For DonorsFor Applicants

Joieful Connections Scholarship

3 winners, $5,000 each
Application Deadline
Mar 21, 2024
Winners Announced
Apr 28, 2024
Education Level
High School
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school student
Developmental and/or intellectual disability

Joieful Connections believes that children of all abilities should have the opportunity to attend college or other forms of higher education.

Unfortunately, college is often not accessible to students with disabilities. With disabled students making up 14% of public school students, with a total of around 7 million, it’s critical that this group has more support, so they’re able to pursue their dreams of higher education.

This scholarship seeks to support students with a diagnosis of developmental or intellectual disabilities so they can pursue higher education.

Any high school senior who has a diagnosis of developmental or intellectual disability may apply for this scholarship, but students in Oregon will be preferred.

To apply, tell us how you plan to further your education, what fields of study you plan to explore, and what you hope to accomplish after pursuing higher education.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published August 30, 2023
Essay Topic

 How you plan to further your education beyond high school? What fields of study do you plan to explore? What do you hope to accomplish after pursuing higher education?

400–600 words

Winners and Finalists

April 2024

Maxwell Alvarado
Franky Ruiz-Sanchez
Dylan Crum
Victoria Erdman
Leonardo Castaneda
Charles Aluvale
Yami Payne
Maria Rivera Navarro
Finn Constantine
Isabella hernandez
Isabelle Kizans
Natalie Keas
Jayden Laronde
Isabella Carroll
Charlotte Wolfe
Cayden Hawk

June 2023

Winning Applications

Abigail Poulin
University of South Florida-Main CampusDAVIE, FL
In a world where everyone competes to be the best of the best, the top 1%, I have always strived to be average, to be part of the other 99%. But with a prominent hunchback and braces strapped to my legs, my ambition is quite ironic. Cerebral palsy has made my life anything but average. From navigating insecurities about my disability to overcoming learning difficulties, my personal and educational journeys have been marked with adversity. Standing out requires minimal effort on my part. Growing up, I was constantly asked “Why do you walk that way?” to which my autopilot response was always “I was born this way” before forming an escape plan to avoid further questions. Teachers would learn my name through monthly doctor’s notes excusing my absences as I had to make the four-hour car trips to Shriners Children’s Hospital for new braces and muscle relaxants. Cerebral palsy made me far from the average classmate, but I was still fortunate to have a mild form of it. Yet, in a society that often measures disability by its visibility, I have fought with the insecurity of not being “disabled” enough for my struggles to be validated. While I am not in a wheelchair or fully mentally handicapped, abilities that others have taken for granted require extra effort on my part. Similarly, my educational journey has been motivated by the desire to be average despite my challenges with cerebral palsy. As an advanced student, I have always excelled in my studies, continuously surpassing expectations from my parents and teachers. However, I have always had to work harder compared to my classmates to grasp the same material. The dissonance between my intellectual capabilities and my cognitive impairments often left me frustrated, but ignited a determination to bridge the gap between potential and reality. This has led me to outside opportunities to narrow the gap of support and resources for medically disabled people. I have worked with ESE children at my local church as a pre-k assistant and provided support to the patients and dedicated medical staff at Delray Medical Center. Cerebral palsy has been most vital in fostering my passions in genetics and medicine. I have had the opportunity to witness not only the intelligence and compassion of the medical profession, but also the strength and gratitude of patients and their families. This has led me on a life-long mission to advocate against the negative misinformation of the medical industry and restore the humanization of the people working behind it. As a high school senior at the College Academy at Broward College, I have undertaken rigorous courses that will allow me to graduate with my Associates of Arts with my high school diploma. Most recently, I have been admitted into the University of South Florida’s Biomedical Sciences program as a Presidential Scholar. After earning my bachelor's, I will decide my commitment to either genetics or pharmacy. But regardless of my choice, I intend to participate in research into advancements in biotechnology for under-represented medical disabilities. I am excited to begin this new part of my life and it would not have been possible without the resilience that my disability has instilled in me, along with the constant support from my family, doctors, and teachers. They have given me the mental strength to overcome my physical weakness and receiving the Joieful Connections Scholarship would allow me to show my appreciation towards those people and to carry on their legacies of love and acceptance to the future generations of people like me. Thank you for your consideration.
Caden Curry
Calhoun Falls Charter SchoolCALHOUN FALLS, SC
I would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Caden Curry. I am originally from NY but have resided in South Carolina for 15 years. I began my schooling in this state and will complete it here as well. As a person, I am hardworking, focused, driven, and destined to achieve my goals in life. The only path forward to do so is attending college. For me, it was important to take that a step further and attend a 4-year university. Last fall, I submitted my application for admittance to Coastal Carolina University. This was the only school I applied to and had the faith in myself to get in. In November, I was elated when a piece of mail came from the university. As I was shaking, I opened the envelope and was overwhelmed that I had just received early acceptance into the university. Moreover,  as I read the letter I saw that I was also recognized as being welcomed with a Teal Scholar title due to academic achievements. My mother was so shocked because she was nervous about me being dead set on one select school. I was driven by my goal to achieve what I have always wanted, I was able to attend a university, something no one in my family has ever done. I did this by hard work and overcoming so many obstacles in my way. This is where I recognized a huge problem, finances. My mother struggles with Multiple Sclerosis and is on Social Security. There is no way that she could afford the tuition, she was adamant that I do not get caught up in student loans. There was never a minute I was discouraged, instead I pushed further. I promised myself that under no circumstance would I give up my dream no matter what the barricade was. Throughout the year I have ground pavement and looked up every scholarship under the sun and my fingers got to work. Although I do not know being accepted for any of them, I have faith that it is my purpose on Earth to help people, and no matter what my faith would make a way because if you ask the universe for it, and you deserve it, it will serve it. Due to my struggle with mental health & physical health, I know adversity. It is my wish to help people with the same issues I have. The world dealt me a not-so-great hand medically. One of my medical conditions is that there is no other male living with it in the world. That will never stop my purpose to help ease the mental toll medical issues take on people like me. Yes, doctors may have the medical knowledge, if you are lucky enough, but don't understand how diagnoses affect people every day. Whether they struggle with complex issues like mine or are suffering from ADD, we all deserve the help. It is my passion to give a voice to the often voiceless. The need to destigmatize mental health issues, even some medical issues, has been vast in this country alone for so many years. Each generation tries or attempts to make this change but I think they are missing that certain something inside that makes you not give up, it's called being patient. With every fiber of my being, I know I will make a difference in this world through psychology no matter my approach to practicing it. So many people look at the financial aspect of college and give up, not me.
Jace Stringer
Henley High SchoolKLAMATH FALLS, OR
I am an athlete. I am an athlete who experiences cerebral palsy who has taken the disappointment of being cut from high school athletic teams due to my disability and turned the negative experience into what has been a life changing experience by focusing on my own personal development, both physically and mentally through weight training. I want to share this passion with others who are interested in changing the lives of people with disabilities. I am passionate about business and sports management, and I want to combine both business and sports management with disability advocacy work to support businesses in becoming more inclusive for people who experience disabilities. Ultimately, I would like to pursue my doctorate in business administration and work in the sports management industry. I want to work to create more inclusive environments for people who experience disabilities in sports industries to include amateur athletics, professional athletics, athletic clothing and footwear, and sports related industries. Part of my goal includes ensuring parents of young children with disabilities are educated on both civil rights and creating and fulfilling their child's dreams and their dreams for their child despite their disability. I want to be an advocate while pursuing my passions in an industry that I enjoy. Despite my own physical disability, I was raised in fully inclusive settings, played sports with my non-disabled peers, and attended all of my classes in a general education classroom without ever being segregated because I experience a disability. I want to combine this important aspect with my love of sports and business. I am hoping to partner with companies such as Nike, Addidas, dress shoe companies, mainstream clothing companies, athletic training equipment companies, and even traditional corporate offices to ensure their facilities, products, and presentations are all inclusive for people who experience a range of disabilities. I want to be considered an expert in the fields of disability studies and sports/business management. I would like to be a person who is consulted with in these fields by people who are in charge of making policies that impact the lives of people who experience disabilities. I want to ensure all people with disabilities have fulfilling lives without being held back by inaccessibility in areas that they shouldn't have to worry about being accessible, their everyday lives and activities. I want everybody to feel like their body belongs and they belong regardless of their differences.
Tali Rauner
White Plains High SchoolWhite Plains, NY
When I was five years old I was diagnosed with a Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD) and ADHD. This has impacted my ability to learn and function in the world in many ways. An NVLD is defined as a learning disability that causes difficulty with motor, visual-spatial, and social skills. Children with NVLD's are often well-spoken and can write well, but struggle with subtle social cues and comprehension of abstract concepts. This diagnosis has impacted me in many ways. I had years of Occupational Therapy where we focused on fine motor skills, motor planning, hand-eye coordination, directionality, hand dominance and visual-spatial coordination. In school it impacted my ability to interpret symbolic language, such as interpreting maps, spatial relationships, geometry, math symbols, tracking words across the page while reading, graphing, and lining up numbers. In 4th grade I entered a school for students with learning disabilities where I learned study skills, reading decoding, Executive Function skills, writing, math and advocacy skills. I am now a Senior, in a mainstream public high school. One of the key coping tools which have helped me has been music. Since I was a child, music has been a consistent force in my life and music has always been a safe haven that has given voice to my emotions and pulled me into the light of optimism and hope. Music has the power to resonate with anyone deeply, and where they are in their life. A talented artist can combine lyrics and melody in a way that creatively expresses emotions and connects with people on a deeply personal level. Music is not just my passion, it's my purpose. It is my goal to pursue my lifelong passion for music in a career as a music industry professional. I am thrilled to have been accepted to Berklee College of Music's Industry Leadership and Innovation program in Boston, MA! This is a program that uses the model of ‘design thinking’ a hands-on approach to creating innovative solutions to solving problems. My degree will prepare me to take a strategic leadership role within the music industry readying me to identify new opportunities, develop innovative solutions to solve problems, and better meet the needs of both musicians and music-goers. In my future role in the Music Industry, I hope to make an impact by providing a voice for new and emerging artists. Although it is easy for new artists to release their music, it has never been more difficult for fans to discover new music, and for newer and diverse artists to break through the noise. I hope to play a role in addressing these challenges, by developing approaches that expand accessibility for listeners of new and diverse music, level the competitive playing field, and create equitable revenue streams. If a young artist is looking to make their way, I hope that I will be able to give them a platform so that their voice can be heard too. My last hurdle is trying to pay for this special opportunity. Receiving the Joieful Connections scholarship could literally mean the difference between my being able to attend college, or not. My parents drained much of their savings when they paid for the Learning Differences school, which was further exacerbated when my father's business closed during COVID. Thank you for this special opportunity and for your consideration.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Mar 21, 2024. Winners will be announced on Apr 28, 2024.

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