Courage, Perseverance, and Service: Meet the 2023 Above and Beyond Scholarship Awardees
Courage, Perseverance, and Service: Meet the 2023 Above and Beyond Scholarship Awardees
The Winona Daily News and the Winona Community Foundation joined forces in 2021 to establish the Above and Beyond Scholarship Fund. This fund aims to provide annual scholarships to high school seniors in the Winona area who have demonstrated exceptional resilience, overcome obstacles, or shown outstanding dedication to serving others. The collaboration between the media group and the Foundation enables the program to have a greater impact by longevity and available resources.
WNB Financial also supports the Above and Beyond Scholarship program by making a challenge contribution of $10,000. This generous contribution will not only help fund scholarships for the current year but also contribute to future scholarships awarded through the fund. WNB Financial hopes that this gift will inspire others to contribute to the scholarship fund and support the educational aspirations of deserving students.
Joelle Hammann, a senior at Lewiston-Altura High School, had her life changed when she suddenly passed out at church five years ago. It led to a diagnosis of a potentially fatal genetic heart condition, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. Hammann required a heart transplant, which she received successfully in September 2019. Despite her health challenges, she remained positive with the support of her family, friends, and community.
During her hospital stays, Hammann found joy and support from her medical staff and friends, maintaining a sense of normalcy. Her schools provided exceptional support, ensuring she stayed on track with her education. After her transplant, Hammann resumed her active lifestyle, participating in figure skating, volleyball, basketball, and track and field. She excelled in various roles at school and aspires to become a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon.
Hammann’s experience has shaped her perspective on life, and she encourages others to stay positive and embrace each day’s uncertainties.
Fred Williams, a senior at Mabel-Canton High School, is known for his unwavering positivity and resilience. Despite facing adversity, including the loss of his brother and growing up in a low-income home, Williams remains a source of kindness and support for his peers. He actively greets everyone in the hallway and makes an effort to learn everyone’s names. Williams also volunteers at the local food shelf and church, giving back to the community that supported him in the past. Alongside his involvement in sports, he has a passion for tinkering and hopes to pursue a career as a mechanical engineer. Williams has applied to prestigious universities and is grateful for the opportunity to overcome his anger issues and find happiness.
Despite facing multiple rounds of chemotherapy treatment during her schooling, Mackenzie Zibrowski, a senior at Houston High School, has displayed remarkable resilience. She overcame challenges from a young age, including surgeries for broken hips in first grade and a brain tumor in fifth grade. In her last two years of high school, she experienced vision problems and had to undergo chemotherapy again.
Despite these obstacles, Zibrowski remained determined to complete her education. She is an active member of the Houston Honor Society and volunteers in her community, participating in events such as the Houston Hollidazzle and the school summer lunch program. While she has faced difficulties in making friends, she has found companionship among those who have shared similar medical experiences. Zibrowski is excited to graduate and pursue her education at Western Technical College, where she plans to study education assistance to help other students who have faced challenges in their schooling.
Grace Meyer, a senior at Rushford-Peterson High School, has shown resilience and strength despite the challenges she has faced. After losing her mother to liver disease, she took on the responsibility of supporting her family while managing her schoolwork. Meyer maintained a positive attitude, excelled academically, and nurtured her relationships with family and friends.
Seeking therapy and receiving support from loved ones, including her teacher Erin Thompson, Meyer found solace and strength in honoring her mother’s memory. She embraced her mother’s compassionate and caring qualities and extended them to others. Meyer willingly took on additional responsibilities at home, caring for her younger siblings and providing emotional support. Through these experiences, she deepened her bond with her siblings and became a source of guidance and support for her friends.
Inspired by her journey, Meyer decided to pursue a career in early childhood education. She plans to study at Rochester Community and Technical College and Winona State University to fulfill her passion for working with young children. Looking back, Meyer acknowledges her personal growth and the importance of education. She remains determined to carry her mother’s legacy of compassion and care into the future.
Brianna Mullen, a senior at Hope Lutheran High School, has overcome mental health challenges and self-harm during her high school years. With support from her parents, teacher Mrs. Littlefield, and her cat Bruno, she found the strength to heal and improve her mental well-being. Mullen now reaches out to fellow students struggling with mental health, ensuring they feel supported.
She discovered a passion for criminal investigations through the show “Criminal Minds” and plans to pursue a career in homicide investigations after completing her education. Despite ongoing struggles, Mullen is in a much better place mentally than before.
Kayleanna Kohner, a senior at Cotter High School, has faced learning difficulties throughout her academic journey. With the support of her teachers and parents, she never gave up and learned to advocate for herself. Kohner has made significant progress in managing her stress and seeking help when needed. She has a passion for animals and has volunteered over 60 hours to help others, including caring for animals and participating in horse therapy. Her love for animals has inspired her to pursue a career in veterinary science.
Kohner’s goal is to obtain a good degree and find a fulfilling career working with animals. She encourages others facing challenges in school to persevere and seek support when needed.
Olivia Becker, a senior at Winona Senior High School, has shown incredible strength and resilience in her battle against an eating disorder. Despite struggling with constant thoughts of food and body image, Becker sought help and was admitted to a residential eating disorder treatment center. She spent nearly two months in the program, working hard to overcome her challenges. Throughout her journey, Becker remained committed to her education, staying in touch with teachers and maintaining excellent grades in advanced classes. She missed out on various high school experiences but never gave up on her recovery. After completing the program, Becker returned to her normal life, participating in activities such as being a camp counselor and excelling in cross country.
She has set her sights on attending the University of Wisconsin for pre-veterinary studies and aspires to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, potentially specializing in equine studies. Becker’s perseverance and determination serve as an inspiration to others, showing that with strength and support, it is possible to overcome adversity and achieve one’s goals.
Despite facing numerous medical challenges, including a kidney transplant at the age of 5 and ongoing treatments for polycystic kidney disease, Laina Koenig has excelled academically and is ready to embark on the next phase of her life. She has applied to Western Technical College and Chippewa Valley Technical College to pursue a career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, inspired by her own experiences in hospitals and clinics. Despite frequent infusions and the fatigue associated with her condition, Koenig has persevered in her studies and will graduate on time. She was nominated for an Above & Beyond scholarship by her school’s administration and counselors.
In addition to her academic achievements, Koenig has been involved in the music, drama, and art departments, finding solace and a sense of identity in these activities. She has also dedicated her time to volunteering, including participating in Feed My Starving Children events and contributing to her school’s drama program. As graduation approaches, Koenig is grateful for the nomination and looks forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.
As the Above and Beyond Scholarship program continues to uplift and support the remarkable students of the Winona area, it serves as a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and community. The stories and journeys of these exceptional high school seniors’ triumph, service, and personal growth inspire us all to reach beyond our perceived limits, to lend a helping hand to those in need, and to pursue our dreams with unwavering determination. Congratulations to the 2023 Above and Beyond Scholarship recipients, and may their futures be filled with endless opportunities and continued success as they make a positive impact on the world around them.