Contact: Debra Dennis; firstname.lastname@example.org
For immediate release — Sept. 7, 2021
(DALLAS) — The Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation has named four recipients of the 2021-2022 scholarship who exemplify Erin Tierney Kramp’s courage. They are: Jummai Adikwu, Victor Barraza, Sydney Fishback and Jose Daniel Juarez Pereira.
Dallas College’s Erin Tierney Kramp scholars have endured numerous struggles that were made more challenging by the pandemic.
Their hardships, however, made them more determined to better themselves and work beyond their past hurts and disappointments. They embody what the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement scholarship program stands for — courage and perseverance in the face of adversity.
The Kramp scholarship is administered by the Dallas College Foundation and honors the memory of Erin Tierney Kramp, a venture capitalist investor, who in 1998 lost her battle with breast cancer.
Kramp is known for her intensely intimate videos left for her young daughter on various life lessons she knew she would not be around to impart herself. Kramp was featured on numerous televisions programs including “20/20” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Michael Brown, president of the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation, reflected on the impact the pandemic placed on this year’s scholars and applauded those whose trials were on display during their interviews.
“The last two years have been unprecedented and have caused tremendous stress and anxiety not only for the obvious health concerns for our recipients and their families but also for the significant increase in financial uncertainty [and] hardships caused by the pandemic,” Brown said. “Despite these ever-changing health and safety conditions, we selected four outstanding individuals who exemplify the cornerstone of our scholarship program — courage and perseverance in the face of adversity — and [who] represent incredible additions to our already stellar ETK scholarship family.”
The scholarship pays for tuition and books for up to six consecutive semesters at Dallas College. Once recipients complete their education at Dallas College, if they meet the required criteria, they are eligible to continue their education by applying for Kramp Transfer scholarships established at both Southern Methodist University and Austin College.
In reclaiming their narratives, these students know that their pasts have helped drive them forward into who they want to become and that education is critical to reaching their goals. All four will be honored during an award ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
The two returning Kramp scholars from the 2020-2021 year are Luis Rodriguez and Jaqueline Martinez, who will continue in the scholarship program.
Jummai Adikwu — Adikwu describes herself as kind and humble. She could also say that she has been severely tested. Shortly after the pandemic struck last year, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, leaving her to care for their children, hold down a full-time job at Forney Independent School District and make sure his medical and psychological needs were met. Adikwu wants to pursue an undergraduate degree in nursing. Her interest in the field was piqued when her daughter was born prematurely. Her interest in medicine was confirmed while watching her husband struggle with a host of maladies, including cancer. Moved by the compassion of health professionals, she knew she wanted to move beyond her LVN duties and pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This career, she said, would allow her to provide some comfort and reassurance to parents facing the same issue. “I remember that the nurse who came to our home was kind. She saw how stressed I was. I said to myself, ‘If any one human being can be this kind and do this, that’s where I want to be.’” A member of the health services staff at Forney schools, Adikwu was part of the contact tracing effort and helped enforce mask use and social distancing. For her efforts, the Forney school district named her “Special Duty Nurse of the Year.”
Victor Barraza — Barraza is a fighter and an advocate. He was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2017 and placed on dialysis. At the same time, his father was fighting his own medical trauma following a heart attack, numerous operations and finally a foot and leg amputation. Barraza was working full time and attending school when he realized he had to become his father’s caretaker. It was a double load. “Until this point, I had not understood why I’m still alive,” said Barraza, 43. “I’ve gone through some very disturbing challenges.” Despite that, Barraza knew he had to fight not only for himself but for his father. Barraza received a pancreas and kidney transplant in 2019, and that is when he decided to stop working, become a full-time student and serve as his father’s caregiver. He is attending Dallas College Eastfield Campus, where as an honor student he is pursuing an associate degree. In the meantime, he is helping addicts kick their addictions with a 12-step recovery program. Barraza is also a part-time, on-air personality at KNON, a nonprofit, listener-supported radio station. He hopes to graduate in 2022 and transfer to Texas A&M for his undergraduate and graduate degrees. “We bring music and joy as we unite people, especially during these times,” Barraza said.
Sydney Fishback — At 19, Fishback is technically still a teenager, but she has seen her share of adult issues. A nursing major, she has watched her mother undergo medical treatments to have a brain tumor removed that left her blind. Fishback is her mother’s full-time caretaker, and despite that, she remains on track to graduate from Dallas College next year. Fishback plans to transfer to a four-year college, where she hopes to hone her skills and become a pediatric nurse. Her stepfather, someone she trusted, was convicted of child pornography after authorities found more than 10,000 images of a girl in his possession. The girl was Sydney. “He had cameras in the air vents of my room,” Fishback said. “I had known him since I was 5. I thought I was being protected by a father figure, but what I really needed was protection from him.” Despite this, Fishback is very open about how she was victimized. “I know that it was not my fault. Things happened to me, but God has showed me that good things happen, too.” Fishback credits her faith for sustaining her through the challenges of going to school and caring for her disabled mother. “Life threw me some crazy curveballs, but I can say that every time, I picked up that bat and swung.”
Jose Daniel Juarez Pereira — For years, Pereira struggled with multiple health adversities, but that is not the full backstory of his 19 years of living. Pereira attends Dallas College Richland Campus, where he is working on an Associate of Science. He plans to then transfer and study marketing and management. He knows what rock bottom feels like, and he is doing all he can to sidestep the malaise that nearly ended his life. Pereira was born in Guatemala; he grew up safe despite the sound of gunshots in the middle of the night. His family made sure of it. But when his mother lost her battle with breast cancer, a deep depression fell over him. Pereira fell into substance use and excessive partying to soothe his broken heart. His grades started to decline, he became aimless and the promise to help raise his then 4-year-old brother slipped away. “I started doing other things that filled the hole in my heart. I lost everything my father was trying to build — his trust and confidence.” Pereira would go on to kick his bad habits when he became a triathlete, competing in odds-breaking fervor to best others in swimming, biking and running. He is still undeterred considering an accident left his knee shattered. “I can tell my story — not as a victim but as someone who didn’t let his adversities define him.” With two semesters under his belt at Dallas College, Pereira has maintained a perfect grade point average. He was able to rebound, he said, because he chose to focus on helping others and “follow the purpose that God has for him.”