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2023 Scholarship Recipients

About the Renaissance Society Scholarship program

The Renaissance Society Scholarship program began in 1993 with two $500 awards under the leadership of the late Doug Fulton and the late Lou Weintraub. Over time, the amount grew to three $1,000 awards. In 2007, the Board of Directors increased the awards to three $1,500 scholarships. In 2011, they were scheduled to rise to four $2,000 scholarships. However, since Renaissance was celebrating its 25th anniversary, the board added another, for a total of five $2,000 scholarships.

For 2012, there were four scholarships of $2,000 each. That increased to five scholarships of $2,500 each, beginning in 2013. In 2015, scholarships grew to six of $3,000 each.

For 2018, the board approved a special scholarship award, in memory of Lou Weintraub. He passed away in December 2017, one month shy of his 104th birthday. With a $25,000 gift from the estate of Doug and Gini Fulton in 2019, the Board established a seventh scholarship in honor of Doug, who with Lou Weintraub founded the Renaissance Scholarship program.

Since its inception in 1993 and through 2023, the Renaissance Society has given 121 students scholarships for a total of $269,000 in awards.

Originally, applicants were sought in fields related to gerontology, but that has been expanded to include other disciplines and graduate students have been added. In addition to Sac State requirements for scholarships, Renaissance requires a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 and an essay describing personal achievements, challenges, financial needs and, most importantly, how their field of study will be useful to Renaissance members.

Your 2023 Recipients

You can meet the seven recipients and watch their videos at this recording.

Here are the recipients’ bios:

Emily Bolas

My name is Emily Bolas, and I am a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student at Sac State. My academic career began at Sierra College in 2016 where I earned an AA in Kinesiology in 2019 and AS in Health Sciences in 2020. I transferred to Sac State in 2019 and graduated with a B. in Exercise Science in 2021. From there, I was accepted into the DPT program at Sac State for the class of 2024.

Outside of school, I have several interests that include gardening, ceramics, crocheting, reading, hiking, spending time with my family, friends, and dog, Luna, and attending community events in my hometown of Auburn.

My interest in physical therapy first began when I was 13 and diagnosed with scoliosis. I had always had very positive interactions with my physical therapists, and this led me to pursue a career in this field. In 2019, I was able to obtain a position as a physical therapy aide and worked with a mostly older adult population. This allowed me to discover that I have a deep interest in working with this population and helping them progress to higher functional levels. Since beginning the DPT program at Sac State, I have further specified my interest in working with this population, to having a desire to work as a home health physical therapist. There is a growing need for home health physical therapists as the health care industry has discovered the value of applying this type of care within the home. As a home health physical therapist, I would be able to provide a level of interaction to patients within their own home and help them gain the skills they need to re-enter the community.

Josiah Graham

I was born in prison. My mother was pregnant with me when she was only 17 years old. She was fighting a carjacking charge to which she was sentenced to four and a half years, leaving me to be born during her incarceration and raised by my grandmother. My mother was in and out of prison/jail my entire life (she’s currently facing her third strike with the possibility of 25-years-to-life). Watching her go in and out the system showed me just how broken the criminal justice system is when it comes to "rehabilitating" drug abusers. It’s essentially catch-and-release since we view drug abuse as a mental illness and intoxicated offenders get slaps on the wrists. I was in foster care until I was 7 years old and I never knew my father, but what I knew about him is that he did a lot of time for distributing drugs. I’ve watched people get shot and killed right in front of me, the first when I was 7 or 8 years old, another when I was 15. I think I want to be a lawyer/defense attorney because when my grandmother went to court to fight to become my guardian, her attorney worked pro bono in a seemingly unbeatable case, and they won over the hearts of the courtroom and she was granted custody of me. I met the woman years ago and I hope to be like her someday, giving back to the community like she does. I’m also considering probation but I’m not sure yet, but I definitely want to help people negatively affected by the criminal justice system, like myself.

I was named on the Los Medanos Community College’s (I’m from Antioch, Calif.) Dean’s List, transferring here to the California State University of Sacramento with a 3.96 GPA (last semester I lost my 4.0) with an Administration of Justice Associate’s for Transfer degree, and both, a Criminal Law Certificate, and an Administration of Justice Certificate. I am attending college simply because I am tired. I’m tired of not having money, I’m tired of opening the door and seeing a passed-out drug abuser in front of my yard, I’m tired of walking and catching the bus, I'm tired of not being happy while everyone else is having the time of their lives, I'm tired of watching my grandmother (the woman who raised me) struggle as her health withers away and I can't do anything to stop it, I'm tired of going to sleep for dinner because I can't afford anything to eat, I'm tired of hearing gunshots outside and watching people die right in front of me, I'm tired of waiting for someone, anyone to do a damn thing about it, I'm so tired of waiting for people. Me being tired of all of these things makes me restless dreaming of a better life. I have to help myself so that I can help others, but before that, I have to learn, and that’s why I’m at CSUS.

Alyssa Lee

My name is Alyssa Lee and I was born and raised in Sacramento all my life. I am a junior and health science major, hoping to get into the nursing program in the Fall of 2023. I became interested in nursing since I always had family members that were sick and needed assistance. I was able to learn how to deal with diabetes, heart disease, and tuberculosis which was prevalent in my family medical history. Overall, these experiences have allowed me to find my future career.

I really enjoy working with children and the elder populations since I come from a big family which consists of these age groups. Therefore, I would love to specialize in pediatric or geriatric nursing. One of my recent passions is volunteering at a clinic which aims to serve the underserved and uninsured communities. Some of my hobbies include drawing, going on hikes around Folsom Lake, and playing or caring for my 8 younger siblings. I am honored and very appreciative to the Renaissance Society for supporting my academic journey in reaching my dreams!

Kim Lopez

My name is Kimberly Lopez Leon. I am a proud first-generation Mexican-American student and third-year health science major at Sacramento State University. Currently, I am also in the process of adding both a child and adolescent development and psychology minor. I will be graduating in the spring of 2024. I plan on using my health science bachelor’s to apply to physician assistant school. I want to be a physician assistant to help better people’s lives through healthcare. As a physician assistant, I hope to provide the best care to all patients based on empathy and compassion. My goal is to build strong relationships with my patients and create a safe and comfortable environment where they feel welcomed and understood. I especially want to help disadvantaged communities who may not have access to healthcare as I strongly believe everyone has the right to quality healthcare regardless of anything.

A great challenge I’ve faced since I was a child is my mental health. When I was 11, I was diagnosed with depression and a couple of years later, with anxiety. Ever since, I’ve been struggling with relapses. Because of my own health challenges, I would like to specialize in psychiatry to help those dealing with mental health conditions that are oftentimes overlooked. I am also greatly interested in working with children! The first doctor that treated me was the first healthcare provider that I felt truly helped me and showed she cared. She is so inspiring to me and I would like to follow in her footsteps so I too can make a good impact on someone and in general, help people as she does!

Some fun facts about me are that I am currently in the GE Honors Program at Sac State. I was actually elected as the Honors Representative Coordinator for the 2023-2024 academic year, which I am beyond excited for. My hobbies include watching movies/shows, exercising, caring for plants and reading!

I am beyond thankful to The Renaissance Society for seeing potential in me and for awarding me this scholarship. I want to ensure the organization that I will not take for granted being chosen as recipient of the scholarship and I will keep working hard to achieve all of my goals!

Cesar Medina

My name is Cesar Medina, I am a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Sacramento State. I transferred from Santa Rosa Junior College with an Associate in Kinesiology for Transfer, an Associate in Kinesiology for Athletic Training preparation, and an Associate in Natural Sciences. I completed my undergraduate studies at CSU Long Beach in Kinesiology Exercise Science. My passion for resistance training led to my interest in movement science, and a curiosity for injury rehabilitation. I discovered my passion for physical therapy working as a physical therapy aide in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. I quickly saw how physical therapy added purpose to the patients’ lives. Showing empathy for patients, having the skills to educate patients on their symptoms, and improving the way they move was something I wanted to contribute to. I loved watching the process of self-growth and self-awareness that patients experience at the end of discharge. Outside of school, I enjoy competing in powerlifting, mountain biking and hiking. I also enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends.

The physical therapy program has given me the skills to empower my patients and help them restore the life they once had. This program is preparing me not only to be a qualified clinician but through its community involvement allowing me to provide care for those that otherwise wouldn't have access to it. This has inspired me to pay this forward by giving my time to serve the communities who need it, but otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. The generosity of the Renaissance Society will help reduce the financial burdens that have accompanied pursuing higher education. Coming from a low-income household and moving away from home, it has been challenging to pursue higher education. I am extremely thankful to be one of this year's recipients as it will help cover my cost of tuition for the upcoming semester.

Amanda Oakes

I moved to Sacramento in 2019 to finish my bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology at CSU Sacramento and was fortunate enough to stay at the University as part of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. I am now in my second year of physical therapy school and am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve experienced on this path. I’ve learned how important movement is for an individual’s quality of life and I am passionate about being of service to others by helping them stay moving. Some of my favorite experiences in physical therapy school so far have been working with retirement-aged adults; with members of the Renaissance Society during our annual fitness screening and through a balance class that I teach to older adults through the Cardiovascular Wellness Program. I have developed a specific interest in helping older adults maintain their vitality and function despite age-related changes to their bodies and I am so honored and grateful to be recognized by the Renaissance Society with this generous scholarship.

When I am not busy with school, work, or volunteering I like to spend time running or walking on the American River Parkway, reading books, cooking with my boyfriend, snuggling my cat Leto, and watching movies.

Michelle Silva

Helping to take care of my grandmother at a young age was the beginning of my journey into caring for older adults. Raised in a culture that respected and took care of the elder members of their family, it was no surprise to me when at 10 years of age my mother told me that my grandparents were coming to live with us. My grandfather died shortly thereafter, but my grandmother lived with us for the next six years, until she passed away. As an adolescent I wasn’t always happy about having to share my room and help Grandma. However, as an adult I look back on those times with fond memories and I believe this experience is what gave me my compassion and love for the older generation.

I have been working in the home health industry for the past 15 years, starting as a scheduler and working my way up to my current position as Regional Quality Manager. However, my passion is working directly with our clients, the majority being older adults. After completing my bachelor’s degree in Gerontology, my goal is to secure a position as a care manager with a focus on helping the underserved community.

Currently my life is taken up with school and work. When I have time off, I enjoy spending it at home catching up on projects and things that I did not have time for during the school semester. I am an animal person and have three dogs who also keep me pretty busy. I like to travel, and over the years I have had the opportunity to visit various countries in Europe as well as Egypt. Egypt is my favorite place to visit, and I hope to go back after I graduate. Speaking of graduation, I just applied to graduate. While I have been going to school part-time since 2016, I have made the decision to go full time starting in the fall of this year so that I can graduate in May of 2024. It was not an easy decision as it means I need to either quit my job of 15 years or take an extended leave of absence. I must admit that both options are a bit scary. However, I am looking forward to the journey ahead and new challenges and opportunities that await me. Thank You - to the Renaissance Society for the generous scholarship award. This will truly lessen my financial burden and help me to reach my goal of graduating in the spring of 2024 with my bachelor’s degree in gerontology.

2022 scholarship recipients
The 2023 Scholarship Recipients. Top (from left) , Emily Bolas, Josiah Graham. Middle: Alyssa Lee, Kim Lopez, Cesar Medina. Bottom: Amanda Oakes, Michelle Silva.