Introducing the 2016 Spring Scholarship Winners!

Published: July 6, 2016

The Yoga Alliance Foundation is very proud to introduce you to the recipients of its ten spring scholarships! Now through August 5, you can also apply for one of the nine fall scholarships that are available! Learn more and apply today!

We’d also like to offer a special thank you to all of the donors to our Foundation who made this possible. These scholarships were underwritten by our Endorsed Partner and founding sponsor, prAna, along with Fraser & Hoyt, Hays Companies, Sacred Charms and the Helen J. Serini Foundation. In addition to our corporate donors, there were over thousands of individual contributions made by our members in support of these scholarships – THANK YOU!


Advanced Training Scholarship Recipients

Jennifer Bell, E-RYT 200 of Raleigh, NC

As a military spouse, Jennifer knows first-hand the impact yoga can have on members of the military and their families. She volunteers her teaching in yoga classes that help them deal with the stresses of everyday life. “This scholarship will allow me to continue my education so I can give more back to this deserving, yet sometimes overlooked, community of soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, and their families. I'm passionate about yoga and I have seen how it can help them. I plan to continue to provide yoga to the community.”

Lianik Borlasca, E-RYT 200 of San Salvador, El Salvador

Lianik has been practicing yoga since she was an architectural student in college. Rather than pursuing an international career in architecture, she followed her heart and became a yoga teacher. Despite personal hardship due to a struggling national economy, she continues to teach yoga and volunteer with the yoga-curious community in El Salvador. She also organized Yoga en el Parque —an event to celebrate health and yoga while raising money to do some much-needed repairs on a local school. “I believe that being a yogi is a never-ending growing and learning process as a human being. A good teacher will be always a student.”

Charli Sparks, E-RYT 200 of Surrey, United Kingdom

A ball of energy and joy, Charli’s passion for helping others shines through in everything she does. She has organized several fundraisers including a special dance class to raise money for supporting the elderly and a yoga class at a local hospice on the International Day of Yoga. Charli has been a teacher for over 11 years and loves to incorporate dance and rhythmic movements into her work. “'I truly work from my heart center… for those who are in need of support, kindness and selfless love. This is the least I can do to help mother earth raise the children of this land to bring a moment of peace, support, faith and hope to those who are vulnerable.”

Elisa Urtiaga, RYT 200 of Baltimore, MD

Elisa is a first-generation American who gives back to the Latino community in Baltimore, Maryland. She volunteers her yoga teaching to several nonprofits in the area that serve immigrants, refugees, and Latino youth. Part of her work also includes incorporating art and yoga together. In her own words, “I believe creative expression and yoga helps truancy kids by providing an outlet for some of their anxious energy. My classes are taught bilingually, so they are helpful for the ESL students. When they learn how to feel comfortable and try new things in my classes in Spanish, they’re also learning those things in English at the same time. This inspires confidence when it comes to tackling a new language in their academic studies.”

Kate Villwock, RYT 200 of Salem, OR

An advocate for victims of domestic violence, trauma and addiction, Kate dedicates herself to creating loving, supportive yoga classes for any body. Kate also chooses to serve her community by teaching yoga to members of the board of education in Oregon. Despite personal hardships, she continues to teach and practice (sometimes even with her young daughter in tow) to serve her students’ needs. “My practice helps me remember to connect to my heart, embody love, and to spread it all around me like wildfire, for I may only have this life for a short while.”

Gita Krista Zember, E-RYT 200, RCYT of Sterling, VA

After participating in a seva challenge through Off the Mat, Into the World, Gita was inspired to keep her service an integral part of her studio, which has many low-cost and donation-based classes. She stays in touch with each organization she supports and her studio has helped fund yoga programs in two rescue homes in India for victims of sex trafficking. She has also served on the board of Children of Ma Anandamayi, a nonprofit that supports education for poor children in India. Through her 14 years of teaching, Gita has served countless members of her community and hopes to continue to do so with her advanced training.

Aspiring Teacher Scholarship Recipients

Dara Pearson of Bend, OR

Active in her community, Dara spends her time working for local chapters of two women’s organizations — Postpartum Support International and World Muse Women’s Writing Group. Many of the women she helps are survivors of domestic and sexual violence or human trafficking. Her aim is to help those affected find their voice through writing exercises. To further her service to these women, she organized community yoga classes. By advancing her practice to teaching, she hopes that yoga will help others the same way it helped her. In addition to the communities she currently serves, she hopes to expand her teachings to other underprivileged communities as well, including those who do have the financial means to pursue yoga on their own.

Hilina Gudeta of Los Angeles, CA

Hilina is a native Ethiopian living in the United States. She is an engineering student at the University of Southern California. She’s involved in many community service groups including a group that creates 3D-model printed prosthetics for child amputees. She started practicing yoga at the age of 14 by reading instructions from a book. It was through her yoga teachers that she learned sense of the self, empowerment, and peace. Hilina seeks to become a teacher because she wants improve the lives of others. She would like to show the world that it is possible for those of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds—especially those in African and African-American communities—to practice and teach yoga.

Jade Pedersen of Mangakino, New Zealand

Jade came to yoga in search of a way to better manage the stresses of running her own business. Drawn to yoga’s ability to align her mental, physical, and spiritual health, Jade wants to become a teacher to pass along yoga to others in her small community. “By becoming a teacher, I will be able to provide this service locally, making it more accessible to residents.” She also wants to bring yoga into spaces that serve her Maori community, an indigenous group in New Zealand.

Lindsey Platt of San Antonio, TX

Lindsey has spent the last two years working in Uganda for an organization called HALO. There, she worked with abandoned boys and girls who lived on the streets, many of whom were forced into prostitution. She used yoga to help these children lead better lives and have a brighter future. Yoga has taught Lindsey empowerment, love, inner peace, and connection to the Earth and its inhabitants. As she says, “to reach the peace, you must face the suffering with strength and spirit.” Lindsey would like to complete her teacher training so she can better express her yoga as a creative outlet and form of reflection/meditation for youth.

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