On January 16, 2014 over 400 community and business leaders attended the 14th Annual Beat the Odds scholarship fundraising event at the Rochester International Event Center. Attendees were treated to an exquisite dinner that started with a social hour including opportunities to bid on silent auction gifts and buy raffle tickets to win Dom Perignon champagne or jewelry.

Six amazing students from the Rochester and surrounding areas were recognized with a $2,500 scholarship. These high school seniors struggled in difficult situations but stayed on track to graduate from high school with plans for college in the fall. In addition to the Beat the Odds scholarship winners, the Foundation awarded an additional three scholarships to other deserving students who were runners-up. Many thanks to the nominators, event sponsors, and attendees on an amazing evening!

Alyssa Bartel - 2014 Beat the Odds Recipient

Alyssa is a senior at Rochester Off-Campus Charter High School. She faced many challenges to get to this point in her life. Her mother struggles with depression. In 5th grade, she began to develop faster than other girls her age. She developed body image issues. She was convinced she was “gross.” This led to her struggle with anorexia nervosa. By sixth grade she had stopped eating for days and was skipping school to exercise. This continued through 8th grade where at the beginning of her freshman year she was 5’ 7” and 89 pounds.At this point she was losing contact with family and friends. Her life centered around her eating disorder. At one point skipping meals to drink vodka and purge. This led to a forced stay at Generose for a suicide attempt and alcohol abuse. Her eating disorder had been come life threatening. Through her faith and the support of family, friends and the doctor, she was able to get motivated to get better. She explained it was the hardest month of her life, facing the biggest fear of her life. It was in those days that she realized that she wanted to be a nurse and work in a psychiatric ward with eating disorder patients.Allyssa is now excelling in school and holding down a steady job. She has applied at Rochester Community and Technical College and is planning to start on the road to being a psych nurse. In Alyssa’s words: What I learned in my recovery is that life is about so much more than a number on a scale or a few bad days but about getting what you value most out of each day! I learned there are always going to be things that we don’t like about ourselves and things others might not like about you but you can’t let that dictate what you want for yourself.”

“I want to be happy and successful so that’s what I aim for now.” – Alyssa Bartel


Tawna Christenson - 2014 Beat the Odds Recipient

Tawna started out life with young parents not yet ready to raise a child. Her early years were spent being cared for by a mix of family members. Her unstable family life led to school problems. In her words she was, “quiet but polite, young but wise, hurting but kind, but no matter how hard I tried though, no one ever seemed to be kind to me.”In 2009 another event rocked her world, as a beloved uncle committed suicide. This unexpected and painful event caused her to become lost and depressed. Tawna turned to “cutting” to alleviate the mental pain that gripped her. At one point her depression became so severe she attempted suicide. She came to realize that this wasn’t a proper way to handle the pain she was hiding and she asked for help. This behavior brought its own challenges as her peers viewed her behavior as creepy and not normal. Unfortunately, they called her names, dumped holy water on her and sometimes were even violent. Violence led to other violence and got her into more trouble and making friends more of a problem.When it seemed she had hit rock bottom, a new opportunity came to her. Tawna was accepted into Rochester Off-Campus Charter High School. This school offered her a place to resolve her problems. At that point everything got immensely better, her grades, her mood and her bad habits as well. Tawna currently has a 4.0 in high school and is enrolled in PSEO at Rochester Community and Technical College. Tawna has new friends whom she can trust and who love her for who she is.

“Combined with therapy, medication and the understanding of my teachers and peers I am getting better. I have a new sense of self-worth and I have gained back a lot of the kindness I once had.” – Tawna

Isaiah Grafe - 2014 Beat the Odds Recipient

Isaiah was born into a life of silence and was diagnosed as profoundly deaf due to auditory neuropathy at the age of 13 months. His parents did not accept this life for their son and after many visits to doctors across the country and numerous tests Mayo Clinic agreed to perform a cochlear implant surgery. At 3½ Isaiah was given the gift of hearing. Isaiah also has apraxia and speech has been difficult. This led to his being bullied in middle school. The bullying was severe enough that he was physically attacked and ended up in the hospital with a concussion and multiple abrasions. He had to have surgery to replace the cochlear implant.After the incident with bullying, Isaiah switched schools and in the new school he became a more confident and outgoing person. In Isaiah’s words, “I believe that it is important to get involved, be a leader and give back to both my school and community.” Subsequently, Isaiah became Editor of the Yearbook, President of Key Club, and Vice President of Student Council and an Executive Board member of the National Honor Society. This past summer he was one of 40 students selected to attend the AG Bell L.O.F.T/, a ten day program to develop skills in leadership, teamwork, understanding group dynamic, communication and public speaking. And, these are only a few of his extracurricular activities. His volunteer activities include, Bingo at the Senior Center, Senior Citizen’s Chore Day, Meals on Wheels, Food for Kidz, Cancer fundraisers, Highway Garbage Pick-up, Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringing, Rose Sales and the annual Halloween Party for the local children.

Isaiah describes his challenges in a quote from Jacob M. Braude:

“Life is a grindstone, whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on what you are made of.” – Isaiah Grafe

Angalee Morrow - 2014 Beat the Odds Recipient

Angalee is a senior at Rochester Off-Campus Charter High School (ROC). She grew up in a family that struggled to stay together. Her father died when she was 4 and her mother went into a depression. Angalee and her siblings were raised by a grandmother until she was 10. Her mother re-married and life seemed better until her grandmother died and the family lost their home. Another new school brought hopes of a new beginning and for a time school, friends, and life was better. Just as life seemed to be on track, her parents gave up being sober for meth. Again everything was lost, house, friends, family. Shortly after this her older siblings moved away, which left Angalee alone with her mother and step-father. A new living situation found her on the top of a mountain with no running water, electricity – nothing. Her mother and step-father were “scrapping” metals to get money for drugs. Shortly after this her step-father was arrested, her brother drove to Nevada and moved Angalee and her mother back to Minnesota. Angalee enrolled in Mayo high school, but it was a huge school and not a good fit. She dropped out, intending to get a full time job and help support her mother. She attempted night school and on-line school, but neither was a good fit. She was introduced to ROC and how welcoming the school is. She is now finishing school and will be done by March of 2014. In Angalee’s words: “I’ve never been more proud of myself, it’s been a long battle but my life has taught me that you can’t just give up when things get hard on you. You can’t just let someone bring you down and take everything from you, you have to fight in this world and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I don’t ever plan on giving up. I’ll make it to college and I’ll make it to see the better things in life.”

“I‘m determined to be that one person that makes a difference in this world even if it is just one step at a time.” – Angalee Morro

John Roberge - 2014 Beat the Odds Recipient

John was born in Guangzhou China where he was abandoned at the age of 4. He came to Rochester at age 6 when he was adopted by his parents Robert and Deborah Roberge. These words from his sponsor recap his long list of life challenges: “John has coped with abandonment at age 4, living in an orphanage and a foster home, born with a significant physical impairment, changing countries, culture and language at age 6, bonding to new adoptive parents, enduring 10 surgeries and speech therapy to correct his physical impairment, and living with the day to day unpredictability of a seriously ill adoptive father who has been frequently hospitalized.”“John has not only met these challenges with courage and resiliency, he has become a good student who particularly enjoys science and math, he has developed athletic prowess in both bowling (co-captain) and LaCrosse, he has learned the value of community service and he has been employed part time.John has become active in Boy Scouting, which he says has given him the foundation of his morals, knowledge, and experience. In his words, “scouting has helped me learn the importance of good management, leadership, knowledge, and hard work. The first time I felt the moment of self-reward was when I was a Tenderfoot. It was when our troop helped with the food drive for Channel One. I just loved it, wondering how everybody from different wealth, race, and beliefs can stand aside their difference and help a cause. I think that volunteering is the most fun thing about scouting.”

John’s unique family situation has sparked his interest in the medical field and he hopes to have a career in the medical field possibly as a nurse, or nurse anesthetist. John has already proven that he can set goals and meet the challenges of whatever comes his way.

Micaela Rud - 2014 Beat the Odds Recipient

Micaela was born into a family that struggled with mental illness. This did not spare Micaela, so that from grade four she struggled with an anxiety disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She was able to manage her illness until she reached middle school. Middle school brings special challenges for all young people and Micaela was no exception. She decided to start eating healthy and began working out to feel better about herself.What started out as an innocent attempt to better herself became a severe case of anorexia nervosa and later bulimia. After attempts to treat this illness at home failed, Micaela was hospitalized twice during her freshman year. Her recovery has been difficult, but with the support of her family and doctor she is on the path to recovery. Throughout all of these challenges, Micaela has maintained a 4.0 GPA in school. She has been part of numerous extra-curricular activities, National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, and Mayo High School Debate Team, to name just a few. She volunteers with Tri-Valley Migrant Head start, Family of Christ Lutheran Church, and is performing a mentorship with Judge Kevin Lund and Stephen Whiteside Ph.D. She was awarded the National Spanish Exam Gold Award in 2011, 2012, and 2013. She has been an A-Honor roll student since 6th grade. She has lettered in NHS, Key Club, and Debate team during the 2013-2013 school year.

“God gives each of us certain challenges for a reason, whether it is to teach us a lesson or direct our path. I believe that God has given me my mental illnesses so that I can help other people who are struggling. I want to make a positive impact on the world, knowing that everything I do is for God’s glory.” – Micaela Rud

2014 Beat the Odds Program


Contributions to Beat the Odds are made through monetary donations or by purchasing table sponsorships or tickets to the Beat the Odds event held in January. Individual tickets are priced at $100 and table sponsorship levels range from $400-$5,000.  We also welcome in-kind donations that can be raffled or auctioned at the event. If you are interested in supporting Beat the Odds, please contact the RCTC Foundation at (507) 281-7771 or download the Sponsorship Form and return it to the RCTC Foundation at 851 30th Avenue SE, Rochester, MN 55904.

Contact Information
(507) 285-7210 or 1‑800‑247‑1296
Rochester Community and Technical College
851 30th Ave SE :: Rochester, MN 55904-4999
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Rochester Community and Technical College, a member of Minnesota State.
RCTC is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.
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