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.
Wylie High School, Sachse, Texas
Academically first in a class of 590 with a 4.0 GPA, Kaitlyn is more then just an outstanding scholar. Even though she has mild persistent asthma triggered by allergies, exercise and bronchial infections, she’s also an accomplished athlete who lettered for her performance in Cross Country, Track & Field and soccer. She won a Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was named a Texas Senior Athlete, quite an accomplishment for someone who has had asthma since a toddler. Kaitlyn makes time to volunteer in her community and has won academic honors including Academic All-State, the Wylie High School Academic Achievement Award and membership in the National Honor Society. Well respected by every member of the faculty, she acts as a role model to her peers, too. Described as generous and compassionate, Kaitlyn is also described as a ‘genuine’ person, a true leader and a friend.
Having asthma made Kaitlyn who and what she is. She refers to her disease as a “beast” that left her exhausted after coughing all night, a beast that interfered with all the things she wanted to do: play hard like any other kid and have a normal school life. When quite young she decided asthma wouldn’t define her or control the quality of her life, she would control her asthma and have the kind of life she desired. Her weakened asthmatic lungs made her vulnerable to repeated bouts of pneumonia (3 cases in one year) and long absences from class due to that pneumonia. Determined, she didn’t use her illness as an excuse but instead studied while home ill, emailing her assignments so she wouldn’t fall behind. This academic persistence despite hindrance culminated in her being named Valedictorian.
Kaitlyn was fortunate to have a pediatrician who encouraged her participation in sports even though she had symptoms of EIA (exercise induced asthma). Track may not have been the wisest choice for someone with her disease but her competitive nature pushed her to build up her stamina and remain focused and committed to win, traits which will serve her well in life. Because of her repeated flares due to infections and pneumonia, Kaitlyn developed respect for the medical profession she got to know very well and her dream to become a medical researcher was born. Her desire to excel, to “push the envelope” may help fulfill her goal of developing cures and cutting-edge treatments for asthma. Kaitlyn will begin the first step on this journey when she enters Brigham Young University in the fall as a pre-med student.
Iredell ISD, Iredell, Texas
Valedictorian of his class, graduating with a 4.0 GPA, Dalton is unique in that he will graduate high school with 31 hours of college credits, too. He’s been carrying a dual academic load for the past two years, an enviable feat allowing him to accelerate his advanced education. Diagnosed with severe persistent asthma as an infant, Dalton’s asthma flares are triggered by allergy, exercise, infections and stress. As a baby, even normal infant tears caused by something like hunger or teething could trigger an asthma episode that might send him to the emergency room or doctor’s office. Hospitalized three times with severe asthma exacerbations before he was two years old, it seemed the older he became the more additional allergens would pop up to trigger a flare that required almost daily nebulizer treatments, constant use of inhaled corticosteroids, often referred to as just steroids (not to be confused with a different type of steroid compound sometimes used and abused by some athletes) and dependency on albuterol before and after any type of physical activity – or suffer the consequence of asthma symptoms. The combination of inactivity due to the severity of his asthma and an increased appetite from corticosteroid use (a side affect for some people) contributed to Dalton being an overweight, self-conscious child. It wasn’t until middle school and perhaps the onset of puberty that Dalton got his asthma under control allowing him to enjoy a normal childhood life that included participating in organized sports, including basketball. With symptom control, Dalton could participate in the sports he loved and loose the extra weight that made him self-conscious earlier. But being a normal teenager, Dalton still felt singled out by his asthma, ashamed that he needed to use his inhaler and take his controller meds. He felt different from his friends and classmates so he did what many teens with asthma do: he didn’t always use his medications as instructed, hiding his inhalers or “forgetting them” so he wouldn’t feel different from the other kids. This naturally led to more asthma episodes. Eventually, as he grew older, common sense plus his determination to lead a normal active and fun life let him conquer peer pressure so he could better manage his asthma and achieve his goals.
Dalton excelled academically and was selected for the National Honor Society and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the National Society of High School Scholars. But he also participated in Varsity Track, played tennis and basketball, was a member of FFA (Future Farmers of America) and was elected class president, a sign of peer respect and admiration. Every summer for the past several years Dalton worked as a farm laborer, building his body strength, yet with all those activities to occupy him, he still found time to volunteer his services in his community to help others, even initiating a very successful food drive as well as tutoring other students.
Determined and focused, Dalton’s dream is to become a chemical engineer. This fall he will continue that path as he enters Hill College in Hillsboro full time. With his maturity and focus, we know he will succeed and be a strong force in shaping our world.
Lloyd V. Berkner High School, Richardson, Texas
An extremely courageous young woman, Nikkiah did something every high school student fears more then anything: she moved from the small rural community where she was number 2 in her class and very active in school activities to a big-city school environment at the beginning of her senior year. Diligent, friendly and determined, Nikkiah quickly became a popular and successful student graduating in the top 6% of an extremely competitive class with a 97% GPA on a scale of 100 while taking some of the most challenging classes offered at her new school.
Nikkiah has had mild persistent allergic asthma since an infant. Even when she had symptoms indicating her disease was flaring up, her determination, organizational skills and ambition wouldn’t let her quit and feel sorry for herself. She joined many extra-curricular activities centering around her love of dance and music, a passion she developed when she was just six years old and began studying ballet and later, contemporary dance. In high school she joined the choir and became part of the school marching band color guard even though sometimes her asthma symptoms caused her to sit on the sidelines for a while.
Nikkiah learned early that exercise is beneficial to her asthma and she discovered she loves to run. It may take her a minute or two more then it does her friends to run her two miles, and she knows she always has to carry her rescue albuterol inhaler with her, but she runs as often as she can. She also knows that when spring winds are strong and the pollen counts heavy, she may be awake all night coughing, fighting for breath. Then her nebulizer becomes her best friend. Allergic to many indoor and outdoor environmental allergens, her worst enemies are dust and mold which will trigger asthma symptoms when she’s exposed to these allergens. Her ambition and positive attitude let her rise above these challenges to become Captain of the Color Guard, Key Club secretary, Junior Class Vice President and a member and officer of student council. Nikkiah fills her spare time doing the things she loves like participating in theater productions, being a member of jazz band as well as volunteering at many community organizations including an animal shelter, the boys and girls club and a nursing home.
Nikkiah’s goal is to become a neo-natal nurse so she can make a difference in the lives of others. Education and learning are her life. When she fulfills her educational goal, she’ll be the first in her family to graduate from college. She feels having asthma has taught her perseverance, humility and compassion. In the fall, Nikkiah will attend Galen College of Nursing in San Antonio, the first step to fulfilling her dreams.