Madonna Gives to Scholarship in Memory of Late Teen

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SELINSGROVE -- A well-known pop star has made a generous donation to a scholarship fund in Snyder County.

The scholarship at Susquehanna University is in memory of the late teen who took his own life after he was bullied.

Brandon Bitner's dream was to be an accomplished violinist but his life ended nearly two years ago.

Since then, a scholarship at Susquehanna University in Bitner's name has gone to music students and now, someone with star power has donated several thousand dollars to the scholarship.

That person is Madonna.

When Amanda Simensky graduates from Susquehanna University she wants to continue making music in graduate school.

Simensky's the second student to benefit from a scholarship in memory of a local teen who played the same instrument but took his life when he could not take anymore bullying.

This month, that scholarship got a boost of $5,000 from Madonna's worldwide tour. The pop star uses a photo of Bitner during her shows.

"I think it's great, Madonna, someone so famous is able to tell his story," said Simenski.

Earlier this year, a fundraiser opera at a concert hall on campus raised thousands of dollars for the Brandon E. Bitner Memorial Scholarship. In addition to the new Madonna donation, that will hopefully go toward future students graduating from Susquehanna University who have a passion for the violin.

"The hope is we can continue to add to it over time in ways it does become big in ways it has significant impact," said Ronald Cohen, Susquehanna University's Vice President for University Relations.

To Simensky, being able to fulfill Brandon's dream of playing the violin is very meaningful.

It is meaningful to his mother Tammy Simpson as well, who has been able to keep the teen's memory alive through the scholarship

"That was his dream. It makes us feel good for someone else fulfill their dream," said Simpson.

When Madonna plays her first U.S. show Tuesday, Brandon's mother will be there and said it is an awesome feeling to have Madonna and others here at home care enough to help his scholarship.

"Big or small, it's just for a good cause. It helps anyone who has a musical dream like Brandon did," she said.

Brandon's mom said his photograph will be featured in one song during the Madonna concert Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Along with six others whose lives were cut short, their photos have been shown at concerts all over the world during the song "Nobody Knows Me."