Medical Dreams Come Alive Through Scholarship Program
VICTORVIILE - By the time she was a year old, Kristina Chassie had suffered through the first of four operations she'd need through her life.
She was born with spinal bifida, a degenerative disorder caused when a fetus' spine doesn't properly close during the first month of pregnancy. Kristina needed surgery to correct her back and feet. The condition often leads to degrees of paralysis, physical and mobility difficulties, learning disabilities and numerous organ problems.
But the care of a "really good" neurosurgeon saved Kristina from what could have been a life of constant misery.
"Other doctors said I shouldn't be walking," she said.
Today, Kristina, 17, not only is able to walk, but she's led a relatively normal life because of her treatment -- and now she has plans to become a neurosurgeon herself.
"I'd like to give that to others," she said.
Kristina, who is working on her associate's degree at Victor Valley College, is one of 39 scholarship recipients. The awards come courtesy of a $104,000 grant program set up through the Desert Valley Charitable Foundation.
Members of the Victorville nonprofit have awarded a varying number of scholarships annually to students they deem as deserving, with hopes the students will use the money to enter the medical field.
Aside from charitable gifts from the community, the program is funded with proceeds from Prime Cup espresso bar in the foundation library.
In recent years, the program only had enough funding to grant about 10 scholarships annually, said foundation manager Bonnie Nitz.
But, Dr. Prem Reddy, the foundation's founder, recently donated $100,000 of his own money, which allowed the program to support more students this year, with grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
Kristina, who hopes to continue her education at Loma Linda University, received a $2,500 scholarship from the foundation, as did fellow VVC student Andrew Hijazin, 21, who works as an emergency medical technician and tile installer.
"The scholarship has help towards books, my budgeting, bills -- it's really helped my parents out," he said.
Hijazin says ever since he was about 10, he's been "fascinated with the heart. It's what makes the entire body work."
Hijazin plans to become a cardiologist with an emphasis on trauma medicine. He can't foresee a time when he'll ever lose interest in helping others.
"Every day is a new day."