Twenty-Four Students Benefit from PEG in 2014
By Maureen Kalil
In 2002, Barbara Kammerer Quayle, a school teacher at the time of her burn injury, had a vision to give sruvivors the confidence and hope that education would bring by providing the initial funding for the first national survivor scholarship. Later that year, the program, which Barbara named after her mother, peg, awarded just four scholarships. Since then, the increasing generosity of countless donors has funded a growing number of recipients.
In 2013, AlloSource, one of the nation's larges nonprofit providers of skin, bone, and soft tissue allografts, pledge a $250,000 donation, which will be made over 10 years, to the Phoenix Education Grant (PEG) program. This support will allow the Phoenix Society to make it possible for many more burn survivors to achieve their educational dreams.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, a record number of burn survivors are furthering their education during the 2014-15 school year with the help of a Phoenix Education Grant (PEG). The PEG committee, which consists of former PEG recipients, PEG donors, and Phoenix Society board members, reviewed the applications and awarded grants this year ranging from $500 to $4,000. Although these 24 scholars are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, from science to art, they all display a passion for helping others and living to their full potential.
Shelby Anderson, is a freshman at University of California – Irvine. Shelby is studying medical sociology there so that she can help others obtain proper care, information, and support during their healing process. It wasn’t until her burn injury a little more than a year ago that the Huntington Beach, California, teen figured out what her “true calling” was. Shelby says she will never forget the important role the medical social worker in the hospital played in her recovery. A high school valedictorian and a leader in the National Honor Society, Shelby has always had a desire to help others. As a high school student, she organized an incredibly successful winter coat drive that collected more than 400 items of clothing for the homeless. However, she believes the experience of her injury “has widened her empathy” and shown her the need for patient advocates. Shelby is looking forward to putting her “sense of compassion into action.”
Jacob Bergstorm of Harrisburg, Oregon, also enrolled as a freshman this fall. “I have a plan, I have the motivation, and I know I will love the journey,” says the student at Northwest Christian University of his goal to become a forester and work for a private timber company or government land management agency. Jacob says he immediately fell in love with the field of forestry as soon as he was exposed to it during his junior year in high school. He credits his burn injury at the age of 17 with teaching him how very important it is to live up to our fullest potential. “This is exactly what I intend to do with my education,” he says.
College freshman Katherine Bostic, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, began her studies at the University of Georgia this fall. Katherine, who was burn-injured at age 5, says that in her middle and high school years she became focused on proving that her “past trials” would not get the best of her. She was determined to do her best in everything, proving there is life beyond emotionally and physically challenging experiences. Despite the prediction that she would never have full motion in her right arm after her injury, Katherine became a talented tennis player, earning a place on her high school’s varsity tennis team. The high school valedictorian was also a community service award recipient and student leader. She hopes that through a career as a speech and language pathologist she can help others reach their full potential. “My aspiration,” she says, “is to help and serve others, while using my own story to inspire and ignite a passion for overcoming what may seem impossible.”
Karey Herrin, from New Richmond, Ohio, started her first year this fall at the University of Cincinnati – Clermont College, where she is pursuing an associate’s degree in medical information technology. But Karey got a head start on her professional training when she earned her nursing assistant’s license while still in high school. At the same time she has been a dedicated volunteer through Boys & Girls Club, volunteering 400 hours with more than 15 agencies and was named 2014 State of Ohio Youth of the Year. Karey hopes to continue her education and achieve her goal of becoming a dentist. This ambitious student believes that “a smile can make a difference.”
Nathan Alan Honeycutt of Concord, North Carolina, is a freshman at North Carolina State University this year. Despite the challenges of keeping up with his demanding high school courses while recovering from the burn injury he sustained during his junior year, Nathan persevered and was ranked in the top 15 of his class by the end of 11th grade. He not only succeeded academically, but by his senior year had also returned to playing high school tennis, despite his injuries, and finished out the season undefeated. Nathan admits that he isn’t completely decided on a major, but is leaning toward environmental science and technology, with the goal of becoming a federal game warden.
Zachary Jenson, of Benson, Minnesota, says, “After graduating from North Dakota State University with my bachelor’s degree in radiologic sciences, I will be able to help people recover from those accidents or injuries and treat them with the same kindness and compassion that I received from my caretakers.” Zachary, who sustained burns to both of his feet at the age of 2, says that it took a great work ethic and strong will to attain a normal life, including what he considers his greatest accomplishment--becoming a member of his high school football, basketball, and track teams.
Baylor Juelsgaard, of Hastings, Minnesota, is also an avid athlete. Baylor says he enjoyed athletics before his burn injury and was eager to resume that active lifestyle afterwards. “I pushed myself to get back to hockey, soccer, and football as soon as the doctors allowed for it, even it if was not at the same level as what I could do previously right away,” he says. Now the freshman at University of Wisconsin - River Falls would like to earn a degree in health and human performance, which would allow him to help others begin a healthy lifestyle or continue one in a more productive way. He is also considering joining the military after graduation to work with injured soldiers. Baylor says that he has always tried to encourage others, regardless of the severity of their injuries, to stay active and push their own boundaries of fear and pain.
“As I begin focusing on my college studies at the University of Cincinnati, I am excited about starting a new chapter and beginning a new journey in my life,” says freshman Lauren Lind. Lauren, who is from Cincinnati, is studying nursing with hopes to eventually join the staff at Shriners Hospital for Children, where she has been treated for the injury she sustained at age 6. Lauren currently volunteers there in the Phoenix SOAR program, has served as one of the hospital’s patient ambassadors, and also has volunteered as a junior counselor at its camp for burn-injured children. Lauren, who was also active in sports, clubs, art, and extracurricular activities in high school, says, “I feel blessed to have had such a very full life so far.”
Joshua Talbert, of Fountain Inn, South Carolina, is also a freshman studying nursing. The University of South Carolina student, who was inspired by the nurses who cared for him following his burn injury as an infant, says, “There is a quote that says 'Behind every great doctor, there is an even greater nurse,’ and I believe I have the potential to be this nurse.”
Haley McClure, of Sioux City, Iowa, is a freshman at Western Iowa Tech Community College. Since her injury in 2010, Haley says, she has shown her resiliency to adversity. As a visual artist, her injury to her right hand was particularly devastating, however, that didn’t stop her. Instead she found new ways to create her cinematography and art. She has performed in and assisted with set designs for several local theater productions. Her art has been displayed in numerous exhibits. “My creative voice will not be silenced,” says Haley, who is pursuing an associate’s degree in mass media, after which she plans to continue her studies at an arts institute.
John-Paul Vega of Clint, Texas, is a freshman at University of Texas - San Antonio, where he is studying biochemistry. John-Paul hopes to ultimately obtain a master’s degree in chemistry and become an anesthesiologist or chemical engineer. John-Paul sees his burn injury in his sophomore year of high school as a humbling and transformative experience that gave him a second chance.
Tyler Watkins, of Brampton, Ontario, is studying psychology at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he is a freshman. He hopes to pursue further education to become a music therapist. A talented singer and member of all of his high school choirs, music has always been a part of Tyler’s life. His dream is to work with SickKids Hospital in Toronto, where he was treated after his injury as a toddler, and has volunteered for many years.
Not all PEG recipients are in their freshman year of studies. Many, in fact, are well on their way to completing their education. However, the assistance they receive through PEG helps put their goal within reach.
“Entering my senior year of nursing school is an exciting time for me,” says Sara Christenson, who is from Cincinnati, Ohio. Sara is completing her undergraduate coursework this year at Miami University – Hamilton (Ohio). Sara, who was burn-injured at a young age, says she has focused on creating positive rewards for herself, as well as the people in her community. She has served as a patient ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children and a burn camp volunteer. Sara has a special interest in type I diabetes and hopes to become a nurse practitioner who treats children with the disease. “Just like I was taught that a burn injury does not define who you are growing up,” she says, “living with type I diabetes should not define the lives of these children as well.
Marissa Bane, from Raleigh, North Carolina, is using her PEG to continue her studies in public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The college junior has worked to educate others about burn prevention strategies since her injury at age 17. In high school, she created and presented an interactive curriculum for local elementary schools to educate students about fire safety and prevention. She is a Phoenix SOAR mentor at University of North Carolina hospitals and a cabin leader at Camp Celebrate, a weekend camp for young burn survivors. Most recently, Marissa was awarded a fellowship that enabled her to travel to the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi to study burn prevention strategies. Marissa hopes to use her training in public health to facilitate relationships between advanced and developing burn clinics throughout the world so that under-resourced units are able to get the support and training they need. Through her education, Marissa says she is gaining “a foundation of knowledge and continued experience” that will solidify her vision.
“When I leave SUNY New Paltz waving my bachelor’s degree in graphic design, with complete exuberance, I will be one step closer to achieving my dreams,” says Dulcia Halliday. Dulcia's life was “turned upside down” less than a year ago when she experienced a scald injury. However, Dulcia, who is from Washingtonville, New York, is eager to continue her college studies at the State University of New York and complete her degree. Ultimately she hopes to own and operate her own graphic design company. “I know how precious life is,” says Dulcia, “and how important it is not to waste it.”
A degree in psychology is the goal of Bethel University student Hamida Pabai of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Hamida hopes to use her experience as a burn survivor in her future work as a psychologist and help others who have experienced severe trauma.” Essentially this experience has truly ignited my passion for seeing people break through stigma that is being a burn victim, and aiding them every step of the way, allowing them to see themselves as a burn survivor,” she explains. Despite being injured while in college, she remained in school and continued to work on campus. Hamida is on track to graduate in December 2015.
While many PEG recipients fall into the “traditional” category of 18-22-year-old college students, each year grants also go to students who don’t fit that description. PEG recipients also include “nontraditional” students, those who are returning to college after interrupting their education or those who have decided to begin a college education later in life. Some are changing careers, other may be advancing their careers by pursuing additional education.
“I am currently following my heart, mind, and footsteps, one by one, by returning back to school,” says Linda Palmer of Windsor, Connecticut. Linda is attending Brandford Hall Career Institute, where she is earning her certification as a professional medical assistant. Linda’s dream of working in the medical field is becoming a reality. She says that at age 44 she is beginning to live the life she was meant to live and can’t wait to help others in the same respectful way she was treated by the nurses who cared for her in the burn unit.
Bridget Brown, from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, had never really thought about going back to school before her burn injury, but afterwards, Bridget says, she had a calling to help other burn survivors. Bridget found herself telling her children who had also been injured in the fire to “be proud of their scars” and “to not be ashamed.” Then she realized she needed to listen to her own advice. Bridget enrolled in Western Nebraska Community College and plans to become a social worker. “I want to be the one to help people figure out what is next in life after a burn injury,” she explains.
Brooke Linman, of San Diego, California, was burned on the job in 2007, forcing her into an early retirement from her “dream career” as a firefighter. Brooke says that while it took her a few years to figure out what her new path would be, she always knew it would be back in the field of helping others. So the mother of four young children completed the transfer requirements at a junior college and in January 2014 enrolled at San Diego State University with plans to earn a degree in psychology. Brooke, who has participated in the Phoenix Firefighter SOAR program, hopes to eventually earn her masters and PhD, and help those suffering from PTSD.
Angelina Peone of Saugerties, New York, is also a nontraditional student, having worked for 5 years after high school before enrolling in college in 2012. Angelina is attending SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, where she is pursuing a degree in environmental and energy technologies, while she also works with adults who have intellectual disabilities through a home health agency. She hopes upon graduation to become an entrepreneurial sustainability consultant to reduce the carbon footprint of businesses. Angelina describes herself as highly passionate about ecology, earth science, and conservation. She believes that stewardship of the Earth and its natural resources is a highly meaningful career path. “No other cause seems more important than to perpetuate the sustainability of our precious planet,” she explains.
Mark Roseman is attending the University of Michigan - Dearborn, where he is working toward a degree in mechanical engineering. After being injured on the job by a 24,000-volt cable, he returned to school to further his aspirations of becoming an inventor. When his wife died of cancer, Mark was left as the single father of two children, but that didn’t deter him from pursuing his education. It should come as no surprise that his personal motto is “Keep moving forward.” Mark hopes to graduate in the spring of 2016.
PEG recipients can reapply and are sometimes awarded funding in multiple years.
One such scholar is Elaina Meier, who also received a grant in 2013. This year Elaina entered the doctoral program at University of Wisconsin - Madison, where she is earning a PhD in counseling psychology. Elaina, who was burn-injured as a college student 14 years ago, is continuing her education to become a licensed psychologist and work along patients with a history of trauma. “Completion of a doctoral program and full certification as a licensed professional counselor and licensed psychologist will allow me to both serve those seeking renewed hope and recovery in their lives, as well as train future clinicians to do so in a trauma-informed and survivor-honoring focus,” explains Elaina.
Alexi Pyles of North Hollywood, California, is a junior at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, where she is majoring in pre-physical therapy. Alexi was also a PEG recipient in 2012 and 2013. Taking both psychology and science courses, Alexi hopes to move on to a graduate program in physical therapy. “As both a burn survivor and an athlete, I have become fascinated with the effects of human movement and strength,” the collegiate swimmer explains. Alexi is also active in the burn community as a burn camp volunteer and burn foundation summer intern.
Jose Rivas of Lancaster, California, attends University of Colorado - Denver. Jose, who also received a PEG in 2011, is pursuing a degree in writing and hopes to become a teacher. His focus is not on success or money, but on living humbly and creatively. Jose works, tutoring and teaching, up to 60 hours a week in addition to attending school. Although he aspires to make a living writing fictional stories and teaching the art of language as a creative writing mentor, Jose also wishes to live a life of passion and balance and, most of all, happiness.