April 2016

A Sampling of Scholars: The Heritage Foundation Scholarship Program

Author: Paul deVere

Back in April, 1993, Hilton Head High School senior Michael Brasseur was standing near the cannon on the 18th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links. After the cannon went off, signaling the official start of the Heritage, he remembers Payne Stewart and several other Tour pros shaking his hand along with six other seniors from Beaufort County schools. Then, because he was a member of the Hilton Head High’s baseball team, he was rushed off to a game against Beaufort High School.

“It was so special, getting recognized like that; it was a very memorable day,” Brasseur said in a recent interview. He was in the first class of Heritage Scholars, a Heritage Foundation scholarship program that began in 1993 and, as of 2016, includes 274 recipients. The program has provided more than $3.6 million in annual scholarships for Beaufort County seniors since it began.

Brasseur is now Commander Michael Brasseur, USN. “To be a captain of a ship is the desired goal of every officer. I’m at that desired goal right now,” Brasseur said. His ship, the USS Freedom, “is a new class of warship. It’s very maneuverable and super fast.”

He used his scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University. “Combined with my Navy ROTC scholarship, my parents didn’t have to pay [for college], which was very important to me,” Brasseur said.

Brasseur is an unabashed fan of 2011 RBC Heritage champion and fellow “Vandy” grad, Brandt Snedeker. He and young son Brooks witnessed Snedeker’s round on the Sunday in 2011 when Snedeker’s game caught fire. Brasseur recalled what happened next in a letter to the Heritage Foundation.

“After 18, Sneds gave Brooks his golf glove. We left after that, but I had a feeling he did well enough that he might make it to a play-off, so I pulled over at the Wild Wings in Bluffton to watch the rest of the tournament. Sure enough, Sneds was in a play-off with the number one golfer in the world. I said, ‘Oh no Brooks! How is he going to play without his lucky golf glove?’ Brooks was really worried. And together our perfect day was capped off over wings and watching our guy win our tournament. How cool is that?”

2011 Heritage Scholar Reid D’Amico described the moment he learned he had been awarded his scholarship in one word: awesome. “With this scholarship, I was able to engage and talk to people who were familiar with Hilton Head and also understood what I wanted to do,” D’Amico said. “It was awesome. It showed that my community had faith in my ability, and they put that faith into a scholarship.”

A graduate of Hilton Head Prep, D’Amico used the Heritage scholarship along with a few others to study biomedical engineering at Duke University. D’Amico is currently a PhD student as a biomedical engineer at Vanderbilt. He is using his background to “develop techniques that I could apply to a wide range of diseases, like cystic fibrosis. I do that by studying pulmonary hypertension,” he explained.

D’Amico mentioned cystic fibrosis (CF) specifically because, at age 10, he was diagnosed with the disease. CF is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. Median predicated age of survival is 41 years.

D’Amico is also a columnist for BioNews Services, where he writes about regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications and their relevance to cystic fibrosis; chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Roundtable Scholarship; a director for the U.S. Adult CF Association; committee member and author of the Cystic Fibrosis Roundtable Clinical Trials column; and publisher of the CF Roundtable newsletter.

Now a senior at the University of Texas, 2012 Heritage Scholar from Bluffton High School Jacob George is also majoring in biomedical engineering, but his focus has been in another direction. Named MVP for the Bluffton Bobcats soccer team, George became fascinated with the “Walk Again Project” at the opening of the World Cup in Brazil. A young man with complete paralysis below the waist performed a symbolic kick off of the games using an exoskeleton that he controlled with his brain, a first in brain-machine interfaces. “That really got me interested in the field,” George said.

Last summer, he was accepted in a summer research program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. He got to work with Dr. Gregory Clark at the University of Utah, who has created “a revolutionary prosthetic hand that is controlled entirely by human thought. By integrating the human brain with computer software, the prosthetic device will also be capable of restoring the patient’s sensation of touch and feeling. “This type of work that merges the fields of computer science and neuroscience is what I hope to continue in graduate school,” George wrote in a letter to the Heritage Foundation, keeping them up to speed on how well their “investment” was doing.

George chose the University of Texas primarily because “undergraduate students get to be involved in research early on. We get to work on problems in the real world,” he said. As an undergraduate, he worked on low-cost alternatives to MRI machines and developing a program able to diagnose skin cancer simply using the program and a webcam.

“Getting the scholarship was a great honor,” George said. “It’s helping to continue research—to support what I’m doing. It has served as continual motivation for me to pursue my dreams.”

Ya Fang, a 2013 graduate of South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics and Heritage Foundation Scholar, thought she would study to be a pediatrician when she enrolled at Duke University. “I was in pre-med for about a day,” she said and admitted she discovered that wasn’t the field she was most interested in.

“I found myself surrounded by friends who were interested in finance,” she said, and is now a junior economics major. She will be working for JP Morgan as an intern this summer. She says she would eventually like to be a teacher. She got a real-life taste of teaching last summer in a fascinating program sponsored by Duke University. Students teach in a nonprofit school for migrant children who have moved from rural areas throughout China to the outskirts of Beijing. Fang, who was born in Shanghai but moved to Hilton Head Island when she was very young, spent three months teaching migrant middle school children English. “I learned I cared a lot about education,” Fang said. She made a very moving video of her experience at the Dandelion School. She called her experience “amazing.”

That’s how she also felt about being a Heritage Foundation Scholar. “I felt so honored. My family was ecstatic. To get that kind of support from my community—so amazing,” she said.

Kara Klein is excited about the project she’s doing for her mechanical design class at Georgia Institute of Technology. “I get to design and create a machine for a competition. It’s almost ready. I love mechanical engineering,” said Klein, a 2014 Heritage Foundation scholar and Hilton Head Island High School graduate.

“My father was really into cars; I grew up around them. I like tinkering with things. I knew I wanted to be in engineering. I know mechanical engineering is kind of general, but this way I can move around the field and choose what I want,” Klein said. “It’s also very relevant to what the Navy wants,” she added. Klein is in the Navy ROTC at Georgia Tech. “I did junior ROTC in high school. I had two mentors in the program who really helped me make the right decision. ROTC is showing me what I can do with my commission in the fleet—see what it’s like in the real Navy,” Klein said. “I would like to fly in the Navy when I’m commissioned.”

She remembers what it felt like when she heard she had been chosen to be a Heritage Foundation Scholar. “To be one of seven selected out of all of Beaufort County, I felt I became part of the tradition, part of the tournament,” Klein said.

There are 274 Heritage Foundation scholars as of 2016, which means there are 274 extraordinary stories to tell. This is simply a sample of the type of scholar the Heritage Foundation program has identified and rewarded. While it says a great deal about the Heritage Foundation, maybe even more important, it shows the extraordinary quality of students Beaufort County produces.

To view Ya Fang’s summer at the Dandelion School, search “ A Day in the Life of Dandelion Volunteer” on Youtube.com

Tartan Club Takes on New Role: Scholarships
For those who want to help others and enjoy the RBC Heritage at the same time, the Heritage Foundation’s Tartan Club can be the ideal fit. Started more 15 years ago, the club has taken on the challenge of specifically helping fund the Heritage Scholar Program. Since its inception in 1993 the Heritage Foundation has awarded 274 college scholarships to Beaufort County high school seniors for a total of $3.6 million. The four-year awards have increased in range from $18,000 to $22,000.

Tartan Club membership has two levels of participation. Members make a yearly contribution to the scholarship program. As members, they can also purchase a tournament credential package that includes access to the new Tartan Club sky box on the 17th green, the Heritage House venue on the course, special parking pass, and invitation to the Tartan Club Reception and other events throughout the year.

“We are bringing the Tartan Club back, because prominent community leaders wanted a way to help fund the Heritage Scholar Program,” said Heritage Classic Foundation trustee and Tartan Club chairman Scott Richardson.

For more information about the Tartan Club, please contact Angie Taylor at the Heritage Classic Foundation at (843) 671-2448 ext. 243 or e-mail angie@heritageclassicfoundation.com.

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