USD Awards 26 Student Changemaker Scholarships

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From Inside USD -- What is a Changemaker? Well, the short answer could be a person who, with a desire for good, creates something or puts it into action in order to make a difference. But to truly define whom a Changemaker is, the answer varies. Much like snowflakes, everyone has their own style, their own story, and their own definition.

“I believe I am a Changemaker because I try, in everything I do, to make a positive impact on the world around me, be it in big or small ways. I try to live this philosophy in all my thoughts and actions. To me, changemaking is more of a lifestyle than a grandiose gesture intended to change the world,” said Honors Program student Kelly Lonergan, a junior English major and Women’s and Gender Studies minor and a student leader in USD’s Center for Awareness, Service and Action.

Recently, Lonergan (pictured above, with fellow scholarship winner Juan Barragan) was chosen as one of 26 University of San Diego undergraduate students to receive a USD Changemaker Hub scholarship from a pool of $75,000. In the application, students were asked to define themselves as a Changemaker and offer other insight as to how they display the mentality of difference maker.

Here’s what three students, each of whom earned a top scholarship prize of $5,000, shared about their Changemaker aspirations and inspiration:

  • Morgan Pike aspires to be an international physician so he can provide communities in need with access to regular and sufficient healthcare.
  • Ailsa Tirado said something she heard as a preteen — “if you are who you are meant to be, you can change the world” — still guides her positive, giving actions.
  • One student, along with her family, has experienced homelessness. While this occurred when she was in high school, it opened her eyes and strengthened her resolve to help others who face it today.

“I’m looking into creating a support group for families who have lost their source of income and who are facing serious problems, such as losing their homes,” she said. “There are new government programs that have only recently been enacted that specifically help families in this situation. While it might have been too late for my family when this happened to us, it’s not too late for them.”

Four USD students received $3,000 and 19 were awarded $2,500. The entire list of 26 recipients are: Tori Berba (pictured, left), Morgan Pike, Ailsa Tirado, Kelly Lonergan, Aaron McCarthy, Juan Barragan, Brian Fernandez Oquendo, David Bittner, Sam Eller, Yvette Beltran, Leanne Falzon, Breana Burgos, Melissa Padilla, Banan Al-Nasery, Cassandra Dang, Catherine Bradshaw, Rayne Ibarra-Brown, Grace Hernandez, Patrick Smith, Meliza Trimidal, Catherine Lounsbury, Ashley Vigil, Sukhpreet Bains, Jeffery Bush, Antione Swinton Jr. and Hayden Rojas.

The scholarships, distributed based on the decision of a USD Changemaker Scholarship committee, were generously provided by the USD Parents Fund.

The mission of the University of San Diego, which earned the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus designation in Fall 2011, focuses on developing ethical leaders through its holistic liberal arts education. As expected, each Changemaker scholarship winner showcased something that demonstrated a genuine concern for the betterment of others and a problem-solving awareness that carries that out. For many, receiving the scholarship reinforced their determination.

“This provides me with a level of confidence going forward with the mission of creating change at the university,” said Juan Barragan, a senior business marketing major and Political Science and Italian minor.

He is currently working on bringing a music and arts diversity festival to campus later this spring. His goal is to expose the campus community to different cultures through art and music. Furthermore, many of the bands expected to perform are also community-service focused.

“I truly believe music helps stimulate awareness and action,” Barragan said.

Pike, a junior Neuroscience and Chemistry double major, is studying abroad this semester in Vienna, Austria. Pike (pictured, left) has been involved with three student medical chapter organizations at USD — Medical Brigades, Border Brigades and the American Medical Student Association. Just as his opportunities in those organizations fuel his passion to be an international physician, Pike said that being a Changemaker scholarship recipient is another major contributor.

“This really opened my eyes as to how many opportunities we have available to us as students (at USD) and to really take advantage of as many as possible while we can,” Pike said.

Tirado, a junior Industrial and Systems Engineering major, said the advice she took to heart as a preteen when participating in a girls’ club in Mexico, has given her positive direction and has helped define her approach to life. She wants to be authentic.

“In the club, the purpose was to give girls confidence, leadership skills and a sense of solidarity. We believed we were Changemakers. Learning about the world, we felt impelled to visit nursing homes, host Christmas parties for inner-city kids, prepare meals for poor communities and collect money for the construction of rehabilitation centers. We saw an imperfect world that needed change,” she said. “To this day, in college, being connected with the world at large and finding solutions to problems is very important to me. However, I am a Changemaker, not because of the activities I do, but rather because when I do them, I am being real, I am being who I am meant to be.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Are you a Changemaker? Learn more and enter the $5,000 USD Changemaker Challenge.