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Make A Difference Scholars

Green Mountain College offers an innovative, 4-year scholarship to students who have done something remarkable to improve their communities and the world around them. Following are brief profiles of some of these young men and women.


Allan Michel Jales Coutinho
Natal, Brazil
Allan started doing community service in 2008, when his English professor invited him to give computing lessons to children in Natal, Brazil. Shortly thereafter, Allan also volunteered to help children diagnosed with cancer at GACC (Supporting Group for Children with Cancer). While developing education activities and interacting with the families of the children, Allan also run a project to teach English to the children who eventually dropped out of school in order to fight against the disease. In addition, Allan participated in campaigns that sought bone marrow donors for people who were diagnosed with leukemia in Brazil.

In 2011, Allan was chosen through a national video contest to become a Brazilian Youth Ambassador. The program he enrolled in was created by the U.S Embassy in Brazil and sponsored by the U.S State Department. Allan came to the United States for the first time and attended several workshops about social justice, leadership, and community service. He volunteered in many nonprofit organizations in Washington D.C and Cleveland, Ohio and visited the U.S State Department where he attended a meeting with the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ann Stock.

Due to his accomplishments as a Youth Ambassador, Allan was awarded a scholarship to a summer program at Phillips Exeter Academy, which was sponsored by ILRIO (Rio Leadership Institute) and organized by the Education USA office in Brazil and Fulbright Commission. Allan returned to Brazil after this leadership program and helped to develop a U.S. State Department Grant Project named "U.S Explorers" with some Fulbright scholars in his community. Eventually, he became the Vice President of the group and promoted events about the American culture, breaking stereotypes about the United States as well as strengthening the ties of friendship between both countries.


Lian KariukiLian Kariuki
Nairobi, Kenya

At the age of 19, Lian Kariuki founded the non-profit organization Adopted Dreams, in Nairobi, Kenya. The main purpose of the organization is to promote urban youth development especially in slums, and encourage environmental education, rehabilitation, and protection. Through Adopted Dreams, young adults have the chance to acquire vocational skills such as carpentry, welding and tailoring.

Lian went to New Delhi, India, in 2010, through a program organized by Oxfam Australia, to learn more about project management and meet other youth leaders from around the world, as to improve her own project. In 2011, she represented Kenya at the One Young World Summit, in Zurich, Switzerland.

Bruna LobatoBruna Lobato
Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

Bruna Lobato helped 300 kids from age 7 to 14 and their families. They live in Ocidental de Baixo, a community by the Potengi river, in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, the same community where Bruna’s mother grew up. The residents of this area used to drink polluted water, eventually acquiring diseases such as cholera and leptospirosis. Bruna developed an environmental project to donate water filters to the riverside families, create a campaign for cleaning the river and the neighborhood, motivating the children who live in that community, and asking local governmental bodies for help.

Other volunteers in other parts of the country replicated the project, called Bridge to Life, and the children who benefited from it, with the help of new volunteers, improved it. The program is now also helping the community with other issues by teaching computing skills and English language.

For her accomplishments, Bruna was selected by the U.S. Department of State as a Youth Ambassador of Brazil, in 2010. As a Youth Ambassador, she came to the United States for the first time to attend workshops about social entrepreneurship in institutions such as Voice of America and World Bank. In addition, she was invited to represent Brazil in formal meetings with American authorities, including First Lady Michele Obama, to whom Bruna gave a speech.

Bruna was featured in several TV interviews and magazine and newspaper articles. She also earned a leadership scholarship for a summer program at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire from Fulbright Commission and the Leadership Institute of Rio. Later in the same year, she was named an honorary citizen of the city of Tulsa, Okla., for her efforts in planting trees in public schools of the city, and was awarded by the governor of her home state as “Student of the Year of 2010.”


Binh BuiBinh Bui
Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Binh has not only made a positive impact on the lives of others and a community of individuals as a whole, but has also made a significant contribution toward conservation and sustainability, too. As a member of the board and volunteer of the “Making Dreams Come True Volunteer Group,” Binh managed a playroom at the National Pediatrics Hospital where he was affectionately known as “The King of Toys.” Binh also coordinated several events at the National Pediatrics Hospital including a Youth Theatre of Vietnam performance for 600 of the Hospital’s patients -- the biggest event the “Making Dreams Come True Volunteer Group” had ever organized. In addition to his volunteer service, Binh also received third place in a national contest on “Improving the Use and Protection of Water Resources."

Lan TranLan Tran
Ho Chi Min City, Vietnamh, Vietnam

“I clearly understand the butterfly effect of giving and sharing. Each and every one of us is capable of contributing to the enormous progress of humanitarianism.”

Lan strongly believes in empowering Vietnamese youths to bring about positive change(s) in Vietnam. For this reason, Lan became actively involved in a number of non-profit organizations including TOUCH and VietAbroader. TOUCH stands for TO U, from Caring Hearts and is lead by a group of Vietnamese students who have a great desire to better their communities and inspire youth to make positive contributions to society. In keeping with the mission of the organization, Lan organized TOUCH Leadership Camp, a three day English speaking training camp. Participants of the Camp developed interpersonal, leadership, and public speaking skills. VietAbroader is also student-run and provides Vietnamese students with guidance and training to encourage them to study abroad. Lan started out as a member of VietAbroader and rapidly rose from the ranks to become Co-Chair of the 2010 VietAbroader Conference. Lan also participated in a number of other community service and volunteer based projects. Lan is described by colleagues, friends, and others as exceptional among her peers. She is energetic, determined, and outspoken and has an insatiable thirst for self-improvement.


Asadullah SohailAsadullah Sohail
Bamyan, Afghanistan

"Believing in yourself is the most important action that makes people successful in their lives. Believe in yourself, your experiences, dreams, and goals and other people will believe in you and help you to make your dreams come true."

In August 2007, Asadullah (Asad) came to the United States to study, for one academic year, as a Youth Exchange and Study (YES) scholarship recipient. While in the United States, Asad had a unique opportunity to educate the local community on Afghan culture, history, etc., and to share his life experiences as a youth in Afghanistan during Taliban rule. The vast kindness, love, and support Asad received from community members, students, and teachers inspired Asad to spearhead a fundraising project to build a public library in his hometown of Bamyan, Afghanistan.

Illiteracy and poverty are rampant in Afghanistan as a result of decades of war and oppression. What is more, resources in Afghanistan are limited for those who want an education. For this reason, as stated by Asad, the greatest gift he could give the people of his country is a public library. Over the course of one year, Asad gave numerous presentations and speeches on the subject of his life and his country and its problems. He spoke in churches, community centers, and schools. He also presented at conferences in Baltimore, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Washington D.C., and Vermont.

Asad was featured in several media interviews and newspaper articles. Ultimately, Asad was able to secure over $45,000 in cash and in-kind donations. At the end of the 2008 school year, Asad applied for and received a full scholarship to attend Lyndon Institute in Lyndon Center, Vermont. Owing to Asad’s hard work and the generosity of the American public, Asad’s dream and the dreams of the people of Bamyan are closer to reality.


Brenda Namisango Nsambu Brenda Namisango Nsambu
Nkuke, Masaka, Uganda

"We do not have to have a lot of money to offer to the community, what matters are the services we offer from the bottom of our hearts."

It all started as a small effort and quickly became a passion for Brenda to find a way of helping the children of northern Uganda who have been traumatized by war for over twenty years. Brenda started several fundraising initiatives to help these children. One initiative permitted the purchase of school supplies (books, pencils, etc.) for each academic term. In addition, Brenda volunteered at the local hospital and helped AIDS patients with their cooking and washing. Brenda also spent time with children who were victims of AIDS. These projects became of part of who Brenda is and made her realize that she needed to share some of her knowledge with the community in order to save younger generations.

Mark Thiong'o Mark Thiong'o
Nairobi, Kenya

“I believe the change element that we seek is innately placed in each of us. My actions were not special or self seeking. Rather a response to the need to be human. The future of this world lies not with the few, but on the decision of whether we can all face life's challenges, no matter how difficult, with courage, humility and love.”

In Kenya, Mark initiated numerous projects in his home town mainly focused on youth empowerment and sustainable living. Such projects included community blood drives, tree planting and reforestation efforts, Christian peer counseling seminars and drug awareness workshops.

In addition to his home based projects, Mark was able to organize a fund raising initiative at his high school to aid in food relief efforts at the national level. Due to the effects of global warming, the East African coast has become more susceptible to extreme droughts and famine. In response to this crisis, he spearheaded a project that saw his school community raise over $2000 that was used to purchase 4 tons of food, and later distributed to the hard hit areas in partnership with the Kenya Red Cross. It saw the beginning of school feeding programs in hard hit areas, where children were otherwise forced to drop out of school.

Tiffany Walton
Manchester, New Hampshire

"Community service is one of the most important things in my life. I always try to help people whenever I can. I’m so grateful for all I have and I am never afraid to stand up for what I feel is a good cause."

Volunteering has played a large role in Tiffany’s life. One of Tiffany’s largest accomplishments to date was in service to the non-profit organization New Hampshire Center for Independent Living (NHCIL). Not only did Tiffany volunteer at NHCIL, but she was also on the Board of Directors. NHCIL was formed in 2004 in order to assist those who are temporarily disabled do basic, everyday tasks. NHCIL volunteers clean, do dishes, run errands, shovel walks, etc., for example. As a board member, Tiffany also worked on funding initiatives, grant writing, and setting policies. In addition to her work at NHCIL, Tiffany served as a volunteer for Goffstown Main Street Program. As a volunteer for Main Street, Tiffany helped out at several town-wide festivals.


Olesea Cojohari Olesea Cojohari
Balti, Moldova

Olesea was first in her class at “Mihai Eminescu” Lyceum in Balti, Moldova. She made a difference in her community by organizing an annual fundraiser for former teachers in Moldova, since the pension is not enough to cover their expenses. Olesea also volunteered with the New Perspectives for Women project, where she aided with organizational tasks, distributed information, and prepared materials for seminars. She participated in various other volunteer projects, through organizations such as American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Indian Spring School. Olesea is majoring in biology and environmental studies at GMC.

José Gálvez-Contreras José Gálvez-Contreras
La Ceiba, Honduras

José was involved in a number of activities in his school and community. Since the seventh grade, Jose Tulio was involved in student government - he was vice president for two years and president for one. He was also the senior class valedictorian and president, and member of Palmeras Bilingual School Honor Society. He participated in the Honduran Math Olympics and the knowledge bowl team. He was involved in the ABSH Model United Nation as a delegate and chair. He volunteered in local political campaigns, in social services, as a translator for medical brigades, and as an English teacher for 6th grade students.

He was also involved with a Catholic youth movement aimed at getting teenagers off the streets. The focus was on redirecting attention from drugs and alcohol to something more constructive through meetings with psychologists, teachers, and priests. Jose was an active volunteer at the public hospital and retirement home. He organized toy and clothing drives, and proposed a new play area and cafeteria for children in the hospital. Outside of school, José Tulio took classes in the martial arts, and represented his country at the Pan-American Taekwondo Games in Guatemala (2006).

Because of his enthusiasm, persistence, task-orientation, and ambition, José was selected among many young leaders around the world as a "Presidential Classroom Scholar - February 18-24, 2007 Session." He represented his school, community, city, and country with honor and pride.

José can be defined as a leader who is aware of himself when leading and learning about his mistakes and successes. He has three defined goals: constantly getting better at being a leader, striving for excellence in whatever he is doing, and trying to make his country a much better place. His first two goals will ensure that his third one will always be done well.

Wai Phyo Myint Wai Phyo Myint
Yangon, Myanmar

Prior to attending GMC, Wai was a student in the Pre-Collegiate Program at the Diplomatic School of Yangon. She was a leader in several communities in Myanmar, most notably as a volunteer teacher at monastic schools in the Monywe and Bonmanoe villages. Monastic schools provide education to children from impoverished families unable to afford public school fees. She also organized charity drives and fundraisers for the schools and the village libraries. Wai became the youngest reporter for the Myanmar Times upon her graduation from 10th grade. Upon graduation, Wai intends to return to Myanmar to continue to help her country.


Dusan Vuksanovic Dusan Vuksanovic
Belgrade, Serbia

"I help people in every possible way I can, whether with a piece of advice or by tutoring or by donating blood. My motto is 'A smile is sometimes more valuable than all the money in the world."

Prior to attending GMC, Dusan volunteered at the Academic Institute set up by the U.S. State Department in Belgrade. He excels in English and tutored other students interested in studying in the U.S. in language mechanics and writing. Dusan really showed his leadership skills when his community was in trouble. A power plant was blown up in the war of the 90’s, approximately 300 yards from his home. He lived in a bomb shelter with his family members and 200 of his neighbors, where he helped to take care of his younger sibling. He was an inspirational figure the community could look to during a time of great tragedy.

Laura Maki Laura Maki
Claremont, New Hampshire

Having completed over 658 hours of service while still in high school, Laura is extremely devoted and passionate when it comes to volunteering. Winner of the 2004 President's Volunteer Service award, one of her proudest accomplishments is the Red Elephant Café; a café intended to break down the barriers between adults and teenagers, a café that provides quality educational and recreational things for teens to do. The Red Elephant Café has been recognized by Main Street New Hampshire for best public/private partnership. Strongly dedicated to the environment, Laura has traveled to Utah and Alaska with the Student Conservation Association and worked on restoration projects. She has competed in the NH Envirothon Aquatics Study, was active in the Soils Club and started an Animal Rights Club at her high school.


Deng Deng Deng Deng
Abiel, South Sudan / Overland Park, Kansas

"When I arrived in America, I saw that I could start to plan for tomorrow; I would be able to be something in the future and help my people and myself."

Deng Deng (Peter Kon Dut) was among the 20,000 Sudanese children orphaned during Africa's longest war. His life was chronicled in the PBS documentary, "Lost Boys of Sudan," and he has faced this incredible adversity with a fierce determination to improve himself and the lives of his fellow countrymen who have suffered so greatly during the years of war. After ten years in a Kenyan refugee camp, Peter was relocated to the United States, where he faced a different set of challenges in adapting to a new culture. Peter has risen to the challenges and is determined to pursue his education as far as he can. Although Peter did not find it easy to have his life shared so publicly through the film, he began to realize that he could make a real difference for his fellow Sudanese by attending community screenings of the movie, conducting press interviews, and speaking out. He has also accompanied the filmmakers to screenings for government officials, including the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the State Department's Refugee Bureau.

Shawn Henry Shawn Henry
East Flatbush, New York

"It's up to you to better your community and yourself: to create opportunities where there is no opportunity. Believe you have the power to change your community and change your world."

Shawn Henry is justifiably proud of the beautiful community garden he created out of a neglected, drug infested inner-city park. But perhaps the most important work of the non-profit group he founded, called "Garden Angels," in the positive impact his organization has had on the lives of young people in his East Flatbush, NY neighborhood. Garden Angels encourages kids in East Flatbush to design and carry out community service projects, develop leadership skills, and fulfill their potential as they make a positive difference in the community.

For his accomplishments, Shawn has earned an impressive list of honors, including being an honoree at the presidential inauguration's "America's Future Rocks Today," the 2004 Fleet Bank Youth Entrepreneur of the year, the 2004 Prudential Spirit of Community Award, and winner of the national Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.

While Shawn is certainly grateful for all the recognition, he doesn't lose sight of what the project is all about. "The greater change is within," he says, "because the young people are refusing to fill their lives with the ugliness and violence of gangs and crime. These young people are like seeds growing just beneath the soil. There is internal change going on in their minds and hearts, and soon, they will push through the ground with beauty and strength."

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