Meet the 2014 CETA Scholarship Winners

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Meet the 2014 CETA Scholarship Winners

By Adia Walker / Published October 2014





Brianna Leenders

When she was 16, Brianna Leenders was in a car accident that changed her outlook on life. “I realized how quickly a person’s life can end; that it is important to live life every day as if it is your last and to live how you want to be remembered,” she says. “I want to live a fulfilling life of love, compassion, and kindness; nursing is the perfect job for that!”

A senior at Seattle Pacific University, Leenders is a dedicated nursing student as well as a member of the Falcons volleyball team. According to Leenders, being both a full-time student and an athlete is very fulfilling, but it also has its challenges. “This last winter quarter was the toughest school experience I have ever had. It seemed like there was never a free moment, and I was always behind in one thing or the other. That, added with hardly any sleep, made it the toughest ten weeks of my life. I am so thankful for my coach and faculty though. They stood by me, and they helped me accommodate my schedule in order to promote success.”

Growing up in Gresham/Boring, OR, there were many positive influences in Leenders life. “My high school volleyball team taught me discipline, how to be a leader and a competitor, and how to be silly,” recalls Leenders. “My church taught me integrity, morals, values, and how to love God and others. My parents taught me how to listen, speak, and be respectful and kind. I am so thankful for the environment I was surrounded by.”

Leenders is very passionate about her future profession and is looking forward to helping others with the skills and knowledge she has acquired. One of her goals is to live in a developing country where she can offer her nursing skills to the malnourished.

In response to being chosen to receive a CETA scholarship, Leenders extends a heartfelt thank you to CETA; “You are helping me reach my life’s goals, and I am beyond grateful,” she says.



Dominic Della Sera

This fall, Dominic Della Sera will be graduating from Florida State University with two degrees: one in Exercise Science and the other in Psychology. He then hopes to enter the field of medicine and is particularly drawn to psychiatry and research.

“Psychiatric patients are often forgotten by the rest of society, and I’m optimistic the field will progress with more research into the brain,” Della Sera says. “I’m passionate about helping those who suffer from complex diseases often perpetuated by not just biological factors, but also psychological and social components. Being a problem solver by nature, I hope to play a small role in helping to solve these problems.”

Della Sera was always interested in the medical field, and after volunteering at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, he knew that psychiatry was his niche. The experience showed him how devastating a psychiatric diagnosis could be to families. “Psychiatry has many critics who sometimes have valid points,” he says. “Despite this, more people die by suicide than from motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Many others struggle with mental disorders silently.”

Fascinated by the information unearthed by research, Della Sera hopes to one day contribute to the wealth of knowledge that experimentation yields as part of a research program at a University Hospital. To illustrate his love of information gleaned through research, he describes what he considers the most interesting about his majors: “Aerobic exercise increases brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a chemical that stimulates the creation of new brain cells in an area of the brain where memories are formed,” he says. “We didn’t even know the brain could generate new neurons 20 years ago.”

Della Sera believes that many students are often deterred from entering into medical fields by the high costs associated with such degrees. The scholarship awarded by CETA not only helps him with this aspect, but also provides a morale boost. “To know someone else values my hard work feels really good,” he says.



Timothy Hardaway

A junior at the University of Oklahoma, Timothy Hardaway strives not only to succeed in his studies and lay the groundwork for a successful career, but also to maintain the values that were instilled in him growing up in the small town of Chandler, OK. “I believe that growing up in a town where if I messed up, my parents heard about it before I even walked in the door kept me humble and honest,” he says. “I think these two traits are very valuable and yet increasingly rare at the University level and beyond into the workplace.”

Currently studying Criminology—Pre-Law, with a minor in Aviation, Hardaway is also interested in adding a second minor in Business Management. Though he is not 100 percent certain about which specialty he will be choosing for his career in law, Corporate Law is among his top choices. In ten years, he sees himself practicing at a large law firm in Texas, and eventually would like to be a judge in a juvenile court.

“A common joke is that all attorneys are bad people, but I would just like people to know that this will not be true… as soon as I’m one, at least,” he says. Despite the not-so-positive lawyer humor that exists, Hardaway has always been interested in law, and enjoys learning about the judicial aspects of the United States criminal justice system. He acknowledges that his studies are made possible through opportunities such as the scholarship he has been awarded.

“I would like to thank the CETA Education Foundation along with every contributing company; your successful enterprises help fund educational opportunities and scholarships just like this one,” Hardaway says. “These, in turn, help to provide a better future, one scholarship at a time.”



Aaron Bellomo

Growing up in Hudson, NH, as the oldest of four siblings, Aaron Bellomo developed leadership characteristics and a strong competitiveness early on in life. By middle school, he knew he wanted to be a journalist and over the years, he has developed an interest in many areas of this field, including sports, hard news, feature writing, and politics. Bellomo is currently majoring in Communication with a concentration in Digital Media at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY.

Bellomo strongly believes that his profession is vital to society. “I am most passionate about the importance of critical thinking in our society” he says. “A man without the ability to truly think for himself and make strategic decisions based on reason is bound to be exploited. I feel the public should know and/or value the importance of being informed and having objective journalism for a free country to exist. Democracy cannot thrive without the masses being educated and informed.”

Public speaking, writing, and mathematics/statistics have always been academic strengths for Bellomo, which he nurtures through hard work and study. “One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of being a powerful speaker is the notion that what you say is not nearly as important as how you say it,” he explains. “Developing into a charismatic and influential speaker is a process but certainly an enjoyable journey.”

In ten years, Bellomo would love to be a columnist and political analyst for CNN, with a book published on effective campaign strategies employed in the 2020 Presidential election. He is thankful for the support he has received from CETA to pursue this dream. “I would like to whole-heartedly thank CETA and this scholarship committee,” he says. “It seems both the importance and cost of higher education are rising drastically, which presents a tricky dilemma. Programs such as this one help enable students’ dreams.”



Molly Lembezeder

As a freshman at the University of Northern Iowa, Molly Lembezeder will be studying Pre-Medicine with a possible minor in Psychology. As a little girl, Lembezeder dreamed of being a doctor; as a college student, she has honed in on the specialty of Pediatrics. In addition, she has developed a passion for the international, humanitarian-aid organization, Doctors Without Borders. “I love working with kids in all settings, and Doctors Without Borders has been a passion of mine for a few years now, ever since I read a book about the founder,” she says. “I would love to one day be a part of the program or one similar to it.”

Simply being around children makes Lembezeder happy, and knowing that she can improve their health is even more rewarding. “Pediatricians treat much more than the basic ear infections and flu; they can see anyone from newborn babies, sick toddlers, all the way to high school students with emotional trouble,” she says. Optimistic about the future of medicine, Lembezeder believes that research will help doctors to empower their patients to effectively manage their health. “There are new discoveries made every day to constantly better our health and lifestyles, each more advanced than the next and the possibilities seem to be endless.”

As a scholarship recipient, Lembezeder is looking forward to achieving her goals and ambitions so that one day she, too, will be in a position to help others. To CETA, she extends her heartfelt appreciation. “Thank you all for encouraging the dreams of so many young adults,” she begins. “Through your aid and support, many of us are able to pursue a career that would have otherwise been more difficult. After we achieve our own success, many of us will no doubt give back to students in the same positions we find ourselves in now, and it is all thanks to you.”



Megan Purswell

After months of extensive physical therapy following knee surgery during her junior year in high school, Megan Purswell knew she wanted to be a physical therapist. “I find the human body’s healing processes very intriguing,” she says. “I love to think that I will eventually be able to help speed up those processes through the gift of physical therapy.”

As a senior at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Purswell is pursuing a degree in Pre Physical Therapy, with plans to move on to a graduate program in Physical Therapy. She is passionate about her field of study and looks forward to joining the ranks of the professionals currently practicing. “Physical therapists are highly educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility,” Purswell explains. “In many cases, PTs can help prevent expensive surgery and reduce the need for long-term use of prescription medications.”

Purswell is very grateful for the scholarship awarded by CETA and the opportunity to pursue her life goal of becoming a licensed doctor of physical therapy. “Without your help, this goal would be much harder to accomplish, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity that you have presented me with,” she says.

Though she is happy to be on track for reaching her goals, Purswell struggles with a recent tragedy in her life, and shares her story with us. “My father, John Purswell Jr., passed away during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college,” she says. “Mourning and learning to deal with such a significant loss while keeping my grades high enough to be accepted into a doctor of physical therapy program has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. He was the person I would always go to with questions about my education and future, and losing him has forced me to be more independent even when I don’t want to be. In fact, I remember him helping me answer these questions when I won this scholarship in 2012! I know that applying to PT school would be so much easier with him here with me, helping and guiding me through the long, drawn-out processes. He was my hero, my best friend, my motivator, my supporter, and so much more. My life changed dramatically when my father died, and the past year and two months has been the hardest of my life.”