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McKenna is from Blue Springs, Missouri and lost her father to pancreatic cancer in July of 2012. He passed only 7 months after being diagnosed. She graduated near the top of her class, scored 30 on the ACT and had a 4.3 on a 4 point scale. She is an exceptional student but after her dad was diagnosed focused more inward on her family, less on school. Her dad told her that ‘no one lies on their deathbed wishing they would have worked more…’ and with that she and her sisters worked as his nurses – in particular making his food following a special diet. Her experience watching how her father’s nutrition plan helped make a difference in his life made her want to study biochemistry and nutrition. She plans to use an honors scholarship to attend KSU.


Justine is from Wilson Kansas and lost her mother to esophageal cancer in 2007. Her mom was diagnosed when Justine was just in the 2nd grade so for most of her life she watched her mom be treated and deal with the affects of cancer. Her mom died just before her freshman year of high school. She graduated at the top of her class and is currently studying early childhood education at KSU, with one year left. She has a long list of personal accomplishments and has always been a hard worker. Since she was in the 5th grade she has wanted to be a teacher. Her goal after graduation is to return to her home town to teach and help her family with the family farm. She has two younger brothers.


Catelynne is from Elkhart in central Kansas and recently lost her father to prostate cancer in October of 2013 after only being diagnosed in January of that year. She has an older brother who attends college in another part of the country. To help her mom afford to move where her brother attends school and where she would have the support of her family, Catelynne accelerated her studies to graduate a full year early. In doing so she plans to attend the same school as her brother, and her mom to move home. Her school counsellor said that she would have easily graduated as valedictorian has she not accelerated her course load. She plans to study to be an optometrist.


Anne is from Lenexa and lost her mother to endometrial cancer in the fall of 2011. She was adopted from China and very close to her mother. Her parents divorced when she was 10 and lived with her mother until her passing. When her mother died, her father moved in and she had to learn how to live under new rules and be more self sufficient. She is now close to her father but the transition and loss of her mother, getting to know her father and having to grow up fast made a big impact on her. She is a stronger person for it and cherishes every moment, even the small things in her life. She has a 4.3 GPA in high school and plans to attend KU to study psychology.


Evan is from Olathe and lost his father to liver cancer in Sept of 2012. His father was diagnosed on August 31st and passed on Sept 11 so he had less than two weeks to say goodbye. His dad died the day before his birthday and the day after his 28th wedding anniversary. Dealing with the rapid loss was very difficult. He has a younger brother and wanted to work to help support his mother and make his father proud. He has a 3.73 GPA and earned a 30 on the ACT. He plans to attend KSU and pursue a milling science which he said has good job availability (and the option to travel).

Special thanks to Justine for participating and speaking at the Triumph Over Tragedy 5K!

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