fit for me because I have developed a passion for the science and math fields, mostly because my mind works best not by memorizing but being able to take information and apply it to other scenarios. I have also wanted to continue my passion for leadership after having served many positions in high school, including student body president and key club vice president. Right now, I have the goal of becoming a veterinarian and opening my own veterinary hospital, however I want to be able to widen my horizons to the many paths I can take with my majors. My favorite community service activity that I have partaken in is through my Key Club, where each year we plan and host our own Make-A-Wish Dinner. The past two years, we have raised over $20,000 to send two local girls on the wish of a lifetime, as one went to Greece and the other Disney World. Getting to meet the families and learn how the experience has impacted them differently than it has myself really highlighted my passion for service and instilled that I want to stay involved in my future. I also have played field hockey and softball during my high school career. I am extremely grateful for this scholarship and the inspiring message behind the foundation as a whole, and I am so thankful that you all have believed in me enough to fund my education! Thank you so so much!


Sara Pollak

From: Wilton, Connecticut
Attending: Endicott College

Pollak, Sara picI was born with no fingers, no toes, and an abnormal shaped head. At first, the doctors had no idea what was wrong with me. They grabbed every medical book they could as my parents patiently and eagerly waited. They figured out that I have Apert Syndrome, a craniofacial abnormality that affects my hands, feet, skull and face. My parents did not know what lied ahead for them, they did not know what to expect, but above everything else, they did not know how my future life would turn out.

After 31 major surgeries on my hands, feet, skull, and face, I am now happier than ever. I surf, run, dance, and do as many “typical” things. At the age of 15, my dream of surfing became a reality; I was finally able and ready to stand on a board and ride a wave. With hard work and countless hours studying the sport of surfing, I stood and rode my first wave, living up to my dreams and realizing that dreams do come true. From that experience, my surf instructor,his mom, my mom, and I co-founded Cowabunga Surf Retreat for disabled teens. The surf retreat allows teens to feel the same joy, exhilaration, and happiness that I did in the water. It’s a life changing experience and I am so grateful that I was a part of the journey!

The word college means different things for different people. However for my parents, it was a question that they asked themselves a million times, over and over and over again as they supported me with tutors and academic support. Will our daughter be able to go to college? Will she have the ability? Questions that could not be answered until today. Today is the day, the sun is shining, there’s a warm breeze in the air, and we just sent in the deposit; the big one, the big kahuna, and now it’s time to relax, go shopping, pick my classes, pick a roommate, configure our dorm room, and do so many things that my parents and I questioned.

College is a new beginning for me. However, without many scholarships and the generosity of the Cleft Palate Foundation Scholarship, I would not be able to go to my dream school. The scholarship will help fund my higher education at Endicott College in Beverly, MA to pursue a major in Hospitality Management (event planning) and a minor in communications. I am so grateful for this award and cannot wait to start my adult life while studying at Endicott College, because truth be told, we only get one shot.


Elise Schiller- Earl “Gip” Seaver, PhD Scholarship Award

From: St. Louis, Missouri
Attending: Trinity College Dublin

Schiller, Elise photoThank you, Cleft Palate Foundation, for awarding me this scholarship! I am astonished by the amount of dedication this foundation has in me and that they feel I am deserving of such a remarkable scholarship. At birth, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic syndrome known as Branchio Oculo Facial Syndrome which is characterized by the pseudocleft of the upper lip, a malformed nose with a broad bridge and flattened tip, blockage of the tear ducts, malformed ears, and skin lesions behind the ears. This syndrome left me blind, deaf, and physically unique.

In my lifetime, I have endured around 15 surgeries, all of which have prepared me for the obstacles I would face outside the hospital room. When I was in fourth grade, one of my peers said “Why do you get special treatment because you have special needs?” At the time, I thought she was crazy. I had already figured out I looked different by that point because all my classmates gave me obscure looks, trying to figure out if I was mentally challenged or not. I tried to refrain from letting my looks affect me, but as a pre-teen girl with facial malformities living in a community full of blonde, skinny supermodels, it was hard to come to the realization that I am beautiful. Not by TV or movie standards, but on the inside, where it really matters. Yes, I received special treatment through Individualized Education Plans and assistive technology. Yes, I look different. But if I looked like those girls, the girls I spent the majority of my elementary and secondary schooling with, the girls I aspired to be until I came to terms with who I am, I probably would not have had the option to even consider the school I am going to attend this fall because I would not have pushed myself to the extent I have.

My “special needs” and my differences did not define me, I defined them. I showed everyone I could do the impossible, I could pursue my dreams and actually reach them. I was selected as a member of the National Honor Society and as a writer for my school’s award-winning yearbook. Yearbook was exciting for me because I got to share stories that would have gone unheard and I got to learn about the student body in a point of view I had never experienced before all through my favorite thing: writing. I later fell in love with a psychology class I took my junior year. Now, I plan on majoring in psychology which I plan to use in my career working with children and teenagers with special needs. I want to motivate other people to rise above their limitations and conquer their goals. Most of all, I want them to have someone to talk to who actually understands what they are going through. When I was a child, I did not have a role model who understood my “disability”, one who went through it firsthand, but as an adult, I want to be that person for future generations. Looks are trivial in the scheme of things. It is not the supermodels who go to Harvard or create the next hit smartphone, it is the people who worked hard in school and have prepared their whole life to do what they love. So, to all of you who do not think you are worth-it or do not think there is a chance you belong in the world, you do. Find what you love and use it to make your mark on the world, showing everyone how special are.


James Schweizer

From: Atlanta, Georgia
Attending: University of New England


Savannah Stewart

From: Greenback, Tennessee
Attending: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Stewart, Savannah pic

I am beyond honored and grateful to have been chosen as a recipient for this scholarship. My family has had to burden extensive medical costs as a result of my cleft lip and palate, so any aid towards releasing further financial strains as a result of my college is greatly appreciated.

I am planning to major in environmental sciences and to pursue a career in environmental law. I have always had a passion for nature and the environment, and I hope to dedicate my life to it’s protection and reconciliation. Volunteering for the Tennessee Clean Water Network and working alongside environmental lawyers helped me to understand the significant impact that they make and made me want to spend my life contributing as well. Additionally, I love playing tennis in my free time, as well as participating in my school’s Debate Club.

I would like to thank my diligent team of doctors at the University of North Carolina’s Craniofacial Center for their hard work and dedication. Because of them, I am able to live my life freely and to the fullest. Again, I cannot thank the Cleft palate Foundation enough for bestowing this scholarship upon me.


 Taite Winter

From: Sacramento, California
Attending: Washington State University

Winter, Taite picI am very honored to be selected as one of the recipients of the 2017 Cleft Palate Foundation College Scholarship. I was born with a cleft lip and palate and it is humbling to receive a scholarship from an organization so close to my heart. This scholarship will be helpful in assisting me financially as I pursue my undergraduate degree.

I am currently finishing the last semester of my freshman year at Washington State University where I am studying Speech and Hearing Sciences. My ultimate goal is to attend graduate school to become a licensed speech language pathologist. Although I experienced only minor speech problems, I still have fond memories of my interactions with the speech therapist as a young girl. I love the opportunity that this career presents me to help people of various ages overcome their troubles with swallowing and sound production. Additionally, I would love to be involved in cleft surgical repair teams abroad in the future.

Outside of the classroom, I have dedicated much of my time to pursuing activities that encourage leadership and self-development. Washington State University has provided me with an array of opportunities to be involved including: a variety of student organizations, hall government, leadership conferences, gym classes, and service projects. This summer I will be participating in a service-learning program through the university that allows me the opportunity to be a camp counselor on a U.S. military base in Hawaii. Next fall, I plan to participate in a psychology research lab on campus. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, volunteering in my community, reading, hiking, and travelling.

I am incredibly grateful for the care and support provided by my family, friends, health care team at Kaiser Permanente, and the Cleft Palate Foundation. It is wonderful that this organization exists to encourage success and confidence despite craniofacial abnormalities.


Allyson Ykimoff

From: Orlando, Florida
Attending: University of Florida

Ykimoff, Allyson picThis scholarship encompasses one facet of my life that signifies the hardships I have been through due to my cleft palate and the associated side effects.  On a small scale, this scholarship contributes to the struggles I have been through, and will likely continue to endure, due to impediments that have presented themselves throughout my life, especially speech difficulties.

I would like to thank the Cleft Palate Foundation for their numerous efforts that have helped me along my journey.  At the start of my journey my parents relied upon the educational materials provided by the Cleft Palate Foundation to better understand all of the hurdles which I may face due to me being born with a cleft palate combined with Pierre Robin Sequence.  The opportunity to obtain this scholarship provides me with the ability to focus more on my studies and less on the financial hardships that often accompany an undergraduate education.  Instead of worrying about student loans and potentially having to work to afford my courses, I will be able to channel that energy into being a successful student.

I am planning on studying medicine in college and would eventually like to become an anesthesiologist.   My experiences with the terrific craniofacial team at the University of Michigan were foundational in peaking my interest in medicine.

My favorite community activity has been volunteering at the hospital in Michigan each summer.  I find it so fulfilling to assist people who are going through difficult times in their lives and being able to provide a smile and a positive interaction in that environment.  I also enjoy working and helping others with their studies.

Even through all of the trials I have been through, including my eighteen surgeries, self-doubt, and bullying, I have persevered and continuously sought out my goals.  I have never let my cleft palate be a hindrance to me in any area of my life and have embraced and overcome the associated challenges.  While my cleft palate may not be visible to the naked eye since it is an internal cleft only, it has affected me in many ways that have challenged me physically as a young child and emotionally as I have grown older.  Through all of that, I have received support from my family, friends, and medical team that have consistently been by my side since I was a newborn.  Those support networks have been key in my development and will continue to be necessary as I embark on this next venture.