IM this article to a friend!

July 29, 2004

Glaxo awards three $20,000 scholarships

From: Durham Herald Sun, NC - Jul 29, 2004

The Herald-Sun
Jul 29, 2004 : 10:03 pm ET

DURHAM -- Windy Dotson, Emmeline Igboekwe and Justin LeBlanc have dealt with many obstacles in their lives. This week, they were recognized for their many successes.

The three have been named the recipients of $20,000, four-year Opportunity Scholarships from GlaxoSmithKline.

This was the 16th year that the program administered by the Triangle Community Foundation has awarded the scholarships, intended to recognize individuals who have demonstrated the potential to succeed despite significant adversity, as well as the desire to improve their situations through education and training.

Dotson, a Raleigh resident, is enrolled in Duke University's physician assistant and master of health sciences program. She had always planned to go to college, she said, but her family had hard times after her father became disabled and the family lost its health insurance coverage.

The troubles, however, only made her want to work harder, and after studying at a community college, she was admitted to Wingate University, where she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer during her senior year. Although several organizations helped raise money to pay for her surgery and radiation therapy, Dotson had to go into debt because she lacked insurance.

But the treatment was successful, and in 2001, she graduated magna cum laude from Wingate with a bachelor's degree in athletic training and a minor in biology. She plans to use the scholarship to help finance her education in Duke University.

Another Wake County recipient, Igboekwe of Cary, also overcame family hardships. She now has two degrees in chemistry, in addition experience as a scientist and researcher, and will pursue a doctorate in pharmacy at UNC this fall.

The oldest of six children, Igboekwe was born in Pittsburgh, but her family then moved back to their native Nigeria. At 14, she left for Brooklyn, N.Y., where she planned to live with another family while in school. But that situation left her a victim of abuse and neglect, and after going to a homeless shelter, Igboekwe, with the support and encouragement of a school administrator, enrolled in the State University College at Buffalo. Since then, she has been a laboratory apprentice at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and studied at Wesleyan University in Connecticut on a National Science Foundation fellowship.

More recently, she earned a master's degree from N.C. State University in 2001.

Meanwhile, LeBlanc, the third scholarship winner, said that being deaf defines who he is, but not what he can achieve.

LeBlanc was discouraged from taking college preparatory classes as a high school freshman, so transferred to another school instead, where he worked with educators to create an honors courses program for hearing impaired students.

LeBlanc later was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation and sores in the lining of the large intestine. But he continued to lobby for more opportunities for hearing impaired students in the Wake County Schools, including closed-captioning for classroom videos and the addition of American Sign Language as a second-language option for all students.

At N.C. State University, LeBlanc plans to study architecture, with an emphasis on designs for people with disabilities.

© 2004 The Durham Herald Company