2018 Awards Speech – Bitseat Getaneh


Good evening everyone. I am honored and humbled that the Bernie Scholarship Board of Directors has asked me to speak on this beautiful evening. My name is Bitseat Getaneh, and I’m a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. First, I appreciate the Bernie Foundation for selecting me as a recipient of your scholarship. So many students feel hopeless at the thought of not being able to afford a college education, and many give up looking for sources of assistance. Therefore, I’m very grateful for this foundation for giving students an access to opportunities that makes it easier for students with low-income family to get support. I would also like to say thank you to my family, Ms. Aja, Ms.O, and Ms. Parmelee for their continuous love, guidance and support. And especially my mom, without you by my side I wouldn’t have made it this far. I hope in years to come you will be proud of me in my journey and success.

When people think about America they see it as a land of opportunities, full of resources and choices; that was the ideal I had before I came to America. However, that dream was shattered into pieces because of unpleasant life and death experience I faced. My story begins on my first day in America, I came with nothing but dreams and hopes for the future. It was my very first night in the U.S, new house and new environment, but that day in the middle of the night the gas exploded, and the apartment I was staying in caught on fire. When I woke up the room was covered in flames. As the flames expanded, I rushed to find the exit door through the collapsing apartment, trying to save my life. I ran from one corner to the other. I felt the heat of the flames burning my face, but I still couldn’t find the door. I started praying out loud, “Please, God, save me!” After a few seconds, I found myself outside the apartment. I still don’t remember how I got there, and I did not yet know that both my hosts did not escape, but passed away in the apartment that night . My body was covered with third-degree burns. I wasn’t able to go to school for about four months. It was the lowest time of my life, and it was an excruciating experience to this day.

I didn’t understand why I had to go through that and I was even mad at God for putting me in that situation. But one day I read a quote by Charles R. Swindoll it says, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” that’s when I started to understand that everything happens for a reason and God was trying to show me that death is imminent and that I should embrace life like there is no tomorrow. People should always look forward to the future and not dwell on the pain they faced.

Every individual has a story to tell and I hope my story motivates you to think that life is a valuable thing to hold on to and that every single day counts. Even though, I had a rough start that will not decide where my future takes me. And so I will be attending Bucknell University in the fall of 2018 with a full-tuition scholarship. I will use this scholarship money to pay for my room and board. This second chance I’m given by God; I want to use it making him happy and be his channel to help people. So I want to conclude by saying this “Wherever life takes you, you have to have the courage to stay stronger than your struggles, Don’t let it drown you.” Thank You ALL!

2018 Awards Speech – H. Sluyter

I am a mother of 2 in my late 20s. I have a degree in paralegal studies and business management. Currently, I’m pursing a degree in law.

At least once a week I hear “How do you do it?” from my friends, colleagues and family.

This last year was one of the hardest, but most rewarding years I’ve ever had.

March 2017 – I found out I was pregnant. Parents know the 1st 3 months is the toughest.

August – Started a new semester with 3 classes. One I had to drive to Baltimore after work.

September – Relocated grandma to Montgomery County. At this time I am approaching my last trimester.

October – I planned and had my baby shower.

December – Bought a new car, completed finals, and had my baby.

January – Began buying a new home. Started another semester w/3 classes, baby only 3 weeks old.

February – Returned back to work, received a promotion.

March – Had surgery and closed on my home.

April – Baby started daycare.

This Month – I moved and completed finals.

I still was able to assist family and friends, with law issues, credit and resumes.

I stand in front of you with A’s and B’s.

So how do I do it? How do you make all this happen?


Strategic time management.

Short term sacrifices for my long term dream.

Late nights.


Internal will to succeed and not give up on my investment.

Dedication – reminding myself that these hurdles will soon be over and my classes would still be there.

Being extremely resourceful.

I was also very strategic when I asked others for help. The help I had was very limited, so I had to use it wisely.

Learning from my failures.

I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell them, you can do it too. If you’re dedicated and really want something, no one or anything will get in your way. I hope I inspired you. Keep your head up and do not give up. Thank you for listening.

Starting College? Here’s Some Advice

Written by Maryamawit Abate, 2017 Awardee

Like any new experience, entering college can seem scary or challenging. I too remember graduating high school and anxiously awaiting the start of my first semester of college. However, like any new experience, it is only a matter of time before you adjust. I hope that I can share the insight I have gained from my experience as a college student. Below, I have curated a list of advice for new college students.

The “I can’t do it” Syndrome
The situation may vary, but you may/will at some point doubt yourself. When such insecurity sets in, look around you and remember that most likely everyone has or has had a similar dilemma. The feeling may not go away quickly, but knowing that the people around you are experiencing similar things will hopefully let you know that, like everyone else, you will get through it.

Put You First
Whether it is as big as selecting a major or as small as picking a topic for a writing assignment, college can charge at you with options that require careful decision making. It can be a terrifying feeling figuring out what decision is best for you, but the one thing I advise when you are faced with making decisions is making sure that whatever decision you make, you do it for you and not anyone else.

One Size Does Not Fit All
You have probably heard from others that the college course load can be heavy and you will have to dedicate x hours each day to succeed in your classes. Hearing these kinds of things may scare you away, but don’t let it. Everything is terrifying until you try it. Rest assured that when the situation asks for it, you will most likely deliver. If others can do it, why can’t you? That is not to say, however, that you should compare yourself to others. In fact, I advise the contrary. Don’t ever compete with others. What may be for one person, may not be for you. The same goes for school. One method of studying that has worked for one person may not work for you. Therefore, when I say, “if others can do it why can’t you,” I mean to say that you can succeed with any amount of course load as long as you figure out what method of studying, time management, etc. works best for you.

General Tips

  • Stay organized.
  • Don’t waste time (there is always time for the things you want to accomplish as long as you manage your time wisely).
  • Create a positive space – surround yourself with friends who are rooting for you.
  • Go after anything and everything you want.
  • Believe in yourself
  • Create time for yourself and celebrate all of your accomplishments, no matter how big or small.
  • Enjoy the things you do.

Successful 2018 Friend Raiser Held—Additional Opportunities Aplenty

Dear Important Friend and Supporter of The Bernie Scholarship Awards Program:

On March 14, The Bernie Scholarship Awards Program (“The Bernie”) held a successful and moving “Friend Raiser.” I write to tell you a bit about it (for those not able to join us then), and also to ask you to save the date for our next big event—the Bernie Scholarship Awards Celebration on Thursday, May 17, 2018, 5:30-8:30 pm in Rockville.

At our Friend Raiser, friends and supporters of The Bernie joined for dinner and an update from key members of our Board and, most importantly, from three of our wonderfully inspirational Bernie Award Scholars.

Gracing the Friend Raiser with their presence were Bernie Scholars Maryamawit Abate (a sophomore in nursing at Montgomery College); Yvette Hammonds (a single mom employed in Community Health and a new homeowner; supported in part by Bernie Scholarship Awards, she successfully completed her Bachelor’s degree and is now working on her Master’s) and Kimberly Hanson, the daughter of a single mom, she completed her Bachelor’s degree in biology with help from The Bernie Scholarships and is now working on her Master’s; she is also the newest member of our Bernie Board. Each, in her own right, is extraordinary in her demonstrated persistence, achievements, grace and presence. Each is committed also to “giving back,” and each is a fine representative of the more than 300 Bernie Scholars who have received over 450 Awards over the 22 years of our program’s history (and counting) totaling over one-half million dollars (and counting).

Friends and Supporters in attendance at the Friend Raiser also were brought up to date about key findings of the third-party Program Effectiveness Studies completed by our expert outside consultant through the use of Award Recipient Surveys and other data. Those findings noted that over two-thirds of our Scholars (all in low-income Montgomery County families residing in subsidized housing) are women, almost 70% are African-American (with an additional 14% Latino), and that 87% of our Scholars confirm that The Bernie Scholarship Award is and has been important in their ability to enroll and remain enrolled in their higher learning pursuits. Indeed, as our Scholars also re-confirmed at the Friend Raiser, this kind and amount of “closing the financial gap” funding is critically important and undoubtedly accounts for another key finding of our Study: That 98% of our Scholars (as opposed to far lower percentages of those without our Scholarship support) persist and complete their educational goals and dreams.

Our Friend Raiser program was brought to a close by Bernie Tetreault (who shares more than just a first name with the program), who described both the reasons he founded the program and continues to seek funding opportunities available to help support and keep it growing. (More information about all of which may be found on our website at www.berniescholarships.org.)

To that end, we are very pleased to announce that if you are also moved and want to add your financial support to those who pledged theirs at the Friend Raiser, you may do so using the links below:


And, as a “special incentive” for you to do so quickly, please know that every donor who completes and returns the attached Donor Card within five days of this Update will be listed as a Sponsor of the “2018 Friend Raiser Scholarship” that will be awarded during our upcoming Awards Celebration of the new 2018 Scholars.

So, please do consider, complete and promptly return our Donor Card, and plan on joining us on May 17 at our Awards Celebration.

We do so very much appreciate your continuing support of The Bernie Scholarship Awards Program, as do our 300 Scholars to date and scores more to follow (with your continuing and generous support) in their footsteps.

NOTE: Please think of people you know who may like to learn about The Bernie Scholarship Awards Program, so we can invite more people to our upcoming free Awards Celebration on May 17th. This would be very helpful in raising the program’s visibility.

Attention High School Seniors!

Are you a high school senior? Looking for a college? Make your choice by May 1st Decision Day! Tips:

· College should offer a variety of academic programs outside your major

· Choose where you can find mentors & networks to obtain internships & engagement with peers and faculty

· Ask how many 1st-year classes are taught by full-time professors

· Find out about how student advising works to guide your choices of classes & majors

· Visit a class or two

· Look into the college’s financial aid offers

Featured Award Winners

Michael Abraha just finished his junior year at Mount St. Mary’s.  He is majoring in political science.  He would like to pursue a MBA in business management.  He believes that best way to influence the world is to have wealth in the right hands.

Tiffany Dicks is currently a sophomore at Montgomery College. She is pursuing her Associates degree in graphic design. She is currently a freelance graphic designer.

Serena Spickler is a 2017 graduate of Watkins Mill High School. She will be attending the University of Maryland Baltimore County in the fall.  She plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.  She would like to combine her interest in math, science and design to create prosthetic limbs for people in need.

Building a Better Community, One Scholarship at a Time