In a tragic accident, five years ago this past January, U first-year student Asha Sadelle Davenport died from injuries she received when she suffered a seizure and fell from a chair lift at a Utah ski resort. Just 19, Asha had come to the U from Idaho Falls, where she was a member of the Idaho Falls High School golf team, competing in the state championship for three years in a row.
At the U, she was known as the life of the party—someone who lit up the room. Asha was an active member of Pi Beta Phi and loved her sorority sisters and roommates. She also was a devoted member of the MUSS, and especially enjoyed her Service Learning LEAP class, a two-semester seminar that provides a way for new students to transition more confidently to college.
Devastated at her passing, Asha’s family was inspired to make a lasting tribute in her memory. Knowing her love for the Pi Phis and her LEAP class, they established scholarships in each of the two areas. The Asha Davenport Memorial Scholarship for Pi Beta Phi Students provides one annual $2,000 scholarship and the Asha Davenport Memorial Scholarship for LEAP students provides two $2,000 scholarships.
“LEAP is a metaphor for the leap into college and the leap in meeting general education requirements,” says Carolyn Bliss, program director for the LEAP Learning Communities and a professor in the Health Sciences LEAP class. “LEAP students benefit by staying with the same classmates and professor throughout the year, participating in social and service activities together, and playing an active role in their own education.”
Carolan Ownby, associate director of the program and a professor of undergraduate studies, taught Asha’s LEAP class.
“Just days before the accident, the class was sitting in a circle, reading a book about an immigrant who changed her name from something that had meaning to something that was just a name,” says Ownby. “So I asked everyone to tell us what their name meant. Asha was the last to respond and said, ‘Asha means hope.’” When she died, her LEAP class was understandably distraught. “After spending a class period sharing memories of her, we raised funds by selling bracelets that said, ‘Asha Means Hope,’ and used the money to plant a tree in her memory. We donated the remaining funds to a local nonprofit working with people suffering from epilepsy. I still have my bracelet,” she says.
Now offered for a fourth year, the Asha Davenport LEAP scholarship has provided funds to support six students. A recent recipient is Carlo Cordozo, who is in the Health Sciences LEAP program, taught by Carolyn Bliss. The son of immigrant parents, Carlo is involved with a variety of community service projects through the LEAP Health Sciences curriculum, including as a volunteer Spanish translator at the Maliheh Free Clinic and as a member of Somos Dreamers, an organization that advocates for undocumented students by providing them with college scholarships.
“The Asha Davenport Memorial Scholarship has given me the opportunity to continue pursuing my dream of bettering the world by giving me the financial support I need to continue with my studies,” he says. “This is something for which I will be forever grateful.”
Carolyn says that Carlo is typical of many young Latino students in the program in his graciousness, gallantry, and quiet dignity. “But he is exceptional among all students in his intelligence, conscientiousness, and determination to succeed,” she says. “He will make an excellent, culturally competent healthcare provider someday, thanks in part to the Asha Davenport Scholarship.”