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DCCCD Honors Students Who Overcame Injury, Pain and Abuse to Succeed in College

 

For immediate release — June 25, 2008

(DALLAS) — Mandi Brooks moved from state to state as a young child, following her mother and an abusive boyfriend, falling behind in school and living under desperate conditions at times. By the age of 16, she struggled to catch up in school and began to dream about a normal life and college. The loss of her home after a fire and the illness of a stepfather who had become a “huge” part of her life added to the challenges she faced.

Linsey Heidelberg went from pompoms and football games to pain therapy and crutches following a cheerleading accident at age 15. Faced with the prospect of learning to walk again and battling RSD/CRPS (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome ) — an incurable nerve disorder — she learned that the real heroes in her life weren’t football players, cheerleaders, the drill team or the band.

Brooks and Heidelberg battled adverse conditions in their lives and sought to grow and improve themselves, in spite of those challenges. Their successes were recognized when they received the 2008 Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award during a special program on Tuesday, June 24, at a local Dallas restaurant. The event was hosted by the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation’s board of directors and the Dallas County Community College District Foundation.

The scholarships will help Brooks, a resident of Irving, and Heidelberg, a resident of Mesquite, reach for their dreams with financial support that covers full tuition and books for up to four semesters. Brooks is majoring in pre-medicine at North Lake College, and Heidelberg is pursuing an associate degree in science at Eastfield College.

The DCCCD Foundation and the Kramp Foundation also renewed the scholarship for last year’s recipient, Dylan Lewis of Mesquite, who attends Eastfield College and is majoring in business administration.

The courage and perseverance shown by both recipients in the face of adversity are traits exhibited by the person for whom the award is named. Erin Tierney Kramp, who fought
breast cancer from 1994 to 1998, created a videotaped legacy on “life lessons” for her young daughter that would convey Erin’s views and advice to Peyton as the young girl grew up, following her mother’s death. Erin touched many lives and inspired countless strangers when she co-authored “Living With the End in Mind” (with her husband and a family friend) and through appearances on programs like “20/20” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Her legacy lives on through the Kramp Foundation, the DCCCD scholarship program and the lives of all recipients.

“The Erin Tierney Kramp program awards scholarships to students based on their courage and perseverance in the face of adversity,” said Michael Brown, president of the Erin Tierney Kramp Foundation. “We see these qualities in Mandi and Linsey, who bravely survived their own challenges and who plan to help others by going to college and preparing for careers that will serve others. Their stories exemplify what our past recipients have demonstrated repeatedly through Erin’s legacy. When individuals face adversity, the struggles that they endure will either make them stronger or defeat them. Winning that battle requires courage and perseverance. Mandi Brooks and Linsey Heidelberg have proven they have both traits, and they truly deserve this honor. ” 

photo of Linsey Heidelberg


In comparison, Heidelberg started her high school experience on a high note as a level 7 gymnast and a three-time All-American Cheerleader. She recalls, “2-4-6-8 ... Who do we appreciate? The football team, cheerleaders, drill team and the band. Unaware of the life changes I was about to endure, I would soon discover who the real heroes in my life were.” Those heroes would become doctors, physical therapists, family members and friends who have supported Linsey from the time of her debilitating cheerleading injury at age 15 — when she was diagnosed with a incurable nerve disorder (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) after undergoing surgery to repair her fractured L4 vertebra. She struggled with pain, related seizures, a left leg that no longer functioned, wheelchairs, tests, medical procedures and treatments that did little to ease her pain.

By her 17th birthday, Linsey was able to return to school and walk with the aid of weekly nerve treatments and crutches. Today, she is an officer for Phi Theta Kappa’s chapter at Eastfield, and she volunteers as a Sunday school church leader in the preschool department. Her plans include graduating from Eastfield College and transferring to Texas Woman’s University, where she will pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. As a summer volunteer at the Baylor Tom Landry Center for two years, she has assisted with physical therapy for patients and has shared the difficulties they faced. Linsey currently works as a licensed therapeutic massage therapist.

She says, “Who do I appreciate? The real heroes I became dependent on for two years were not the friends who forgot about me after the accident. My heroes are the doctors, the skilled therapists, my family and friends and, last but not least, the patients who suffer from painful diseases like RSD. I also consider myself among my heroes because I never gave up. I trusted God where I could not trace him.”

For more information, contact Kathye Hammontree, director of administration for the DCCCD Foundation, at (214) 860-2455.

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Press contact: Kathye Hammontree, DCCCD Foundation
214-860-2455; khammontree@dcccd.edu
or
Ann Hatch, DCCCD Marketing/Media Relations
214-860-2478; ahatch@dcccd.edu
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