College of HHD

Meet the 2023 Dodgers/Campanella Physical Therapy Scholars

February 10, 2023

scholarship recipients group photo

Meet the ten Dodgers/Campanella Scholars for 2023: Left to right, Daniel Morgan, Dmitriy Pyagay, Zacary Short, Elizabeth Bongco, Diana Martinez, Evan Thomas, Stephanie Tate, Francis Ignacio, Antonia Grafton, and Josh Matsunaga.


The road to becoming a physical therapist is challenging. It takes extreme dedication to get the nearly 4.0 GPA to gain admissions to PT school, and the three-year Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree program is rigorous. By providing this scholarship, the Dodgers Foundation and the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation make a significant difference in these students' lives. As future clinicians, we know these 10 students will make a difference in peoples’ lives and will “give back” each and every day. Meet the Dodgers/Campanella PT Scholars of 2023.

Class 65

josh matsunagaJosh Matsunaga

Josh has had a somewhat unconventional path toward his physical therapy career. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in film and English literature, he briefly worked as a freelance writer before he got the opportunity to work for both the California Men’s Basketball Team and the Golden State Warriors. Although he was more involved in scouting and analytics, Josh began to discover an interest in rehabilitation while working with the athletes. 

As a result, he decided to return to school to pursue a degree in physical therapy. During his time as a DPT student, he has been involved in volunteer and community service activities while also having the chance to work with the CSUN Women’s Basketball rehabilitation and athletic training staff. 

Josh said that coming from a family full of Dodger fans, receiving the Roy Campanella Scholarship is an amazing honor. He is incredibly thankful to the Campanellas and the Dodgers foundation for their overwhelming generosity. He is eager to begin his career with the hopes of improving wellness and quality of life amongst the community.


Class 66

antonia graftonAntonia (Toni) Grafton

Toni’s drive to become a physical therapist developed from her love of sports and her admiration of the human body and its ability to endure, adapt and heal. 

After graduating from Michigan State University in 2004, she moved to California where she was a personal trainer for nearly 15 years before continuing her education to become a physical therapist. Toni takes pride in being part of her community by training for triathlons, hosting youth fitness classes and volunteering with the Special Olympics. 

During her time in the CSUN physical therapy program, Toni has represented class 66 as a Co-President and is the VP of the Sports Club. As a physical therapist she hopes to help athletes of all walks of life recover their confidence and strength following injuries and setbacks. 

Toni told us that receiving the Roy Campanella Scholarship is an immense honor. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to represent the Campanella family and the Dodgers to the highest standard. 


francis ignacioFrancis Ignacio

Francis has attended CSUN, graduating with a Bachelors in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. He is a first generation Filipino-American and is the first in his family to attend and graduate from a 4-year university and participate in a doctorate level graduate program. 

During his time at CSUN, he was involved with the organization known as 3 WINS. 3 WINS is a student organization that provided a free community exercise program in various parks around Los Angeles. 

Francis was an instructor for the intermediate level adults at David Gonzales Park from 2017-2019. There, he created a safe environment to ensure that all participants were supervised; he created an exercise program to meet the general needs of the group and properly instruct exercises. He also took the time to mentor potential DPT students from CSUN to provide guidance and help them plan classes and meet application requirements. 

Francis told us he is excited to receive the Roy Campanella Scholarship and his friends and family are thrilled for him. His interest in baseball has grown over the years and he has grown to be a Los Angeles Dodgers fan and is learning the “ins and outs” of the game. 

“My goal in life is to be able to make a difference and through Physical Therapy I will be able to accomplish that. With the education and skills I learn throughout my time at CSUN, I can help people attain a better quality of life and be able to enjoy life with those most important to them. Thank you to the Campanella Foundation and to the Dodgers for the opportunity they have given students throughout the years. I am grateful to have been chosen, and this achievement will be one of the highlights of my time here at CSUN’s DPT program.” 


stephanie tateStephanie Tate

Stephanie began her college career at CSUN where she was awarded Magna Cum Laude after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Applied Fitness and Active Lifestyle Development. 

Stephanie knew she wanted to be in the healthcare field, but took some time to really understand the different careers that the field offers. After extensive research, talking with other healthcare professionals, and working as a physical therapy aide, Stephanie knew that Physical Therapy was where she belonged, and the CSUN program was where she set her mind to attending. 

In her third semester in the PT program, Stephanie, along with some of her colleagues, put together a sports club where they would gather after their primary classes to learn and practice sideline physical therapy skills. 

Her hope is to continue this club to develop her understanding and skills, and to pass on this knowledge to the future CSUN classes. She told us that as a Filipina, she is immensely proud to be the first generation in her family to attend graduate school. 

She added that being born and raised in Northridge, Stephanie has always been surrounded by the Dodgers, their extraordinary history, and the amazing way they serve their community. Receiving the Campanella-LA Dodgers Foundation scholarship is an unquestionable honor for both Stephanie and her family. 

“My goal is to help people live with a greater quality of life so they have the ability to achieve their goals,” she said. “I want to thank the Campanellas and the members of the Dodgers Foundation for their amazing generosity and for giving me this opportunity to continue my journey of becoming a Physical Therapist.” 


evan thomasEvan Thomas

Evan Thomas assumed leadership responsibilities in second grade when he became captain of his club basketball team. Evan remained a captain on every basketball team from high school through junior college where he served as team captain and member of the Moorpark College Captain’s Council. 

His leadership ability and academic success led him to be named the 2019 Moorpark College Scholar-Athlete of the Year. During the course of his time at CSUN, he has challenged himself to collaborate consistently with classmates and staff in order to better grasp knowledge from a difficult curriculum. 

He has taken part in the creation of the CSUN Department of Physical Therapy’s promotional video by adding insight on his experiences thus far as well as what the program has to offer. 

Evan said that as the first member of his family to attend graduate school, he is honored and grateful to be able to share this experience with his mother, brother and father. “When faced with difficult challenges, I always remember two words my brother said to me from a young age. Those words were ‘stay resilient.’ If you get back up and face that challenge head on you will come out of the other side having learned valuable life lessons. Thank you to the Campanellas and Dodgers for this amazing scholarship and selfless act to help students such as myself achieve their academic dreams.” 


Class 67

elizabeth bongcoElizabeth Claudine Bongco

Elizabeth Claudine graduated from CSUN with a degree in Kinesiology/Exercise Science and she is also the first in her family to attend graduate school. 

During studies for her undergraduate degree, she was an active member of the Center of Achievement through Adapted Physical Activity and 3 WINS Fitness, which helped solidify her decision to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

As for her time at CSUN in the Physical Therapy program, she has devoted a portion of her free time to working closely with aspiring physical therapy students by mentoring and guiding them through the rigorous process of applying to physical therapy schools and educating them on the various fields that physical therapy offers. 

Elizabeth Claudine said that since being awarded the Roy and Roxy Campanella Scholarship, she is able to focus her concentration on what is most important, which are her studies and how to make a difference in someone’s quality of life. 

“I would like to thank the Campanella Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers for this generous opportunity to support my education and future career in physical therapy. This scholarship not only helps me with my finances, but gives me the strength and inspiration for my journey of becoming a physical therapist and to give back to communities that shaped me into the person I am today and more.” 


diana martinezDiana Martinez

Diana is a first-generation Latina student, and first in her family to attend graduate school. She was born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles. She and her family are very proud of her accomplishments thus far and are excited to continue to see her physical therapy school journey at CSUN. 

Prior to coming to CSUN, she attended Loyola Marymount University, where she worked as a programming assistant for Chicano Latino Student Services and then as a teaching assistant for two science courses. After graduation, her time as a physical therapy aide reinforced her choice to pursue physical therapy. 

During her first semester at CSUN, Diana has become involved as a historian for her class and is excited for more opportunities to support her classmates, community, and the physical therapy profession. 

She said she is tremendously appreciative of the generosity of the Campanella family and LA Dodgers Foundation for this scholarship. She is honored and says that it is a dream to receive support, not only from her family and friends, but also from a distinguished organization in her pursuit to become a physical therapist. Diana hopes to someday make an impact in her community by leading with compassion and helping to improve people’s quality of life one day at a time. 


daniel morganDaniel Morgan

Daniel is currently on his second time through academia. When the field of aerospace engineering did not hook him, Daniel took a step back and worked for a few years as a massage therapist before deciding to make a six-year plan to pursue physical therapy. 

Even through COVID-19 uncertainty, Daniel completed his Bachelors in Kinesiology at CSUN in 2022, and seamlessly transitioned into CSUN’s DPT program in the fall of 2022. 

Though having only completed his first semester of the DPT program, Daniel has achieved a 4.0 GPA and been elected President of his cohort. Acting as president, Daniel has been leading his colleagues as they transition into a professional graduate program. 

While Daniel is the first in his family to attend a graduate program, his father is also a CSUN alumnus. Family is highly valued by Daniel. “After World War II, my grandfather came to the United States from Hungary with nothing in his pocket and not knowing the language or customs. He sacrificed his time and energy to create a launch pad in order for his descendants to succeed,” Daniel said. “Along with my family, the Campanella’s and the Dodgers have now both extended their helping hand to allow me to push my capabilities further. Thank you so much, I consider this award to be of the highest honor.” 


dmitriy pyagay

Dmitriy Pyagay

Dmitriy told us that as a first-generation immigrant, he is proud to not only be the first in his family to attend graduate school, but also the first to receive a college degree. 

During his first semester in the CSUN Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Dmitriy was involved in the communication between his cohort and faculty as a Lab Representative. He hopes to continue his involvement in roles that will improve the program for his cohort and cohorts to come. 

Aside from school, Dmitriy works as a boxing and fitness coach, where he applies his knowledge from school to improve the health and performance of his clients. 

Dmitriy said he is incredibly honored and grateful to be a recipient of the Campanella Scholarship. He cannot thank the Campanellas and the Dodgers enough for being granted this opportunity. He added that as a giant Dodger fan, he is extremely excited to be involved with, and recognized by, such a historic and esteemed franchise. 


zachary shortZachary Short

Zachary has deep rooted family connections to CSUN going back to his grandfather attending the university when it was known as San Fernando Valley State College and then both of his parents graduating from here as well. 

While going to high school just down the street at Granada Hills Charter School, Zachary played football and, while taking a physiology class, began finding a passion for studying the human body. After high school, he continued his academic career at College of the Canyons where he got involved with the American Red Cross Club. He would go on to become the Activities Coordinator planning volunteer events, fundraisers, and blood drives. 

After receiving an Associates degree in Kinesiology he transferred to CSUN amidst the COVID pandemic and was not able to take any in -person classes during that time. 

Zachary joined the 3 Wins Fitness Program and participated in the Commit to be Fit Program virtually, both of which were free community initiatives that encouraged participants to add exercise into their lives no matter their age or fitness level. 

He also became a member in the Pre-Physical Therapy club and would serve as the Events Director for a semester and the Vice President for a year focusing on creating fun and informational virtual meetings as well as planning in person events once able to do so. 

He told us that being selected as a recipient of the Roy Campanella scholarship is an immense honor for himself and his family who are all die-hard Dodger fans. “I want to sincerely thank the Campanellas and the Dodgers for their generosity and am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity.” 


About our Benefactors

Joni Campanella

joni campanella“My father lived and breathed baseball. It was in 1948 that he was signed by the Dodgers, and it was right after Jackie Robinson was signed, and he became the first Black catcher in the major leagues. He was in a car accident in 1958. He basically gave up.  My father always credited his physical therapist as the person who helped to motivate him and give him back his will to live.

“Knowing how we’ve come together in terms of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation, helping these students get out there and help people have independent lives—and that through them, my father’s and mother’s dream and their legacy are continuing on, means a lot. They can help people to succeed, like the physical therapists who helped my father to regain his feeling that he could be independent and self reliant. These students will be giving the same opportunity to a lot of other people in the community.

“It is very hard to express what this scholarship means to our family and what it would have meant to my dad and my mother. My father bled Dodger blue. To know that this organization that he so loved, this organization that also so loved him back, is now supporting a program—to be able to continue his legacy in terms of helping students who are becoming physical therapists—would mean the world to him.”

Hall of Famer Roy Campanella passed away in 1993, and a year later, his wife Roxie began to donate scholarship money to physical therapy programs, continuing to do so until her passing in 2004. In 2005, the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation joined forces to dedicate scholarships to physical therapy students at CSUN. The Campanellas’ daughter, Joni, relished the opportunity to meet the students.

Since 2005, the Campanella and Los Angeles Dodgers foundations have awarded scholarships to CSUN physical therapy students. The partnership has grown to add more scholarships, and since 2010, each year the Dodgers have invited a CSUN physical therapy student to intern with the team’s medical staff.

About the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation

la dodgers emblemThe Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF) is tackling the most pressing problems facing Los Angeles with a mission to improve education, health care, homelessness, and social justice for all Angelenos.

Bigger than baseball, LADF envisions a city where everyone regardless of zip code has the opportunity to thrive. Since 1995, LADF has invested more than $40 million in programs and grants to nonprofits leveling the playing field. LADF is the proud recipient of ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, Robert Wood Johnson Sports Award, Beyond Sport's Sport for Reduced Racial Inequalities Collective Impact Award, and the Aspen Institute Project Play Champion.



A Message from the Campanella/Dodgers Scholarship Chair, Aimie Kachingwe:

aimie kachingweTo say that Hall of Famer Roy Campanella dealt with adversity is an extreme understatement. One cannot fathom what it was like to be one of the first Black men to play Major League Baseball in 1948 (16 years before the passing of the Civil Rights Act, facing covert and overt racism among peers and fans), yet Mr. Campanella met the challenges with a determination unmatched.

During his 10-year career with the Dodgers as a power-hitting catcher, Roy Campanella was named the league’s most valuable player 3 times, played in 5 world series championships, and was considered the best catcher in baseball with an impressive batting average. Mr. Campanella earned the reputation as a “workhorse” by catching at least 100 games in nine straight seasons, during a time when catchers caught with 2 hands using a small glove and antiquated equipment, and he suffered numerous injuries including nerve damage to his fingers and hands.

And then that snowy night in January 1958 when he was driving home from working late and encountered ice on the road, losing control of his car. Mr. Campanella fractured his C3 and C4 vertebra, leaving him quadriplegic at the age of 36 –an injury that ended his illustrious career. Roy Campanella was then faced with adversity unsurpassed by few.

Mr. Campanella underwent rehabilitation at New York’s Rusk Medical Center, and when asked by Dr. Rusk if he was ready to tackle the rigors of physical therapy, Roy’s reply was “When do we start?"

The “workhorse” was ready. Roy spent 6 months at Rusk and many more years in physical therapy. He inevitably went on to work with catchers at spring training from his wheelchair and committed decades to working for the Dodgers.

To think that Roy’s physical therapists were able to make a difference in his life is impactful. That’s what PT’s get to do –make a difference.

The road to becoming a physical therapist is also challenging. It takes extreme dedication to get the nearly 4.0 GPA to gain admissions to PT school, and the 3-year Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree program is rigorous. By providing this scholarship, the Dodgers Foundation and Joni Campanella also make a significant difference. As future clinicians, I know these 10 students will make a difference in peoples’ lives and will “give back” each and every day.

The Department of Physical Therapy at CSUN has had a valuable relationship with the Campanella Foundation for over 25 years—when the first scholarship was awarded in 1995. We’ve also been blessed with an over 10-year relationship with the Dodgers Foundation, since 2010, when the Dodgers Foundation partnered with the Campanella Foundation to continue providing scholarships to our PT students.

To date, over 150 scholarships in an amount of nearly $200,000 have been awarded to our PT students. These students are highly motivated, excellent scholars, have gone on to become outstanding physical therapists, and represent the wide breadth of ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the San Fernando Valley.

CSUN’s PT program is honored and grateful to be part of this endeavor. Roy Campanella’s life truly mattered, and he will always be remembered.

Sp 2023

Writers: HHD, Dodgers/Campanella Scholars, Joni Campanella, LA Dodgers, Aimie Kachingwe 

Photography: DJ Hawkins, Sonia Gurrola, CSUN Marketing and Communications