SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS

Meet some of our Difference Maker Scholarship winners!

Bryant EvansBryant Evans

I’m honored and blessed to have received the Alex Popeck Difference Maker Scholarship. I’ll be attending Frostburg State University in the fall to further my football career and pursue a degree in Law and Political Science. Receiving this scholarship has made a difference in my life by assisting me with the cost of college tuition and books. I’ve continued to live by Alex’s principles and values, and I hope you will consider doing the same. Never back down from a challenge and always strive for excellence in and outside of the classroom.

Meet Bryant

Kyle FritschiKyle Fritschi

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer as a freshman, I saw the world in a different way. It wasn’t all about me anymore and I realized that people everywhere are struggling with something and I wanted to change that as best I could. I work with organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as well as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The “Never Back Down” motto has motivated me to do great things for great people. It’s taught me to keep fighting for what I believe in and to stop at nothing until I see a difference in my world.

Meet Kyle

Hannah BentzHannah Bentz

Being born with a form of Cerebral Palsy was never a drawback for me, merely a hurdle to clear on my way to accomplishing great things. I had to learn to compensate with my left hand an arm, so I did. I overcame the cruelty I had to endure in elementary and middle school for being different. But all of this made me a physically, emotionally and mentally strong person. I have chosen education as a career because it will allow me to develop a relationship with my students and give them courage and persistence for the obstacles that they will face.

Meet Hannah

Kathryn Brown

Kathryn Brown

Being awarded a Difference Maker Scholarship helped me to the next step in my life; going to the University of Maryland, College Park where I plan to major in broadcast journalism. I have a broadcast journalism internship opportunity this summer in DC and hope to one day be an anchor on E! News in L.A. and eventually have my own talk show.

Kaleigh WilliamsKaleigh Williams

Receiving a Difference Maker Scholarship is a great honor and opened my eyes to how loving and supportive our community is. I am representing Alex and the ideals he lived by. I attend St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and will be forever thankful for the opportunities this scholarship afforded me and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Blake BonitaBlake Bonita

To receive a Difference Maker Scholarship is a life-long honor and responsibility that reminds us of how we should treat every precious day on this Earth. I have taken Alex’s principles of showing equal respect to all, of challenging friends and teammates to go above and beyond they think is possible, of striving to do my personal best even in the face of adversity and difficult times and of taking every opportunity to help people everywhere I go. I believe my collegiate community of College Park, MD is a better place as I leave than it was when I came four years ago and I look forward to the opportunity to further share Alex’s ideals in my future home of New York City when I begin my career as a Strategy and Operations Consultant for Deloitte out of the Rockefeller Office in Midtown Manhattan.

Meet Blake

Omolola SanusiOmolola Sanusi

While in the 9th grade, I noticed a general apathy toward education, learning and achievement on campus. Most students had no idea or seemed to care about their future prospects. They got to work and gave a proposal to their principal to set up workshops for incoming 9th graders. They wanted to address transition to high school, handling stress and getting involved in extra-curricular activities. They got teachers on board and upper class men to help: The Scholars Program was born. Now the program meets twice a month with 9th graders and three times a week with the football team, whose members are some of the students on campus who struggle the most.They’ve even got plans to add in ACT and SAT prep days for Juniors!

Meet Omolola

Vong Truong

Vong Truong

I am an accelerated third-year Master of Professional Accounting student at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and will graduate next year with both a bachelor and a master degree in accounting. Receiving a Difference Maker Scholarship reminds me to be a “Difference Maker” everyday…not just for myself, but also for people around me.

Trisha PilgrimTrisha Pilgrim

Being awarded the Difference Maker Scholarship was emotional for me because people were willing to believe in me and invest in my education. I am studying Kinesiology at the University of Maryland and plan to become an EMT and a personal trainer.

Cooper Weinberger

Cooper Weinberger

Receiving the Difference Maker Scholarship was a great honor. Alex’s principles inspire me to spread kindness, recognize the good in others, and to Never Back Down from a challenge.

Erik RobertsErik Roberts

Receiving the Difference Maker Scholarship helped financially and was a great honor to be recognized as a difference maker in my community. I keep the award on my desk so I see it every day to remind me of the greater mission at hand: to change the world in some way every single day. I will be entering UVA’s Distinguished Majors Program in history.

Alex Greenbaum

Alex Greenbaum

I’ve developed the philosophy that no matter how bad life gets, it’s always going to get better….Never Back Down. True character is demonstrated when one fights back when, faced with challenges and refuses to let the negatives have their way. I lost my brother when he was three to an unknown cause which devastated our family. Several years later my mother, who had been working with Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Several months later we lost her, too. But I had seen how my mother persevered and showed love and courage and I was determined to be like her. I have battled anxiety, depression and OCD to carry on my mother’s Relay for Life Cancer Group for ten years. I am at the University of Maryland now and hope to become an oncologist to help find a cure for cancer.

Meet Alex

Xavier RiveraXavier Rivera

Being a reporter on our school’s newspaper, I got curious when I heard students complaining about the water in our school’s water fountains. The administration wouldn’t talk with me about it, and I learned that there was no waste quality data available. So a few of us took water samples from all twenty-six water fountains in the school and I got a local laboratory to test the samples free. The findings were incredible – the lead levels in seven fountains were found to exceed the EPA’s acceptable limits. They contained lead levels that, according to the World Health Organization’s standards, could poison students if consumed in enough quantity. In short, the water was very dangerous! Now the administration wanted to talk with me and we collaborated to devise a flushing program to reduce the lead content of the fountains. The story I wrote in our school paper was chosen as the top high school newspaper story of the year!

Meet Xavier

Chelsey Zane

Chelsey Zane

Receiving the Difference Maker Scholarship has had a huge impact on my life. It allowed me to perform cancer research for Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan by covering my living expenses during an unpaid internship. During this internship, I became passionate about both helping those who are battling cancer and working in a healthcare setting. I transferred to Manhattan College to study Allied Health with a concentration in Health Care Administration (and continue to perform my research where I have expanded my work to include pediatric oncology). This scholarship has enabled me to help make a difference in the lives of others who need it most.

Thomas Whiting

Thomas Whiting

The Difference Maker Scholarship has allowed me to pursue a dual degree in economics and finance with a minor in Spanish within the University Honors Program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. As a featured freshman for the Carlson School of Management as well as a member of the Introduction to Entrepreneurship program in Cuba, I have strengthened my local community and created opportunities for disadvantaged populations. I am excited to continue my work and am so grateful Alex Popeck’s Never Back Down Foundation could help me get here!

Ellie Wiersma

Ellie Wiersma

Receiving the Difference Maker Scholarship in 2014 meant more than the world to me. It pushed me to branch out and become confident in myself as I went across the country to the University of Arizona, knowing nobody. I am majoring in Criminal Justice and minoring in Psychology. I volunteer on campus as a student EMT, and I recently became a member of the Sonoita-Elgit Fire Department in Sonoita, Arizona. The Scholarship also paid for my EMT testing, and I am now a Nationally Certified EMT. I have truly bettered myself because of this award and I am so proud and honored to have received it. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me!

Adam Deutch

Adam Deutch

Diagnosed as a pre-teen with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Adam underwent excruciating medical treatment for over three years. He was able to beat the cancer and is now ten years cancer-free. Adam has participated in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night Walk” every year since. His team has raised over $60,000 and Adam was chosen to speak in front of more than 2,000 people as a Mission Moment Speaker.

Meet Adam

Becca Sussman

Becca Sussman

As President of Best Buddies in high school, I help promote the social inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities by facilitating one-on-one friendships between students with and without special needs. We help members vie people with disabilities in a new way. We were awarded the Best Chapter Award from more than 50 chapters in Maryland.I also led our high school recycling team, helping to educate and motivate our school community in the importance of recycling and maintaining the environment. I view life as an opportunity to be involved, have empathy toward others, and life every day with optimism and hope.

Dana McFarlaneDana McFarlane

The daughter of immigrants, I was the first in our family to go to American schools. We considered education very valuable in our home. We were stunned, however, when my father was diagnosed with brain cancer and died in December 2012. As horrible emotionally as this was and as difficult financially as it became for our family, I knew I had to persevere and continue to do well in school. I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to educating children. The Never Back Down Foundation Difference Maker Scholarship has helped me tremendously. I have been able to attend my dream university, the University of Maryland and major in computer science.

Meet Dana

Paul Farrell

Paul Farrell

I am at Stevenson University studying Business Communication. The Difference Maker Scholarship has given me the opportunity to make a statement with my life. I am a survivor! Not only will I use this second opportunity to be a better person, but I will use it to touch the lives of the people I encounter. Thank you to the Never Back Down Foundation for giving me hope and a chance at a future! Honors Received.

Meet Paul

Cole MargolCole Margol

I could not have been more honored to receive the Difference Maker Scholarship. My mission is to embody Alex’s philosophy toward life every day. Now at Emory University majoring in Political Science, I do just that. The “Never Back Down” philosophy has helped me through some rough patches at school. I have help two Congressional internships at the US Capitol and hope that these will lead to either a career in politics or law, and I know that Alex’s ideology will influence everything I do in the future.

Shannon BerkheimerShannon Berkheimer

I was overwhelmed to receive the Difference Maker Scholarship. I believed I contribute to Alex’s memory, am part of his legacy, and live life to the fullest. I am now at the University of Maryland, majoring in both Family Science and English and hope to work with an adoption agency after graduation. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Elana HarrisElana Harris

I was honored to receive the Difference Maker Scholarship in 2015. I am at Spelman College in Atlanta majoring in Political Science with a minor in Spanish. I have worn my “Never Back Down” shirt to encourage and inspire others as I have been inspired by Alex’s story. Spelman College’s theme is “A chance to change the world” and I was drawn to the school because of its mission to serve others. I look forward to continuing my education at Spelman and having my chance to change the world.

Meet Elana

Our Mission & Vision

The Never Back Down Foundation is an organization established in the memory of Alex Popeck, a teen scholar-athlete, to influence teens to recognize that an individual can make a difference in their community. Specifically, the Foundation seeks to recognize teens who notice and act upon a challenge, injustice or need for change in their community, school or family.

The Foundation will raise funds via community-based events and other means to award scholarships to Montgomery County, Maryland high school students attending post-secondary educational institutions. The scholarship recipients will be recognized for demonstrating how they have made a difference in either their community, school, family, or an individual’s life by adopting Alex’s Never Back Down approach; to see and act. These Alex Popeck Difference Makers are recognized each spring.

Please consider donating to the Never Back Down Foundation. All donations are very much appreciated and go toward a great cause.

Scholarships Awarded

Dollars Awarded

Never Back Down

Awarding scholarships to local Montgomery County high school seniors who best embody Alex’s humanitarian values and are making a significant difference in their family, school or community.

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