The 2013 Fall Gala marked the 10th anniversary of the NYFC Spirit Award, a $10,000 scholarship awarded annually to a young person in foster care who has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills, a commitment to community, and the determination and ability to overcome the barriers to academic success. Northwell Health sponsored two Spirit Awards in honor of the 10th Anniversary.

Crystal Cameron

Crystal Cameron is a 23 year-old student at Hunter College. She will be starting this year with advanced standing in the R.N. Pathway program at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing. Crystal’s ability to overcome life’s challenges and her unwavering commitment to a career in nursing make her an excellent candidate for this year’s Spirit Award.

When she was 16, Crystal entered foster care after receiving the life changing call that her father had been killed. At age 17, she gave birth to her daughter, who provided her with the motivation to focus on her education. Crystal graduated high school and started college at LaGuardia Community College, where she was recognized as an honors student and was on the Dean’s List for three semesters.

At the same time that she was entering the nursing program at LaGuardia, Crystal was transitioning out of foster care without a permanent home to live. She found herself struggling in the challenging nursing program amidst instability in her personal life. Despite all that she was facing outside of school, Crystal persevered through the program and completed her requirements.

This past June, Crystal graduated from LaGuardia with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. She was chosen as the pinning ceremony leader for her nursing program, planning the prestigious ceremony and speaking in front of her classmates and professors. In August she passed her National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

This scholarship will help Crystal pay for her educational expenses as she continues to pursue her goals and earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Crystal’s dream is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and a motivational speaker for young girls in foster care. Crystal feels proud to share her story and feels that “if you just have one person who believes in you, it can make all the difference.”

Zinyusile Brian Khumbula

Zinyusile Brian Khumbula is a 20 year-old sophomore at Pace University studying Public Accounting. His drive for academic success, along with his desire to serve his community, makes him a deserving candidate for this year’s Spirit Award.

Brian was born in Zimbabwe and raised in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. He moved to the United States in September of 2009 and has been in foster care since he was 17.

Brian has taken an active role in improving foster care for other young people. He is a member of his agency’s Youth Council, which meets with the agency President to talk about issues youth in care are facing and generates solutions to support these young people. Brian is described as a “positive force” in these meetings for his insightful comments, words of wisdom, and willingness to provide support to his peers. He believes that being a leader is not about showing power, but about “working together and helping each other for a greater cause.”

Brian works full time at Fishs Eddy and recently began working for his agency part time in the Bridges to Health program. He is also a youth advisor for Minds On Fire, an organization dedicated to helping young people enter adulthood with confidence, curiosity and compassion.

The Spirit Award scholarship funds will help Brian remain at Pace University and afford the expenses of a private college. Brian’s goal is to become a social entrepreneur and open daycare facilities that would allow low income families to receive quality care for their children. He wants to use his story and the opportunity presented by the Spirit Award to help others.

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