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2019 Winners

Kelsey Varodom
Kelsey Varodom Kelsey Varodom

First place: $2,000 scholarship - "“Purifying Houston and the air”

Kelsey Varodom is graduating from Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions in Houston Independent School District. She plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin or the University of Houston and is considering majors in biochemistry, biomedical engineering or mechanical engineering. 

Kelsey is an active member of the National Honors Society, the National Society for High School Scholars, Health Occupations Students of America, and she is involved in multiple cultural clubs at school. She participated in the HOSA Forensic Medicine Competition and competed in the National Economics Challenge (David Ricardo Division). Kelsey has been playing piano for over 10 years and has earned a black belt in tae kwon do. 

Kelsey helps her community by participating in Homework Helpers, an organization which provides tutoring services to an elementary school. She volunteers at Houston Methodist Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center. She also helps with House of Amos, a local organization that provides food, education services and immunizations to Houstonians in need. 

Read her full essay submission.

Christina Wang
Wang, Christina Chris Wang

Second place: $1,200 scholarship - “Fixing and preventing potholes: Paving the way for a safer ride”

Christina is graduating from Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston Independent School District. She plans to study business and computer science, but is currently deciding between the University of Texas at Austin, Johns Hopkins University, Vanderbilt University or Emory University.

Christina has been the president of Carnegie Vanguard’s Women in Science and Engineering club for two years. She has been on the UIL cross country team for the past three years and is an accounting and journalism competitor on the UIL academics team. Additionally, she is involved in the National Honor Society, the Mu Alpha Theta National Math Honor Society and the National Hispanic Honor Society.

She was selected as one of 10 students for the Atlas Scholars Program focused on the finance and energy industry. She is one of 50 Coolidge Senators in the nation, representing the top 2 percent of applicants nationwide for the Calvin Coolidge Scholarship. She is a 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholar Candidate and she is a 2019 National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Congressional Essay Contest winner. Through self-study, she has won several local UIL accounting and journalism competitions, and she has advanced to the regional competition in accounting, editorial writing, ready writing, headline writing and copy editing. A classically trained pianist, she has won many state and local awards, including 1st place at the Houston Forum Young Artists Competition and the Blinn College Young Pianist Competition.

Christina has been a Houston Food Bank Student Hero Leader volunteer for the past two years, where she has volunteered over 100 hours. To spread the joy of music, she volunteers with the Music of Harmony Volunteer Group at senior homes and hospitals as a piano performer. She has volunteered at the Nature Discovery Center as an animal caretaker, and she enjoys tutoring middle school students in math.

Read her full essay submission.

Vanessa Perez Ortega
IMG 5549 Vanessa Perez

Third place: $800 - “Strengthening Houston through Empowering our Youth”

Vanessa is graduating from the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions in Houston Independent School District. She plans to study finance, international relations and Portuguese at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Vanessa was named an AP Scholar with Distinctions, has received National Hispanic recognition, and is a finalist for the Gates Scholarship. She earned a spot on the honor roll all four years and is the president of the Organization of Latin Americans at DeBakey. Additionally, she is an EMERGE Ambassador, dance team captain, and has received awards for her photographs through the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Houston Center for Photography. Vanessa has trained in martial arts since the age of 8. She has been an instructor at the Bellaire Recreation Center and the West University Recreation Center, captain for the brown belt candidates’ class of 2017 and 2018, as well as a black belt captain for her team at tournaments. 

Vanessa participated in a variety of activities ranging from service projects within her community to research on the effects of microplastics on marine ecosystems in the Balearic Islands. Through her internship at Mi Familia Vota, a local nonprofit nonpartisan organization, Vanessa helped plan a week-long youth summit at Rice University, lead canvassing groups throughout the community to encourage greater voter turnout, and held public forums as the youth media representative.

Read her full essay submission.

Sunny Tang
Headshot Sunny Tang

Honorable Mention: $500 scholarship - "Healing Houston through Human Service Programs"

Sunny is graduating from James E. Taylor High School in Katy Independent School District. She plans to attend Harvard University where she is considering majoring in chemistry. 

Sunny is the president of the Taylor High School math club, Mu Alpha Theta, and she has participated in Chemistry Olympiad. Last year, Sunny was also a finalist for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad. 

Sunny is a four-year member of the JET Marching Band, where she has been featured as a marching soloist for the past two years. She also plays principal oboe in the Taylor Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra. She is a four-year Texas All-State oboist. She was recently ranked as second chair in the state at the 2019 Texas Music Educators Association convention, and she performed with the Texas All-State Symphony Orchestra in February. Sunny is the principal oboist of the Houston Youth Symphony, with which she has performed as a featured soloist. 

She is a member of the National Honor Society at Taylor. She has also volunteered through the Taylor High School Key Club and at the local public library during the summer.

Read her full essay submission.

Christiana Okafor
GRADUATION PIC Christiana Okafor

Honorable Mention: $500 scholarship - “Ending wellness disparities via public health”

Christiana is graduating from the High School for Law and Justice in Houston Independent School District. She plans to attend Bowdoin College in Maine and is considering majors in biomedical sciences, public health or political sciences. 

Christiana is valedictorian of her class at the High School for Law and Justice. She is an honor student, a member of the National Honor Society and National Science Honor Society, and treasurer of the Business Professionals of America chapter at her school. She is also a cheerleader and a POSSE Semi-Finalist for Wellesley College. She is a member of the Urban Debate League and president of Teen Court. Christiana earned first place in the World Schools Debate, Lincoln Douglass Debate, and Extemporaneous Speech in debate competitions. She has also earned first place in Presentation Management and Parliamentary Procedures at Business Professional Competitions. Christiana appeared on Good Morning America in a segment for the announcement of one of the top five students to be accepted into the 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy. 

She is an intern/student worker at the Texas Heart Institute: Center for Women's Cardio and Vascular Health and is an ambassador in the EMERGE Fellowship. She received the Medical Scientist Award of Excellence from the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. She participated in the Saturday Morning Science with Baylor College of Medicine and has attended an array of programs and internships, including the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Academy, the Congress of Medical Leaders in Boston, CERT Training at Texas State University, the Youth Leadership Summit at the University of Chicago, the Black Issues Forum at Colorado State University, and the University of Texas Health Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Summer Biomedical Academy. 

She has volunteered with a variety of organizations, including serving as a judge for middle school debates tournaments. She is a member of the Youth Police Advisory council, has organized holiday social events for senior citizens, served as a food prep for the Annual Thanksgiving Feast at George R. Brown Convention Center, and attended tobacco-free summit and picked up cigarette litter. She is a banner carrier in the HEB Thanksgiving Parade and provides cashier assistance in the Houston Art Car show and festival.

Read her full essay submission.

Last modified on Friday, 03 May 2019 09:26
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Submissions due March 18, 2019.