2015 RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc. Winners


Each of these 5 students will receive $2500.00 paid to the college they attend in the fall of 2015.

Isaiah Dodson       

Cornerstone Academy

Jefferson City, Tennessee

Instagram @dodsonator

As an experienced backpacker, a talented photographer with over 40k followers on his Instagram account and an avid outdoorsman, Isaiah Dodson has only recently found the self awareness that has made him feel comfortable with his learning difference.

Last summer, Isaiah and his family (both of his parents are teachers) went on a summer “adventure of a lifetime”. They traveled and spent the night “under the stars” for a month. During the trip he “began to learn that I did not need to focus on my weakness in reading and slow speed in tests”. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia as a younger student he spent many hours at night struggling with homework and hit a self described “brick wall” when learning to spell.. His frustration troubled him throughout school, but this past summer’s experience changed his perspective.

He realized that by focusing on his strengths such as telling stories through photographs, he could use a different mindset and this shift made inspiration come in “endless streams”. This realization changed his focus and within a month from returning from this trip, he was hired as a photographer for several outdoor brands.

Mary Sue Brown, the Principal of his high school in Tennessee, remarked that Isaiah has shown “integrity and a love of life”. He “relishes a mountain to climb or an obstacle to overcome.” This is easy to believe in speaking to Isaiah and in viewing his artful detail in his photographs. RiSE congratulates Isaiah and can’t wait to see what the future holds!


Liam Earl                                   

ACS Cobham International School

Surrey, UK

After graduating this spring from ACS Cobham International School in Surrey, England, Liam is heading to Marian Univeristy in Indianoplis to study Engineering and and to join their cycling team on a cycling scholarship. His cycling record shows that he was a fierce competitor for the US cycling team in Europe and for the USA Cycling Cyclocross Program. This experience with cycling and his success in the sport, Liam says, has helped him tremendously in his academics at school.

In fourth grade he was diagnosed with dyslexia after having a hard time learning to read. He recalls that the “letters on paper made no sense to me, it was like trying to read underwater without goggles.” He eventually used books on tape and slowly began to make “sense of the words on paper”. He also began youth cycle clinics where he really excelled.

Finding something he was good at and “liked”, he began to be able to focus more in school. His strategy for winning races translated to his technique to do well in school. He realized the harder he trained, the more successful he raced and the same happened at school.

He is grateful for his family and coaches that have helped him pursue his passion.


Chloe Heiser

Chino Hills High School

Chino Hills, California

The assignment for the applicant’s for the 2015 RiSE Scholarship Foundation Award was to enter an expression of gratitude and how this may have helped them overcome their learning differences. For this challenge, Chloe quoted

Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis who said “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”

This quote greatly resonated with Chloe, as her life has been full of adversity. Chloe was born prematurely with a medical birth defect that caused her liver, spleen and intestines to develop outside of her stomach. She has had continuous medical issues, hearing and vision problems as well as learning disabilities. Her therapies have included vision therapy at Southern California School of Optometry among other helpful tools she found to succeed. Lately Learning Ally’s audiobooks have been helpful.

Although Chloe’s challenges may have been difficult, she has come to realize, gratitude is a choice. She is thankful and feels that the “tough journey” has taught her determination and the value of hard work. In fact recently she presented a TedxYouth program at her school before graduating that’s topic was on staying positive and four key things she does daily to stay in this mind frame.

This tenacious attitude is apparent and was reflected by her English teacher Ms. Cisneroz, who speaks of Chloe gift of “letting her challenges make her stronger” and that she is a student who “ is an amazing example of resilience”. At school she is active in a mentoring program for underclassman and enjoys student leadership. Like Ms. Cisneroz’s says about Chloe… “she has her heart on changing the world”. Congratulations Chloe!


Joseph King  

Stillwater Christian School

Kalispell, Montana

Receiving the news of the reason he was struggling with reading, Joseph describes his experience as…..“Finding out that in fifth grade I had a learning disability and I was dyslexic was a sucker punch to the gut”. Having just moved to a new town and school, Joseph worried that he would not be accepted as he read below grade level. He worried if he would be accepted socially as well as academically.

“I was thankfully wrong” said Joseph “I learned that having a LD doesn’t make you different from everyone else, ……… it only means “I am wired a little bit different”.  After receiving helpful remediation, he know sees that “every struggle in life has a purpose and there is always something you can learn from it”. Finding a school that encouraged him and having many outside activities helped boost Joseph confidence. In high school, Joseph enjoyed choir, playing pool (which he feels is a great strategic game that clears his mind) , biking and playing competitive soccer. He has played soccer for 12 years, both at school and in clubs.

As a high school senior, he was named the team captain. In this role, he lead the team to win a state championship while competing in the Montana Christian Athletic Association.

Joseph plans to continue to play soccer while attending Corban Univeristy in Salem, Oregon in the fall.

Joseph’s essay for the 2015 RiSE application explains how feels grateful that his high school encouraged him and offered helpful extensive tutoring that he needed to overcome the struggles he faces with his dyslexia.  He found teachers that were “pivotal in working with me as I prepare for college and placement tests”. These specifically were Mr. O’Rourke, Mr. Hunter and Mr. Anderson as well as the entire school community.

Looking toward graduation, he feels his school and the staff have made him to be a “better man and student”.

He has felt he could “go up to any teacher and they will pretty much drop whatever they are doing to help with classwork and talk with me”.

His dyslexia has “made him strive to be the very best he can be in and out of the classroom”.

Congratulations Joseph!


Bianca Thomas     

St. Mary’s Academy

Englewood, Colorado

To read the remarks Bianca’s high school college counselor makes about her make you know she is a special person. She is thought of to be a brave, outgoing and successful student who has faced her learning issues with “creative and intelligent strategies” and has a “willingness to push herself in her academic pursuits and extracurricular activities. Once you read more about Bianca you see these activities are varied and deeply compassionate.

As a high school senior, she is artistic, entrepreneurial, an avid volunteer and a driven student. This is seen in her GPA, multiple awards and many interests. Bianca’s talent is evident in the business she founded which donates to charity. Her artwork is printed on cards, which she sells online and at craft fairs. The website is www.Biancards.com which raises money for HORD (Hope for Orphans and Rural Development) in Africa.

Additionally, Bianca’s volunteering and job experiences led her to be a “thought leader” with the Wayfaring Band, volunteering at art camps, hosting an exchange student and helping in a reading club for disadvantaged students. Her jobs have included shadowing an infectious disease doctor; an orthopedic surgeon, an ACL specialist and assisting a local artist and painter hang an art installation.

Having decided on Colorado College in the fall, Bianca is grateful her mother encouraged her to “strive to be her best self “ and “to use her learning disability and the unique way I view the world as an asset rather than a hindrance”. The attached piece is artwork expresses the gratitude she has for her mother although she says it is difficult to express how much she is grateful in her “brushstrokes”. Congrats Bianca!!