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 peoples 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 — DeonkaDee 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 sisters 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.