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Louisville District Employees Award Scholarships to Graduates

  • Diagnosed at 18 months old with spinal muscular atrophy, Zoe Clemmons, a graduating senior from duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky., has endured health challenges all her life. She’s undergone multiple surgeries over the years to lessen the impact of the disease, which causes her muscles to slowly degenerate.  Mobile with the use of a wheelchair, accessibility and transportation issues continue to be daily trials.

    While navigating those hazards, Clemmons says she has faced another consistent challenge – discrimination over her disability, and people undermining her intellect or making assumptions that she can’t do something.

    But Clemmons has proved them wrong, maintaining a spot on the honor roll all four years of high school while taking rigorous courses including, Advanced Placement and dual credit classes. She was a member of the Honor Society Foundation and was involved in extracurricular activities including, Best Buddies and the Latin American Hispanic Student Organization. She also volunteered with the Kentucky Humane Society, helping acclimate animals to adaptive equipment like wheelchairs, walkers and canes.

    In the fall, she plans to attend the University of Louisville as a pre-nursing major. Her path to college has been made easier with a $24,800 scholarship she received as part of the JCPSEmployee-Sponsored Student Scholarship Fund.  Clemmons was one of four seniors from Jefferson County Public Schools’ Class of 2020 awarded scholarships. The fund was created by Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio as a way for district employees to invest in the futures of the students they serve.

    “I’m so happy,” Clemmons, a first-generation college student, said after she was surprised at her home with a check from Pollio. “I’ve always wanted to live on campus when I went to college, and this will allow me to do that.”

    Being in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices throughout her childhood drew her to pursue a career in medicine, specifically nursing. “The nurses made my time in the hospital unforgettable each time I’d stay,” said Clemmons. “They made life-altering events more comfortable to endure and through pain and confusion, I was able to smile.”

    Her goal is to offer similar comfort and a new perspective to patients. Zoe Clemmons

    Also receiving a JCPSEmployee-Sponsored Student Scholarship was Gobinda Bastola, a graduating senior at Fern Creek High School. Bastola was awarded a $20,000 scholarship he will use to attend the University of Louisville in the fall.  

    “I feel so grateful for this opportunity,” he said after receiving the award. “I had no way to pay for all my college, that’s why I’ve always worked so hard.  It’s such a wonderful surprise, and I appreciate all the support from my teachers and JCPS to help me along the way.”

    Bastola’s path to college began miles away in Nepal where he was born and lived with his family in a refugee camp, sleeping in a home built of bamboo and sticks.  He lived in constant fear of snakes entering the hut at night, or the house blowing away in the wind and some nights he and siblings had no food.

    In 2009, his family migrated to the United States seeking better opportunities. Impoverished, speaking no English and with no formal education of their own, his parents didn’t understand how to navigate the school system, so Bastola had to make all the decisions about his education on his own, including choosing which schools he would attend.

    Education and technology became his lifeline, and his passion.

    Gobinda Bastola “I kept going to school because I got to use computers there,” he said. “After school I would walk 30 minutes to go to the public library to get to use computers.”

    Despite his struggles at first – Bastola said he was bullied because he spoke little English – he has flourished.  At Fern Creek, he served as a senior class officer, was a member of the National Honor Society, volunteered at Freedom Adult Daycare and the Bhutanese Society of Kentucky, played soccer, volleyball and cricket, and speaks three languages.

    Outside of school, Bastola works on his own coding projects, and has landed a technology-based internship with Louisville Geek, an information technology company.

    He plans to major in computer science and business at the University of Louisville, and eventually hopes to create a non-profit to help communities gain access to technology. He also wants to create an app to help teenagers find information on colleges and scholarships – information that would have been beneficial to someone like him.

    “I want to be able to make changes in the community, because I know that there are going to be more scholars like me, who might not be able to go to college,” he said.  “I want to make a change to barriers … where students have to rely on scholarships because their parents never got an education.  That keeps me going every day.”