Meet the 2018 Linden Scholarship winners

Girl filling out an application

Written by Craig Dirkes, Writer and Photographer at The Salvation Army Northern Division

Six bright young students have earned $3,000 for college through the Twin Cities Salvation Army’s Linden Scholarship, a 40-year tradition. 

This year’s winners are majoring in journalism, actuarial science, biochemistry, and other admirable disciplines. All of the students volunteer regularly and are up-and-coming leaders. 

The Linden Scholarship was established in the mid-1970s, when St. Paul native Pearl H. Linden and her two sisters left The Salvation Army $250,000 to help college-bound students in need of financial aid. Linden asked that scholarships be awarded to those students who demonstrate community spirit and high moral standards. 

The one-time, non-renewable scholarship offers $3,000 for students pursuing a four-year degree and $1,500 for students in two-year programs.

The Linden Scholarship is a great example of how estate planning can work to create a lasting legacy.

Meet the six Linden Scholarship winners for 2018:

Jada Gosselin-Jones

Jada Gosselin-Jones is from Vadnais Heights. She is majoring in forensic science at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. 

Jada has spent years volunteering at her school. She mentors 8th grade girls, helping them to make a positive transition from junior high to high school. 

After growing up without a father, Jada lends extra support to young girls who are living through similar circumstances. She often tells them her favorite motto: “Never give up, no matter what life throws at you.”

Jada’s teachers say that she goes out of her way to make people feel included and valued. 

“Her character is stellar,” one of her teachers said. “She has always had a strong moral compass. She demonstrates kindness in everything she does.”

Jeffy Jeffy

Jeffy Jeffy of Burnsville has the same first and last name. But that’s not the only thing that makes her unique. Her career aspirations and volunteer experience are just as extraordinary. 

Jeffy is majoring in biochemistry and psychology at the University of Minnesota, with plans to earn a Ph.D. She wants to work as a researcher and social worker to help people battling mental illness.

She volunteers as a tutor, and as a teacher to young children at her church. She is so trusted by the children she teaches that they sometimes tell her about their problems at home.

“Some of these kids came from unstable homes,” Jeffy said. “I have had the privilege of calming them and praying for them. This experience has helped me to … realize that I want to work toward the betterment of these children and help them as much as I can.”

Jeffy’s teachers say that she is a person of integrity.

“I have watched Jeffy have great honesty – even in situations where many people might have used a white lie or partial truth,” one of her teachers said. “She is one of two truly exceptional students in my class.”

Karla Nguyen

Karla Nguyen is from Cottage Grove. She is majoring in actuarial science at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. 

Karla is a multitalented musician and athlete, participating in competitive piano and figure skating for many years. 

Her volunteer efforts are just as impressive. She volunteers as a math tutor and skating instructor, and as a teacher’s assistant at a Vietnamese language school.  

“Being a teacher’s assistant has brought me closer to my heritage and allowed me to pass on my knowledge to the next generation of Vietnamese-American children,” said Karla, whose parents are Vietnam immigrants. 

Karla’s teachers say that she always gives 110-percent effort in everything she does.     

“She is bright, motivated, dedicated, and supportive of others,” one of her teachers said. “She is committed to excellence in all aspects of her life.”

After college, Karla wants to pursue a master’s degree and work for an insurance company.

Zarina Sementelli

Zarina Sementelli is from St. Paul. She is majoring in human services at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.

Zarina is a resident of The Salvation Army’s youth housing facility, called Booth Brown House. She has overcome abuse, neglect and homelessness, and she uses these negative experiences to help others build a positive future.

Zarina is role model to dozens of young girls. She started a group that mentors “black girls who are becoming women,” Zarina said. “The purpose of the group is to educate them, uplift them, and give them a sense of sisterhood.”

She also leads workshops to unite police and youth, and she was on a board that helped select St. Paul’s police chief. 

Zarina’s teachers say she is a rising star. 

“She is composed, thoughtful, and well-spoken,” one of her teachers said. “Her actions match her proclamations. She is resilient and does not allow challenges to deter her from her goals.”

Zarina wants to pursue a career in criminal justice and be a voice for forgotten children. She has plans to one day become an attorney, or possibly run for office and become a senator.

Elliana Thompson

Elliana Thompson is from Mahtomedi. She is majoring in intercultural studies at North Central University in Minneapolis.

Elliana has volunteered at her church for years, helping to lead vacation Bible school during summer and small groups for children during the school year.

Elliana has a knack for connecting with kids, including a little girl in her youth group who used to sit by herself and wouldn’t talk to anybody. Over time, the little girl opened up to Elliana. They went on to form an incredible bond. 

“We go on weekly coffee, dinner or shopping dates so that I can make sure she is safe, happy and loved,” said Elliana, adding that volunteering “has taught me to love like Jesus loved.”

Elliana’s teachers are fans of her leadership and vision.

“She is a bright and energetic leader in her youth group and friendship groups,” one of her teachers said. “She is a young woman of integrity.”   

Elliana’s would like to make a career out of helping culturally diverse, disadvantaged children in the U.S. or abroad.

Brandon Yee

Brandon Yee is from Woodbury. He is majoring in journalism at the University of Minnesota. 

His teachers say he has “unbound potential.”

“He is one of the most reliable students of his class and he holds himself to the highest standards,” one of his teachers boasted. “He arrives early and prepared. He always puts forth maximum effort.”

Brandon often volunteers as a church usher and as a leader of youth programs. One of his favorite volunteer activities has been babysitting children during Parents’ Night Out, which allows parents to take a break and have an evening to themselves. During these events, Brandon and the children make believe that they are traveling in outer space. 

“My happiest memories as a volunteer have come during these events,” Brandon said. “(The kids) remind me that we must not always take the world so seriously.”

He also volunteers for local senior housing facilities and Feed My Starving Children. 

Brandon was so grateful for his scholarship that he wrote The Salvation Army a letter of thanks. 

“This award is a tremendous honor and I am extremely proud to say that I met the high standards of The Salvation Army scholarship committee,” Brandon wrote. “I am excited by the new opportunities your generosity will help me to explore.”

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