Meet Our 2017 Awardees

First Place Awardee:  NINA MEDJIBE
$5,000 Cash Award

Nina Flore Medjibe Mapouka is working diligently to achieve her goal of becoming a Registered Nurse and fulfilling her dream of serving people.

Nina finished the first phase of her studies in 2013. After practicing her skills training at Pettigrew Rehabilitation Healthcare in Durham, she passed the State of North Carolina test and is now a Certified Nurse Assistant. Nina currently attends Durham Tech Community College and is pursuing her Associate Degree in Nursing, which she anticipates completing in Spring 2018. Her academic achievements have led to her being inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Nina faces financial challenges to achieving her educational and career goals. With a divorce pending, her husband is not providing financially for her and her six-year-old daughter. Nina also takes care of her sick father who lives with her. She knows her hope for a better life depends on her ability to finish school so she can find a job that pays well and build her career. Nina is thankful for the support she has received from Dress for Success Triangle in Durham and Soroptimist’s Live Your Dream Award.

Nina shares, “I am doing my skills clinical at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill as nursing student, which is an excellent experience for me. I really enjoy taking care of my patients, and I can’t wait to finish school and start working as a nurse. After completing my degree program, I expect to work in hospitals to help people with their health needs, continue to be involved in community activities, and complete my education with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.”

Runner-Up:  SELENA WALKER
$1,500 Cash Award

Selena is on track to earn her Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from Wake Tech Community College in May 2017. She has been accepted into North Carolina Central University for the fall term. Selena’s goals include working with at-risk youth, attending law school, and starting a nonprofit to provide affordable and exceptional legal services to the less fortunate.

Selena’s parents were drug addicts. In spite of her grandmother’s best efforts to raise them, Selena and her 4 siblings were in and out of foster care. Selena gave birth to her daughter when she was only 14 years old. Determined to make a better life for herself, Selena graduated high school with honors and went on to attend North Carolina Central University. She later moved to Raleigh and attended Wake Tech Community College.

Selena has suffered a great deal of personal loss. Her mother died when she was 5. When she was 19, she lost her grandmother to cancer. In 2011, her daughter’s father was murdered, and in 2012 she witnessed her boyfriend’s murder during a home break-in. Partially blinded at age 7 after being pushed into a tree, Selena had her right eye removed in 2013 due to health complications. At one point, Selena became homeless, staying in the shelter at The Salvation Army.

Selena never let any of these circumstances deter her from her goals. In 2015, Selena returned to Wake Tech as a full-time student to pursue her criminal justice degree. Proudly, she shares, “This was my first time being a working mom and full-time student. Now I sit here, a student/mom – on the Dean’s List, and about to graduate.”

Runner-Up:  THADENE PEACE
$1,500 Cash Award

Thadene Peace expects to graduate in 2018 from Miller-Motte College with her Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. Her immediate career goal is to obtain a job in the social work field to help struggling families and youth.

Growing up, Thadene lacked emotional stability and physical security as she was shuffled between the homes of various relatives. Thadene’s battle with depression started when she was molested as child.

After graduating from high school, with no single place to call home, Thadene began to self-medicate with marijuana, alcohol, and sex. From 2008 until 2014, she moved frequently, living in shelters or with others, including her mother, sister, and boyfriend’s parents. During these unstable times, Thadene gave birth to her daughter and son.

A turning point came when Thadene moved into a rehabilitation treatment center for addicts and completed a 9-month recovery program. She reunited with the father of her children, maintained sobriety, purchased a Wheels 4 Hope car, and worked to build a safe and stable home.

Thadene shares this good news, “In 2014, I started the best job I’ve ever had. In 2015, I used my tax refund for a deposit on a clean and affordable apartment. My own place. I am so proud because I know that even with all I have been through I’m not a failure. I want the world to know that God always provides and makes a way. I am passionate about helping people on the strength of all the wonderful people who have entered my life and believed in me.”