Our 2020 College Scholarship Winner: Alexandra Manzo

Meet Alexandra Manzo our 2020 Carol Phan College Scholarship winner.

Congratulations, Alexandra!

Alexandra won in this coronavirus pandemic, weird world, against 11 other excellent applicants (the highest quality I have seen in 10 years). I will meet with her and her parents for an “official” Starbucks picture and to give her the certificate and scholarship money. But, we will do that only when Gov Newsom says it is safer…..and we will practice social distancing.

In the meantime…..

Alexandra is planning to attend Irvine Valley College then transfer to UC Irvine or UCLA (not sure yet how this is all going to work pandemically) while majoring in Psychology.

Alexandra submitted a poem that blew the judges away.

I have included that poem below, so you can read it. 🙂

Go here to see all the scholarship recipients since 2011.

The Strength in Struggling by Alexandra Manzo

I used to paint my nails when I was hungry.
As I forced myself to smell
The nail polish solvent,
It enslaved my body.
Curdling my stomach,
Infecting every vein,
It tainted my bloodstream
Like an oil spill in a river.

It began as an innocent habit
Until I realized,
I knew I couldn’t eat
Unless the polish was dry.

Chipping away at my limestone body,
My bones became soft,
Collapsing in on themselves
Every time I looked in the mirror.

I lost 21 pounds sophomore year:
113 to 106,
106 to 99,
And 99 to 92.
My body was like a clock
Ticking backward.

My clothes grew larger
As my body began to shrink,
And the feeling of my bones
Plunging into my mattress
Brought me peace.

The speed at which
My brain knew
The caloric intake
of an orange,
was unmatched
To that of a ti-84’s ability
to square root 2025.
(The answer is 45
By the way,
For both sets of criteria.)

Keeping me from
My inspirations,
My schoolwork,
My friends,
This mental illness
Consumed me.

In class,
My brain was full of
Instead of
Instead of
And darkness
Instead of

I knew I had to change
What I was doing,
But a part of me
Didn’t want to change
Who I was. Am…

Recovery has been
One of the hardest
Things I’ve ever done.

I had to convince myself
That everything
My mind told me
Was a lie.

I frequently visited
Nutritionists, and
Hoping to gain some answers.

As I locked away my nail polish
-Filling my hands with almonds
Instead of acetone-
I began to smell
The monster I’d become.

I had to relearn
Who I was,
Who I wanted to be,
And what I wanted to achieve.

This is when
I truly learned about
And the value
Of helping others.

Dedication is a word
Of summing up
My feelings towards
Disorder prevention and

Before my eating disorder,
I didn’t known the difference
Between effort and

I understand
The value of
In helping both
Myself and Others.

My goal is to help
Free people who feel
Trapped by their
Mental illnesses and their

Nobody should have to feel that

I know that overcoming
Mentally and academically,
Is not fantastical.

We are capable of battling the
Even if it is

Explanation of Work:

For a few years, I have struggled with my body. My body dysmorphia began my
sophomore year of high school, and it has been the biggest thing holding me back from
my goals. I never wanted to leave my bedroom in fear that people would need to see
the body that I saw as grotesque. This is what led me to develop an eating disorder; it
took over my whole life. Now, looking back on my high school experience, I can vividly
picture the moments that I felt self-conscious in class or was worried whether I was
sucking my stomach in that day, not whether I was enjoying the time I had with friends
or family. This disorder consumed me, even though I wasn’t consuming enough food
myself. It wasn’t until I began therapy and started having truly vulnerable conversations
with myself that I started to recover.

Though I am still on the road to recovery, I am now aware of what my disorder
was and is, and I know that I never want people to feel even a fraction of hate for
themselves like I did towards me. So, for the past year, I have made it my mission to
talk to various clubs, advisors, and peers, spreading awareness about the seriousness
of mental health and why it cannot be taken lightly in public schools. While my high
school education is coming to a close, I certainly will remain passionate about spreading
awareness about mental health and where one can find valuable resources, no matter
their personal beliefs, socio-economic status, race, or gender. As a whole, people need
to be cognizant of what mental health is and how we, as a people, need to all contribute
to help eliminate the stigma behind it. That is my mission for life; this is what I am
passionate about.

Alexandra on the road to recovery

More Scholarship Winners….


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