Meet Our Fall 2016 Scholarship Winners!

Published: February 1, 2017

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We’re thrilled to announce the 2016 Fall Yoga Alliance Foundation scholarship winners! Last fall, we awarded three Advanced Training Scholarships and six Aspiring Teacher Scholarships.

We’d like to say thank you to our members and all of the donors who made these scholarships possible including our Endorsed Partners, prAna, Arthur J. Gallagher, Alliant Insurance Services, and Sacred Charms.

We received hundreds of great applications and chose an amazing group of nine yogis who have and will continue to use yoga to make their communities and the world a more peaceful place.

Read on to learn more about our winners and how they plan to use their scholarships.


Alliant                      Sacred Charms


Advanced Training Scholarship Recipients

Anders AskerAnders Asker, E-RYT® 200 of Stockholm, Sweden

Anders started practicing Kundalini yoga in 1991 in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. He found his way back to yoga in 2004. Anders decided to attend a YTT program in 2006 and started teaching at yoga studios and gyms shortly afterwards. He has been teaching ever since, though his personal practice and teaching style has certainly evolved. Anders now plans on opening a yoga school where he can deliver the spiritual teachings of yoga along with the physical practice as an act of service to his community. He wants his teaching to be an inspiration to those seeking a life full of unconditional love.

Shri Devi DiehlShri Devi Diehl, E-RYT 200 of Brooklyn, New York

Shri Devi is a yoga activist who believes in giving back to underserved, marginalized communities through her teaching practice. Shri Devi wants to expand her teaching so that she can offer more classes at community health centers and public spaces so that people who do not typically have access to the practice of yoga can learn it. Taking an advanced training would build her teaching repertoire, which would be useful in her community organizing and activism. Her inspiration comes from the peace that yoga provides and from her dedication to living her yoga off the mat. She has practiced and studied yoga in Rishikesh, India, and in cities across the United States.

Danielle SamsonDanielle Samson, RYT® 200 of Nunavut, Canada

After going through personal hardships, Danielle discovered yoga from a traveling teacher who happened to be in her very remote town of Iqaluit in Northeastern Canada. Two years later, she decided to attend a 200-hour training for not only her own personal growth, but also for the opportunity to share yoga with her community. Danielle wants to pursue advanced teacher training so that she can learn more about anatomy and how to work with people who have specific needs. Danielle wants to work with local Inuit and First Nations people specifically. She hopes she can help them reconcile the trauma of losing their indigenous culture, creating a place where Inuit and non-Inuit yogis can come together.

Aspiring Teacher Scholarship Recipients

Thema GravesThema Graves of New Haven, Connecticut

Thema discovered yoga at the age of 12 in the fitness section of a beauty magazine. At a time when her family was going through transition and hardship, practicing sun salutations in the morning before school brought her peace and a sense of connectivity. After a serious illness when she was 20, Thema was brought back to yoga and meditation. Through her work as a holistic wellness practitioner, she shares these practices with at-risk youth and other underserved populations who may not have direct access to them. By becoming a RYT 200, Thema will continue to build relationships in her community through yoga and work with organizations that serve her students.

Geoffrey HuckabayGeoffrey Huckabay of Middletown, California

After his father’s passing in 1996, Geoffrey started practicing yoga and eventually met the man who would later become his teacher for 17 years. Geoffrey and his wife moved to Harbin Hot Springs in 2014, but in September of 2015, they were displaced by forest fires that ravaged their community. While living in a fire evacuation center, Geoffrey started teaching yoga to the residents there. When they returned home, he continued teaching free classes with donated mats in a donated space. He wants to attend a 200-hour training so he can enhance his offer of yoga to elders and others in need through free/donation –based classes.

Suzanne LeskoSuzanne Lesko of South Florida

As a combat veteran, Suzanne brings a unique perspective on life and human resiliency to her yoga practice. Similar to yoga, combat is known to embody the full power of forces which reside in human nature. These forces may only be harmonized through a disciplined ritualistic selfless approach of the mind and body. During her formative years, Suzanne learned the importance of serving her community and would regularly volunteer at a women’s shelter with both her mother and sister. As an athlete, Suzanne viewed yoga as way to accelerate performance before an event. But, it wasn’t until recent years that she discovered the peace and surrender that a regular yoga practice can provide. Since then, her yoga practice has sustained her through many challenging life assignments. Upon completion of training, Suzanne intends to integrate her expertise within her civilian and military communities of south Florida.

Molly Jo StanleyMolly Jo Stanley of Denver, Colorado

Molly Jo has been a student of health and wellness for many years, studying the interconnectedness of the mind, body, breath, and our environment. She has served as an AmeriCorps member in Appalachia, Ohio supporting Edible Schoolyard, Farm to Table, and Outdoor Classroom projects, collaborated with local ecologists on Andros Island on sustainability initiatives, and taught in classrooms across the U.S. For the past three years, Molly Jo has experienced much personal hardship and loss; during this time her yoga practice comforted her. She believes that yoga can bring strength and dignity to people of all ages, and when she completes her training she wants to teach yoga in diverse communities in need around the world.

Jim VivoloJim Vivolo of Rocky River, Ohio

In 2009, after learning about a physical diagnosis that explained challenges he had had his whole life, Jim decided to try yoga. He was apprehensive at first, thinking that his physical limitations would inhibit his practice, but he ended up falling in love with it. The connection of movement and breath helped him feel connected and grounded in his body instead of feeling limited by his diagnosis. Since then, he has had a consistent yoga practice and feels that yoga and mediation have changed his life for the better. Jim’s dream is to become a yoga instructor for urban youth and people with health challenges. Yoga has been a very personal journey for Jim, one that has opened his heart and realigned him with his goals and dreams.

Kyriaki ZachopoulouKyriaki Zachopoulou of Stuttgart, Germany

Kyriaki has a deep passion for helping others through the teaching of yoga. While living in her home country of Greece, Kyriaki and her family endured terrible financial hardships when her father became ill and later passed away. After getting laid off from a job she loved and struggling financially, she moved to Germany to start a better life for herself. Kyriaki’s personal yoga practice has been a constant in her life throughout the hard times. She credits yoga as helping her become the person she is today, and she wants to share her practice with the world. As an immigrant herself, Kyriaki wants to use her training to teach yoga to the refugee/immigrant community. She believes that offering the gift of yoga will help to ease the tensions and injustices that refugee and immigrant communities face daily.


Learn more about Yoga Alliance Foundation's scholarship program and how your organization can get involved by visiting our scholarships page.

Want to learn about last season's scholarship winners? Check out our spring 2016 Yoga Alliance Foundation Scholarship recipients and how they serve their communities through yoga.

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