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The Right Stuff

USC Marshall’s Performance Science Institute finds students who excel despite the odds

May 07, 2018

At a university like USC, finding students who perform at a high level is as easy as looking around. But when USC’s Performance Science Institute went looking to award its Jake Olson Vision Award scholarships, they had to go to the next level.

“We were particularly looking for students who had undergone some very serious hardships personally, but who overcame them anyway,” said Dr. Glenn Fox, head of design, strategy and outreach for the Performance Science Institute, which is housed in the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC Marshall.

“All of the applications were incredibly inspiring,” he said. “These were tough decisions.”

But in the end, as always, there were standouts.

“All of these students inspire us, and demonstrate what is possible with the right mindset, grit, and determination." -- Dr. Glenn Fox, Performance Science Institute

The inaugural Jake Olson Vision Awards were announced onstage at the PSI-hosted Kobe Bryant event on April 2.  Winners Cailin Stroyke and Isaiah Dixon, both USC Marshall class of 2021, accepted their awards onstage and later got to meet Bryant.

"We are extremely grateful to everyone who applied and shared some incredible stories of grit and resilience" said Fox.  "The key differentiators for us were to find the students who themselves had experienced difficulties and setbacks due to personal circumstances, but had altered their approach and reached their goals as a reflection of their ability to recover from tough times. Cailin and Isaiah stand out for these traits in particular."

As a child, Stroyke suffered from a rare brain disease that caused seizures that increased in quantity and intensity as she grew older. She was finally forced to undergo surgery to remove an eighth of her brain near the temporal lobe. After a long recovery, she made it to USC.

Isaiah Dixon was diagnosed with a virulent form of Leukemia in high school and underwent grueling treatment while still in school.

The other winners include: Jonathan Speas, Miriham Antonio, Morgan Baker, Hung “Tony” Pham, Kyerstin Galloway and Dylan Balka.

“All of these students inspire us, and demonstrate what is possible with the right mindset, grit, and determination,” said Fox.

The awards will be made in the spring of every year and individuals can apply or nominate someone deserving of the award.