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Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship 2018-19 Winners

November 7, 2018


Philadelphia, PA —- The Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship announced today that three organ transplant recipients, and one cornea recipient, are the winners of its 2018-19 higher education scholarships.

The Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship is funded through the Transplant Foundation, the charitable foundation which supports the mission of Gift of Life Donor Program.  Each year, the scholarship program issues $2,500 awards to four transplant recipients.  The scholarship was created in memory of heart transplant recipient Jessica Beth Schwartz.

“Each year, I look forward to reviewing the students’ scholarship applications.  I am inspired by each of their unique journeys,” says Jessie’s mother and scholarship co-founder, Janice Schwartz-Donahue.  “Their resolve to not let anything keep them from pursuing their dreams of a higher education is admirable.  This scholarship helps support their dreams of an advanced education.”

2018-2019 Scholarship Winners:

Brianna Marie Barker – Milford, PA

  • Growing up, Brianna suffered from a virus in her heart, which profoundly affected every aspect of her life. Between the ages of seven to 13 years old, she became progressively sicker. At 13, she learned that the only hope to save her life was a heart transplant.  Thankfully, the summer before she started high school, she received a healthy heart which instantly restored her health.  Since then, she has been inspired to give back as a volunteer and shares her story to help others.  Since both organ donation and CPR saved Brianna’s life, she now volunteers with her local organ donor network and the American Heart Association.  She has also served as a running coach for elementary school-aged girls.  She is currently studying at Penn State University, State College, PA pursuing a degree as a Science major focusing in Biological Sciences and Health Professions, Telecommunications and minoring in Photography. Despite her busy schedule, Brianna serves as a Resident Assistant and volunteers as a biology tutor, immunology research assistant and photographer for pediatric cancer patients at her university. Throughout her challenges, she has maintained a can-do attitude. “I learned so much from my transplant.  It allowed me to look at life differently with a more grateful perspective, while also inspiring me to volunteer and share my story to help others,” Brianna said.

Christina Reine Dugas – Furlong, PA

  • In August 2014, Christina’s life was at risk when she went into complete kidney failure. She spent the following months receiving multiple treatments including dialysis, rounds of antibiotics and suffered a number of infections. In April 2015, Christina received the greatest gift of all from her father when he donated his kidney to save her life. Her battles and the overwhelming support she received from her medical team has inspired her to become a surgical assistant to a transplant surgeon. Christina wants to be a hero for others as her surgeons, doctors and nurses were for her during her illness. She currently attends Bucks County Community College, Newtown, PA and is studying Health Sciences. “Being sick and having the hardships and struggles I did made me who I am today. I am lucky enough to say that I lived,” said Christina. “I hope to be first hand to a transplant surgeon. I want to be able to say I’m able to give back in the exact same surgeries that saved my life. I love being that super hero for someone who needs nothing more than a hero.”

Nathan Kowalski – Flemington, NJ


  • Shortly after Nathan was born, he was diagnosed with OTC (Ornithine Transcarbamylas Deficiency) which leaves a patient without the enzyme to help break down protein. Nathan received a liver transplant at 4 ½ months in order to survive. The gift of a transplant has allowed Nathan to grow up and become involved in a variety of activities. In high school, he helped manage the hockey team and also supported the lacrosse team. Nathan’s true interest was found at The College of New Jersey, Ewing Township, NJ, pursuing a degree as a Career and Community Studies student. He is so grateful for the second chance at life he was given. “Getting a liver transplant has been hard at times, but only made my life better. It taught me responsibility and I wish the best of luck for the next kid who is in my shoes because it saved me,” said Nathan.

Cameron Linton – Newark, Delaware

  • Throughout Cameron’s childhood, he claims it was difficult to see out of both of his eyes, particularly his left eye. After many years, he was diagnosed with Keratoconus, which required a cornea transplant right away.  Without the transplant, the progressive disease could cause Cameron to lose his eyesight in his left eye. So, at the age of 14, he had his cornea transplant which restored his sight within a few months.  Cameron stated that it was the best feeling to be able to see out of the eye that he had been struggling with his entire life.  He could finally see what everybody else could see!  Cameron then went on to excel academically, continuing his education at Goldey-Beacom College, Wilmington, DE as a Business Administration major with a concentration in Sports Management. In addition to his studies, he is an ambassador for the Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley and helps individuals through the challenges of eye surgeries and more. Cameron is also an active participant with Gift of Life Donor Program involving himself in the Transplant Games of America as well as the Dash for Organ Donor Awareness. “I want to set up a club at my school to encourage the importance of organ donation and teach them all about transplants. I am truly blessed and forever thankful for this gift of sight, it has completely changed my life,” said Cameron.

Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship

Jessica Beth Schwartz was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect just a few days after she was born, and by the time she was 14, her heart and body began to slow down.  She was able to experience eight and a half additional years of life because she received a gift of life from a generous donor.

A total of 57 students have been awarded scholarships since the program was founded in 2003. To be eligible for the Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship, students must be under the age of 25, seniors in high school, or be enrolled in a two- or four-year college, university, trade or technical school.

To contribute to the Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship Fund, or for more information on scholarship criteria, visit www.jessiesday.org.

About Gift of Life

Gift of Life Donor Program is the non-profit, federally-designated organ procurement organization, serving 11.2 million people across Delaware, southern New Jersey and the eastern half of Pennsylvania. Its annual donation rate ranks among the highest in the world.

Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 46,000 life-saving organs for transplant, and approximately one million tissue transplants have resulted from the generosity of donors and their families.  One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people, and a tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 75 others. For more information or to register, visit donors1.org.