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2009 Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Recipients: Amanda Collins and Reginald Forest

 

Amanda Collins — Biographical Sketch

Almost eight years ago, Amanda Collins literally lost control of part of her life when she was involved in a car accident that left her best friend dead. Amanda, the driver, faced potential charges of vehicular manslaughter. Although she was not convicted, the young woman was filled with guilt, and the confidence she once had in herself slowly began to erode.

Two years later, Amanda’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth were diminished even further when she was assaulted by a fellow ROTC cadet. Even though her performance in ROTC had been exceptional, she was forced from its ranks, told that she was mentally unfit to be a leader. Her self-doubt grew, and her dreams for the future began to fade. Slowly, however, she began to use small tasks to rebuild her life, first earning licenses in massage therapy and personal training and then returning to work.

Fortunately for Amanda, she found a job and a boss who saw her potential as a leader. Her work as a personal trainer brought out the traits that her supervisor at 24-Hour Fitness saw and encouraged: dedication, physical stamina and emotional commitment. Still fearful and fragile, Amanda decided to register at Eastfield College and take a chance that she could meet the challenges of school and find the strength to succeed and become a leader once again.

Since that fateful day, Amanda’s successes have grown, and her desire to be a true leader has been fulfilled. Working on both an associate degree in science, which she will complete in fall 2009, and an associate degree in business, which she plans to finish in spring 2010, the 2009 Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship awardee has earned excellent grades, especially in mathematics and science. Based on her academic success, Amanda was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, an academic honorary for two-year institutions, in spring 2008. She has served as PTK’s vice president and currently is the EFC chapter president. 

Also a member of the Eastfield Science Club, Amanda consistently has excelled in school, earning honors as a National Science Foundation Scholar. She has represented Eastfield College at the PTK International Honors Institute and the Southern Methodist University Leadershape Workshop, and she is participating in the STARS summer research internship program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

In spite of the difficulties and obstacles that Amanda has faced, she is excited to see her self-confidence return and her leadership capabilities intact. “My leadership experiences have taught me how complex leadership is ... (and) why it’s imperative for leaders to understand group dynamics and know how to unite and motivate individuals ... . I have a very long way to go and realize becoming a true leader will be a lifelong process. No matter where I am in life, I want to leave people feeling inspired and valued — just the way people did for me.”

The future medical researcher adds, “Life is challenging for everyone, and how one faces these challenges is completely up to that one individual ... . The events I have had to overcome in my life have given me the strength and determination I need to reach my goals. And attending Eastfield College was the break I needed to (be able) to know and believe that life can be amazing.”



Reginald Forest — Biographical Sketch

Reginald Forest, who came to the Dallas area from Louisiana after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, knew the meaning of a crisis long before a storm forced him from his home. For years, he struggled with sickle cell anemia ... the medications, complications and stigma it brought because classmates did not understand what sickle cell was. “All they understood was that I had a disease,” he recalls. “Weeks passed before they understood enough about sickle cell to know that they could not catch it by touch, although during that time I had to endure almost endless and cruel teasing.”

As a teenager, he decided to take matters into his own hands to try to avoid spending the rest of his life taking medicine to stay healthy. After he implemented a change in both his eating habits and exercise, Reginald was able to become healthy enough to stop taking medication to fight off infections.

Unfortunately, Reginald’s life was further complicated by the fact that his mother — over a period of several years — had become a drug addict, moving herself and her child from a decent home to project housing, changing from an attractive, friendly woman to a moody and gaunt addict. Ten-year-old Reginald decided to move in with an aunt, and he went from one family household to another, fighting depression, supporting his mother as she went through her struggle with rehabilitation and drugs, and struggling with his sexual orientation as well.

And his school work suffered, too. When Reginald’s home life slipped and his mother was on drugs, his grades dropped. He skipped school, daydreamed in class and went from an A student to earning Cs. Only one teacher “... was able to reach through the hurt and pain to me, Mrs. Taylor, my high school chemistry teacher. She was the one who managed to change my views on life from doing things to please my family and others to doing things to please myself,” says Reginald. As a result, he improved his grades, graduated on time and began to apply for college — a process that Reginald describes as five years of trial and error until he was able to start at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.

Then came the death of his grandmother and landfall for Katrina — a period of “time out” for Reginald from school. But in spite of the many ups and downs in his life, Reginald is optimistic about his future. The first person in his family to attend college, he has made great progress at Richland College, where he has been invited to join the academic honorary Phi Theta Kappa. He plans to complete a bachelor’s degree, attend medical school and become a psychiatrist. 

Reginald, who wants to open his own practice and also start a nonprofit organization, says, “I look back on my life and remember how hard it was for me to make it through some of those hardships and how oftentimes I wanted to give up. Yet through it all, I continued to push forward, despite the obstacles and situations I encountered. I do believe it has made me a better man, and because of my past, I know the satisfaction of seeing hard work and dedication pay off. I believe that anything is possible with just a bit of determination and lots of hard work.”