2020 Scholarship Winners

Tronfeld West & Durrett is happy to announce the winners of our 2020 Step by Step Scholarship! Click on each of the names below to view the winning applications and learn more about the winners:

Yamila Amarillo

Photo of Yamila Amarillo

Yamila’s Winning Submission

Do you remember the time when you would go to the amusement park and wait on the line for hours? It could have been your favorite roller coaster ride, or maybe just the Ferris wheel, yet the excitement and butterflies fluttering in your stomach could not be contained on the line that was longer than the Great Wall of China. After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, you would hold your breath, walk towards the park member, push your chest out, and tippy-toe very slightly towards the height measurement chart. You would close your eyes tightly, and wish that you grew that one inch over the summer; however the harsh words of “sorry kid,” rushed through your ears. Whether you experienced that or not, I can say that this has happened to me plenty of times. Each year after this, I would wish upon the shimmering star that I would grow a couple of inches before summer rolled around the corner. The younger version of me made it a priority to do anything I thought was possible by stretching and eating all of the vegetables on my plate. The determination that the ten-year-old version of me presented continues 7 years later. As I am heading towards the next chapter of my life, I am determined to accomplish something before my time is up. By the time I turn 40, I want to be a successful lawyer, with the possibility that I would have my firm in the area of criminal law or immigration. While there are many goals such as having my own home, I would love to do so much more for other than myself. Having a set career can start a path for an endless list of things I can do for my community and the world. We as humans are all put in this universe for a reason, whether we make goals or reach for the stars, we can accomplish anything. My mother would always tell me that the only way to succeed through life is with an education. My mom also instilled in my brother and me the characteristics of determination. With education and determination, anything is possible. Since a young child, my dream has been to help my old community of Queens, New York, as well as my new hometown of Lawrenceville, Virginia. By taking the next steps in life at James Madison University, my goal is to graduate in two years with a master’s degree in Political Science. With two years of college that I already accomplished while in high school, I can focus on my career path. Hopefully, along the way, I will have opportunities to work or internship with high-level lawyers. For me, being a lawyer would be using my voice for the voiceless. Fighting to defend an individual who was wrongly accused or misinterpreted is my mission in life. After having a steady career, I hope that I am well enough financially that I can start by helping my family, and then give back to the place that started it all. Coming from an immigrant parent, I can say that I have experienced poverty at one point in my life. The community I grew up in had many people who were there to support me through the worst times in my family’s life. When it was just my mom, brother, and me, some kind souls allowed us to stay with them in their homes. Just to be able to give back to the schools in that area, and most importantly the people who helped us would be a blessing. Another goal that I would truly love to give back to is Elmhurst Hospital. All the doctors that did their best to help my mom with cancer were marvelous; however, the therapist who I saw there that helped me when my mom passed will forever be embedded in my heart. If I have the potential to rebuild that hospital or help with supplies, I will take that opportunity. Lastly, I want to build a home for my grandmother and uncle who took my brother and me in as their own. With all these goals I have set in stone, I have to work hard in college and for the rest of my life to accomplish the goals. There was a point in my life, where I thought that I was not going to college due to financial reasons. Having a heart-to-heart talk with my grandmother opened my eyes that in life we all have to make a sacrifice. To her, it is her greatest accomplishment that my brother and I would be the first in the family to go to college, and I refuse to let her down in any way. I applied to FAFSA, and applied for scholarships; however, I know that in college, the biggest obstacle would be financial problems. I can tackle this obstacle by doing work-study, and applying for more scholarships; however I believe that in the end, I may be in student loans, but many students are struggling with the same thing I will struggle with. This scholarship would help tremendously with paying for certain materials for college. There is a part of me that wishes that I could have worked to save for college, but with certain circumstances at home, I was unable to. I do not expect anything from my family, not because they will not help, but because I know that it gets rough sometimes, and they have to scrape for the rent. I would be eternally grateful if I was rewarded with this scholarship. This scholarship would give me a small push in what could become the rest of my life.

Yamila’s Comments on Winning

“My name is Yamila Amarillo and I am beyond excited for receiving this scholarship. This scholarship will help me tremendously for my educational studies and I will forever be grateful for being selected as one of the recipients. Specifically, with this scholarship, the hardships of carrying loans on my back won’t affect me tremendously thanks to Tronfeld, West & Durrett Step By Step Scholarship. I will be able to study what I have been dreaming of for years, Justice Studies, and then continue on to become a lawyer at some point in my life. The topic for this year’s scholarship was about my goals in the next 10, 20, or 30 years, starting my journey at James Madison University, with the support of this scholarship, I can push forward into becoming a first-generation lawyer. Once again, thank you for this amazing opportunity.”

Brecha Janae Byrd

Photo of Brecha Janae Byrd

Brecha’s Winning Submission

Over the next five years, after receiving a Bachelor’s in International Business and a minor in Spanish, I plan to be enrolled in The Marshall–Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary with a concentration in Business Law. After passing the bar exam and becoming Ms. Brécha Byrd, J.D., I aspire to represent The Walt Disney Company, working in either California or Florida. Later, I will start a non-profit organization geared to aiding girls to all forms of success (mental, emotional, and physical). My non-profit will be called “Byrd Tough” and our organization will meet monthly. We will have fitness workouts encouraging healthy lifestyles, communication sessions emphasizing the importance of expressing oneself through verbiage, art, poetry, music, or dance, and mental exercises promoting positive ways to destress and possessing mental toughness. Success does not have an age. I was taught to chase my dreams ever since I could speak. I have been taking the necessary steps to make my dreams a reality by becoming a published author at age 17. My book is titled “Self Love…LOVESELF” and is dedicated to girls all over the world, giving them tips on how to love themselves. I am also a motivational speaker throughout my community and have had the opportunity of speaking at my former middle school, women empowerment brunches, and local churches. At a young age, I was taught that simply working hard, having courage, trusting God and being humble and kind will help me become successful. I have dreamed of becoming an attorney all of my life. I continually seek knowledge from local attorneys near me such as Mrs.Gammiel Poindexter, who became the first African American woman to graduate from LSU Law School and who serves as a mentor to me today. I have also had the opportunity of working with our Commonwealth’s Attorney in Surry County, Mr.Derek Davis. I was blessed to witness the day to day responsibilities and duties as a commonwealth attorney in and outside of the courtroom. My love for law has grown tremendously because of Mrs.Poindexter and Mr.Davis. I am forever grateful for them. As I said before, I plan to receive a Bachelor’s in International Business with a minor in Spanish. I truly believe that obtaining a foundation of International Business will assist my future endeavors. Additionally, being fluent in Spanish will make me more marketable as a corporate lawyer. Hopefully, I will be able to study abroad to receive an intimate experience of the culture, scenery, and lifestyles of a Hispanic country. I also plan on joining multiple clubs and organizations that promote community service and will make my college years more memorable. This is my plan and I do believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I understand that I will face challenges of failure and doubt. I know that sometimes throughout life I will experience failure but I will not give up. I will continue to work hard and trust God. I know that people will doubt me but I will use their doubt as motivation to earn respect. I will be persistent knowing that on the road to success, I will encounter adversity, but I will not let adversity determine my future. As a matter of fact, I have been overcoming obstacles even as a little girl. Every day, I wake up in the morning with a bare face. I don’t have any eyebrows or eyelashes. At age 10, I was diagnosed with Trichotillomania or “Tric”, which is a hair pulling disorder and a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Every month I would go to a psychiatrist to help me deal with Tric. Sometimes, medicine was prescribed for me to take on a daily basis even though some medicines had the potential to change my mood and personality. Every time a person talked to me, I would pray they would not speak of my bare face. Almost everyday, someone would constantly remind me of Tric by asking me what happened to my eyebrows. Although I was young and scared of how the world viewed me, with the help of my family and God, I began to believe that I was beautiful and encouraged others to do the same. Becoming confident regardless of Tric was one of the hardest obstacles I had to overcome. We have all dealt with issues throughout life but it is what we do when we are faced with adversity that matters. I knew that sharing my story would help others. I discovered my purpose in life, I live to inspire. Overcoming that obstacle has motivated me to overcome each obstacle I am faced with next. Another challenge I will face is the financial cost of furthering my education. The Tronfeld West & Durrett Step-by-Step Scholarship will help me tremendously in regards to college. I have a younger brother, Breyden, who will be in my shoes next year, applying for scholarships to prepare for college. My parents are not rich. To this day, they both are still paying off their college debt. With taxes and college debt, the cost of living is extremely difficult. We were forced to live in my great grandfather’s old house just to make ends meet when I was a baby and have lived here ever since. I do not have a savings account to aid in the cost of college. I am solely relying on scholarships and God. I understand that I am blessed, but my need for money to help pay for college is great. Growing up, with parents constantly in debt has given me motivation to apply for scholarships as much as I can. Every dollar counts. I want to make my parents proud and after all they have done for me and my brother, all of the sacrificing, the settling, and the stress, the least I could do, in regards to my tuition for college, is ask them to pay at least 1 dollar less.

Brecha’s Comments on Winning

I am so grateful to be a recipient of the 2020 Tronfeld West and Durrett Scholarship. God is great! As an aspiring attorney, I am inspired by this blessing to help me further my education. I will continue to work hard and trust God. Thank you all so much!

Grace Goodpasture

Grace Goodpasture

Grace’s Winning Submission


For my undergraduate studies, I’m double majoring in Biology and Spanish at Roanoke College. I then plan to attend medical school, specializing in pediatric oncology. My motivation for becoming a pediatric oncologist is as a result of a story that has touched my life profoundly. Simply, my mom is a 39-year childhood cancer survivor and I want to help prevent other children from experiencing that type of diagnosis and subsequent long-term effects of chemotherapy treatments. At age 15, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and given a 2% chance of survival. At the time, she was an accomplished dancer, training for an audition with a well-known ballet company’s high school program. To save her life, her left leg and hip were amputated. With faith, grit and skilled pediatric oncologists, she survived to live an extremely fulfilling and productive life. But my desire to work with children is deeper than her diagnosis. I love science, and I believe in a day when childhood cancers will be eradicated. To prepare for medical school, I’ve interned in pediatric oncology/hematology with Dr. India Sissler at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond, for several summers. I’ve observed a range of pediatric cancers, as well as Sickle Cell Anemia. Within 15-minutes of arriving on my first day, I attended a palliative care meeting with the parents of an eight-month old, Dr. Sissler and a pharmacist to discuss end of life medications. I’ve experienced initial diagnoses, treatment evaluations, intake interviews, inpatient rounds and a multitude of other daily activities with Dr. Sissler. I’m more committed than ever to make a difference in the lives of pediatric oncology patients. I know firsthand that children who are diagnosed with cancer can live to become healthy, productive adults, and I want to be part of their survivorship. Additionally, I attended the Dean’s Early Research Initiative at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Biomedical Engineering Lab with Dr. Barbara Boyan, Dean of Engineering. This highly competitive, year-long fellowship during my junior year of high school consisted of research in Dean Boyan’s lab, directed toward mRNA in matrix vesicles of cartilage from rat rib cages. I stained the mRNA, then used microscopy for further research. I presented at a VCU conference, sharing my research with other fellows, PhD candidates, and medical students. This experience exposed me to university-level research and presentation skills that will serve me well in future labs and conferences. Finally, I will finish the requirements for my pilot’s license (about nine more flying hours). I envision combining my aviation skills and my future medical career, allowing me to participate in Doctors Without Borders or other types of medical missions. In October, 2019, I was named one of ten Girl Scout National Gold Award recipients and designated as one of our nation’s “change makers.” We appeared on The Today Show, spoke at the United Nations “Speak Up for Girls” conference as part of International Day of the Girl, and presented our projects at the flagship Microsoft store in Manhattan in a live-streaming event that was broadcast in Microsoft stores worldwide. I will represent Girl Scouts USA for the next year, traveling to conferences and events and speaking about my Gold Award project, a chicken curriculum. For my Gold Award, I developed a Junior Kindergarten through Fifth grade STEM curriculum for The Steward School. I’ve been a science lover since third grade, when I developed an interest and passion for raising chickens. I chose to hatch and raise them for my “Expert Project,” and continued raising them after the year-long project was complete. Chickens fascinated me, and I was convinced that I could create a better breed for human consumption. I was intrigued by Punnett squares and genealogy, and recognized that each breed had unique qualities that made them desirable to farmers. I created my own mixed breed, the Goodpasture Breed, healthier and heartier than those loaded with hormones in the commercial poultry industry. This project earned me the National Science Teachers Association Angela Award in 2015, awarded to one girl in the nation. As an extension of this project, I created a chicken curriculum and moveable chicken tractor for my Lower School. Every spring, I acted as the “Scientist in Residence” to hatch and raise chickens. To fund the project, I wrote a grant for $500 to the Virginia Farm Bureau’s “Agriculture in the Classroom.” Currently, this curriculum is used in math, science, computer science and food science classes, and is a first step in teaching children the importance of farm-to-table living, and eradicating food deserts in our communities. This curriculum has been shared with other schools in the Richmond, VA area, and it is my hope to distribute it nationwide. Without this chicken experience, I may not have discovered my love of science, leading me to explore career aspirations in medicine. Specifically, I’m interested in concentrating on the role nutrition plays in childhood cancers. The more I learn more about food bioengineering and plant phenomics, as well as animal phenotyping, the more I’m convinced that the key to unlocking some cancer mysteries is the way we grow, harvest and prepare our food sources. I know medical school will be challenging, and working with cancer patients will require an enormous amount of spiritual conviction. I also know from my internship experience that I’m capable of handling those challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge I face is financial. Because of my mom’s initial cancer diagnosis, amputation and subsequent heart complications directly related to experimental chemotherapy, as well as her Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, she can’t work to contribute financially to my college education and her medical bills have taken a financial toll on our family. Paying for college lies squarely on my shoulders and this scholarship would be invaluable. I believe good things happen for those who work hard, and I don’t expect to be given anything. I work at Sweet Frogs and babysit for all ages year-round to save money for college. I’m confident that I can address the challenges and opportunities ahead of me!

Grace’s Comments on Winning

“Thank you so much to Tronfeld, West & Durrett for the honor of being named one of your scholarship recipients.  This scholarship will allow me to attend the college of my choice and pursue the education needed to go to medical school, where I plan to become a pediatric oncologist.  This scholarship helps ease the burden of student debt, and allows me to concentrate on school work and being a Resident Assistant next year.  I am overwhelmed by your generosity, and so grateful for the opportunity you have given me.  Thank you, thank you!”

Libbie Warren

Libbie Warren

Libbie’s Winning Submission

Watch Video Here

Supporting Essay:

I have always had a passion for serving those with special needs. In my future, I see myself as an occupational therapist somewhere in the world working hard to improve the everyday lives of those with disabilities. In order to get to this point, I must complete a number of steps along the way including obtaining a master’s degree, completing certifications and finding job opportunities. However, this all starts with me attending Appalachian State University this fall where I will begin to study exercise science. I am captivated by the way the body works and even more by the way interventions can make up for the ways it doesn’t. I cannot think of a more rewarding job that excites me the way occupational therapy does. I grew up seeing the way it enabled my sister to do things our family never thought she would, as she rode a bike without training wheels for the first time at age 11, and I was fascinated. I want to facilitate something as exciting as that in the lives of others and the Tronfeld West and Durrett Step-By-Step Scholarship will help me achieve my first step of many by reducing the expense of a higher education.

Libbie’s Comments on Winning

“This scholarship means the world to me as it makes my goals of being a pediatric occupational therapist just that much closer. I am so excited to attend Appalachian State this fall and dive deeper into my passions, and the generosity of the Tronfeld West & Durrett Law Firm has helped to make this possible by easing the financial burdens of higher education on my family and I. Thanks to this scholarship I will be well equipped to make a real difference and more children with disabilities will be able to get the assistance they need and live their life to its fullest potential!”

Catherine Webbert

photo of catherine webbert

Catherine’s Winning Submission

Watch Video Here

Supporting Essay:

About two years ago, I met someone from the Zero Waste Movement. That simple conversation prompted me to become a full-fledged environmentalist, and ever since then I’ve decided to change the way I live my life and try to influence others as well.I’ve done a lot over these two years and this year, I resolved to educate as many people as I could about our environmental problems and I ended up deciding to hold an environmental conference at my school.

I became the head organizer and got multiple teams of people from both my environmental club as well as other schools’ environmental clubs to help me. It took over 6 months of work, and it ended up being a huge success. More than 250 people came, there were 17 environmental organizations there, and we had 20 speakers in total. I was stressed out for the entire period but seeing so many people care about our Earth was incredibly satisfying.

I realized during that conference that my goal of becoming as environmentally conscientious as I could had shifted to becoming someone who could affect society as a whole. I want to be able to implement the sustainable solutions necessary for our society to combat our current Climate Crisis and to do that I plan to get an environmental engineering degree. This video expands upon my experiences as well as what I plan to do once I get into college, and the many paths I could tread afterwards. But ultimately, it outlines that my true goal is to become a truly successful environmental engineer.

Catherine’s Comments on Winning

“Dear Tronfeld West & Durrett Scholarship Committee,

I would first like to establish my gratitude in being selected to receive this scholarship. It means a lot to me, as it will help me afford my textbooks and pay for a significant portion of my housing as I go off to studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia this fall. Engineering degrees do not come cheap, and every cent will go towards helping me achieve not only my goal of becoming a professional environmental engineer in the future, but also towards my new goal of graduating debt free. I’m going to be able to accomplish such goals because of scholarships like this, that understand and encourage students like me to take the hundreds of tiny steps necessary to build up to the achievements we seek.

So thank you Tronfeld West & Durrett, for helping me not only wedge my foot in the door to affording my goal of making our society a more sustainable place to be, but letting me open it and take one step towards achieving it in my future.

I will not let you down. However, I will exceed your expectations.

Thank you. Sincerely, Catherine Webbert”