Meet the Recipients of the 2017 Beat the Odds Scholarship

The?Beat the Odds’scholarship program?awards deserving students from Rochester and surrounding areas a $2,500 scholarship to attend Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC). To be eligible for aBeat the Odds’scholarship, candidates must be a high school senior or a first-year RCTC student who has overcome obstacles such as personal or family hardships, abuse, neglect, poverty, disabilities, or language and cultural barriers. Despite their challenges, these students have persevered and endeavored to become personally and academically successful, and are preparing for the next step in life of attending college.

This year’s recipients have faced chaotic childhoods, addiction, pain, and suffering the nadir of their lives. But they all have shown strength to not let these moments of suffering define them, but become a platform from which to inspire themselves to become something more. Below you can find links to each recipient’s story.


Mikayla Brainard

Mikyala lost her hearing in one ear when she was three. Was sexually abused for three years by a close family member, and has endured suicide attempts and chronic illnesses. She wasn’t sure she?d make it that long in life, but now she’s coveting the chance to make her mark in the world, beginning with attending RCTC as a high school student taking college courses next semester. Full story here.

Jawaher Awad Photo 1

Jawaher AwadBinhamoodah

Jawaher Binhamoodah works hard. And while lot of people say they work themselves to the bone, Awad is working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, a Trained Medication Aide who passes medicine, and going to school at RCTC to pursue a career as a Registered Nurse. To get to this point she had to leave an arranged marriage, and educate herself while also supporting herself financially. But she’s pushing through one step at a time. Full story here.


Jessica Nelson

I literally started crying, and thought,this is so amazing, Nelson says of hearing about receiving the scholarship. It’s just another step in her life after recovering from a serious accident. Two years ago, a suspected faulty wheel bearing sent Nelson’s car rolling into a field, crushing her legs, and nearly killing her before she was rescued by a farmer in the right place at the right time. Had that farmer showed up minutes later, she says she probably would have been dead. Full story here.


Caleb Ricks

I was always too intimidated, or too drunk. It was always something, says Ricks when he talks about going to college.

In 2015, Ricks relapsed and began drinking around Thanksgiving. Around Christmas, his father died suddenly, causing him to drink even more alcohol.

His father was also a singer-songwriter, and the death hit hard. Ricks moved from motel to motel, and binged on booze until his brother took him to a psychiatric ward at a local hospital. It didn’t work. But now he’s a 4.0 student on his way to becoming a therapist. Full story here.


Isaac Williams

Isaac Williams has struggled with bullying’since he was a young boy.

He doesn’t have a lot of pleasant memories of the last 10 years. The issues he faced prompted him to run away from home once, and spend some time living with his grandmother. Throughout all of the chaos, Williamstook his responsibility as a big brother seriously, and took care of his two siblings.

These hurdles could not stop his love of robotics and coding, and his drive to help others some day via medical software. Full story here.

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