The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, Texas thanks the dozens of well-qualified candidates who submitted applications for the AAFA-TX Kareem Bacchus Memorial Scholarships. It is difficult for the committee to select the best from the best. We are proud to award three Scholarships to these exceptional young Texans who have several traits in common: they are excellent scholars; they are academic and social leaders; they are active in organized sports or performance arts; they contribute service to their communities and churches; they work part time – and they have asthma. They reflect the same spirit demonstrated by Kareem Bacchus, in whose name and memory the scholarships are awarded. Congratulations! AAFA-TX hopes these scholarships help each recipient realize his dreams and potential.
William D. Gaffney
Douglas MacArthur High School, San Antonio, Texas
Will was diagnosed with mild persistent asthma at 2 yrs of age. His asthma symptoms are triggered by allergies, exercise, infections and emotions. Will thinks the advice his doctor gave his parents, to let him remain an active child and not place boundaries on his activities, is the reason he’s developed a resistance to asthma symptoms allowing him to succeed in his goals. Will believes he is not limited by his asthma and he doesn’t let it rule his life. “I have always had friends stare at me in shock on my rare “bad” days when I need to resort to a single puff of my albuterol inhaler. There is a look of confusion usually followed by ‘I didn’t know that you had asthma.”
As a young boy, he fell in love with sports, playing Little League soccer, basketball, football and baseball. After two years of high school football, he developed a new passion: musical theater and participation in the Varsity Men’s Choir. “Thanks to the exercise that sports gave me I had no problem projecting or singing for long periods of time.”
Will is graduating with a 98 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. He’s participated in PALS (Peer Assisted Leadership) since his sophomore year, is an officer of the Future Business Leaders of America club and is an Honor Guard. He volunteers hundreds of hours annually to his church where he received the Youth Leader of the Year award for his volunteer contributions to his church.
He’s served his community for 3 years as a counselor at the Special Needs Youth Botanical Camp in San Antonio, a camp for children with Downs Syndrome. In 2007 he was project leader for Operation Paintbrush in Corpus Christi, helping to paint homes for senior citizens in financial need.
Recognition awards include the National Award of Excellence in Literature, National Society of High School Scholars, People to People Students Ambassador program, and participation in the Lead America/Youth Leadership Conference for Outstanding High School students. Nominated for Who’s Who among American High School Students, he also makes time to work summers as a website designer.
He will attend Texas Christian University (TCU) in Ft. Worth where he plans to study E-business, turning his creative passions for technology into a successful future, a future that includes plans for a large family he can nurture. No, asthma doesn’t limit Will Gaffney!
Wylie High School, Abilene, Texas
With a GPA of 97.8, Randall excels in academics through a combination of hard work and determination – recognizing a challenge then beating it. “The main life lesson asthma taught me is to fight for things that are important. Because of asthma I am blessed with a greater determination and work ethic; my disorder has become my benefit” says Randall, an asthma patient since infancy. Randall’s symptoms are triggered by allergies and exercise. As a young child he felt physical limitations due to his asthma but his determination to play Varsity football taught him the importance of using his medications and building a strong healthy body, resulting in his participation on a football team that was a regional finalist in 2006.
This same determination won him the respect of his peers and teachers. A Student Council member for 3 years, Randall is also a part of PALS, an honor bestowed by teachers and peers based on leadership qualities and character. He is a 3 year member of the National Honor Society; a National Merit Scholar and the recipient of 4 Academic Letters. He participated in UIL Competitive Academics (University Interscholastic League) in the disciplines of Current Events and Social Studies yet still found time to mentor elementary and jr. high kids on Drug Awareness He is listed in Who’s Who among American High School Students. A qualifier for the State Bar of Texas Citizen’s Bee, which requires a knowledge of government, current events and Supreme Court cases, Randall also sponsored a child through Compassion International from 2006-2008.
Randall works part time during the school year and full time summers doing custodial, handyman and lawn care for his Church. His Church is a focal point and passion for Randall: he founded SLAM (Students Leading a Ministry) in 2006, a citywide youth outreach program and has been a leader in several youth ministry projects and missions. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Randall will attend Baylor University in Waco. His life goal is to enter a career of Christian ministry. “Partly because of asthma, I have uncovered my greatest passion. To me, asthma is not a disease but a blessing!” Randall believes his asthma has helped make him a better counselor and minister to others afflicted by various diseases whether physical, emotional or spiritual. This positive attitude will guarantee his success.
Aaron Michael Lewallen
Hamilton High School, Hamilton, Texas
A member of his high school’s varsity basketball and golf teams, Aaron’s philosophy is very positive. Aaron’s life-long asthma is triggered by severe allergies to pollens and other natural allergens as well as chemical sensitivity, exercise and sometimes respiratory illness. He also has food allergies and food intolerance. “I remember my mom always saying ‘you can’t have that, you’re allergic’. As I got older my allergies got worse, so did my asthma. I have always been very active and loved sports. I always took my inhalers everywhere I went and when we were out of town… my nebulizer. …. I was always embarrassed about having asthma and being allergic to things so I could never tell anybody. …. Almost all of the coaches that I have had do not believe that asthma is a problem and that you should keep going even when you can’t breathe. Most people don’t understand how hard it is to do something, school work, talk, run, date, etc., when you can’t breathe.”
Asthma and severe allergies have not hindered Aaron in any discernable way. With the help of his mom, a single-parent, friends and teachers, Aaron excels not only academically but in every area of his life. He is graduating with a 93.7 GPA and is an Honor Roll member in a very competitive school, and, he has 15 hours of advanced placement courses, the equivalent of a semester’s college credits, completed during high school. A member of his school’s UIL Competitive Academics team, he played in the school band, has performed in One Act Play for three years, is a member of Future Farmers of America and is a four year member of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). He still finds time to tutor small kids, help coach Little Dribblers and kid’s football, volunteer with his Church youth group, work in the Church nursery and earn Golf Honors for his school team. In his “spare” time he works as a ranch hand and does yard work to help his family financially. Aaron believes he’s inherited his mom’s spirit of “giving back to the community” and is a big brother to the Foster children she helps nurture in their home.
Aaron will attend Texas A&M where his older sister is also enrolled and is an honor student. His goal is to study bio-medical science and go on to medical school to become a neurosurgeon. We wish this responsible and ambitious young man well and know that, as he said, he will not let asthma affect his life in any negative way.