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Twins catcher Gary Sanchez awards scholarships to 3 Minnesota students

Sanchez created his "Swing for the Fences" scholarship program to support students from traditionally under-represented communities.

MINNEAPOLIS — Three local students will get some help paying for their next educational chapter, thanks to a hard-working Minnesota Twin who has their backs. 

Catcher Gary Sanchez will award $10,000 scholarships to Angel Zheng, Janaan Ahead and Melina Figueroa Friday at Target Field before the game against the Los Angeles Angels.

Sanchez came to the Twins just this year, and started his "Swing for the Fences" scholarship program, in conjunction with the team and Bold.org, to help students from traditionally under-represented segments of the community achieve their educational goals. 

“When I decided to start the scholarship, I knew I wanted to find students in under-represented segments... who could have an impact in their own way to the state’s future," Sanchez said. "In Angel, Janaan and Melina, I have no doubt that we did so. All three are strong, young women who have overcome much. They have much to offer Minnesota, and I am honored to be able to lend some financial support to ensure that they get the education they need to reach their goals."

Here is more on the scholarship winners and their personal stories: 

Janaan Ahmed

In her application essay, Janaan wrote of growing up in Section 8 housing along with nine siblings and six step-siblings, all under one roof. She says after experiencing isolation and hardship at home, she started to make school her home. She excelled in high school, all while working three jobs, two varsity sports and other extra-curricular activities. 

Credit: Bold.org
Janaan Ahmed

“This scholarship will not only provide the opportunity for affordable education, but it will also end another generation of poverty here in Minnesota,” Janaan wrote. "School has always been a refuge for me and a space to blossom into the student I am today. I hope to return to my roots and become a Minnesota high school Social Studies teacher in the near future. Without this scholarship, that dream would be more challenging to obtain." 

Janaan Ahmed says she will attend the University of Minnesota to first pursue her bachelor's degree before going back for a master's. 

Angel Zheng

Angel (Cannon Falls High School) wrote about the challenges she wrestled with growing up in Minnesota as an Asian-American, experiencing bullying, racism and abuse. She says those experiences caused her mental health to erode, leading to chronic anxiety and depression. Angel shared that she eventually came to a crossroads and decided to prioritize her mental health and learn more about the human psyche. The Sanchez scholarship will help her work towards a psychology degree. 

Credit: Bold.org
Angel Zheng

“I am so thankful to Gary for creating this scholarship on Bold.org. I was shocked when I found out I was one of the winners. Winning this scholarship definitely boosted my confidence in achieving my goal of going to college. I will use the scholarship money to pursue my education in psychology.”

Melina Figueroa

Melina (Spring Lake Park H.S.) wrote about growing up in a single-parent household and the challenges she faced after her father left. She says her mother struggled financially to raise the family, and as a first-generation student, Melina worked hard to achieve her ambitious educational goals, something she learned from her mom. 

Credit: Bold.org
Melina Figueroa

"My mother showed me how to use others' doubts and negative perceptions as motivation to become a better person," Melina wrote. "She taught me to be an independent woman and that I am still fully capable of being successful on my own. This scholarship will give me the opportunity to further my education, which has always been a goal of mine. As a first-generation student, I have always been motivated to further my education and this scholarship has truly been a blessing to help me achieve that. Thank you, Gary!"

Gary Sanchez spent his childhood playing sandlot ball in the Dominican Republic before being discovered by scouts and playing for the New York Yankees. He came to the Twins this season as part of the Josh Donaldson trade. 

Sanchez is just one of a number of professional athletes and entertainers working with Bold.org to provide educational opportunities for those who might otherwise go without. Others include NBA players Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Jae’Sean Tate and Tyrell Terry, MLB player Austin Hays, professional tennis player Sloane Stephens, Grammy-winning band Imagine Dragons and actor Terry Crews.

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