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Hardships, Hurdles Don’t Stop DCCCD Kramp Scholarship Recipients

photo of Angel Monsivais

For immediate release — June 1, 2012

(DALLAS) — Timing is everything.

Early in their lives, Angel Monsivais and Kathy Tran literally were slapped down by life — Monsivais by his abusive father and Tran by a rapist. At the age of 11, Angel first witnessed his father hit his mother; several years later, he became the victim of beatings, too. At age 13, Tran found herself pregnant with no one to turn to — her home life was unsettled as well — and facing an enormous decision: to fight for the right to obtain a “bypass” under Texas law (under which she could terminate her pregnancy without parental permission) or to have a baby when most children are getting braces.

Surrounded by brothers who were in trouble with the law, facing exposure to gangs and drugs, and withdrawing from his family, Monsivais said he only wanted his parents to be proud of him. He enrolled in the Upward Bound program at his high school and eventually learned that “family is more than the people in your home.” The teachers and students in his Upward Bound program became Monsivais’ family and, with their encouragement, he now is a student at Eastfield College. He says, “I do not want to become another statistic — another young Hispanic male with no education and no job.”

Tran, a gifted artist, was faced with deciding how, as a young teenager, she would pay for food, take care of a baby and go to school. Realizing that she would finish high school with a six- or seven-year-old child, she decided to terminate her pregnancy, move out of her parents’ home, establish her independence and provide herself with a chance at life. She was only 13. Today, she has her own photography business, hopes to have an internship this summer with a Dallas advertising agency and is working part time as she prepares to start school at Brookhaven College this fall.

Both students faced monumental obstacles early in their lives when they were barely “tweens,” and both rose above the circumstances they were dealt by immersing themselves in school, in programs that helped them excel and in positive attitudes that led them to finish high school and look ahead to college — finding ways to build better lives and brighter futures.

And without the proper timing — or the help of the Dallas County Community College District and the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation, Monsivais and Tran would miss the chance to follow their college and career dreams.

These two DCCCD students will be honored for their tenacity, courage and determination when they receive the 2012 Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award during a special program on Thursday, June 7, at a local Dallas restaurant. The event will be hosted by the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation’s board of directors and the DCCCD Foundation.

The scholarships will help Monsivais and Tran, both Dallas residents, reach for their dreams with financial support provided by the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award, which covers full tuition and books for up to four semesters. Monsivais is majoring in biology, and Tran plans to major in visual communication.

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.” Last year, Winfrey featured the Kramp story/segment as one of her “most memorable guests” during a May 2011 farewell show as the program reached its historic end. Erin’s 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 both Angel and Kathy, who bravely survived their own challenges and who plan to help others by going on 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. Angel Monsivais and Kathy Tran have proven they possess both traits, and they truly deserve this honor.”

Monsivais, who has a grade point average of 3.33 at Eastfield College, hopes to graduate and make the Dean’s List with a 3.8 GPA. He took six classes during the spring semester and eventually wants to become a biochemical engineer with a minor in forensic science. He plans to earn his associate degree and then to transfer either to the University of North Texas or the University of Chicago. “I want to overcome my fears of being stuck in poverty, and I want to help others succeed, too. I want to have a job that I enjoy, to become a great leader and to live to tell others how I overcame the obstacles I faced in my life,” says Angel.

Angel currently serves as volunteer coordinator for the Communications Club at Eastfield College and as captain of an outdoor soccer team (because his coach has told him that he has excellent communications skills). He played chess in high school and received a second-place trophy after a chess tournament presented by the University of Texas at Dallas; he also achieved the most points as captain for his Skyline High School chess team. Monsivais also is a member of the Rotaract Club at EFC and ILead, which helps students develop leadership qualities.

He adds, “I want to be a positive role model for my peers and for the Upward Bound students I speak to during summer sessions. Most of all, I want to be proud of myself. I have a mantra that I tell myself all the time: ‘Imagination is what shapes reality in your mind, so use your mind to help create your future so that you may live a comfortable life.’”