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Beat The Odds Scholarship Award Recipients
On January 14, 2016 community and business leaders attended the 16th 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 items and purchase raffle tickets.
Five amazing students from the Rochester and surrounding areas were recognized with a $2,500 scholarship to attend Rochester Community and Technical College in the fall. These high school seniors and first-year RCTC students faced many challenges and struggled in difficult situations yet achieved personal and academic success. In addition to the Beat the Odds scholarship winners, the Foundation awarded additional scholarships to other deserving students who were runners-up. Many thanks to the nominators, event sponsors, and attendees on an amazing evening!
Sophia Burk is currently taking PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) classes at RCTC while completing high school at Rochester Alternative Learning Center. Sophia has overcome battles of not only abuse and addiction, but also depression and self-harm; difficulties which consumed her life from 5th to 8th grade. She was skipping school and partying a lot, which led to negative consequences and unrealistic beliefs about herself and others. Lack of both self-esteem and confidence only furthered her down the negative spiral of self-destruction. In spite of living on a fixed income, her mom did everything she could to help get Sophia back on track. Sophia participated in basketball, volleyball, softball, track, choir, band, and 4-H in middle school. As a result, Sophia learned to develop better time management skills, a successful mindset, increased self-confidence, and teamwork abilities. Sophia discovered she was pregnant near the end of her freshman year. She knew it was time to change her thought process and way of life. She enrolled in the Rochester Alternative Learning Center and continued to work on her education, maintaining A’s and B’s. Sophia began to work enough to buy a car and rent her own apartment, yet still maintain good grades in school. She has remained free from self-harm and her depression has become manageable. Her dream has always been to complete college with a degree in Psychology or Social Work. She has a strong determination to move forward with her life, starting with her education.
“I want to be the first in my family to graduate college, motivate people, and show them it is possible.” – Sophia Burk
Anthony is currently a senior at Kasson-Mantorville High School. He intends to pursue an Associate’s of Science Degree in Law Enforcement at RCTC. Anthony was diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of three and began receiving special education services. In sixth grade he suffered a substantial injury to his pancreas in which 60% of his pancreas was destroyed and he spent 23 days in the hospital. He was able to overcome this injury by focusing his strength on getting better and taking back his job delivering newspapers. At age fifteen, life was good until he began experiencing severe headaches, blurred vision and was unable to walk. He discovered he suffered a stroke and some paralysis, a hole in his heart and a blood disorder. He endured several months of rehabilitation. A year later he had to have open heart surgery to repair the hole in his heart. The “patch” heart surgery wasn’t successful and he ended up having open heart surgery. Anthony has suffered a series of difficulties, yet through it all has maintained a cheerful, positive attitude.Anthony has been recognized by others for the extra-ordinary things he has done with his life. He is an Explorer on the Mantorville Fire Department, and in 2014 was named Gem of the year (citizen of the year) by the Mantorville Economic Development Association for the accomplishments he has done in that community. He also received a Make-A-Wish foundation trip as recognition of his battle with his health conditions and determined spirit. Anthony now has his own lawn mowing business, is employed at Menards and looks forward to attending RCTC.
“I have never made any excuses or placed blame on anyone for what has happened in my life - I have learned to push myself." – Anthony Hofstad
Taemar is a 17 year-old senior at Zumbrota Mazeppa High School who immigrated to Minnesota 3½ years ago at the age of 14 from Jamaica, and is the youngest of ten children being raised by a single mother and older sister. “I feel blessed from heaven to have the opportunity to go to high school and college in America. When I came to America, I felt overwhelmed with the differences from home. The people were very nice but very different from home. I was in a culture with almost 100% Jamaican people and coming to Zumbrota was the first time in my life I felt like a minority. It took quite a while to make friends and get to know people. The secretary, counselor and teachers were especially nice at the school and helped me through the first tough months.” One of her motivations for pursuing an education so tenaciously is that she wanted a better life for herself and her family. All of her siblings and her mother had sacrificed greatly at times to give her the opportunity for a primary education. “Now it’s my turn to get a college education, a good job and help repay them for their sacrifices.” Taemar has been working at a Dairy Queen to support herself and save for her college education. Throughout high school she took a lot of challenging courses, such as advanced placement classes, to prepare for college. At the end of her junior year, she had a GPA of 3.6 and was on the A honor roll for the first time.
“I wish to pursue a career in Business Administration because people that I admire work in that field and have very good jobs and successful lives. I will work hard and make the most of this brilliant opportunity.” – Taemar Madourie
Laura was born blind and has sarcoidosis (an inflammatory disease) of the lungs. Being a blind student, she had a hard time reading the required materials. Laura sits in the front row so she can see the board and has learned to listen and take notes very well. She works with Disability Services at RCTC and State Services for the Blind to ensure that she has the proper course materials, but it can take time to set up the accommodations so she misses information in the beginning of classes. She currently lives in a homeless shelter with her three children struggling to find local housing with her fixed income. There are days when she feels like she is wasting her time by being in class when she should be looking for housing. “I tell myself that I need to concentrate on one thing at a time so I do not get overwhelmed. Being at school helps me to have the feeling of normalcy and that also helps me not give into the feelings of despair and hopelessness. My children are my driving force to keep going in my studies, because in the long run, continuing in school will give us a fighting chance at a better future.”“With all the struggles in my life I strive to have a positive attitude and live by example for my children. I want them to take away from all of this that even in dark times there is always light and the dark is not forever. I want them to know that life is not always fun but with the right attitude they can get through anything.
“I will not let being homeless, blind, or any health issues that may arise keep me from reaching my goals in life. I will take anything that life may throw at me and learn from it.” – Laura Oakgrove
Julie Wilson is a non-traditional, first-year student at Rochester Community and Technical College who is studying to become a Nurse. Julie Wilson is also a survivor of a horrific violent crime who thought her life had ended in a ditch on a dark summer July night many years ago. The only reason Julie survived is that she knew enough first aid to help herself until a man walking his dog found her six hours later.After the attack, Julie’s life became a rollercoaster of darkness and pain and she turned to alcohol to numb the pain. She did not realize or understand that she was battling PTSD, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Everything in her life crumbled and her attempts at happiness ended in further pain and frustration. At age 40, Julie became pregnant with her son, Matthew, who was born nine weeks premature and they spent many weeks at Children’s hospital in Minneapolis, MN. While there, Julie found a well of hope, forgiveness, faith, compassion, and love deep within herself after the nurses told her she should become a nurse because of the way she interacted with Matthew and other families. When Julie came home, she became a licensed CNA, started college, joined a recovery group and found a therapist who specialized in PTSD. Julie also started volunteering in the community and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, eventually sponsoring other women in early recovery. She started sharing her story with other women who were survivors of violence telling them they were not alone. While Julie still struggles with moments of doubt and frustration, she maintains that life is precious and encourages others to fight for their life with all they have.
"Compassion is a priceless gift you can give to anyone free of charge.” – Julie Wilson
Contributions to Beat the Odds are made through monetary donations or by purchasing table sponsorships or tickets to the Beat the Odds event held each January. Individual tickets are priced at $100 and table sponsorship levels range from $600-$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.