Growing through exploring

The Elliott Family Foundation Scholarship Prepares Breanna Eastman to Make a Difference

As an Elliott Family Foundation Scholar and recipient of the Chancellor’s Award of Distinction, Breanna Eastman is a fresh-faced, wide-eyed soft-spoken woman with a very humble sense of self; she is on a global journey to serve humanity.     

Growing up in Huntington Beach, it wasn’t until she began traveling to Europe and developing countries that she truly recognized the privilege of living in Orange County. Her experience began with UC Irvine’s Education Abroad Program, working with various non-profit organizations, local church-affiliated groups and the P.E.A.C.E. Plan.  With a clear goal in mind and an empathetic heart to help resolve complex social problems such as social inequality and human suffering, she set out to learn about people, regions, lifestyles and languages that give dimension and texture to our global canvas.

Breanna came to UC Irvine because it was close to family and a well-known research university that embraced a diverse academic community.  She had a love for psychology and was fascinated with observing people in their natural environments.  She also carried with her the idea that “there is so much outside of our small cities and lives.”  During her time at UCI, she has visited, studied or worked in: Spain, Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco, France, England, Italy and the Czech Republic.  Breanna studied at the University of Granada in Spain for a year and attended psychology classes (despite not being fluent in Spanish when she arrived) exceling and finished at the top of her class. 

As a transfer student from Saddleback College, Breanna was able to study abroad because of the Elliott Family Foundation Scholarship, funding that provides financial assistance to students transferring from local community colleges to attend UC Irvine.  

“I remember it being a huge moment, and I think I cried,” she said.  “Universities are so competitive, and I couldn’t believe I was being recognized.”  Breanna sought to understand what had earned her such an award and from a generous family that had, unbeknownst to her, observed her global community efforts, strong academics and compassion for humanity.  “They didn’t even know me, how could they be so generous?  I wanted to meet these people, to say thank you and really find out where that heart comes from.”  It made such an impact on her, eased financial pressures, validated all her hard work.  She felt such encouragement from this remarkable gift, hoping to one day emulate such generosity. 

Along Breanna’s journey, she has always been driven to excel academically while being mindful of her moral compass.  In Kenya, she saw much “poverty and devastation” and realized how much her tuition costs could help people in Kenya.  “I have a heart for those in need, and I truly believe that we need to think outside ourselves.  We need to use what we’ve been given to help others and realize what’s out there in the world… even if it just makes us more thankful.”  Thinking back to a conversation she had with her mom, she was struck by the message.  “She told me that becoming educated and getting my degree would widen my impact of compassion and care on many communities while maximizing my personal growth potential,” Breanna said.  “That wisdom will keep me motivated for the next two years as I work toward my master’s degree.”

It’s truly a call to serve humanity that has kept Breanna focused and engaged in her academic programs, support groups and global pursuits.  She finds special joy in working with children,  inspired by their innocence, liveliness and innate happiness.  She recalls working with a local community group in South Los Angeles to counsel and support underprivileged kids and being reminded of her experiences in Kenya.  “It felt like Kenya because the kids still had a liveliness to them even among such great need.  My goal was to make them feel loved and empowered.  I want to be someone who pushes kids to excel and reach their potential.”  She now realizes that social work is her life’s calling and is taking steps toward that goal.  She also became a delegate for the UC Student Congress to positively affect change and become more politically savvy in advocacy and social policy and planning. 

All of these endeavors came to light for Breanna at UC Irvine.  UCI made her feel at home, giving her the forum to learn, the resources to explore big opportunities and the sage advice of caring mentors who helped shape her dreams into realities.  She credits Dr. Joanne Frattaroli Zinger, Lecturer in Psychology and Social Behavior, Dr. Richard Matthew, Professor of Planning, Policy & Design and Director of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs, as well as UC Irvine’s Transfer Center, with arming her with the right tools and encouraging words to make solid choices for herself. 

The Elliott Family Foundation provided her the opportunities to utilize her talents. “This scholarship changed my perspective on life and gave me so much more confidence,” she said.  There is no doubt that Breanna will build bridges, empower children, foster goodwill and advocate for global peace.

Breanna Eastman

Breanna Eastman

Interested in learning more about supporting this important work at UC Irvine? 

Tiana L. Johnson
Director of Development

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