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On November 5, 2022, the world lost a beautiful light, Brenyale Toomer-Byas. Brenyale was a loving daughter, a caring friend, a dedicated colleague, a passionate mentor, a talented strategic thinker, and so much more. The Orange County community is grateful that we had the privilege of knowing and working with Brenyale. She approached life and leadership with happiness and positivity. We will always remember her contagious laugh, listening ear, and warm smile.

Brenyale was a macro social work practitioner with extensive experience in program design, evaluation, training, grant making, and grant administration. Prior to creating her own consulting firm one year ago, Brenyale worked for 15 years with Orange County United Way, most recently as Executive Director of the United for Financial Security℠ initiative.

Brenyale held Bachelor of Arts degrees in Religion and Political Science as well as a Master of Social Work degree with an emphasis in Community Organization Planning and Administration from the University of Southern California. She was proud to serve as lead consultant for the Orange County Eviction Diversion Collaborative while making plans to pursue her PhD.

To honor Brenyale’s life and legacy, we are establishing the Brenyale Toomer-Byas Scholarship for Emerging Leaders. Brenyale was so passionate about the pursuit of higher education. An annual scholarship will be awarded to one Orange County non-profit leader seeking to pursue post-graduate studies.

Please choose an option below:

Apply for the Brenyale Toomer-Byas Scholarship

We are pleased to share the Brenyale Toomer-Byas Scholarship opportunity with you, however at this time, the application is now closed.

If you have any questions about the application, please contact Carol Kim, Senior Director, Community Investments and Evaluation via email.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In order to receive the award, the applicant must be available to attend in person on April 11, 2024 at our annual Scorecard event.

About the First Recipient

Melanie Shum

Melanie Shum, Brenyale Toomer-Byas Scholarship for Emerging Leaders recipient.

On behalf of Orange County United Way and Brenda Toomer, Melanie Shum is the first-ever recipient of this scholarship. Melanie is a recent graduate of UC Irvine, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a concentration in chemical biology. In high school, she volunteered with the Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center and, in 2020, was hired as a staff member. Since then, she has helped to build their framework to promote health equity for the most vulnerable communities.

During the pandemic, she used her background in chemistry and biology to help educate these communities about the COVID-19 virus. She also oversaw and assisted in over 250 mobile vaccination clinic events and helped vaccinate more than 50,000 patients.

These experiences inspired her to pursue a career in public health. She will be pursuing her Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and Master of Public Health degrees at Touro University California this July.

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