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Below are brief profiles of past Loudoun "Beat the Odds" award winners.  While this information gives you snapshots of their challenges, it is far from their full stories.  We hope that this will help you appreciate the drive and determination of these amazing young people.  Please note that we limit some of the information about them so as to protect their privacy.

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2014 Kayla Walters: The 2014 Beat the Odds award recipient suffered sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her biological father as a young girl. At age 12, she courageously came forward and testified in court against her father. However, the scars remained, and she struggled with depression, an eating disorder and family financial difficulties throughout her teen years. She refused to be a victim, however, and through determination and the support of loved ones she rebuilt her self-confidence and excelled both in school and in the community. Kayla's BTO scholarship will help her embark into the nursing program at George Mason University.

Leanna Moron: This 2013 Beat the Odds award recipient suffered years of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of a trusted family members. Leanna persisted through severe poverty and a highly dysfunctional family environment. She worked throughout high school as a baby-sitter, dog walker, Spanish tutor, Math tutor and a cashier at a local store – all to help her family pay the bills. Leanna was one of four award recipients in 2013, and is using her Loudoun ‘Beat the Odds’ scholarship to help her attend Penn State University in the fall of 2013..


Keylah Sacco: The 2012 Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient has persevered through significant family upheaval and years of physical and sexual abuse.  Through the support of a friend, she was finally able to come forward to authorities and she and her younger sisters were removed from their abusive home environment and were placed into foster care.  She is now with a stable and loving family and has excelled in school as well as being a role model to her siblings.  She is the first in her family to graduate from high school and the first to attend college.  One of four award recipients in 2012, Keylah will be attending Marymount University and plans to pursue a degree in nursing.


Shelly Nguyen: The 2011 Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient faced severe poverty issues during her childhood.  Shelly's parents moved out of state in order to find employment, and Shelly and her sisters had to fend for themselves in Loudoun.  Shelly and her younger sister moved multiple times, four times during her junior year of high school alone, often residing with friends.  Through all this she was a high achieving student with strong academics and a wonderful sense of humility.  One of six award recipients in 2011, Shelly is currently a student at the University of Virginia.


Brenda Fuentes: The 2010 Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient suffered a sudden stroke as a sophomore in high school, leaving her partially paralyzed on her right side.  Brenda had to relearn how to read, write, walk and speak.  After having to repeat her sophomore year, Brenda fought back against her challenges and in June 2010 became the first member of her family to ever graduate from high school and the first to attend college.  One of 5 award recipients in 2010, Brenda used her Beat the Odds scholarship to assist her in attending George Mason University.


Jessica Murray: The 2009 Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient didn’t attend her first year of formal schooling until the 5th grade – before that she had only read books on her own.  Jessica struggled through a very difficult upbringing, and after coming forward to authorities as a teen about the many terrible events of her childhood, Jessica was placed into foster care.  Despite the adversity in her life, Jessica prevailed, thriving in a school setting and graduating as valedictorian of her high school class at Loudoun Valley.  One of 5 award recipients in 2009, Jessica is used her Beat the Odds scholarship to assist her with her studies at The College of William & Mary, where she received her Bachelor's Degree in May 2013.


Victor Williams: The 2008 Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient was the oldest of 4 children with an absentee father.  Facing significant poverty for most of his youth, Victor moved more than 30 times since his birth – shelters, trailers, friend’s homes, churches.  The tough times helped make him a leader among his peers in school and on the football field.  One of 5 award recipients in 2008, Victor’s Beat the Odds scholarship helped him bridge the financial gap he faced so that he could attend Bridgewater College.  Victor graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in May 2012.


Aleyna Castillo: The 2007 Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient spent her high school years as the primary caretaker of her mother who was battling Multiple Sclerosis (MS), working a part-time job, and caring for her 9 year old cousin who lived with them.  One of 5 award recipients in 2006, Aleyna moved her mother and cousin after graduation to a new home in North Carolina so she could begin her freshman year at UNC Greensboro and still care for them.  She was soon thereafter profiled in a Washington Post article about her struggles to care for her mother and still be a “regular” college student.  Aleyna graduated from UNC Greensboro in December 2011.


Sharmila Clee: The 2006 Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient spent several years in the foster care system after being removed from an abusive home.  While in Foster Care she was profiled by NBC News 4 as a “Wednesday’s Child,” a weekly profile of children in the foster care system who are in need of an adoptive family.  Sharmila and her siblings were eventually adopted.  She overcame many of her early life obstacles and established for herself the goal of becoming a social worker.  One of 3 award recipients in 2006, Sharmila used her Beat the Odds scholarship to start her studies at Radford University, and then later transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University.  She graduated from VCU in 2010 with a degree in Social Work and then went on to obtain her Masters Degree at Columbia University in New York City in 2012.


Megan Bowie: The very first Loudoun Beat the Odds award recipient (2005) moved to Loudoun during high school after being removed from her home due to an abusive father.  She demonstrated fortitude in battling juvenile arthritis and at times having to take 22 pills a day.  Yet she pushed herself academically and was able to graduate from high school a year early.  Megan used her Beat the Odds scholarship to close the funding gap for her enrollment into Hampton University.  She later transferred to Old Dominion as a Chemistry major.  During that time, in addition to being a student, she became a successful and well known On-Air radio personality in the Norfolk area known as “DJ B*Ryte”. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Summer 2012.

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