Each year, we award $1,000 scholarships to five Texas high school students through our Extraordinary Scholarship program. The program supports driven students in their educational journey to pursue remarkable things.
Holden, one of our 2023 winners, exemplifies the spirit of Daniel Stark’s Extraordinary Scholarship program. With her years of volunteering and passion for animal-assisted therapy, Holden’s unique story has made a lasting impression on those around her.
What ignited Holden’s passion?
When Holden was in sixth grade, she read Until Tuesday by Bret Witter and Luis Carlos Montalvan. The book shares the touching story of a service dog trained to assist a combat veteran in leading a better life.
“Once I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down,” Holden explained. “I wanted to train some type of service or guide dog to help others.”
However, at just eleven years old, training a service or guide dog would have been a huge undertaking. Through additional research, Holden discovered therapy dogs and their incredible impact in bringing joy and comfort to others in need. It became evident that training therapy dogs aligned perfectly with her aspirations.
How did Holden turn her dream of helping others into a reality?
After two years of searching for a dog to train, Holden found Millie, a 7-week-old yellow Labrador Retriever. Holden wasted no time in starting basic training, ensuring Millie would be fully prepared for her therapy dog test. Holden dedicated herself to training Millie for several months, and Millie passed the test with flying colors.
“Since volunteering for Aggieland Pets with a Purpose during my freshman year of high school, we made over 200 therapy dog visits to various retirement homes, rehab facilities, and college campuses, totaling almost 230 service hours,” said Holden.
Having seen the benefits of animal-assisted therapy, Holden knows she’s made a difference. She believes that serving others has opened her eyes to endless opportunities and guided her towards her true purpose in life. “I learned at an early age that I had a passion for volunteering. It’s not a have-to, but a get-to!”
Inspired by the profound impact of her work and the transformative power of therapy dogs, Holden aspires to become a Child Life Specialist at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
What is Holden up to now?
Since winning our Extraordinary Scholarship, Holden now attends the University of Memphis. While in school, she’s taking steps to become a regular volunteer at St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
She’s now a proud Phi Mu, has volunteered at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, and serves as the lead student photographer for the University of Memphis football team. “In addition to being on the sidelines during games, I also get to showcase photos of our team volunteering in the community, which makes my heart so happy!” said Holden.
Apart from her volunteer work, Holden runs her own photography business and achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA in the fall semester.
Daniel Stark’s Extraordinary Scholarship
“The cost of attending college is so high, and attending an out-of-state school increased those costs even more,” Holden shared. “Daniel Stark’s support has meant the world to me and I’m forever grateful!”
We are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to support Holden’s educational journey at the University of Memphis. Our goal is to empower the next generation to create a positive impact, and we’re honored to share remarkable stories like Holden’s.
Congratulations to all our 2023 scholarship winners!