June 12 marks four years since the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando that took 49 lives and injured 53 others.
Much has been done since that time to honor the victims and preserve their memory since the horrific event took place in 2016.
One initiative is the “Legacy Scholarships” — and a first-round that has just been completed. Forty-nine students have been chosen to receive the scholarships “to honor the aspirations of all 49 Angels who died that day.”
The onePULSE Foundation recently announced the inaugural class. They will receive $333,000 in scholarship awards for academic opportunities and were identified as recipients who “embody love, hope, unity, courage and unconditional acceptance.”
The scholarships are to be used during the 2020-2021 academic year. The onePULSE Foundation is the nonprofit that was established following the tragedy.
Representatives from onePULSEworked with the families and loved ones of those killed to establish the scholarships based on the respective victims’ interests, careers or aspirations.
“As an extension of their impact on our world, the scholarships will inspire and empower students who share similar dreams, ambitions and goals,” onePULSE said in a statement.
Scholarship preference was given to applicants who are immediate family members of the 49 victims, as well as all of the survivors of the tragedy — thus three family members and three survivors were awarded inaugural scholarships.
Pulse survivor and scholarship award recipient Amanda Grau said that because of the bravery of first responders who saved her life after she was shot four times, she now wants to save other people’s lives.
“It has always been a passion of mine to be a firefighter and paramedic,” Grau said in a statement. “I am currently a patient care technician and an EMT and I have finished fire school as well. My next goal is to become a paramedic and the [scholarship] has given me the opportunity to fulfill that dream.”
Shepherd Drayton, whose sister — Deonka“Dee Dee” Drayton — was killed, is a third-year medical student who wants to work to eliminate prejudicial biases from the practice of medicine, like ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identification, or socio-economic status.
His goal is to form an alliance with doctors across the country that share similar beliefs.
“I believe this scholarship will undoubtedly help me accomplish my goals,” Drayton said in a statement. “Not only does it provide me the means in which to continue my education, but it also affords me the opportunity to carry on my sister’s legacy, and one day fulfill her destiny. A destiny full of love … and acceptance for everyone.”
The scholarship committee was comprised of 17 community members.
The foundation said it considered many factors when assessing applicants, including their personal story, financial need or independence, academic or self-improvement interest, and track record of leadership, community involvement and/or work experience.
More than 200 applications were received. The inaugural class represents incoming freshmen majoring in business, communications and the performing arts, as well as cosmetology, nursing, medical and master students.
“Each of the committee members reviewed the applications with pride and care and was passionate about the support of the candidates,” committee chair Cathy Brown-Butler, who is also a onePULSE board member, said. “These 49 Legacy Scholarships will indeed open doors, change lives and carry on the hopes and dreams of the Angels.”
The scholarship initiative is expected to take place each year and be funded for up to $10,000 each to be used at an accredited institution of higher learning, including career and technical schools.
Funders include AdventHealth, AlixPartners, the Earl and Bettie Fields Automotive Group Foundation, Gucci, Orlando Health, PVH Foundation and Wendy Trammel.
The foundation is also spearheading a memorial and museum expected to open in Orlando in 2022.
The inaugural recipients, and their corresponding Angels, are:
Ana R. – Akyra Monet Murray
Victoria H. – Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Juliene M. – Amanda L. Alvear
Evon T. – Angel Candelario-Padro
Vanessa O. – Angel of Acceptance
Jada S. – Angel of Hope
Spencer C. – Angel of Strength
Abdullah A. – Angel of Unity
Jai H. – Anthony Luis Laureano Disla
Sally C. – Antonio "Tony" Brown
Isaiah H. – Brenda Marquez McCool
Sage C. – Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
Amanda G. – Cory James Connell
Cole F. – Darryl Roman Burt II
Shepherd D. – Deonka "Dee Dee" Drayton
Victoria M. – Eddie Jamal Droy Justice
Gayatri C. – Eddie Sotomayor Jr.
Soleil D. – Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Celine H. – Frank Hernandez
Akeem M. – Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez
Alexis T. – Gerardo A. Ortiz Jimenez
Kate A. – Gilberto R. Silva Menendez
Brandon H. – Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Renae F. – Javier Jorge Reyes
Catarina P. – Jean C. Mendez Perez
Braulio G. – Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez
Brandi M. – Jerry Wright
Ky-mani B. – Joel Rayon Paniagua
Evan L. – Jonathan A. Camuy Vega
Nicholas C. – Juan Chavez Martinez
Myles J. – Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez
Marchel W. – Juan Ramon Guerrero
Malisa S. – Kimberly Jean Morris
Tessa J. – Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Logan A. – Luis D. Conde
Timothy C. – Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Karen P. – Luis Omar Ocasio Capo
Kimberly V. – Luis Sergio Vielma
Matthew A. – Martin Benitez Torres
Alancea G. – Mercedez Marisol Flores
Alejandra E. – Miguel Angel Honorato
Rose H. – Oscar A. Aracena Montero
Kyle M. – Paul Terrell Henry
Andrew F. – Rodolfo Ayala Ayala
Blake C. – Shane Evan Tomlinson
Eriyan B. – Stanley Almodovar III
Francia C. – Tevin Eugene Crosby
Bethany C. – Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Kimberly C. – Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan
More information is available at onepulsefoundation.org/scholarships.