RJ Mitte Breaking Barriers Scholarship

Funded by
RJ Mitte
Learn more about the Donor
$1,000
1 winner
Awarded
Winner
1
Finalists
13
Application Deadline
Apr 30, 2021
Winners Announced
May 14, 2021
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate

“I've learned that no one can stop you from achieving your dreams. It's important to focus on your goal and to move forward and be the person you're meant to be." - RJ Mitte

Growing up with a disability can add unique challenges to life, but with an indomitable spirit and a strong support system, there's nothing you can't overcome.

As an actor and disability advocate with cerebral palsy, RJ Mitte, star of hit shows like Breaking Bad and Switched at Birth, knows this first hand. Today he works to lift up those around him and to ensure that those facing challenges related to a mental or physical disability have the help they need to achieve their goals and follow their dreams.

The RJ Mitte Breaking Barriers Scholarship will be awarded to a student with a mental or physical disability in need of support financing their education.


Disability
Selection Criteria:
Essay, Disability, Impact, Ambition, Drive
Essay Topic

How has your experience growing up with a disability influenced your choice of field of study and your goals for the future?

250–750 words

Winning Application

Jessica Lopez
Coastline Community CollegeChula Vista, CA
I was born without hands and feet. My disability has never prevented me from being able to do almost anything anyone else can. As a kid, I taught myself how to write, turn pages in books, walk on the floor, use my phone, even type this essay on my laptop all without any assistance. I even changed Barbie’s clothes all on my own. My motto as a toddler was, “I’ll do it.” I was tested as nearly gifted and entered mainstream school. Despite my disability, I never felt that different from everyone else. My disability is an extremely rare one. Unfamiliarity with disabilities often means that people can hold many misconceptions about me and my disability. People often incorrectly assume I have intellectual disabilities, or that I’m unable to speak, or that I can’t move my body. That’s why I’ve always encouraged people to ask me questions. One of the biggest assumptions people have always had about me is that if I don’t have my hands and feet, I must be depressed or anxious. But that’s always been a strange concept to me. Why should I miss body parts that I’ve lived a perfectly functional and fulfilling life without? I’ve learned to feel comfortable in my skin, and appreciative of my body and its uniqueness. I don’t feel the need to fit in or be “normal.” This is the body I was given, and I was made to stand out. When I was 10, I began to suffer from chronic illness. It stopped my life, kept me from school, and isolated me. I spent my teenage years homebound. I never went to prom, I was unable to go on dates, I was unable to hang out with peers at the mall. Doctors have found no successful treatment. Technology has always made tasks easier for me, it provides the accessibility I need. As a teen in school with a disability as well as a chronic illness, I requested access to online education, but I was always denied. "We can't do that." It's solely because of the pandemic that I can say that this year I can move forward to college. People with disabilities and chronic illness like me have now been provided access to online services that we were always told was impossible. So what's next for me? As a first-generation college student, I'm starting my journey toward a Bachelor's degree in Business in the Fall with a minor in Political Science. My experiences with disability are unique, and because of that, I've found my passion in advocating for disability rights. If disability rights and full accessibility had been fully realized, I would have been given access to online education when I needed it instead of when it was required across the country. My aim is to use the knowledge and skills I acquire in college to begin advocating, speaking, writing, organizing, and educating people on disability rights, a topic so rarely discussed and even more rarely understood. In the future, I hope to create a disability organization that provides large-scale research and advocacy on topics at the intersection of disability rights and public policy. Throughout my life, the main difficulty I’ve struggled with is accessibility. Not every street crosswalk has a curb cut for wheelchairs. Not every building has a working elevator. Not every museum or public building has a ramp or a wide enough doorway. Not every program or service has the flexibility to provide necessary accommodations or services for people with disabilities. The pandemic helped me recognize the need to advocate for more accessible education, better laws, better medical treatment, and greater awareness of the history of disability rights and the circumstances that hold people with disabilities back in a world that doesn’t know how to support us.

FAQ

When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Apr 30, 2021. Winners will be announced on May 14, 2021.

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