Success Stories: Positive Outcomes
Homeless Teen With Cerebral Palsy Wins Garden of Dreams Scholarship
EXCLUSIVE: Homeless teen with cerebral palsy wins Garden of Dreams scholarship
BY LISA L. COLANGELO NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 2:30 AM
The inspirational teen who did not let cerebral palsy or homelessness keep her from the honor roll has won a scholarship to help her pay for college.
Johileny Meran Alamonte is one of 12 teens who will be recognized for their achievements Wednesday by the Garden of Dreams charity during the Knicks-Indiana Pacers game at Madison Square Garden.
“I am just so happy,” said the 18-year-old, who was profiled by the Daily News in November. She is now on track to be named valedictorian of her graduating class at Juan Morel Campos Secondary School.
She has already been accepted at several colleges — including Hunter and SUNY Stony Brook — but is waiting to hear from others before making a final decision. She is also hoping to move off the waiting list at New York University.
The Garden of Dreams scholarship, which provides $10,000 a year for four years, will go a long way to helping with college expenses. But Alamonte is still looking for more financial aid.
“I’m just looking for options and waiting to hear back,” she said.
Alamonte is planning a career in medicine, partly sparked by her own struggle with cerebral palsy as well as her mother Emma’s death from cancer in 2010.
“It has been an amazing ride working with Johileny through the past four years,” said Wayne Harris, a social worker with the city Department of Education who has been championing the ambitious young woman.
“Watching it all culminate with college acceptances, being named valedictorian and now college scholarships has been an amazing journey,” Harris said. “Johileny is the epitome of resilience. She has been an inspiration.”
Alamonte came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 2008 for an operation that was supposed to help her palsy-stricken legs. Instead, the surgeon damaged a nerve and she remained here for treatment. She is staying in a shelter with her 67-year-old grandmother and 16-year-old brother.
Since then, she has been defying all expectations with her high marks and ambitions.
“We are very proud of Johileny and her many achievements,” said Lorraine Stephens, first deputy commissioner at the Department of Homeless Services. “Her success in school will be inspiring for many of our young clients, and shows that anything is possible.”
While she plans her college career, Alamonte is hoping to take advantage of some senior year fun. Next month, she’s headed to Disney World, where she hopes to ride a roller coaster for the first time.
When she receives the scholarship Wednesday, Alamonte said her beloved mother will be in her thoughts.
“I wish my mom could be here to see this,” she said. “I just hope I have made her proud with all that I’m doing and trying to do.”