Introducing our scholarship winners

Touching stories of determination and integrity were submitted
to our Personal Achievement Scholarship from students nationwide!

2019/2020 Scholarship Winners

Check out previous winners:  2016/2017 Winners  |  2017/2018 Winners2018/2019 Winners

$15,000 Grand Prize Winner

Forest Wong

Forest Wong

Oroville High School - Oroville, CA
Class of 2020

After finding out that not many people in her town shared her enthusiasm for classical music, Forest and her brother in 2013 decided that they would organize a small chamber music group. Along with friends they would perform at a family restaurant for tips from the customers. As the group began to earn more tips, Forest suggested that they donate the money to local foster children.

During school breaks they would perform at the local retirement home. As they gained recognition they were invited to play at fundraisers and local community events. In 2014 Forest realized that music in her town was dying and the only music store was slowly going out of business.

Wanting other children to experience live music, Forest and her brother fundraised and hired other musicians to perform live concerts in the schools in their community. Eventually that grew into an annual music festival. A combination of free concerts for students and paid concerts for adults resulted in exposing the community to music while raising money to fund music programs in area schools.

In 2019, over 300 students participated from seven different schools, raising $15,000 for the music programs, and Las Plumas-Oroville High School Band received funds to perform at Carnegie Music Hall. The local music store was also saved from going out of business.

“Now, the music community is alive in Oroville, and the annual festival is one of the most popular events in town. When I was not performing, I was teaching. I used my twelve years of violin experience every Saturday when I gave free lessons at a local gallery” Forest proudly states.

$5,000 Second Place Winner

Erica Hsueh

Erica Hsueh

Northwood High School - Irvine, CA
Class of 2020

After finding out that many of her classmates thought STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields to be solely for males, Erica decided to host a computing camp she named “BYTES OF CODE.” BYTES OF CODE targets underserved girls who have no previous experience with STEM or computing. To obtain the funding necessary to implement this project, Erica wrote numerous grant proposals and emailed other organizations. With much effort she was able to secure funding from the National Center for Women & Information Technology and got UC Irvine’s Information and Computer Science School to sponsor the inaugural program on their campus.

Erica also recruited college volunteers to help mentor students and learn the curriculum. Clearing logistical and technical hurdles, Erica’s next step of recruiting students went into effect. She emailed hundreds of math and science teachers, created a buzz online and even handed out flyers at her local library.
Today Erica is proud of the fruits of her labor. She has had students creating their own websites, writing code, coming back to take advance courses, and even to teach. Many of her new students come from referrals of former students.

To make the program more accessible to students, Erica moved her classroom to the Santa Ana Public Library and to reach even more girls, she has translated her online curriculum into several languages, and appointed over twenty global ambassadors across the United States and in Mexico, Liberia, India, and Saudi Arabia to host workshops in their own communities.

Erica says, “I see racial and gender underrepresentation in STEM as a deep-rooted and pervasive problem that can be addressed first at the local level, within our communities. With my parents‘ encouragement, I have been inspired to take action and address these challenges, and I am determined to make it my life’s work to turn the tide on inequality.”

$2,500 Third Place Winner

Anastasia Pohlgeers

Anastasia Pohlgeers

Campbell County High School - Alexandria, KY
Class of 2020

Anastasia’s beginnings don’t define her. She was in foster care early in her life and then she was adopted by her loving and caring family at the age of 6. With the help of her Mom she realized that her birthmother loved her enough to give her up for a better chance at life.

Being introduced to the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in her AP Biology and Psychology classes, Anastasia was driven to help others.

She says “Due to the rampant growth of adverse childhood experiences, schools need to operate differently. As part of my solution, I shared ideas about how schools should implement trauma screenings for children as young as preschool and the importance of increasing the counselor to student ratio to create the mental health supports so desperately needed.”

Anastasia served on the Kentucky Commissioner of Education Youth Advisory Board and Kentucky’s Youth Leadership Council (FLYLC) where she helped students in her state. She brought awareness to the need for trauma sensitive schools and advocated for changes in the state’s child welfare system.
One of the defining moments for Anastasia is telling her emotional story in the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda before the Governor, the First Lady, numerous legislators, and hundreds of activists.

$2,500 Third Place Winner

Samantha Sellek

Samantha Sellek

Rogers New Technology High School - Rogers, AR
Class of 2020

Samantha’s project, while impacting her community, contributed to reducing waste production on the planet.

Getting her project approved wasn’t an easy task. Samantha explains, “After six months of deliberations and hesitancies and a corporate-like spiel that all but shut down my proposal, my program was finally launched.”

Her passion, persistence and hard work coupled with the backing of her principal and fellow environmentally aware students, enabled her to convince her school district to switch from plastic to metal cutlery at each meal.

“Seeing so many other people equally passionate about not throwing away 700+ plastic spoons and forks every day has only made me more enthusiastic about my success in this project. Launching this pilot program for metal cutlery against such poor odds is by far my proudest accomplishment to date. The fact that it was a successful endeavor has allowed me to recognize that if I persist for long enough with the right support, even the most daunting of tasks and proposals can be possible” she says.

Apply for this years Scholarship