Meet the Student Loan Hero Fall 2020 Scholarship Winners


As part of our continued mission to tackle the student debt crisis, Student Loan Hero is offering scholarships of $ 5,000 and $ 2,000 to help students pay for their education. We are delighted to announce our most recent fellows, who are winning the Fall 2020 Semester Competition Awards.

These inspiring students overcame significant obstacles on their path to education. We sincerely hope that these scholarships will help reduce the financial burden on colleges and graduate studies as they prepare for their degrees.

Read on to meet the Student Loan Hero Scholarship winners and learn more about their stories, as well as how you could win too.

Kanistha Shah, University of Arizona

Image: Kanistha Shah

Grand Prize: $ 5,000

Kanistha Shah is pursuing her Masters in Nursing while raising her 3 year old son. The child of immigrant parents, she was the first in her family to obtain a university degree.

Kanistha was inspired by the perseverance her parents showed in raising three children while struggling financially. It was her father’s cancer diagnosis and his becoming the primary caregiver of her parents and 17-year-old nephew that led her to nursing.

Kanistha is a member of the Master’s Entry to the Profession of Nursing Student Organization and sits on the Board of Directors as President of Philanthropy, where she helps organize volunteer events and community service.

After graduating, she plans to make a positive impact by helping to educate and improve the quality of life of others, especially those with limited access to healthcare.

Daphne Bonilla, Kennesaw State University

Image: Daphne Bonilla

Grand Prize: $ 5,000

Daphne Bonilla is majoring in Journalism and Emerging Media at Kennesaw State University. She was born in Guatemala and moved with her brothers and mother to the United States at a young age.

While in Guatemala, Daphne and her family endured struggles of hunger and poverty. Although she feels lucky to move to the United States, Daphne and her family face major challenges, such as not being able to speak the language and experiencing financial instability.

These experiences motivated Daphne to excel in her ESL classes, and at the same time to find a job despite her young age, in order to help her family. Dealing with these challenges, common to many immigrants, prompted Daphne to pursue a career in journalism. Her goal is to shed light on stories like her own and that of her family, as well as those of many others in difficulty around the world.

Daphne will graduate from college in 2021 and has interned at major networks including NBC and CNN.

Fall Gerlick, Adams State University

Image: Autumn Gerlick

Finalist Prize: $ 2,000

Autumn Gerlick is a second year student at Adams State University, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Cellular and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry. She was pushed to become a cardiothoracic surgeon because her father died of heart complications when she was only five years old.

The tragedy of his father’s death occurred because he was unable to receive medical treatment in time. As a result, Autumn is committed to ensuring that patients with heart complications don’t have to wait for the surgery they need.

“I am very passionate about my studies,” she said, “and I hope to inspire others who have had to come a long way through life’s hardships.”

Kearah Scott, Central Piedmont Community College

Finalist Prize: $ 2,000

Kearah Scott is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) while balancing the challenges of being a single mother. After a life of financial hardship, Kearah now strives to further her career and provide for herself and her daughter.

Kearah first left high school before graduating, but returned to get her GED and train as a phlebotomist. She continues to work while studying at Central Piedmont Community College.

After graduating with her BSN, Kearah aspires to start her own personal business and “be the best mother.” [she] can be at the start and end of each day.

Brittany Franks, Southern Adventist University

Image: Breton Francs

Finalist Prize: $ 2,000

Brittany Franks is a nursing student at Southern Adventist University. She is the wife and mother of four exuberant boys who love the outdoors. Brittany survived the November 2018 wildfire in Paradise, Calif., Leading her family to safety through tunnels of flames.

As a result of this heartbreaking experience, she helped individuals and families affected by the wildfire by connecting people with resources and by organizing and distributing donations, such as gift cards and merchandise. household. Brittany also volunteered her time to help build Paradise’s first clean running water source after the disaster.

Brittany accomplished all of this by dealing with the trauma her own family went through, including the loss of their home. They now live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment, trying to cut expenses while Brittany prepares for her degree.

Kaili Wagoner, University of Arizona

Image: Kaili Wagoner

Finalist Prize: $ 2,000

As a first generation college student, Kaili Wagoner worked hard to get to where she is today. Her mother suffered from the opioid crisis, succumbing to her illness when Kaili was 15 years old.

Her father, who had difficulty accessing health insurance, suffered a massive and debilitating stroke two years ago. Kaili looked after her father full time while fighting to cover him.

After experiencing first-hand health system inequalities, Kaili wants to make a difference. She is now a graduate student in Health Services Administration with the goal of implementing changes in the health care system that her parents failed.

“I’ve learned to never stop standing up for myself,” Kaili said. “I hope that any student who reads this knows that they can also be successful and change the trajectory of their own life, as long as [they’re] not afraid to ask for help.

You are welcome to apply for our Spring 2021 scholarships

Congratulations to the Fall 2020 Student Loan Hero scholarship winners!

If you are a current or future student, we invite you to apply for our Spring 2021 scholarships. As part of the application, we ask you to answer these two questions:
What financial challenges did you overcome growing up? How have they shaped your goals and career aspirations?

We look forward to your submission and hope to be able to assist you throughout your educational journey.

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