Kyle O'Connell Memorial Scholarship Fund

The Kyle O'Connell memorial scholarship was created in honor of Kyle O'Connell, the son of Michael '87 and Julie '88 (Belfiore) O'Connell. On February 6, 2005, Kyle passed away just shy of his 10th birthday. Kyle's brave fight against brain cancer inspired a group of USD alumni to establish this scholarship in 2008 with the purpose to inspire students to find a cure for cancer, to provide comfort and hope for patients and their families, and to advocate and motivate others to become active in the fight against cancer. It will benefit graduate and/or undergraduate junior or senior students enrolled in the sciences or healing arts including nursing, marriage and family therapy.

Apply by Feb. 27th to the Kyle O'Connell Memorial Scholarship. Find the essay question, eligibility criteria and online application at

Continue the fight against cancer by supporting USD students through the Kyle O'Connell Memorial Scholarship.

Meet the USD Alumni Association Kyle O'Connell Scholars for 2015-2016:

Chelsea Marshall '17
Chelsea Marshall is a Biochemistry major and a Biomedical Ethics minor at USD. She is the president of the medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon and is highly involved in lung cancer research within the Provost Research Lab. She tutors girls in science and math at the Kearny Mesa Girls Rehabilitation Facility and volunteers in the emergency room at Scripps Mercy hospital. She hopes to attend medical school to become a physician and become involved in cancer research in the future.

Chelsea says, "I am very humbled and honored to receive the Kyle O’Connell Memorial Scholarship and am very grateful to all of the alumni and donors that make this scholarship possible. I hope my future work as a physician and cancer researcher honors Kyle’s memory and his great strength. Receiving this scholarship will greatly help me to complete my studies and give me the ability to continue on this important journey towards developing better cancer treatment."

Georgia Varetas '17
Georgia Varetas is a biology major entering her senior year at USD. She's a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority, Physician Assistant Club, and a tutor at Our Lady’s elementary school. She recently participated in a service trip to the Dominican Republic where she worked with impoverished children and she hopes to return soon. Chelsea has volunteered at UMass Memorial hospital in the past, and plans to continue her medical career by attending PA school after graduation. As a PA, she hopes to provide care and comfort to suffering patients and families, as well as work to progress towards a cure.

Georgia says, "I am very honored and fortunate to have been chosen as a recipient of the Kyle O’Connell Memorial Scholarship. In addition, I would like to thank all of the alumni and donors, who have graciously donated to make this scholarship possible for me and other students alike. Kyle’s courageous battle against cancer will always be remembered through the recipients of this scholarship. Cancer is such a heart wrenching disease that tears apart not only the patient but families and friends as well. I hope I can continue this fight, honoring Kyle’s inspirational memory in my future endeavors as a physician assistant and in cancer research."

Samantha Penko '18 (MA)
Samantha Penko is in her first year of USD's Marital and Family Therapy program. She feels very fortunate to be a part of such a prestigious program at USD and can't wait to begin her clinical practice with clients in San Diego county within the next year. Her inspiration to become an MFT and work specifically with families dealing with terminal illness stems from her work with Camp Kesem. Camp Kesem is a non-profit organization that hosts a free, week-long summer camp for children coping with their parent’s illness or death from cancer. I have seen how devastating an impact cancer can have, not only the patient’s life, but how it heavily impacts everyone that is closely connected to them as well. As a marriage and family therapist, my goal will be to explore and address the psychological, social, and emotional impacts of a disease, such as cancer, on the patient and all of the individuals close to them.

Samantha says, "I feel so honored and grateful to have been chosen as a recipient for of the Kyle O’Connell Memorial Scholarship. I am so grateful to the USD alumni and donors who contributed to this scholarship in Kyle’s honor. For someone who has a passion for working with cancer patients and their families, Kyle is a true inspiration. Making a difference in people’s lives is the most important goal of my future and I hope to honor Kyle in that way. There are so many people that are affected by this vicious disease and there is so much to be done to help them persevere past cancer. My overarching desire in my career is to be a beacon of hope and empowerment for patients with terminal illness and their families who struggle to navigate the entire process of this disease."