For DonorsFor Applicants

Frank and Patty Skerl Educational Scholarship for the Physically Disabled

Funded by
1 winner$500
Application Deadline
Apr 20, 2025
Winners Announced
May 20, 2025
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school senior, undergraduate, or graduate student
Has a physical disability

Individuals with physical disabilities are one of the most underserved groups in our modern society.

Living with a disability can come with challenges in all areas of life, including education. Students with disabilities may feel isolated from their classmates and may miss class often due to healthcare needs. Education opens many doors to the future, but students with disabilities often find that their school isn’t equipped with the necessary resources to allow them to thrive and move on to higher education.

This scholarship seeks to support students with physical disabilities who are dedicated to pursuing higher education.

Any high school senior, undergraduate, or graduate student who has a physical disability may apply for this scholarship.

To apply, tell us how being part of the disabled community has impacted your worldview and how you can use your experience to positively impact your future endeavors.

Selection Criteria:
Impact, Drive, Ambition
Published May 24, 2024
Essay Topic

How has being a part of the disabled community made a difference in your view of the world? How can you use that experience to positively impact your future endeavors?

400–600 words

Winning Application

Kellyann Navarre
Cleveland State UniversityCleveland, OH
Nicole Fordey
Arizona State University-Downtown PhoenixGlendale, AZ
After becoming physically disabled due to a genetic progressive condition, I was desperate to learn more about the history and current conditions of my newfound disabled community in the U.S. I leveraged my background as a clinical social worker and my connection to the disabled community to petition the editors of a forthcoming textbook for social work students about disability to hire me to write the chapter on U.S. Disability Policies. For several months I searched for all the information I could use to synthesize the history of major policies that affected disabled people in the U.S. from the Civil War to the present. Through my research and writing process, I recognized that large infringements on disabled peoples’ civil rights continue to persist today. I concluded my textbook chapter with suggestions for legislation needed to protect and uplift disabled people. I quickly realized that in the current structure, the burden is placed on the disabled individual to sue if they believe their civil rights have been violated. There is no enforcement mechanism to proactively discover and correct discriminatory practices of public businesses. I knew that most disabled people are not in a financial position to be able to hire counsel. Therefore, despite clear mandates for accessibility from the government, many companies large and small continue to be out of compliance. It is not until the cost of being inaccessible is more than the cost of accommodations and changes to ensure accessibility that many businesses will change their practices. I realized we need more lawyers with a focus on disability civil rights. In addition, these lawyers need to be open to pro bono or sliding-scale fees to make legal recourse accessible to more of this population. I’ve been successful as a clinical social worker helping people find their strengths for positive individual change. However, there are larger systemic changes that are needed for more disabled people to lead full lives with easy access to everything not-yet disabled people take for granted. In coming to this conclusion, a new desire bloomed – to be a lawyer and take on these cases. I intend to be one of the lawyers who takes on companies that violate the ADA and other disability civil rights laws. I was encouraged by loved ones to investigate the logistics of law school and the pros and cons of reentering student life in my mid-thirties. I recognized that it would be a bumpy road ahead, full of detours and potential dead ends, but at the finish line would be a reward worth all the struggle – being a voice for disabled people like myself with connections to the legal world, smashing through barriers literal and figurative. I have been a lifelong advocate for others, and now I have the opportunity and drive to be an advocate for myself and others like me who continue to be treated as less than human due to our disabilities. There have been too many times in my clinical practice where the answer has been “this client needs a lawyer” only to find no one interested and accessible to take the case. I want to be able to help demystify the legal process for others and encourage more lawyers to enter disability civil rights law. We need more not-yet disabled allies to understand that this fight is their fight too. No one is immune from illness, injury, or old age and at any time they or someone they love could become disabled. It shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care about it and do something to make it right.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Apr 20, 2025. Winners will be announced on May 20, 2025.