June 4, 2018

Del Mar, CA… Omaha-based Creighton University, the prestigious destination for Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s top 2018 recipient, Angelina (Gigi) Manasan of San Diego, says it offers a highly ranked education “where students learn to become leaders through service to others.” That makes it the ideal school for Angelina, who has epitomized leading through service – and adversity – throughout her young life.

Faced with multiple, daunting, health conditions starting as an infant, Gigi has turned obstacles into opportunities to help others – especially medically challenged children – and she’s done it with a huge smile on her face, a lei around her neck and positivity in her heart. She established her scholarship eligibility by performing hula with Na Pua Ilima O’Kehaulani at the San Diego County Fair for more than ten years. She was unanimously chosen to receive the top $5,000 Exhibitor/Participant Scholarship plus the coveted $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship through her interview with the Don Diego selection committee.

Chairman Roxana Foxx says that the committee members were impressed and moved by Gigi’s personal story, her accomplishments, her selfless desire to give back and her incredible resilience. She notes, “Gigi’s eclectic array of academic, extracurricular, work and volunteer achievements makes one ponder how this remarkable young woman can fit so many activities into her life and do everything so well while battling serious chronic conditions. She is simply awe-inspiring.”

Gigi is as humble as she is extraordinary. As a stellar Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) student who incorporates dancing, singing and theatre into her STEM + Arts = STEAM repertoire, Gigi was involved with Girls Who Code, Robotics and other high-tech efforts at Academy of Our Lady of Peace, where she earned a 4.2 GPA while being involved in numerous activities, earning recognition for her work in the St. Augustine High School drama department and serving as an academic tutor. She says, “Engaging middle school students in fun STEM activities such as extracting DNA from strawberries and making pizza in a solar oven cemented my desire to become a math teacher. Living with my health conditions impelled me to give back at Rady Children’s Hospital, which has been there for me all my life.”

At 22 months old, Gigi and her mom, Marla Manasan, became only the second patient family to be part of a living-related liver transplant. She continues to take immune-suppressant medication as part of her lifelong treatment. She later developed two additional, serious medical conditions with which she and her Rady’s medical team continue to deal: Rumination Syndrome and Primary Membranous Nephropathy.

Immersed in a situation in which anyone – let alone an adolescent – would be forgiven for descending to the depths of despair, Gigi instead make the courageous choice to become a powerful speaking ambassador for Rady’s. Calling her “a very bright, cheerful and kind-hearted young lady,” Rady Foundation’s Associate Director of Philanthropy, Lauren Neiman, says, “Seeing Gigi share her journey and help us raise funds to care for San Diego’s sick and injured kids is awe-inspiring. Gigi is proof that one passionate person can make a difference in thousands of lives.”

Gigi says that in addition to helping children deal with serious illnesses, one of her greatest joys comes from encouraging people to become organ donors. “It’s a way that anyone can make a difference,” believes this idealistic young woman, who is eager to start her Creighton education this fall.

She states, “I am extremely honored and thankful to have been awarded these two scholarships. With the enormous generosity of the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation, I will be able to pursue my life’s goal of teaching STEM and also assisting pediatric patients bridge the gap between chronic illness and graduation.”

For now, the indomitable Angelina Manasan has a mission to accomplish this summer: buying warm apparel suitable for those cold Nebraska winters!

Angelina is one of 30 exceptional students sharing a record $72,500 in college scholarships this year. The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. To date since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $938,500 in scholarships to 234 students and in agriculture education grants. More information is at staging.dondiegoscholarship.org and facebook.com/DonDiegoScholarship.