Partners for Youth with Disabilities is partnering with GEICO to award young adults with disabilities the GEICO Changemaker Scholarship to support them in furthering their education goals.
Selected scholars are undergraduate students with disabilities in their Junior or Senior year who have shown exemplary leadership experience and represent the fields of Business, Finance, Mathematics, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and/or Marketing.
PYD granted 11 scholarships totaling $11,000 to young people with disabilities. The winners are attending college throughout the country; their positive outlook and ability to reflect on their challenges as they plan for their futures exemplifies the values and mission of PYD.
Please join us in congratulating our 2022 GEICO Changemaker Scholarship winners.
Heriberto Rodriguez is a Senior at the University of Connecticut studying Actuarial Science and Mathematics. He did not even think he would attend school because of his disability, but “after years of therapy, I finally enrolled at UCONN and the Center for Students with Disabilities at UCONN have helped me during my time at school. Becoming independent is a huge goal and attaining my education is the tool to achieving this.”
Sheil Patel is majoring in Business and Finance at Carnegie Mellon University. A Senior, Sheil is an Eagle Scout, Disability:IN’s NextGen Leaders Program participant, and an oral healthcare entrepreneur. “In the business world, it is important to consult several approaches while solving a problem,” Sheil said. “I hope to employ the diverse perspectives from my fellow peers in the diverse abilities community to solve these types of problems as they arise in my future career.”
A Junior studying Mathematics at Endicott College, Nick Truiano reflects on how far he has come despite the challenges from his disability. “As a college student it is very easy to get into the habit of constantly looking at what’s in front of you and forget how hard you’ve worked to get where you are now. I see opportunities such as this one as a great incentive to keep pushing through all of the hardships and struggles, as well as a reminder of my past and current accomplishments.”\
Ian Jenkins is a Senior Business major at the University of Mary Washington. He is determined to continue his education despite the challenges presented by his disability. “I have shown that I persevere despite failure and hardship by staying with my degree for nine years. I also won a prestigious honors internship with the Department of Homeland Security. Winning means a lot to me because I not only worked hard but worked long and demonstrated my dedication.”
Diego Alonso is majoring in Systems Engineering at George Washington University. A senior, Diego has volunteered hundreds of teaching and tutoring hours including at the Santo Domingo Vocational School of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Labor and was named to the School of Engineering and Applied Science Student Peer Advisory Network Committee and Mentor. Diego’s goal is to “become a social entrepreneur to support and improve education, agriculture, sustainability, and other essential areas necessary for our society.”
A Senior Computer Science and Economics major at Dartmouth College, Sunint Bindra is a disability advocate and Youth Delegate at the United Nations, speaking on the necessity for advocacy and inclusivity of youth and vulnerable student populations. “I tackle the pervasive problems of disability public relations that through tech and innovation we can achieve equitable fairness for individuals with disabilities. Receiving this scholarship reinforces my conviction to continue my work as a leader and advocate towards meaningful social impact.”
Melissa Gatti is a University of Delaware Computer Science Senior with a concentration in cybersecurity. She is a one-on-one advisor for potential University of Delaware Spectrum Scholars Computer Science students, and an Association of Computing Machinery – Council on Women in Computing peer mentor. Melissa is grateful for the financial assistance for her education. “I value my education and by being able to finish, I will be able to work as a software engineer or cybersecurity expert in the real world.”
A Senior Business major attending college in New Jersey who wishes to remain anonymous noted that she is much more than her disability and “winning this scholarship represents to me that my disability isn’t what defines me. I’m proud to say that what has been a big challenge of mine, is now something that I’m able to use my understanding and experience to help others.”
Senior Hailey Gaffen is a Public Relations major at Bradley University Advertising. Hailey noted that “winning this scholarship means representation and validation of invisible disabilities that affect me and so many others every day. I have recently learned the importance of advocating for myself and recognizing that while I am at a disadvantage, I am lucky enough to have many resources available to me to assist me in living my life to the fullest.”
Richard Osnayo is a Junior at Kean University majoring in Graphic Design. Richard acknowledged that his disability was hard for peers to understand while he was in high school and he experienced bullying; however, “when I began college everything was completely different. People and teachers treat me with respect. I want to continue my college because here I can show all my skills and make my dream come true.”
Robert Jones is majoring in Information Technology at Utah Valley University. A Junior, Robert has been a disability advocate for many years. His persistence and drive to never quit has propelled him to continue his educational journey. “[My disability] interferes with a great many things and interrupts [my] quality of life; but that doesn’t keep me from accomplishing my goals let alone setting them. A lot of my goals have been accomplished on my own, simply by just believing in myself. Having a disability has been a good driving force, in fact, ‘the’ driving force behind my stubborn momentum towards success.”
We are honored to help support the education of these outstanding students and grateful to GEICO for being a champion of inclusion and supporting students towards their future goals.
The winners will be recognized at a virtual celebration hosted by GEICO this fall.