Survivor Spotlight: Our Perpetual Scholarship Recipients 2013

“Truly an inspiration….  notably stands out amongst peers…. positive…. enthusiastic….  thrives on new experiences and challenges…. exemplary role model for other patients…. lifelong learner…. lives each day to the fullest….”

These are just some of the words used to describe our perpetual scholarship winners for this year.

Every fall, Cancer for College awards multiple scholarships, most of them being one-time awards. But a select few freshman recipients are granted a perpetual scholarship, meaning they will receive their scholarship once a year for four years, without the need to re-apply annually.

In this month’s Survivor Spotlight, we proudly introduce to you our perpetual scholarship winners for the 2013-14 school year. We’re so proud of them and excited as they begin their new college life!


Leticia Ayala

Art Institute of San Francisco

Just a couple of years ago, at age 15, Leticia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Although she is still being closely followed by her oncologist, Leticia is happily beginning her first year at the Art Institute of San Francisco, studying fashion design.

“I have been going through treatment for two years and in that time I have seen the struggles of  many other patients,” writes Leticia. “I want to dedicate my time to helping fight cancer for those who I have seen struggle… I want to further my education so I can have a successful career and be able to contribute more to the fight against cancer.”


Drake Baker

California State University Northridge 

Drake was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just two days before Christmas 2011, when he was 16 years old. He is in remission and starting his freshman year at Cal State Northridge, where he is studying film production.

“I had to stay strong for my family, especially for my little brother,” Drake shares. “It is my responsibility to teach him that no matter what life has thrown at him, nothing is impossible to overcome. During my chemotherapy, the doctors were not only surprised at how well I did, but how fast I beat it. After all the things I had gone through and had to undergo, I now look at it as a positive experience. Without that experience, I would have never seen life the way I do now.”


Alexandra Cunha

California State University San Marcos

Alexandra Cunha survived thyroid cancer at age 18 — an especially rare cancer for her age —  and is now in remission.  She is at Cal State San Marcos, working to become a nurse.

“Looking back at all the time I spent in hospitals there was something I noticed: the importance of proper health care from professionals,” says Alexandra. “Not in the sense of a correct diagnosis and treatment, but something deeper. I noticed the nurses, who not only aided in the recovery process but were there for patients emotionally. I realized what an enormous difference nurses make and that I wanted to touch people’s lives just like the nurses that looked after me did. Cancer has really given me a new purpose in life and that is to dedicate myself to serving the ill.”


Arianna Grelling

Whittier College

Arianna is in remission from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which she was diagnosed with at 13. She attending Whittier College studying journalism and theater.

Arianna received the first “Dear Jack Foundation” scholarship.  The scholarship, started by Andrew McMahon, former lead singer of the band Jack’s Mannequin, benefits a cancer survivor pursuing an education in music or the arts.

“It’s funny how much one’s life can change in the blink of an eye,” shares Arianna. “You can go from being happy to sad, loving someone to hating their guts, being healthy to life-threateningly ill.”


Kendra Steinmetz


Kendra is cancer-free after being diagnosed at age 13 with Hepatoblastoma, an uncommon liver cancer. Kendra just started at UCLA where she will study film and television. She also has her own foundation, to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research.

Kendra was moved to create her foundation after her dear friend, Jarren, lost his battle with Hepatoblastoma at just four years old. “Jarren inspired me to always strive to do the best that I can do in everything. He taught me that you can never stop fighting or trying hard for what you want. Sometimes you may fall, but you must always get back up and keep fighting…. I don’t want to see kids like him suffer any longer and I want to make a change in the world by helping to find a cure for cancer.”

Cancer for College is tremendously proud of all of our scholarship recipients, and we wish the very best for a happy, successful and healthy school year. Thank you to everyone who supports our work, making it possible to help these kids realize their dreams.


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