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For Immediate Release - June 6, 2005

(DALLAS) – Turning 12 and facing the challenges of being a teenager is a test for most young people, but for Sara Hays, that challenge included facing diabetes, learning a new lifestyle, failing and recuperating. Bouts with poor health, depression and drug addiction threatened to implode her future, but Sara fought back and enrolled at Eastfield College.  Her dream now is to build a career that helps others overcome those same obstacles.

To walk a mile in Julius Ejiofor’s shoes meant taking a 10-mile trek on foot each day to class in Cameroon, Africa. Obtaining an education in an underdeveloped country is difficult at the high school level. When Julius decided that his life’s dream was to become a physician, he knew that he had to leave his homeland and move to the United States to earn his college degrees. The move was tough, money was tight and the support – both financial and emotional – that he received from home ended abruptly following his father’s death last year. And yet the El Centro College student continues to thrive, succeed and help others reach for their dreams, too.

That’s why Sara Hays and Julius Ejiofor are recipients of the 2005 Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award, which will be presented during a special program in June. Dallas County Community Colleges and the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation will honor Hays and Ejiofor during a 6 p.m. awards reception on Thursday, June 9, at a local Dallas restaurant, which the Kramp foundation’s board of directors will host.

The scholarship will help Hays and Ejiofor reach for their dreams with financial support provided by the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement scholarship award. Each student will receive a $700-per-semester scholarship (up to a maximum of $2,800 per recipient). Hays, who is pursuing studies in nursing, plans to become a nurse and to counsel pre-teen and teenage girls who have diabetes, sharing her personal experiences with them. Ejiofor, also enrolled in nursing, will build on that knowledge, pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology from a four-year institution and eventually earn his medical degree.

The scholarship recipients’ courage and perseverance 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 (when she lost that battle), 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 DCCC 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 Betheny Reid, executive director of the DCCC Foundation. “We see these qualities in Sara and Julius, 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: We should celebrate life’s goodness, regardless of adversity. Sara and Julius truly deserve this honor.”

In her essay for the Kramp competition, Hays recalled the trials and despair of dealing with diabetes, experiencing related depression – “[m]y body was letting me down” – and her journey toward drug addiction as a result of those physical and mental complications. She adds, “Unconsciously, when I was 13, I began to self-medicate my physical and emotional pain … so that I would not have to hurt so much. The addictions began to take control, and I felt powerless to stop them.” By age 19, Hays had landed in jail and faced two years of probation; fortunately, rehabilitation was part of her probation, and she learned more about herself and the emotions she had buried for years. 

Today, Sara has set some goals and is enrolled at Eastfield College to study nursing so that she can become a certified diabetic educator and counselor. “I would like to share my experiences with other diabetics, help guide them through the hard times, answer questions and make the challenges that come with diabetes easier to understand and not so impossible to overcome.” The EFC student is president of the college’s Communications Club; she also played goalie for the school’s first women’s soccer team and has earned a 3.6 grade point average. She adds, “I’ve been clean and sober for two years, and I am still going strong.  I have found happiness in all that I do.”

Ejiofor, who grew up in Ndu Town in North West Province, Cameroon, says he is “the first person in my family to get this far in college.” He adds, “I love my home, but I had to leave to achieve my goals.” Julius, who says that his younger brother now is more focused on his education because he has seen his older sibling succeed, also has helped others in Cameroon – and now at El Centro College – through tutoring. “In high school, I tutored physics and mathematics, at no charge, during (and sometimes after) school because I wanted them to succeed as well. I believe sharing my love of education helped many of them stay in school.”

Before he traveled the thousands of miles that brought him to Dallas, Julius also served as a class proctor and was named the best student in chemistry, physics and mathematics, as well as the best all-around student in academics. He graduated as the top student in his high school and in the entire city of Ndu Town. At El Centro, Julius has a 4.0 GPA, is a member of the two-year college academic honorary Phi Theta Kappa, is listed on the president’s honor roll and is a tutor in the Learning Center, where he continues to help others with mathematics. He also has volunteered in the community at Brentwood Place II nursing home and at the Veterans Hospital in Dallas.

“At my school in Cameroon, I studied all of the sciences that were taught, but because of the economic situation in my country, the high school did not have enough resources to have a science lab. As a result, we learned all of the (science) theory without actually doing the experiments and applications. This method was very challenging because it was difficult to visualize complicated science concepts. But I was still fascinated in science, in spite of those obstacles,” Ejiofor explains.

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

Press contacts:
Kathye Hammontree, DCCC Foundation, 214-860-2455
Ann Hatch, DCCC Marketing/Media Relations, 214-860-2478