Contact: Debra Dennis;
For immediate release — Sept. 18, 2020
(DALLAS) — Education changes lives. Four Dallas College students who have survived physical disability, domestic violence, poverty and absent parents know that. They have courage. They have persevered and survived challenges that would have caused others to give up. Now, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, they begin their journey with college, classes and completing a degree so that they can build careers and lead happy, productive lives.
With the help of the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Endowed Scholarship from Dallas College, Luis Rodriguez, Viviane D. Santos, Rory Etienne and Jaqueline Martinez are ready to take that next step.
Their lives are testimonials to the woman for whom the scholarship is named: Erin Tierney Kramp, a venture capital investor who drew national praise for her brave fight against cancer. Kramp inspired countless strangers when she co-authored “Living With the End in Mind” (written with her husband and a family friend) and through appearances on programs like “20/20” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” 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. Kramp’s legacy lives on through the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation, the Dallas College scholarship program and the lives of all its recipients.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s scholars were honored on Sunday, Sept. 13, during a virtual awards ceremony, the foundation announced.
This year’s application and selection process was modified and adjusted because of COVID-19, said Michael Brown, president of the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation.
“In the wake of this year’s coronavirus pandemic, 2020 proved to be a unique selection process for our ETK Encouragement Foundation scholarship awards,” Brown said. “Just like our recipients, we adapted and persevered. We extended the deadline, narrowed over 170 qualified applications to the top 10 finalists and interviewed those finalists online via WebEx.
“We have selected four outstanding inpiduals who exemplify the cornerstone of our scholarship program — courage and perseverance in the face of adversity — and [who] represent outstanding additions to our already stellar ETK scholarship awards family,” Brown added.
The four winners of these full-ride scholarships have each told their stories of the hardships and adversities that propelled them to survive and be able to enter college to plan out their lives and their careers.
Here are the 2020 Kramp recipients:
Viviane D. Santos
During her childhood, Santos was left broken and disillusioned by the domestic violence that dominated her household in Brazil. It took years of therapy to understand that a family member was violent because that was the life he had known as a child. It took even longer to forgive him. In therapy, she learned to do just that. “I was afraid of him,” Santos said. “In therapy, I had the opportunity to step into my [the family member’s] shoes. After therapy, I was free to love … without anger or any bad feelings toward him.”
Born without half of her left arm, she endured intense teasing because of her physical disability. She could not fight other children who harmed her but learned to fight for every educational opportunity and job promotion.
Santos attends Dallas College Richland Campus, where she is pursuing a software engineering degree because she loves solving problems. Her career choice, she said, makes her feel safe, stable and secure — some of the traits that eluded her as a child.
Rory Etienne is both a fighter and a survivor. As a premature baby, he beat medical odds that said he would never make it to adulthood. Born in Connecticut, Etienne struggled with both developmental and physical impairments. He had to relentlessly battle abuse from a family member. Suffering from clinical depression due to the physical and emotional trauma, he twice considered suicide but decided not to let his ailments win. “It takes great inner strength to rise from your adversities," he said.
Etienne was eventually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, autism and chronic migraines. With his experience with mental and physical disabilities, he learned that “no matter how hard it gets, my family, friends and sponsors have taught me to get back up and to keep fighting; to keep dreaming for a better future.”
Etienne’s goal is to become a pediatric cardiac specialist. He is currently pursuing an associate degree in invasive cardiovascular technology at Dallas College North Lake Campus. He plans to move to the Boston area and continue his educational pursuits.
Her goal is a lofty but determined one: “Past trauma will not hold me back from a beautiful life.” She describes the first 19 years of her life as “pure horror.” As a young girl, her closet became a temporary refuge as she sought to console herself following routine sexual assaults by a family member.
Martinez, now 20, looks back with determination to shine a light on the horrors of child sexual abuse. She knows how tough it is to come to terms with trauma. A teen runaway, she found hope and stability in a psychiatric hospital. She now lives with her grandmother while attending Dallas College Eastfield Campus. She hopes to transfer to a four-year college and pursue a degree in statistics. Data, she said, will drive the research about the prevalent and pervasive mistreatment of children.
The first in her family to attend college, Martinez is learning leadership skills through her membership in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
At a young age, Luis Rodriguez was abandoned for a time by his mother and left with his great-grandparents. A native of El Salvador, he moved to the United States into a crowded, dysfunctional home with his mother and other relatives. During this time, his mother remarried, but both parents worked, so he was responsible for the care of his three sisters. His stepfather had to leave the country, leaving his pregnant wife behind. Rodriguez took on the responsibility of caring for his mother, sisters and his new infant brother.
Graduating from high school, Rodriguez shut himself off from the world with no plans to continue his education. “I thought there was no point to it,” he said. But with support from his fiancée and her family, he managed to enroll in college and found that he liked it there. He started mapping out his road to success. “Life has made me responsible. I have learned to manage my time and money better than most,” Rodriguez said. Computers have long been an interest, and he even built one from parts. He then taught himself Excel.
Rodriguez has worked as an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant and as a technician for a tech company. He attends Brookhaven Campus and plans to graduate with a degree in computer engineering.
These four scholars are following in the footsteps of three returning Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award recipients, who will again attend Dallas College in the fall: Elizelda Martinez, who is majoring in business at Brookhaven Campus; Grace Mulumba, who is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering with emphasis in premed at Richland Campus, and Marlen Pacheco, an El Centro Campus student who is majoring in criminal justice.
For more information about the Erin Tierney Kramp Scholars program, contact Kathye Hammontree in the Dallas College Foundation office by phone at 214-378-1536 or by email at
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