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The 2019 Kramp scholars are (left to right) Elizelda Martinez, Grace Mulumba Lupandu Nibert, Quyen Nguyen and Marlen Pacheco.

Contact: Debra Dennis

For immediate release — July 1, 2019

(DALLAS) — They have encountered and survived countless social ills, including bullying, childhood abuse, peer pressure and political upheaval.

The four 2019 Erin Tierney Kramp scholars from the Dallas County Community College District know the value of education and are looking forward both scholastically and globally to the future. They have faced their challenges head-on and are striving for a chance at a better life. They were chosen to receive the scholarship because of the obstacles they faced and their strength in demonstrating tremendous courage and perseverance to overcome them.

The DCCCD Kramp scholarship winners are: Grace Mulumba Lupandu Nibert, Richland College; Elizelda Martinez, Brookhaven College; Quyen Nguyen, Brookhaven College; and Marlen Pacheco, El Centro.

The Erin Tierney Kramp Scholarship program, created by the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation (ETK), is awarded to recipients who demonstrate courage and perseverance through extreme personal hardship and adversity. It is named for Erin Kramp, a breast cancer victim who created a videotaped legacy of “life lessons” to leave her daughter, Peyton. Erin’s personal journey was featured on "Oprah" and "20/20." The Kramp Scholarship program, administered by the DCCCD Foundation and the ETK Foundation, will help all four students with financial support and additional resources to complete their education and improve their lives. In addition to full tuition and books for up to six semesters, the students will receive mentoring and special enrichment programs throughout the year from the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation and its board members.

“The Erin Tierney Kramp program awards college scholarships to students based on their courage and perseverance in the face of adversity,” said Michael Brown, founder and president of the Erin Tierney Kramp Scholarship Foundation. “These new recipients all have demonstrated these qualities, and they will be wonderful additions to the Kramp family.

“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ETK Foundation and its scholarship program, we reflect on all of our past recipients as well as our new recipients, and the theme still rings true today — when individuals face tremendous adversity, the struggles they endure will either make them stronger or defeat them,” Brown added. “Winning that battle requires both courage and perseverance — traits possessed by all of our former recipients and certainly these new recipients as well.”

The 2019 Kramp Awards program and dinner was held Wednesday, June 19, at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Dallas.

Telling Their Stories

Elizelda Martinez

Brookhaven College student Elizelda Martinez knows how it feels to be on the receiving end of relentless bullying.

Bullies tore at her self-esteem during her elementary, middle school and high school years. In fact, her torment began on her very first day of school. The laughter from other students was sickening, Martinez recalled.

“Kids would laugh at my clothes, my shoes, my body shape,” said Martinez. “I never wanted to tell my parents because I would just be another burden.”

She began bottling up everything inside and pretended she was happy. But the harassment had a detrimental effect. At 13, Martinez considered taking her own life.

“When I was about to take my life, God spoke to me on a different level. He let me know that it did not matter what others thought of me because I was beautiful from the inside out,” she said.

Martinez found her purpose, and music became her refuge. She was helped when a close friend encouraged her to find her purpose by helping others. She counsels others on building their self-esteem and self-worth.

“I have helped girls who ate in the restroom because they had no friends,” said Martinez, who plans to graduate from Brookhaven in 2021. “It makes me so happy now to see them in college and doing what they were meant to do.”

Martinez had considered majoring in nursing but switched her allegiance to business because she wants to help her family start their own remodeling, painting and home repair businesses.

Grace Mulumba Lupandu Nibert

Grace Mulumba Lupandu Nibert is an international student from Belgium. He traces his most enduring challenges to life in his former home, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Political tensions brought on by a civil war forced him and his family to flee to Europe for safety.

The family left everything behind, including their friends, homes, cars and jobs, said Nibert, who is attending Richland College. “We had to flee to find a better and more peaceful life.”

Adapting to new circumstances, a new culture and a new language, Nibert lived in Belgium before leaving that country at 14 to pursue his education in the United States.

He arrived in Dallas after having undergone a surgery on both of his feet. Despite the difficulties he experienced medically along with new change of culture and environment, Nibert strived and academically, he succeeded with a GPA of more than 4.0. He was able to transfer to college at the age of 16 prior to completing high school.

Nibert is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering, and he plans to transfer to the University of Texas at Dallas. His career goal is to become a physician. Currently, besides pursuing his education, he enjoys volunteering at Well Being for All, an organization that works to alleviate poverty worldwide.

Quyen Nguyen

Quyen Nguyen came to the United States for a better life, following years of childhood mistreatment. She was born in Vietnam to a father who not only belittled and devalued her but also physically abused her. Quyen’s mother and sister also were subjected to his violence.

“For 18 years — every single day — I was beaten by my father. This is the biggest obstacle I have overcome. My wish every day was to run away, but I could not,” Nguyen said.

Trapped by her circumstances, Nguyen saw education as her only means of escape. During high school, she excelled, becoming a class leader, a teacher’s assistant and a script writer for every high school play performed by the literature class.

In 2016, Nguyen left Vietnam for the United States to attend college so she could provide a better way of life for her family. Nguyen enrolled in Mesa Community College in Arizona before moving to Dallas, where she now attends Brookhaven College. Learning became her outlet.

A graphic design major, Nguyen plans to transfer to a four-year college. Nguyen hopes to intern at Pentagram’s Austin studio and to eventually become a graphic artist for Pentagram Design, the world’s largest independent design consultancy.

Marlen Pacheco

Marlen Pacheco lived in an area where kids her age were smoking illegal drugs and getting pregnant as teenagers. Education helped Marlen Pacheco sidestep the trappings of her environment.

A graduate of Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Pacheco excelled at the challenging coursework at the single-sex education school. Her most immediate challenges, however, have been finding enough funds to afford college. Her parents, she said, were not astute at finances and taxes, leaving her to figure out how to complete her education.

“I’m still overcoming this adversity and just hoping for the best,” said Pacheco, who wants to become a police officer and plans to major in criminal justice at El Centro. “In high school, I went to the Dallas Junior Police Academy, which assured me that being a detective was my goal in life.”

She also was part of the Geo Club at Rangel, which is a group that helps children and women who suffer from neglect. “I want to promote wellness. I have always been passionate about helping those in need,” said Pacheco.

For more information, contact Kathye Hammontree in the DCCCD Foundation office at 214-378-1536 or email her at

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