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Ella Stiso

2225

Bold Points

5x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

Hello everyone, my name is Ella Stiso and I am a sophomore at the University of Alabama. Currently, I am an active member of The Seeing Eye organization where I raise and train guide dogs for the visually impaired. In addition, I participate in multiple extracurricular and community service programs here in Tuscaloosa while maintaining a 4.0 GPA at UA. I am currently Pre-Law, majoring in business with a minor in Spanish. Upon graduation, I plan to attend law school. One day I hope to practice as a disability attorney. It is my goal to improve disability legislation and further ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws nationwide. Academic Honors & Experiences: • National Society of Leadership & Success (04/23 - Present) • National Art Honor Society (grades 9-12) • National Honor Society (grades 11 & 12) • High Honor Roll (grades 9-11) • Seal of Biliteracy (12) • Achieving proficiency in two languages. • Scholar-Athlete Award (12) Dean's List & President's List (4.0 GPA) Univ. of Alabama 2022-2024 Community Service Experiences: The Seeing Eye (2017-present) • Medical Advisor 2017-2019 • Vice President of 4-H Ocean County 2019-2020 • President of 4-H Ocean County 2021-2023 Peace for Paws American Youth Cheerleading Demonstrator (grade 10) Extracurricular Activities: • Delta Delta Delta Sorority, UA • St. Jude's & Miracle Kids foundations • Metro Animal Shelter Volunteer • AYC Cheer (grades 2-6) • All-Star Cheer (grades 6-9) • Wall High School Sideline Cheer Team (grades 9-12) • Wall High School Varsity Competition Cheer Team (grades 9 & 10)

Education

The University of Alabama

Bachelor's degree program
2022 - 2026
  • Majors:
    • Business/Commerce, General
  • Minors:
    • Political Science and Government
    • Law

Wall High School

High School
2018 - 2022

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Bachelor's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

    -
  • Transfer schools of interest:

    -
  • Majors of interest:

    • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services, Other
    • Law
    • Cooking and Related Culinary Arts, General
    -
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Law Practice

    • Dream career goals:

      Lawyer

    • Neurofeedback Technician

      Braincore Neurofeedback
      2020 – Present4 years

    Sports

    Cheerleading

    Varsity
    2010 - 202212 years

    Awards

    • Scholar Athlete Award
    • Two Time National Champion
    • Competative Cheerleading

    Arts

    • Teen Art and Congressional Art Competition

      Painting
      2021 – 2022

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      The Seeing EyePuppy Raiser, Ocean County Chapter President
      2017 – Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Michael Rudometkin Memorial Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But one night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills, handler commands, and daily service dog routines such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the four dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person previously excluded from daily activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Winning this scholarship will allow me to seize the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability (ADA) legislation. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Rossi and Ferguson Memorial Scholarship
    What could go wrong" is a question that played over and over in my mind as I neared the greatest challenge of my life. You see, growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate up to 90 degrees throughout the day, often sending me crashing to the floor. After years of consultations, we found Dr. Kramer, a pioneering surgeon who had developed a 4-part corrective surgery for my condition. However, the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. Furthermore, four surgeries over three years, each followed by months of physical therapy, meant I would miss most of my sophomore and junior years as attending regular classes wouldn't be possible. Instead, my teachers would visit my home after school to review the day's lessons. It was a difficult decision to make. I had so much to lose if something went wrong. But with the support of my family, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the operations. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of physical therapy relearning how to walk, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. After my final operation, lying in recovery, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have significant challenges, my disability has improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I wasn’t sure how. I'd be confined to a wheelchair for the next few months and could barely take care of myself. However, after much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months, teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the three dogs I raised will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. My chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit various churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers throughout the state sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. As president of my local chapter, working alongside the blind community taught me the meaning of perseverance. In my senior year of high school, I defied all odds by recovering in time for cheerleading season and was voted varsity team captain. I was eager to implement the lessons I had learned through years of working with the visually impaired. Part of my leadership role was to ensure my teammates felt they were in a safe environment. On a high school team, it is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. When these situations arose, I reminded everyone that trust is essential on a cheer team because we constantly put our lives in each other’s hands with every stunt we perform. A strong bond and trust are not achieved by making others feel inferior. Instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to teach the younger girls new skills through friendly competitions, such as seeing who can hold a stunt the longest. Celebrating accomplishments pushes each squad member to do their best. If you nurture a flame it adds light, benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the environment for all. I say, let there be light! Looking back, I am grateful for my entire journey, because it made me a stronger person. On my darkest day, my definition of disability never included the word incapable, which sadly is what many people believe. Throughout my two years of college, I continued to participate in fundraising for the St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids Foundations and worked as a volunteer at the local animal shelter. To me, service is about making a difference and supporting the people around you when they need it the most. I never let life’s obstacles keep me from achieving my goals. Today I am very active in my sorority, holding multiple committee chairs, and was recently named to the UA President’s List for outstanding academic achievement with a 4.0 GPA. Overcoming my condition gave me a unique perspective on life, which I consider a gift. The feeling of being discriminated against because of a congenital disability still burns within me. That is why I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career serving the most vulnerable among us. I hope to improve the quality of life for those experiencing mistreatment similar to mine. It is my goal to further disability legislation regarding building codes for both new and existing construction, as well as, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although ADA laws have progressed over the past two decades, there is much more work to be done. My grandfather always says that victory belongs to the one who believes in it the most. Well if that is true....THEN I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    Robert F. Lawson Fund for Careers that Care
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and its important role in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the balance between my charitable work and academics, leading me to become the leader I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own—especially those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. With leaps in AI technology, we now stand on the precipice of tearing down physical barriers that have hindered the disabled community for millennia. And I intend to lead the way!
    JT Lampert Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Schmid Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Future Leaders Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the balance between my charitable work and academics, leading me to the leader I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    John Young 'Pursue Your Passion' Scholarship
    My passion for the legal profession was sparked at an early age. However, it was through a long and arduous journey filled with pain, triumph, and community service that I discovered my destined career path. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills, commands, and daily routines specific to guide dogs. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. Although it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By furthering my education in legal studies I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. With rapidly advancing artificial intelligence, I believe we are on the precipice of breaking down the confines that have restricted millions of people suffering from physical limitations throughout history. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is much more work to be done!
    Joy Of Life Inspire’s AAA Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day, often sending me crashing to the floor. A corrective surgery for my condition existed, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved four separate surgeries and required cutting across growth plates elevating the chances of severe complications. It was a lot to process. However, with the support of my family, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the operations. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of PT relearning how to walk, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. However, over time, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation while promoting blind awareness. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the impact the dogs I raised will have on the visually impaired, makes the heartache worth it. Over the years I held many positions at The Seeing Eye, including president. Now that I am away at college, I serve as a virtual advisor to new members. I have also become involved in community service here at UA by participating in fundraising events for the St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids Foundations, as well as, volunteering at the local animal shelter. Overcoming my condition gave me a unique perspective on life, which I consider a gift. It gave me the confidence to take on seemingly insurmountable obstacles and has put me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career protecting the rights of the most vulnerable among us. I hope to improve the quality of life for those experiencing similar mistreatment. By furthering my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation nationwide. My years spent advocating for underrepresented communities have taught me the true meaning of Agape Love. Plato once wrote about the platonic ascent describing the different levels of love. It begins with Eros, a self-gratifying love that focuses on the benefits one gains from a relationship. But over time, we ascend to a grander meaning of the word, finally arriving at self-sacrificing love. Looking back on my journey, I recognize the many people who made sacrifices in their own lives to help me through my time of need. They were my guiding light through years of darkness and are the sole reason why I live my life with the same empathy and compassion for others that I was blessed to receive.
    Boun Om Sengsourichanh Legacy Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me, serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with life circumstances different from your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Gary "G" Goldstein Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day, often sending me crashing to the floor. A 4-part corrective surgery for my condition existed, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. Furthermore, four surgeries over three years, plus months of physical therapy, meant I would miss most of my sophomore and junior years as attending regular classes wouldn't be possible. Instead, my teachers would visit my home after school to review the day's lessons. I had a lot to lose if something went wrong, but I knew it was my best chance at a "normal" life. So with the support of my family, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the operations. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of PT relearning how to walk, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. However, over time, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the impact the dogs I raised will have on the visually impaired, makes the heartache worth it. Looking back I can still see that eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the awkward teen enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs”. And I'm grateful for all of it! My journey taught me who I truly am inside and what I am deeply passionate about. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career serving the most vulnerable among us. By furthering my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing ADA legislation nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Lester and Coque Gibson Community Service Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to service, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an unexpected and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day, often sending me crashing to the floor. A corrective surgery for my condition existed, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved four separate surgeries and required cutting across growth plates elevating the chances of severe complications. It was a lot to process. However, with the support of my family, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the operations. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of PT relearning how to walk, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. However, over time, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the impact the dogs I raised will have on the visually impaired, makes the heartache worth it. Looking back I can still see that eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the awkward teen enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs”. And I'm grateful for all of it! Overcoming my condition gave me a unique perspective on life and I consider it a gift. That is why I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career serving the most vulnerable among us. By furthering my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing ADA legislation nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    In Memory of Liv Scholarship
    My journey toward the legal profession began at an early age. As a child I found myself engrossed in stories of past relatives, so much so, that I felt I was there. However, there was one particular story regarding my great-grandfather that sparked my initial interest in law. After the unexpected death of his dad, my great-grandfather Pasquale, an Italian Immigrant, left school to earn money sweeping floors at the town barber shop. With only an eighth-grade education he worked his way up to apprentice and eventually purchased the barbershop becoming the first American business owner in our family. One day he was discussing an invention idea with a customer. He wanted to create an electric face shaver with a built-in mustache trimmer but was having trouble with the design. Today, virtually all electric razors have one, but in the 1950s it didn’t exist. The patron worked for a lighter fluid company named Ronsonol and said his R&D department was looking for new and innovative products. He offered my great-grandfather a handshake partnership and set a meeting with the executives at Ronsonol. On the day of the presentation, Pasquale waited outside the barber shop for his new partner to arrive. Seconds turned to minutes, then minutes turned to hours and it became clear he was not going to show. Six months later, Ronsonol introduced the world's first electric razor with a built-in mustache trimmer/outliner. The idea was stolen from him and his heart broke into a million pieces. I learned a great deal from this story. Had he retained an attorney, his intellectual property would have been protected forever changing the trajectory of his life. It was my first understanding that many people need an advocate to speak on their behalf. Although I never met him, Pasquale was with me every step of the way when I endured a life struggle of my own, further leading me down the path to a career in law. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or lift my toes and my right leg was significantly smaller than my left. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I became active in community service by volunteering at The Seeing Eye guide dog program. For several years, I raised multiple dogs teaching them skills and commands specific to guide dogs. Once proficient, the dogs were called back to The Seeing Eye and matched with a blind companion. During that time, I also participated in numerous outreach programs educating local citizens about our program and the impact these service animals have on the visually impaired. Representing this underrepresented community reaffirmed my passion for law. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability (ADA) legislation regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    John J Costonis Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Bruce & Kathy Bevan Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the balance between my charitable work and academics, leading me to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Janean D. Watkins Overcoming Adversity Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Justin Moeller Memorial Scholarship
    "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania, 1940 As we venture into the future, today's youth will be tasked with fixing the problems of tomorrow that surely await us. And though it is not a belief held by many that have come before me, I believe that Millennials and Gen Z, quite possibly, will become the Greatest Generation 2.0. However, the road we will take to get there will look nothing like that of our forefathers. Reversing the world's economic downturn, climate change and the ever-increasing cost of healthcare will not be achieved by storming the beaches of a foreign country with bayonetted rifles in hand. Instead, sweeping change, progress, and the prosperity of future generations will be achieved through the one capability unique to the human race alone...TECHNOLOGY. In today's world artificial intelligence is rapidly expanding. With constantly evolving innovations and leaps in computing power, AI will soon become a superpower in and of itself. One day, my generation will be entrusted to wield this power for the betterment of the human race and not for personal greed. It will be a tremendous responsibility to protect such technology and the intellectual property that drives it. However, I believe my generation is more than capable of this pivotal and gargantuan task. As we move away from the confines of brick-and-mortar shopping malls, movie theaters, and office cubicles, our new digital world will propagate a new version of human existence. Self-driving cars, automated customer service, remote learning, and computerized mechanical labor, all powered by clean renewable energy, will reduce the cost, fraud, and waste in almost every sector of the economy. Overnight, the average American's work-life balance will dramatically shift creating a new paradigm where we will no longer be beholden to the typical 9-5, 40-hour work week. As an added benefit, opportunities for those once denied equal opportunities due to life circumstances such as a physical disability, lack of child care, or insufficient transportation will suddenly flourish as we venture into this brave new world. However, as with any type of change in the name of progress, there is always a winner and a loser. For every new industry that is born, another will perish joining the ever-growing technology graveyard of history. Just ask Blockbuster Video. We must be cautious in our pursuit of progress to not destroy the social fabric of human life. Is it easier to stream a movie on your phone than to organize a night out with friends at the movie theater? Of course, it is. However, easier is not always better. Human Beings are social creatures by design. I fear that the same tech invented to alleviate the ills of society also has the potential to destroy our way of life. It is no secret that Millennials and Gen-Zers are portrayed as the Me, Me, Me generations. And there may be some validity to that stereotype. However, I believe that in the years to come, the world will be extremely proud and thankful for the contributions made by these free thinkers and aspirational dreamers. If my generation can harness the power of technology to be used for the greater good and not let it fall into the hands of bad actors while simultaneously preserving the wonderful social attributes that make life worth living, then I believe these advancements will light the way for a bright and innovative future.
    TEAM ROX Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with life circumstances different from your own. Empowering others is not accomplished by making others feel inferior. Instead, I believe if you nurture a flame it adds light, benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Walking In Authority International Ministry Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Reginald Kelley Scholarship
    My passion for the legal profession was sparked at an early age. However, it was through a long and arduous journey filled with pain, triumph, and community service that I discovered my destined career path. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By furthering my education in legal studies I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Coupled with the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence (AI), I believe we are on the precipice of breaking down the confines that have restricted millions of people suffering from physical limitations throughout history. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done!
    Derk Golden Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder and as a result, could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes, and my right foot was noticeably smaller than my left. In addition, my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day often sending me crashing to the floor. I became a cheerleader at an early age. At first, my leg symptoms were mild, but I could see my teammates steadily surpassing me in physical capability every season. By the time I was twelve, I was experiencing 10-15 knee dislocations a day and my right leg was significantly smaller. Finally, it all came tumbling down at practice. Attempting an advanced cheer stunt, I suffered a catastrophic dislocation shifting my patella a full 90 degrees to the side of my leg. I landed face down on the mat, and my cheerleading days were over. After endless medical consultations, I learned of a corrective surgery for my condition. However, the risks were considerable. The procedures required cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which increased the chances of infection and possible paralysis. It would take four operations over three years plus months of physical therapy. Thankfully, all of the surgeries were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the awkward teen enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs”. But one night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So I joined the Seeing Eye program and began raising German Sheperds to because active guide dogs for the blind. In addition to teaching skills and handler commands specific to service dogs, my duties included familiarizing the pups with everyday errands while promoting blind awareness throughout the community. Serving this underrepresented community became a sort of therapy for me and sparked an passion I didn't know was there. I soon found myself stepping forward when others wouldn't. This was most apparent upon my return to the high school varsity cheerleading team. I was elected team captain and eager to implement the leadership qualities I had learned at The Seeing Eye. On a school team, not everyone has the same ability level making it easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. I have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. Strong bonds and trust are not achieved by making others feel inferior. Instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to motivate the younger girls through friendly competitions, such as seeing who could hold a stunt the longest. I found that celebrating their accomplishments pushed each squad member to do their best. My philosophy is simple: If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. If you extinguish a flame it detracts and darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! My journey made me a stronger person and has put me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career serving the most vulnerable among us. I hope to one day further ADA legislation impacting the disabled community nationwide. Although ADA laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Marcello Rosino Memorial Scholarship
    As an Italian American, I grew up in a family steeped in the traditions of both the old country and the new world. As a child I found myself engrossed in stories about past relatives, so much so, I felt I was there. My grandfather, a prolific storyteller, would vividly describe the journey of my ancestors transitioning from the life they left behind in Italy to one of prosperity in America. At the time, I thought these amazing tales were what family was all about. But I would soon learn the true meaning of "family" through an uphill and arduous journey filled with pain, devotion, love, and triumph. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right foot and calf were noticeably underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate up to 90 degrees. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed; however, the procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. When I turned to my parents for guidance, they reminded me of my grandfather’s stories of past relatives coming to America for the first time. Just like them, I needed to mourn the life I once knew and find the courage to embark on a new path. Suddenly, it all became clear. If my family could do it, so could I. The years that followed were grueling. There were so many times I wanted to give up, tap out, and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept looking at my family and the sacrifices they were making to see me through this difficult time. I could hear my father’s motivational words echoing in my head with every step I took. I looked into the eyes of my younger twin brothers and could see how much they were rooting for me. There was no way I was going to let them down. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the friends I made at Boston Children's Hospital were not as fortunate. My experience compelled me to pay it forward. With the support of my family, I joined The Seeing Eye program and we began raising German Shepherd puppies to become guide dogs for the visually impaired. Our duties included teaching skills and commands specific to service animals, as well as, familiarizing them with everyday errands. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey. But mostly, I appreciate the love and support of my family because I couldn't have survived it without them. My mother once taught me about the Greek philosopher Plato who wrote about the platonic ascent. Most people only have the word “love” to express their feelings. But in actuality, there are many different levels and stages of love. It begins with Eros, a self-gratifying love that solely focuses on the perks and benefits you gain from a relationship. But through the slings and arrows of life, we ascend to a deeper meaning of the word, finally arriving at self-sacrificing love, an everlasting devotion that never fades and embodies one's willingness to lay down their life for another. It is the rarest love there is and I am so grateful I have that with my family. If my Italian heritage has taught me anything it's that FAMILY stands for: Forget About Me, I Love You!
    Redefining Victory Scholarship
    My vision of a successful future is one of a thriving law practice built on a set of ideals to protect the disabled community. My attraction toward to legal profession began at an early age. However, it was a long and arduous journey filled with pain, adversity, and eventually victory that led me to seek a career in law. You see, growing up I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. My right leg grew slower than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. A corrective operation existed, but it required four surgeries over three years and the risks were considerable. Somehow, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the procedures. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of physical therapy, I found my progress bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the awkward teen in a wheelchair enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” There were so many times I wanted to tap out and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept thinking of my family and the sacrifices they were making to see me through this difficult time. I could hear my father’s motivational words echoing in my head with every step I took. “Victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most, Ella!” And when I looked into the identical eyes of my younger twin brothers and could see how much they were rooting for me. There was no way I was going to let them down. One night, after my last surgery, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the friends I made at Boston Children's Hospital were not as fortunate. Their unwavering determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation while promoting awareness throughout the state. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. Although it was gutwrenching to say goodbye, knowing the three dogs I raised will provide independence to a visually impaired person in need makes the heartache worth it. I am applying for this scholarship to alleviate as much financial burden as possible. During my second surgery, our insurance carrier, Members Health Plan NJ, had its license revoked and declared bankruptcy. The news came without warning, leaving my parents with a stack of medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, decimating the family business. But the hardest blow was my father’s cancer diagnosis. In December of 2022, they removed a large tumor known as a liposarcoma, along with much of his left quadriceps muscle. The University of Alabama is an amazing institution with an amazingly high price tag. However, through my years at The Seeing Eye I, I’ve learned that in hard times it is okay to ask for help. My journey to overcome my disability made me a stronger person. It helped me discover what I'm made of and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. By furthering my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation with regard to building codes, employment opportunities, government assistance, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Because if victory truly belongs to the one who believes in it the most, I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    @ESPdaniella Disabled Degree Scholarship
    Winner
    I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. A corrective surgery existed but the risks were considerable. It would take three years, four operations, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, my procedure was successful. Recovering at Boston Children's Hospital, I met many kids whose determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and began raising and training guide dogs for the visually impaired. Giving back to this community helped me discover what I am truly passionate about and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing ADA legislation. Specifically, I aim to spearhead new initiatives by harnessing the power of AI to enhance daily living independence, as well as, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accessibility nationwide. Today, I believe we are on the precipice of breaking down disability barriers that have stood for centuries. And I intend to lead the charge.
    Stephan L. Wolley Memorial Scholarship
    As an Italian American, I grew up in a family steeped in the traditions of both the old country and the new world. As a child I found myself engrossed in stories about past relatives, so much so, I felt I was there. My grandfather would vividly describe the journey of my ancestors transitioning from the life they left behind in Italy to one of prosperity in America. At the time, I thought these amazing tales were what family was all about. But I soon learned the true meaning of family bonds through a long personal battle with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. You see, growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right foot and calf were noticeably underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate up to 90 degrees. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed, however, the procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. When I turned to my parents for guidance, they reminded me of my grandfather’s stories of past relatives coming to America for the first time. Just like them, I needed to mourn the life I once knew and find the courage to embark on a new path. Suddenly, it all became clear. If my family could do it, so could I. The years that followed were grueling. There were so many times I wanted to give up, tap out, and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept looking at my family and the sacrifices they were making to see me through this difficult time. And when I looked into the eyes of my younger twin brothers I could see how much they were routing for me. There was no way I was going to let them down. From that moment on, there was only going to be one outcome, VICTORY. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the friends I made at Boston Children's Hospital were not as fortunate. Their unwavering determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and began raising German Shepherds to become guide dogs for the visually impaired. My duties include teaching skills and commands specific to service animals, as well as, familiarizing the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation while promoting awareness. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. Looking back, I can still see that eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the awkward teen enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” Many people said I would never be an athlete or recover in time for the upcoming cheerleading season, but they were wrong. I became a two-time national champion and captain of the varsity cheer team. My goal was to beat my disability, raise multiple guide dogs, give back to the community, and finish at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. And I did. Failure wasn't an option. My journey made me a stronger person and has put me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney so I can dedicate my career to fighting for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability laws regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide.
    Kalia D. Davis Memorial Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of advocacy and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Winning this scholarship would allow me to seize the opportunity to further my education so I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Servant Ships Scholarship
    Ever since I was little Saturday night has been movie night in our house. As far back as I can remember, my parents were dedicated to introducing my brothers and me to classic movies from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Unlike my brothers, I was never interested in movies that solely focused on special effects and CGI like so many of the superhero megablockbusters. Instead, I was always drawn to the underdog stories where the protagonist overcomes seemingly impossible odds in the face of adversity. Movies like Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, Erin Brockovich, and Invisible captivated me because the storylines hit so close to home. You see, growing up I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. My right leg grew slower than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. A corrective operation existed, but it required four surgeries over three years and the risks were considerable. Somehow, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the procedures. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of physical therapy, I found my progress bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the awkward teen in a wheelchair enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” There were so many times I wanted to tap out and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept thinking of my family and the sacrifices they were making to see me through this difficult time. I could hear my father’s motivational words echoing in my head with every step I took. “Victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most, Ella!” And when I looked into the identical eyes of my younger twin brothers and could see how much they were rooting for me. There was no way I was going to let them down. One night, after my last surgery, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the friends I made at Boston Children's Hospital were not as fortunate. Their unwavering determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation while promoting awareness throughout the state. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. My journey to overcome my disability played like my own personal Rocky movie. It helped me discover what I'm made of and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. By furthering my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation with regard to building codes, employment opportunities, government assistance, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Because if victory truly belongs to the one who believes in it the most, I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    Bright Lights Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey that I discovered my calling as a legal professional. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of searching, I found a surgeon that could help. It took three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but thankfully, the operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” People can be very cruel when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation while promoting blind awareness throughout the community. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for final training and are matched with a blind companion. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done. The impact of this scholarship would be immeasurable. During my third surgery, my health insurance carrier declared bankruptcy, leaving us with a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, devastating our family business. But the hardest blow was my father's cancer diagnosis in 2022. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is my turn. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, through my years of community service, I've learned that in hard times, it's okay to ask for help.
    Janean D. Watkins Aspiring Victim's Rights Advocate Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of advocacy and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Jorian Kuran Harris (Shugg) Helping Heart Foundation Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. A four-part corrective surgery for my condition existed, but the risks were considerable. The three-year-long process involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. Needless to say, it was a lot to process. However, with the support of my family, I found the courage to embark on a new path and agreed to the operations. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of physical therapy, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. There were many times I wanted to tap out and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept looking at my family and the sacrifices they were making to see me through this difficult time. There was no way I was going to let them down. During recovery, there was a lot of time to reflect and I soon realized how lucky I was. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has greatly improved. Many of the kids I met at Boston Children's Hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. Looking back I can still see that eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces, the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with, and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” And I'm grateful for all of it! My journey made me a stronger person and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. The impact of this scholarship would be immeasurable. During my third surgery, my health insurance carrier declared bankruptcy, leaving us with a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, devastating our family business. But the hardest blow was my father's cancer diagnosis in 2022. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is my turn. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, through my years of community service, I've learned that in hard times, it's okay to ask for help.
    Friends of Ohm Labs Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of searching, I found a surgeon that could help. A corrective operation existed, but the risks were considerable. With the support of my family, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the procedures. It would take three years, four surgeries, with months of physical therapy in between, but thankfully, all four operations were successful. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at Boston Children's Hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn't know how. After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. Our chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a wide variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers sharing knowledge about our program. We encourage all attendees to come together as one to help our fellow citizens. Our speaking events educate the general public about what the blind community endures daily and how much a guide dog can change their world and provide independence. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the three dogs I raised will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my dream of advancing disability legislation regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way, I believe there is a lot more work to be done. The financial impact this scholarship would have is immeasurable. During my third surgery, our health insurance carrier, Members Health NJ, declared bankruptcy, leaving a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, and our family business was decimated. Worst of all, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer and lost most of his quadriceps removing the tumor. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is time for me to do the same. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, one of the many things I've learned through community service is that, in hard times, it's okay to ask for help.
    Veerakasturi and Venkateswarlu Ganapaneni Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of searching, I found a surgeon that could help. A corrective operation existed, but the risks were considerable. With the support of my family, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the procedures. It would take three years, four surgeries, with months of physical therapy in between, but thankfully, all four operations were successful. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at Boston Children's Hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn't know how. After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. Our chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a wide variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers sharing knowledge about our program. We encourage all attendees to come together as one to help our fellow citizens. Our speaking events educate the general public about what the blind community endures daily and how much a guide dog can change their world and provide independence. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the three dogs I raised will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my dream of advancing disability legislation regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way, I believe there is a lot more work to be done. The financial impact this scholarship would have is immeasurable. During my third surgery, our health insurance carrier, Members Health NJ, declared bankruptcy, leaving a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, and our family business was decimated. Worst of all, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer and lost most of his quadriceps removing the tumor. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is time for me to do the same. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, one of the many things I've learned through community service is that, in hard times, it's okay to ask for help.
    Youth Equine Service Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. Thankfully, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability dramatically improved. Many at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I became a dog raiser for The Seeing Eye, a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the three dogs I raised will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. Through my years of community service, I learned how to approach new and complex situations. In my senior year, I was elected varsity cheer captain and was eager to implement the lessons I had learned through volunteering. On my first day, I took immediate steps to assure my teammates they were in a safe environment. On a school team, not everyone has the same ability level., therefore, it is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. A strong team bond is not achieved by making others feel inferior. Instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to motivate the younger girls through friendly competitions, such as seeing who could hold a stunt the longest. I found that celebrating their accomplishments pushed each squad member to do their best. If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. If you extinguish a flame it detracts and darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    A Man Helping Women Helping Women Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Jeanie A. Memorial Scholarship
    For most of my life, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, I lost the ability to fully straighten my legs and my right foot was noticeably smaller. In addition, my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day, often sending me crashing to the floor. A corrective surgery existed, but the risks were considerable. The operation involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of infection and permanent paralysis. In addition, it required four surgeries spread over 3 years with months of therapy in between, causing me to miss much of my sophomore and junior years. I found myself at a crossroads and faced with the most important decision of my life. I had so much to lose if something went wrong but I understood this was my best chance at a "normal" life. With the support of my family, I decided to mourn the life I once knew and found the courage to embark on a new path. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of physical therapy relearning how to walk, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. There were so many times I wanted to give up, tap out, and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept looking at my family and the sacrifices they were making to see me through this difficult time. I could hear my father’s motivational words echoing in my head. “Victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most, you can do it, Ella!” And when I looked into the identical eyes of my twin brothers I could see how much they were rooting for me. There was no way I was going to let them down. After my final surgery, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many kids at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and began raising and training puppies to become guide dogs for the blind. A philanthropic endeavor that became my ultimate therapy. Overcoming my disability taught me the true meaning of resiliency. It is the ability to obtain a seemingly unreachable goal in the face of adversity. No excuses! Though everyone said it was impossible, I became a two-time national champion for competitive cheerleading and was voted captain of the varsity team. In addition, I successfully raised multiple guide dogs, was elected as the youngest Seeing Eye President in history, and graduated at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. Looking back I appreciate my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and has put me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way, I believe there is a lot more fighting to be done. Because, if victory truly belongs to the one who believes in it the most…I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    Bold.org x Forever 21 Scholarship + Giveaway
    ella_stiso
    Phillip Robinson Memorial Scholarship
    My journey toward the legal profession began at an early age. As a child I found myself engrossed in stories of past relatives, so much so, that I felt I was there. However, there was one particular story regarding my great-grandfather that sparked my initial interest in law. After the unexpected death of his dad, my great-grandfather Pasquale, left school to earn money sweeping floors at the town barber shop. With only an eighth-grade education he worked his way up to apprentice and eventually purchased the barbershop becoming the first American business owner in our family. One day he was discussing an invention idea with a customer. He wanted to create an electric face shaver with a built-in mustache trimmer but was having trouble with the design. Today, virtually all electric razors have one, but in the 1950s it didn’t exist. The patron worked for a lighter fluid company named Ronsonol and said his R&D department was looking for new and innovative products. He offered my great-grandfather a handshake partnership and set a meeting with the executives at Ronsonol. On the day of the presentation, Pasquale waited outside the barber shop for his new partner to arrive. Seconds turned to minutes, then minutes turned to hours and it became clear he was not going to show. Six months later, Ronsonol introduced the world's first electric razor with a built-in mustache trimmer/outliner. The idea was stolen from him and his heart broke into a million pieces. I learned a great deal from this story. Had he retained an attorney, his intellectual property would have been protected forever changing the trajectory of his life. It was my first understanding that there are many people who need an advocate to speak on their behalf. Although I never met him, Pasquale was with me every step of the way when I endured a life struggle of my own, further leading me down the path to a career in law. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or lift my toes and my right leg was significantly smaller than my left. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I became active in community service by volunteering at The Seeing Eye guide dog program. For several years, I raised multiple dogs teaching them skills and commands specific to guide dogs. Once proficient, the dogs were called back to The Seeing Eye and matched with a blind companion. During that time, I also participated in numerous outreach programs educating local citizens about our program and the impact these service animals have on the visually impaired. Representing this underrepresented community reaffirmed my passion for law. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability (ADA) legislation regarding building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Girls Ready to Empower Girls
    The woman who inspired me the most is my grandmother, Betty Townsend Smith. She is one of the strongest women I have ever known, and I can only hope to live my life with as much courage, vigor, and tenacity as she has. Orphaned at the age of 10, after a tragic accident, she instantly became the primary caregiver to her three younger siblings. With no place to call home, they were adopted by a distant aunt and uncle and were sent off to live on their family farm. Unfortunately, all did not work out as promised. While they were grateful not to be split up, it quickly became evident why these relatives volunteered to raise them. The farm was short-handed and the four children were simply looked at as “free labor.” As you can imagine, resentment and frustration grew as the years passed. Knowing education was their only way out, Betty focused on her studies. After preparing dinner for the family and finishing her daily chores she often studied late into the night with a flashlight under her covers. When the time came, she confronted her aunt and uncle and announced she had been accepted into college and was leaving the farm indefinitely. Outraged by the news, they tried everything they could to deter her from leaving, but they were no match for my grandmother Betty. Empowered by their sister’s bold move, all three of Betty’s siblings followed in her footsteps attending institutions of higher learning. Putting herself through college, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from Ball State and later earned an engineering degree at Perdue University. After five years as a 5th grade school teacher, she set her eye on corporate America and interviewed for an opening at the male-dominated, automotive giant General Motors. It was a position few women of her day would dare to apply. Impressed by her wit and confident nature, they offered her a position in engineering at Delco Remy, a subsidiary of GM. Through hard work and determination, she volunteered for every extra shift available and cemented her place within the company. She quickly became a rising star and was promoted several times over. Though she was always paid less than her male counterparts, she continued to shatter glass ceilings throughout her career. She was a true pioneer for women in the workplace in the 1970s and 80s, overcoming sexism and harassment on a daily basis. She married her college sweetheart and raised two children in Anderson Indiana. She was also an accomplished athlete, becoming the State Racquetball Champion and Marathon runner. She is a true inspiration and role model, one that would be instrumental to me as I faced a difficult obstacle of my own. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. A corrective surgery existed, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, elevating the chances of permanent paralysis. Faced with the most difficult decision of my life I thought of my grandmother and drew from her strength and courage. It would take three years, four operations, and months of PT, but in the end, the surgery was successful. I come from a long line of strong women, my mother included. I guess you can say I have a lot to live up to, but that is a baton I am more than honored to carry and hopefully, one day, pass.
    McClendon Leadership Award
    The role of being a leader was thrust upon me at an early age. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. Over the years I held several leadership positions within The Seeing Eye and in 2022, I was elected chapter President, the youngest in Seein Eye history. My duties included running weekly meetings and organizing local events. And even though I am now 1,000 miles away at The University of Alabama, I have remained on as a Seeing Eye virtual advisor to new members. I have also become involved in community service here at UA, organizing fundraising events for the St. Jude’s Foundation, Miracle Kids, and Metro Animal Shelter. In the aftermath of my surgeries, I found myself stepping forward when others wouldn't. I had developed an inner confidence that many of my peers still lacked. I was elected team captain and was eager to implement the leadership qualities I had learned at The Seeing Eye. On my first day, I took immediate steps to ensure my teammates felt they were in a safe and trustworthy environment. On a school team, not everyone has the same ability level. Therefore, it is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. Strong team bonds are not achieved by making others feel inferior. So instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to motivate the younger girls through friendly competitions. I found that celebrating their accomplishments pushed each squad member to do their best. My leadership philosophy is simple. If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. If you extinguish a flame it detracts and darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey. Both the good and the bad. It made me a stronger leader and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability legislation. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Shays Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of social science and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By furthering my education in legal studies and political science, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Joseph A. Terbrack ALS Memorial Scholarship Fund
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. One night while lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has greatly improved. Many of the friends I made at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their diagnoses were far more debilitating, ranging from Marfan's Syndrome to ALS. However, their determination against unbeatable odds was so inspiring I felt a duty to pay it forward. I wanted to help those suffering from a medical condition for which there is no cure. But I didn’t know how. I'd be confined to a wheelchair for the next few months and could barely take care of myself. However, after much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    John Nathan Lee Foundation Heart Scholarship
    Heart disease is a condition that affects most of my father’s side of the family. As an Italian American, I grew up in a family steeped in the traditions of both the old country and the new world. As a child I found myself engrossed in stories of past relatives, so much so, that I felt I was there. However, there was one particular story regarding my great-grandfather that sparked my initial interest in law. After the unexpected death of his dad, my great-grandfather Pasquale, left school to earn money sweeping floors at the town barber shop. With only an eighth-grade education he worked his way up to apprentice and eventually purchased the barbershop becoming the first American business owner in our family. One day he was discussing an invention idea with a customer. He wanted to create an electric face shaver with a built-in mustache trimmer but was having trouble with the design. Today, virtually all electric razors have one, but in the 1950s it didn’t exist. The patron worked for a lighter fluid company named Ronsonol and said his R&D department was looking for new and innovative products. He offered my great-grandfather a handshake partnership and set a meeting with the executives at Ronsonol. On the day of the presentation, Pasquale waited outside the barber shop for his new partner to arrive. Seconds turned to minutes, then minutes turned to hours and it became clear he was not going to show. The meeting went on without him and the patron from never seen or heard from again. Six months later, Ronsonol introduced the world's first electric razor with a built-in mustache trimmer/outliner and Pasquale's dreams shattered into a million pieces. He was never the same after that day as he couldn’t make sense of his misfortune. Some years later he suffered a stroke and eventually died of heart disease, although many claimed it was from a broken heart. I learned a great deal from this story. Had he retained an attorney, his intellectual property would have been protected forever changing the trajectory of his life. It was my first understanding that there are many people who need an advocate to speak on their behalf. Although I never met him, Pasquale was with me every step of the way when I endured health issues of my own, further leading me down the path to a career in law. In addition to being born with a PDA, I was also diagnosed with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my legs. Thankfully, I found a surgeon who could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have physical and cardiovascular challenges my condition has greatly improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and began raising and training puppies to become guide dogs. As an organization, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are moved on to final training and matched with a blind companion. My journey has been one of loss, pain, and triumph. And I am grateful for all of it. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and reaffirmed my passion for pursuing a law degree. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career protecting the most vulnerable among us.
    Diverse Abilities Scholarship
    My dream job of affecting change for the disabled community was sparked at an early age. However, it would take an arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, allowing me to discover my ultimate career path. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. After much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. As president of my Seeing Eye chapter, I embrace diversity, welcoming volunteers of all ages, races, and religions. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Through our speaking engagements, we shed light on the daily challenges encountered by the blind community and emphasize the incredible impact that our service animals have on their lives. Together, we strive to promote understanding and appreciation for the vital role these animals play and how volunteering as a puppy raiser can change the life of someone struggling with visual impairment. My journey taught me that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. Affecting positive change cannot be accomplished by making others feel inferior. Instead, I prefer to celebrate the accomplishments of those I am trying to lift up. If you nurture a flame, it adds light benefiting all who surround it. If you extinguish a flame, it detracts and darkens the experience for all. So, let there be light! To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive innovative improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Pratibha Pandey Merit-Based Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found Dr. Kramer a skilled surgeon who had developed a 4-part surgery for my specific condition. However, the procedures involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons increasing the chances of permanent paralysis. Somehow, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the surgeries. Thankfully, all four operations were successful. Each procedure was performed about nine months apart, with intense physical rehabilitation in between. As you can imagine, this took up a large portion of my time. During recovery, I could not attend school in person for most of my sophomore and junior years. Instead, teachers came to my house to review the week's lesson in the evenings. I knew this put me at a distinct disadvantage compared to my classmates, but I was determined to keep my 4.0 average. In between physical therapy, Seeing Eye meetings, and training a guide dog puppy, I spent the rest of my time reading and researching information related to my class subjects. I requested extra assignments and emailed my teachers frequently. There was no way I was going to allow myself to fall behind. In the aftermath of my surgeries, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of my friends at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as shopping and riding public transportation. We also host numerous outreach events throughout the state sharing knowledge of our program while showcasing the life-changing impact a service dog can have. Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey. Many people said I would never be an athlete or recover in time for cheer season, but they were wrong. I became a two-time national champion and captain of the varsity cheerleading team. My goal was to beat my disability, raise multiple Seeing Eye dogs, give back to the community, and finish at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. And I did. Failure was never an option. I learned that overcoming obstacles is as much metal as it is physical. Balancing my time between recovery, The Seeing Eye, cheerleading, and my studies proved more challenging than I ever imagined. However, someone once told me "Victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most". A saying that quickly became my mantra. It helped me stay the course, even in my darkest days. My perseverance has taken me to new heights and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. My goal is to advance disability legislation and spearhead new initiatives that aim to improve building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Frank and Patty Skerl Educational Scholarship for the Physically Disabled
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes and my right foot was significantly smaller than my left. Lacking any structural integrity my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day often sending me crashing to the floor. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon who could help, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. However, I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward, so I joined The Seeing Eye program as a volunteer guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands and participate in a variety of community events to promote blind awareness. Volunteering has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It is the reason why I continue to be involved in the community here at UA, where I participate in numerous fundraising events for foundations such as St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids, while also volunteering at the local animal shelter. Looking back I appreciate my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and gave me the confidence to step forward when others wouldn’t. I guess you can say it was a serendipitous side effect of major surgery. In my senior year of high school, I was elected captain of the varsity cheerleading team and the youngest chapter president in the history of The Seeing Eye. As a leader, I learned that the best way to inspire and motivate those around you is to celebrate their accomplishments, instead of pointing out their flaws like so many had done to me. My philosophy is simple: If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! To me, advocating for others begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Morgan Levine Dolan Community Service Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person in need, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Winning this scholarship will allow me to seize the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing disability (ADA) legislation. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done. They say that victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most...I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    Pierson Family Scholarship for U.S. Studies
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found Dr. Kramer a skilled surgeon who had developed a 4-part surgery for my specific condition. However, the procedures involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons increasing the chances of infection and permanent paralysis. With the support of my family, I found the courage to move forward and agreed to the surgeries. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of physical therapy, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was improving. On the other, I knew I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of PT, but in the end, the procedures were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces, the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with, and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. In the aftermath of my surgeries, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of my friends at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as shopping and riding public transportation. We also host numerous outreach events throughout the state sharing knowledge of our program while showcasing the life-changing impact a service dog can have. Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey. Many people said I would never be an athlete or recover in time for cheer season, but they were wrong. I became a two-time national champion and captain of the varsity cheerleading team. My goal was to beat my disability, raise multiple Seeing Eye dogs, give back to the community, and finish at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. And I did. Failure was never an option. In the end, I've learned that bringing change to a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Being a voice for the blind community has given me a fulfillment I could have never imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Walters Family Oak Grove High School Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes and my right leg was noticeably underdeveloped. In addition, my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day due to a lack of structural integrity. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon who could help, but the risks were considerable. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, the operations were successful. One night, while lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability has dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So, I decided to join The Seeing Eye and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the dogs I raised will provide independence to a blind person in need makes the heartache worth it. My journey made me a stronger person and has put me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney so I can dedicate my career to fighting for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Looking back, I can still see that eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” Throughout my surgeries, I never took the easy road or gave in to self-pity. Although there were many times I wanted to give up, tap out, and say that’s enough, I didn’t. I kept looking at my family and the sacrifices they were making to see me through that difficult time. I could hear my father’s motivational words echoing in my head with every step I took at physical therapy. “Victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most! You can do it, Ella!” When I looked into the identical eyes of my younger twin brothers and could see how much they were rooting for me. There was no way I was going to let them down. Many people said I would never be an athlete or recover in time for the upcoming cheerleading season, but they were wrong. I became a two-time national champion and captain of the varsity cheer team. My goal was to beat my disability, raise multiple guide dogs, give back to the community, and finish at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. And I did. Failure was never an option. Why do I feel deserving of this scholarship?... Because if victory truly belongs to the one that believes in it the most….I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    Hakim Mendez Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes and my right foot was significantly smaller than my left. Lacking any structural integrity my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day often sending me crashing to the floor. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. However, I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward, so I joined The Seeing Eye program as a volunteer guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands and participate in a variety of community events to promote blind awareness. Volunteering has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It is the reason why I continue to be involved in the community here at UA, where I participate in numerous fundraising events for foundations such as St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids, while also volunteering at the local animal shelter. Looking back I appreciate my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and gave me the confidence to step forward when others wouldn’t. I guess you can say it was a serendipitous side effect of major surgery. In my senior year of high school, I was elected captain of the varsity cheerleading team and the youngest chapter president in the history of The Seeing Eye. As a leader, I learned that the best way to inspire and motivate those around you is to celebrate their accomplishments, instead of pointing out their flaws like so many had done to me. My philosophy is simple: If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! To me, advocating for others begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Frank and Nelcie Williams Memorial Scholarship
    My interest path to a career in law began at an early age. However, it was through an unexpected and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. One night, lying in my hospital bed I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I wasn’t sure how. After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands and participate in a variety of community events to promote blind awareness. Although it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the three dogs I raised will bring independence to and improve the quality of life for a visually impaired person in need makes the heartache worth it. It has been my privilege to be a part of this great organization, as it has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It is the reason I continue to be involved in the community here at UA, where I participate in numerous fundraising events for foundations such as St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids, while also volunteering at the local animal shelter. Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey, both the good and the bad. It made me a stronger person and gave me the confidence to step forward when others wouldn’t. To me, advocating for others begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and reaffirmed my passion for pursuing a law degree. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Jillian Ellis Pathway Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes and my right foot was significantly smaller than my left. Lacking any structural integrity my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day often sending me crashing to the floor. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. However, I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward, so I joined The Seeing Eye program as a volunteer guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands and participate in a variety of community events to promote blind awareness. Volunteering has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It is the reason why I continue to be involved in the community here at UA, where I participate in numerous fundraising events for foundations such as St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids, while also volunteering at the local animal shelter. Looking back I appreciate my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and gave me the confidence to step forward when others wouldn’t. I guess you can say it was a serendipitous side effect of major surgery. In my senior year of high school, I was elected captain of the varsity cheerleading team and the youngest chapter president in the history of The Seeing Eye. As a leader, I learned that the best way to inspire and motivate those around you is to celebrate their accomplishments, instead of pointing out their flaws like so many had done to me. My philosophy is simple: If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! To me, advocating for others begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Bright Lights Scholarship
    My career path to serving the disabled community began the day I became a member of The Seeing Eye program. Originally founded in Nashville Tennessee, The Seeing Eye has been training and paring guide dogs with the visually impaired for almost a century. It was the brainchild of Morris Frank, a Nashville native, who read an article about German Shepherds assisting wounded veterans after World War I. He believed he could create a school that not only teaches the dogs how to guide but also teaches the blind how to properly utilize, handle, and care of these supportive service animals. The Seeing Eye School has grown and evolved tremendously since it opened in 1926. Now located in Morristown New Jersey, it stands as the oldest existing guide dog school in the world with many county chapters throughout the northeast. For almost a century, this philanthropic organization has bred and trained thousands of guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers like me, volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. The Seeing Eye embraces diversity, welcoming volunteers of all ages, races, and religions. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Through our speaking engagements, we shed light on the daily challenges encountered by the blind community and emphasize the incredible impact that our service animals have on their lives. We strive to educate the community and encourage our fellow citizens to become volunteers. Over the years I held several positions in my Seeing Eye Chapter including Community Outreach Liaison, Medical Advisory Chair, and Executive Vice President. I worked side by side with professional trainers and community organizers to provide recommendations regarding public policy issues. In 2022, my final year before heading off to college, I was elected as the youngest Chapter President in Seeing Eye history. And even though I am now 1,000 miles away at The University of Alabama, I have remained on as a Seeing Eye virtual advisor to new members. I also remain involved in community service here at UA by participating in fundraising events for the St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids Foundations, as well as, volunteering at the local animal shelter. Serving your community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for the visually impaired has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Winning this scholarship will help me seize the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Harriett Russell Carr Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes and my right foot was significantly smaller than my left. Lacking any structural integrity my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day often sending me crashing to the floor. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. However, I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward, so I joined The Seeing Eye program as a volunteer guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands and participate in a variety of community events to promote blind awareness. Volunteering has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It is the reason why I continue to be involved in the community here at UA, where I participate in numerous fundraising events for foundations such as St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids, while also volunteering at the local animal shelter. Looking back I appreciate my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and gave me the confidence to step forward when others wouldn’t. I guess you can say it was a serendipitous side effect of major surgery. In my senior year of high school, I was elected captain of the varsity cheerleading team and the youngest chapter president in the history of The Seeing Eye. As a leader, I learned that the best way to inspire and motivate those around you is to celebrate their accomplishments, instead of pointing out their flaws like so many had done to me. My philosophy is simple: If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! To me, advocating for others begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Dounya Discala Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes and my right foot was significantly smaller than my left. Lacking any structural integrity my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day often sending me crashing to the floor. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help, but the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. However, I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. One night, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward, so I joined The Seeing Eye program as a volunteer guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands and participate in a variety of community events to promote blind awareness. Volunteering has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It is the reason why I continue to be involved in the community here at UA, where I participate in numerous fundraising events for foundations such as St. Jude’s and Miracle Kids, while also volunteering at the local animal shelter. Looking back I appreciate my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and gave me the confidence to step forward when others wouldn’t. I guess you can say it was a serendipitous side effect of major surgery. In my senior year of high school, I was elected captain of the varsity cheerleading team and the youngest chapter president in the history of The Seeing Eye. As a leader, I learned that the best way to inspire and motivate those around you is to celebrate their accomplishments, instead of pointing out their flaws like so many had done to me. My philosophy is simple: If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! I've learned that creating change begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Bald Eagle Scholarship
    As an Italian American, I grew up in a family steeped in the traditions of both the old country and the new world. As a child I found myself engrossed in stories about past relatives, so much so, I felt I was there. My grandfather, a prolific storyteller, would vividly describe the journey of my ancestors transitioning from the life they left behind in Italy to one of prosperity in America. At the time, I thought these amazing tales were what family was all about. But I would soon learn the true meaning of "family" through an uphill and arduous journey filled with pain, devotion, love, and triumph. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right foot and calf were noticeably underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate up to 90 degrees. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed; however, the procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. When I turned to my parents for guidance, they reminded me of my grandfather’s stories of past relatives coming to America for the first time. Just like them, I needed to mourn the life I once knew and find the courage to embark on a new path. Suddenly, it all became clear. If my family could do it, so could I. The years that followed were grueling. As I pushed through the pain of physical therapy relearning how to walk, I found my progress to be bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to see I was healing and getting stronger. On the other, I realized I was one step closer to the next surgery and the painful rehab process starting all over again. There were so many times I wanted to give up, tap out and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept looking at my family and the sacrifice they were making to see me through this difficult time. I could hear my grandfather’s motivational words echoing in my head with every step I took at rehab. "Victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most, YOU CAN DO IT ELLA!" I could see how much he was routing for me. There was no way I was going to let him down. From that moment on, there was only going to be one outcome, VICTORY. Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey for it made me a stronger person and gave me a better understanding of what I am capable of. But most of all, I appreciate the love and support of my family because I couldn't have survived it without them. My grandfather once taught me about the Greek philosopher Plato who wrote about the platonic ascent. Most people only have the word “love” to express their feelings. But in actuality, there are many different levels and stages of love. It begins with Eros, a self-gratifying love that solely focuses on the perks and benefits you gain from a relationship. But through the slings and arrows of life, we ascend to a deeper meaning of the word, finally arriving at self-sacrificing love, an everlasting devotion that never fades and embodies one's willingness to lay down their life for another. It is the rarest love there is and I am so grateful I have that with my family. As my grandfather, the most influential person in my life would say: F.A.M.I.LY. means Forget About Me, I Love You!
    Windward Spirit Scholarship
    "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania, 1940 Ode to Millenials-Gen Z is correct, we do have a rendezvous with destiny. And, quite possibly, may become the Greatest Generation 2.0, however, the road we will take to get there will look nothing like that of our forefathers. Reversing the world's economic downturn, climate change and the ever-increasing cost of healthcare will not be achieved by storming the beaches of a foreign country with bayonetted rifles in hand. Instead, sweeping change, progress, and the prosperity of future generations will be achieved through the one capability unique to the human race alone...TECHNOLOGY. In today's world artificial intelligence is rapidly expanding. With rapidly evolving innovations and leaps in computing power, A.I. will soon become a superpower in and of itself. One day, the Millenial and Gen Z generations will be entrusted to wield this power for the betterment of the human race and not for personal greed. It will be a tremendous responsibility to protect such technology and the intellectual property that drives it. However, I believe my generation is more than capable of this pivotal and gargantuan task. As we move away from the confines of brick-and-mortar shopping malls, movie theaters, and office cubicles, our new digital world will propagate a new version of human existence. Self-driving cars, automated customer service, remote learning, and computerized mechanical labor, all powered by clean renewable energy, will reduce the cost, fraud, and waste in almost every sector of the economy. Overnight, the average American's work-life balance will dramatically shift creating a new paradigm where we will no longer be beholden to the typical 9-5, 40-hour per week. As an added benefit, opportunities for those once denied equal opportunities due to life circumstances such as a physical disability, lack of child care, or insufficient transportation will suddenly flourish as we venture into this brave new world. Although there will be many similarities to the post-war era of the 1950s, there will also be many differences awaiting us over the next 20 years. In the aftermath of WWII, the United States was unified due to the tremendous war effort and stood unblemished as the rest of the world was reduced to rumble. As a result, American manufacturing boomed sending the country into a decade of prosperity. Conversely, Millenials and Gen-Zers will not have the advantage of a head start as they did. The competition in creating life-changing tech will be fierce and up for grabs. So it is imperative that we seize the opportunity as we stand at the precipice of the future that is to come. It is our time to take the baton from the pioneering giants of the past and move forward into the technologically advanced society of tomorrow. Such an endeavor will surely repair the errors of the past while cementing the U.S.'s spot at the forefront of innovation. However, as with any type of change in the name of progress, there is always a winner and a loser. For every new industry that is born, another will perish joining the ever-growing technology graveyard of history. Just ask Blockbuster Video. We must be cautious in our pursuit of progress so as to not destroy the social fabric of human life. Is it easier to stream a movie on your phone than to organize a night out with friends at the movie theater? Of course, it is. However, easier is not always better. Human Beings are social creatures by design. My fear is that the same tech invented to alleviate the ills of society also has the potential to destroy our way of life. Over the past 30 years, we have seen a rapid rise in hate speech as the internet has given a town square and platform to those once relegated to the shadows of society. We must be disciplined and grounded in morality as we implement new changes in our rush to avoid the financial cliff that lies ahead. Creating an automated world will relieve many burdens however it can lead to less face-to-face interaction with each other potentially giving rise to tribalism and the dissolution of the nuclear family. As a nation, we are stronger together, as we were following the end of the Great Depression. We need to remember this as we attempt to reconstruct the dynamics of human life. It is no secret that Millennials and Gen-Zers are portrayed as the Me, Me, Me generations. And there may be some validity to that stereotype. However, I believe that in the years to come, the world will be extremely proud and thankful for the contributions made by these free thinkers and aspirational dreamers. If this generation can harness the power of technology to be used for the greater good and not let it fall into the hands of bad actors while simultaneously preserving the wonderful social attributes that make life worth living, then yes, I believe they will be remembered as "The Greatest Generation 2.0".
    Yolanda and Sam Shuster Scholarship
    As an Italian American, I grew up in a family steeped in the traditions of both the old country and the new world. As a child I found myself engrossed in stories about past relatives, so much so, I felt I was there. My father, a prolific storyteller, would vividly describe the journey of my ancestors transitioning from the life they left behind in Italy to one of prosperity in America. At the time, I thought these amazing tales were what family was all about. But I would soon learn the true meaning of "family" through an uphill and arduous journey filled with pain, devotion, love, and triumph. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right foot and calf were noticeably underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate up to 90 degrees. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed; however, the procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. When I turned to my parents for guidance, they reminded me of those past relatives coming to America for the first time. Just like them, I needed to mourn the life I once knew and find the courage to embark on a new path. Suddenly, it all became clear. If my family could do it, so could I. The years that followed were grueling. My parents took turns traveling between our home in NJ and Boston Children's Hospital. There were so many times I wanted to give up, tap out and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept looking at my family and the sacrifice they were making to see me through this difficult time. I could hear my father’s motivational words echoing in my head with every step I took. I looked into the eyes of my younger twin brothers and could see how much they were routing for me. There was no way I was going to let them down. From that moment on, there was only going to be one outcome, VICTORY. Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey. But mostly, I appreciate the love and support of my family because I couldn't have survived it without them. My mother once taught me about the Greek philosopher Plato who wrote about the platonic ascent. Most people only have the word “love” to express their feelings. But in actuality, there are many different levels and stages of love. It begins with Eros, a self-gratifying love that solely focuses on the perks and benefits you gain from a relationship. But through the slings and arrows of life, we ascend to a deeper meaning of the word, finally arriving at self-sacrificing love, an everlasting devotion that never fades and embodies one's willingness to lay down their life for another. It is the rarest love there is and I am so grateful I have that with my family.
    Our Destiny Our Future Scholarship
    My journey toward making the world a better place began at a young age. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Recovering in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. So I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I held several positions in my Seeing Eye Chapter, including president. My duties included running weekly meetings and organizing community events. Now that I'm away at school, I serve as an advisor to new Seeing Eye members and head I hold involved with organizing fundraiser events for the St. Jude’s Foundation and volunteering at the local animal shelter. In the aftermath of my surgeries, I found myself stepping forward as a leader when others wouldn't. I guess it was a serendipitous side effect of my surgeries. Upon my return to the varsity cheerleading team, I was elected captain. I was eager to implement the leadership qualities I learned at The Seeing Eye. On a school team, not everyone has the same ability level. Therefore, it is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. Strong bonds are not achieved by making others feel inferior. So instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to motivate the younger girls through friendly competitions, such as seeing who can hold a stunt the longest. I found celebrating their accomplishments pushed each squad member to do their best. Nurture a flame and it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. Making the world a better place begins with listening to people with life experiences different from your own. Whether in school, on the sports field, in a community organization, or on the world stage, understanding and valuing another person’s circumstances creates a path to inclusivity and acceptance. That is why I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Priscilla Shireen Luke Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Recovering in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I held several positions in my Seeing Eye Chapter, including president. My duties included running weekly meetings and organizing community events. Now that I'm away at school, I serve as an advisor to new Seeing Eye members and head I hold involved with organizing fundraiser events for the St. Jude’s Foundation and volunteering at the local animal shelter. In the aftermath of my surgeries, I found myself stepping forward as a leader when others wouldn't. I guess it was a serendipitous side effect of my surgeries. Upon my return to the varsity cheerleading team, I was elected captain. I was eager to implement the leadership qualities I learned at The Seeing Eye. On a school team, not everyone has the same ability level. Therefore, it is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. I have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying of any kind. Strong bonds and trust are not achieved by making others feel inferior. So instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to motivate the younger girls through friendly competitions, such as seeing who can hold a stunt the longest. I found that celebrating their accomplishments pushed each squad member to do their best. My leadership philosophy is simple. If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. Looking back now, I am grateful for my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Strong Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Recovering in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I held several positions in my Seeing Eye Chapter, including president. My duties included running weekly meetings and organizing community events. Now that I'm away at school, I serve as an advisor to new Seeing Eye members and head I hold involved with organizing fundraiser events for the St. Jude’s Foundation and volunteering at the local animal shelter. In the aftermath of my surgeries, I found myself stepping forward as a leader when others wouldn't. I guess it was a serendipitous side effect of my surgeries. Upon my return to the varsity cheerleading team, I was elected captain. I was eager to implement the leadership qualities I learned at The Seeing Eye. On a school team, not everyone has the same ability level. Therefore, it is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. I have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying of any kind. Strong bonds and trust are not achieved by making others feel inferior. So instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to motivate the younger girls through friendly competitions, such as seeing who can hold a stunt the longest. I found that celebrating their accomplishments pushed each squad member to do their best. My leadership philosophy is simple. If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. Looking back I am grateful for my entire journey. It made me a stronger person and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Richard P. Mullen Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. By the age of eight, my right leg was significantly underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. My disability was correctable. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and become a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. The Seeing Eye is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. As chapter president, the speaking events I organized exposed the daily obstacles faced by the blind community and highlighted the impact these amazing service animals provide. Volunteering to be a voice for this underrepresented community has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. The impact this scholarship would have on my life is tremendous. During my third surgery, my health insurance carrier declared bankruptcy, leaving a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, and our family business was decimated. Worst of all, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer and lost much of his left quadricep removing the tumor. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is my turn. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, one of the many things I've learned through community service is that, in hard times, it's ok to ask for help. Looking back, I appreciate my entire journey, both the good and the bad. There were many times when I wanted to quit, tap out and give up, but I didn't. I battled through multiple surgeries and relearned how to walk, all while raising multiple guide dogs for the visually impaired, becoming a two-time National Champion for competitive cheerleading, and finishing at the top of my high school class with a 4.0 GPA. They say the victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most... I ALWAYS BELIEVED!
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    As a future disability attorney, my dream is to spend my career advocating for challenged Americans while simultaneously motivating them mentally and spiritually by celebrating their capabilities, because I believe that if you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it, but if you extinguish one's flame it detracts and darkens the experience for all.
    Caleb G. Banegas Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. By the age of eight, my right leg was significantly underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. My disability was correctable. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and become a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. The Seeing Eye is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. As chapter president, the speaking events I organized exposed the daily obstacles faced by the blind community and highlighted the impact these amazing service animals provide. Volunteering to be a voice for this underrepresented community has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and is the "why" in my decision to attend law school. I have chosen to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. The impact this scholarship would have on my life is tremendous. During my third surgery, my health insurance carrier declared bankruptcy, leaving a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, and our family business was decimated. Worst of all, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer and lost much of his left quadricep removing the tumor. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is my turn. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, one of the many things I've learned through community service is that, in hard times, it's ok to ask for help. As for why I feel I am deserving of this award, all I can say is there were many times when I wanted to quit, tap out and give up, but I didn't. I battled through multiple surgeries and relearned how to walk, all while raising multiple guide dogs for the visually impaired, becoming a two-time National Champion for competitive cheerleading, and finishing at the top of my high school class with a 4.0 GPA. They say the victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most... I ALWAYS BELIEVED!
    Ruebenna Greenfield Flack Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Beyond The C.L.O.U.D Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. By the age of eight, my right leg was significantly underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. My disability was correctable. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. After much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. The Seeing Eye is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. As chapter president, the speaking events I organized exposed the daily obstacles faced by the blind community and highlighted the impact these amazing service animals provide. Volunteering to be a voice for this underrepresented community has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. The impact this scholarship would have on my life is tremendous. During my third surgery, my health insurance carrier declared bankruptcy, leaving a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, and our family business was decimated. Worst of all, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer and lost much of his left quadricep removing the tumor. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is my turn. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, one of the many things I've learned through community service is that, in hard times, it's ok to ask for help.
    Scholarship Institute’s Annual Women’s Leadership Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, my right leg was significantly underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. My disability was correctable. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. After much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. The Seeing Eye is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. As chapter president, the speaking events I organized exposed the daily obstacles faced by the blind community and highlighted the impact these amazing service animals provide. Volunteering to be a voice for this underrepresented community has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. My journey has taught me the meaning of perseverance. Though everyone said it was impossible, I became a two-time national champion for competitive cheerleading and was voted team captain my senior year. I also learned that the best way to motivate your peers is to celebrate their accomplishments, instead of pointing out their flaws like so many had done to me. My philosophy is simple: if you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! The impact this scholarship would have on my life is tremendous. During my third surgery, my health insurance carrier declared bankruptcy, leaving a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, and our family business was decimated. Worst of all, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer and lost much of his left quadricep removing the tumor. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is my turn. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, one of the many things I've learned through community service is that, in hard times, it's ok to ask for help.
    Lieba’s Legacy Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of advocacy and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer for the visually impaired. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Through my life experiences, I found myself stepping forward when others wouldn't. I guess you can say it was a serendipitous side effect of major surgery. This was most apparent upon my return to the varsity cheerleading team. I was elected team captain and was eager to implement the leadership qualities I had learned at The Seeing Eye. On my first day, I took immediate steps to assure my teammates felt they were in a safe and trustworthy environment. On a school team, not everyone has the same ability level. Therefore, it is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. I have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying or discrimination of any kind. Strong bonds and trust are not achieved by making others feel inferior. Instead, I encouraged the veteran cheerleaders to motivate the younger girls through friendly competitions, such as seeing who can hold a stunt the longest. I found that celebrating their accomplishments pushed each squad member to do their best. My leadership philosophy is simple. If you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    Reasons To Be - In Memory of Jimmy Watts
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person in need, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done. They say that victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most...I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    Walking In Authority International Ministry Scholarship
    At a young age, I learned the significance of community service and the important role it plays in shaping our lives. Throughout the years, I have dedicated myself to others, contributing over 50,000 hours as a volunteer. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered the path to the person I am today. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As I grew, my right leg became significantly smaller than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. After years of consultations, I found a surgeon that could help. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. I learned many lessons about discrimination over those years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces; the teen in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with; and the girl enduring countless whispers of “What’s wrong with her legs?” It is surprising how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. Although I’ll always have challenges, my disability was dramatically improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. However, after much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program and became a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Our outreach efforts extend to various places of worship, schools, and community centers, where we aim to educate and raise awareness about our program. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a visually impaired person, makes the heartache worth it. I spent years falling down from my physical disability and years of being knocked down emotionally by intolerant people because I was different. But I’ve learned that most intolerance comes from fear and not understanding. To me serving a community begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done.
    TJ Crowson Memorial Scholarship
    My interest in the field of law began at a very early age. However, it was through an uphill and arduous journey, filled with physical and emotional anguish, that I discovered my eventual career path. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, my right leg was significantly underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, and the risks were considerable. There were so many times I wanted to give up, tap out and say that’s enough. But I couldn’t. I kept hearing my father’s motivational words echoing in my head. “Victory belongs to the one that believes in it the most, you can do it Ella!” From that moment on, there was only going to be one outcome, VICTORY. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. My disability was improved. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. After much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. We visit a variety of communities sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. To me, advocating for others begins with listening and learning from people with different life circumstances than your own. Especially, those who desperately need someone to speak on their behalf. Volunteering to be a voice for underrepresented communities has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and affirmed my passion for pursuing a law degree. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. Although disability laws have come a long way over the past few decades, I believe there is a lot more work to be done. If victory truly belongs to the one that believes in it the most…I WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE!
    Barbara J. DeVaney Memorial Scholarship Fund
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder affecting my lower extremities. As a result, my right leg was significantly underdeveloped and my kneecaps would sporadically and painfully dislocate throughout the day. Thankfully, a corrective surgery existed. It would take three years, four surgeries, and months of physical therapy, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. My disability was correctable. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. But I didn’t know how. I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. After much thought, I joined The Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months teaching skills and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. And though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing these dogs will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. The Seeing Eye is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. As chapter president, the speaking events I organized exposed the daily obstacles faced by the blind community and highlighted the impact these amazing service animals provide. Volunteering to be a voice for this underrepresented community has given me a fulfillment I could never have imagined. It helped me discover who I truly am inside and has set me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career advocating for the most vulnerable among us. By seizing the opportunity to further my education, I can actively pursue my ultimate objective of advancing legislation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, I aim to drive improvements in building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations nationwide. My journey has taught me the meaning of perseverance. Though everyone said it was impossible, I became a two-time national champion for competitive cheerleading and was voted team captain my senior year. I also learned that the best way to motivate your peers is to celebrate their accomplishments, instead of pointing out their flaws like so many had done to me. My philosophy is simple: if you nurture a flame it adds light benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguish a flame and it darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! The impact this scholarship would have on my life is tremendous. During my third surgery, my health insurance carrier declared bankruptcy, leaving a stack of unpaid medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, and our family business was decimated. Worst of all, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer and lost much of his left quadricep removing the tumor. My family sacrificed everything for me during my recovery. Now it is my turn. The price of post-secondary education is at an all-time high. However, one of the many things I've learned through community service is that, in hard times, it's ok to ask for help.
    Lauren Czebatul Scholarship
    Growing up I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes, and my right leg was noticeably smaller. Due to the lack of structural integrity, my kneecaps would fully dislocate with simple leg movements and become locked out of position. The pain was blinding, and dislocations often sent me crashing to the floor. A four-part corrective surgery for my condition existed, but It would take four separate operations over a three-year period plus months of physical therapy, and the risks were considerable. The procedure involved cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which elevated the chances of severe infection and permanent paralysis. I found myself at a crossroads, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. With the unwavering support of my family, I agreed to the surgeries. Thankfully, all four operations were successful. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to help those without a medical answer to their disability. But how? I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers foster a puppy for 18 months, teaching behavior patterns and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. We also visit a wide variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers throughout the state sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for final training and are matched with a blind companion. Although it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing the impact my dogs will provide makes the heartache worth it. Looking back, I can still see that eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces, the sophomore in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with, and the humiliated teen that would unexpectedly collapse on the way to class. And I'm grateful for all of it! It made me a stronger person and has put me on a path to law school. I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career serving the most vulnerable among us. I also hope to further disability legislation regarding building, as well as, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations. Although ADA laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more work to be done. I am applying for this scholarship to alleviate as much financial burden as possible. During my second surgery, our insurance carrier, Members Health Plan NJ, had its license revoked and declared bankruptcy. The news came without warning, leaving my parents with a stack of medical bills. Soon after, Covid-19 hit, decimating the family business. But the hardest blow was my father’s cancer diagnosis. In December of 2022, they removed a large tumor known as a liposarcoma, along with much of his left quadricep muscle. The University of Alabama is an amazing institution with an amazingly high price tag. However, through my years at The seeing I, I’ve learned that in hard times it is ok to ask for help.
    Jaxon Hunter Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes, and my right leg was noticeably smaller. Lacking any structural integrity, my kneecaps would painfully dislocate up to 90 degrees and often sent me crashing to the floor. After years of consultations, I finally found a surgeon that could help. It would take four surgeries over three years, and the risks included paralysis and possible amputation. I had so much to lose if something went wrong, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. The next few years were grueling, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many of the friends I made at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward and help those without a medical solution. But how? After much thought, I turned to my love of dogs and joined the Seeing Eye program as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for 18 months, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. My chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a wide variety of churches, schools, and community centers throughout the state to promote blind awareness. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. I am commonly asked, "how can you give back your dog after 18 months?" Yes, it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, however, knowing they will provide independence to someone previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. Today I serve as the local chapter president for the Seeing Eye. My duties include running weekly meetings and organizing community outreach events from Atlantic City to Manhattan. It is truly a labor of love. Lifting up those around you comes in many forms. As captain of the varsity cheerleading team, part of my leadership role was to create a safe and trusting environment. It is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. A strong team bond is not achieved by making teammates feel inferior. Instead, I find celebrating their accomplishments pushes each squad member to do their best. Nurturing a flame adds light, benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguishing a flame detracts and darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! The feeling of being discriminated against, because of a congenital disability, still burns within me. That is why I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. I hope to improve the quality of life for those experiencing similar mistreatment. My goal is to further disability legislation regarding building codes for both new and existing construction, as well as, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations. Although ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Gourmet Foods International Culinary Scholarship
    As an Italian American, I grew up in a family steep in long-held traditions. But if you were to ask me which one had the biggest impact on my life it would definitely be Sunday dinner. Sunday gravy, as we call it, is my favorite part of the week. There's something special about waking to the aroma of a fresh pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove. The hardest part is waiting for my mother to walk away so I can dip in a piece of semolina and steal a quick taste of perfection. Throughout my childhood, I found myself engrossed in stories told around the dinner table about past relatives and decades gone by. My grandfather, a prolific storyteller, can paint pictures with his words describing the journey of my ancestors transitioning from the life they left behind in Italy to one of prosperity in America. Story after story, I hung on his every syllable and always wanted to hear more. What is it about sitting down with those closest to you and sharing a meal? It is a tradition that goes back millennia and is repeated day after day. Yet we never seem to tire of it. Is it simply the requirement to fuel our bodies? Or the human need for intellectual stimulation? Is it the longing to feel connected to something greater than ourselves? Or is it simply encoded in our DNA? Perhaps, it's because eating is not just a necessity. It's an essential part of our daily routine that nourishes every cell of our body. We all understand how important food is to the quality of our lives. That is why we choose this moment of the day to gather with the people most important to us. For me, Sunday gravy is not only about getting together with your loved ones. It is repeating the same weekly ritual exactly as the ancestors who came before me did. In a way, we are honoring their tireless efforts by passing on the tradition they worked so hard to preserve. Historically, the tomato was not a dietary staple in Italian cuisine. In Avelino, the region my family comes from, dishes mainly consisted of olive oil and cheese. Italian-American immigrants could not afford imported goods when they first arrived in America, so they made use of what they could grow in their gardens or purchase from local vendors. This innovative substitution ushered in an entirely new culinary cuisine and changed the way the world eats pasta to this day. Now while we all enjoy consuming our favorite meals we cannot leave out the part equally as important, preparing the meal from scratch. Some would argue the prep is better than the meal itself. Sweating the onions and garlic, browning the meats, rolling out the pasta, and meticulously stirring the sauce for hours so it all comes together just right. Preparing the meal is that special time spent between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. grandparents and grandchildren, all passing on the culture through the love of cooking. The power of the family meal has stood the test of time connecting us all through memories of joy and laughter. Through food, the women in my family have forged unbreakable bonds spanning many generations, all because they never forget the secret ingredient...LOVE! I've learned many lessons in the kitchen, most of which extend far beyond the culinary arts. I come from a long line of great chefs, my mother included. And that is a baton I am proud to carry, and hopefully, one day, pass.
    Arthur and Elana Panos Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. My right leg grew slower than my left and my knee caps would sporadically dislocate up to 90 degrees, often sending me crashing to the floor. A corrective surgery existed, but it required four procedures over two years, and the risks included paralysis and possible amputation. I had much to lose if something went wrong, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. With the support of my family and my faith in God, I agreed to the surgeries. The next few years were grueling, but in the end, all four operations were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, contemplating God's plan for me, my father said "God gives you as much as you can handle Ella". At that moment I realized something. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many others at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination forward against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. I wanted to help those without a medical answer to their disability. But how? The answer would soon come in an unexpected place. One day, my godfather was taking his dog for training and asked me to tag along. The trainer noticed my rapport with the dogs and introduced himself. After hearing my story, he told me about the Seeing Eye, a philanthropic organization that raises and trains guide dogs for the blind. It was the answer I was looking for. So the next day, I became a puppy raiser. Puppy raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 14-18 months of life, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. My chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a wide variety of churches, schools, and community centers promoting disability awareness while sharing knowledge of our program. I am commonly asked, "how can you give back your dog after 18 months?" I have successfully raised two dogs for the Seeing Eye, and it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye. However, knowing the dogs I raised will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. Living with a faithful purpose comes in many forms. Today, I am the captain of the varsity cheerleading team. Part of my leadership role is to create a safe and trusting environment. It is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. A strong team bond is not achieved by making teammates feel inferior. Instead, I find celebrating their accomplishments pushes each squad member to do their best. Nurturing a flame adds light, benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguishing a flame detracts and darkens the experience for all. I say, let there be light! Over the years, I visited dozens of communities where I learned just how many disabled Americans are in need of help. Personally witnessing the everyday difficulty in which they navigate a world clearly not designed for them was life-changing. Because of these experiences, I have decided to pursue a career in law. My goal is to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. Although ADA laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Students for Animal Advocacy Scholarship
    For me, animal advocacy is extremely personal. Growing up I was surrounded by the love of multiple dogs. But one, in particular, would change my life and career path forever. For most of my life, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. My right leg grew slower than my left and my kneecaps would sporadically dislocate up to 90 degrees. A four-part corrective surgery existed, but it would take three years to complete and the risks included possible amputation. I had much to lose but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. Thankfully, all four operations were successful. Lying in bed in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. Many at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds was truly inspiring. I soon felt a calling to pay it forward. I wanted to help those without a medical answer to their disability. But how? After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined The Seeing Eye as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers foster a puppy for 18 months, teaching behavior patterns and commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands and host community events to promote blind awareness. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and are matched with a blind companion. Though it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye, knowing they will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. My second guide dog named Masse impacted my life journey forever. We visited many underrepresented communities together where I learned just how many disabled Americans are in need of help. These experiences with Masse inspired me to become a disability attorney. I have decided to spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. After my final surgery, I spent every day at physical therapy relearning how to walk, with Masse by my side every step of the way. I shortened my recovery time by almost a year, reclaimed my spot on the cheer team, was inducted into the National Honor Society, and finished in the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. Weeks passed and I was down to my final days with Masse. We had one last event planned, the annual Manhattan Walk. I was finally strong enough to attend, but unfortunately, it was canceled due to Covid. Sulking in my chair, Masse nudged me with his nose, as he so often did. He looked at me as if to say, WE'RE GOING! I raced downstairs, grabbed his vest, and we were on our way. We walked the city streets undeterred by the flashing lights, the honking traffic, and the subway rumbling below our feet. Nothing phased Masse. He was perfect! Approaching the Empire State Building, Masse tucked to my side and sat. As we looked up at the iconic skyscraper, I remembered every accomplishment we achieved and every hurdle we overcame to arrive at this perfect moment in time. I was supposed to be preparing Masse for his next chapter in life, but instead, he was preparing me for mine. Looking into his soft brown eyes, I knew Masse would fulfill his destiny… And so would I. "We made it Masse", I said. "We both made it!"
    Michael Rudometkin Memorial Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. My right leg grew slower than my left and my knee caps would sporadically dislocate up to 90 degrees, often sending me crashing to the floor. A corrective surgery existed, but it required four procedures over two years, and the risks included paralysis and possible amputation. I had much to lose if something went wrong, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. The next few years were grueling, but thankfully, the four operations and physical rehabilitation programs were successful. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. I wanted to help those without a medical answer to their disability. But how? After much thought, I decided to join The Seeing Eye as a guide dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with public transportation and everyday errands like grocery shopping or dining at a restaurant. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. Our mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. My chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit various churches, schools, and community centers, educating the community about our program while promoting disability awareness. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. My chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a wide variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers from Atlantic City to Manhattan sharing knowledge about our program. We encourage all attendees to come together as one to help our fellow citizens. Our speaking events educate the general public about what the blind community endures daily and how much a guide dog can change their world and provide independence. I am commonly asked, "how can you return your dog after 18 months?" I have successfully raised two guide dogs, and it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye. However, knowing the dogs I raised will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. Over the years, I visited dozens of communities where I learned just how many disabled Americans are in need of help. Witnessing the everyday difficulty in which they navigate a world clearly not designed for them was life-changing. That is why I have decided to become a disability attorney so I can spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. The feeling of being discriminated against, because of a congenital disability, still burns within me. As an attorney, I hope to improve the quality of life for thousands of disabled citizens experiencing similar mistreatment. It is my goal to further disability legislation affecting building codes, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations. Although ADA laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Olympians Academy Leadership Wings Scholarship
    Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes, and my right leg was noticeably smaller than my left. Lacking any structural integrity, my kneecaps would fully dislocate with simple leg movements and become locked out of position. The pain was blinding, and dislocations often sent me crashing to the floor. I learned many lessons about discrimination over the years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the humiliated teen that would collapse without warning on the way to class. I endured countless whispers of “what’s wrong with her legs” and was excluded from social and extracurricular activities. You would be very surprised at how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. After years of consultations, I finally found a surgeon that could help. It would take four surgeries over three years, and the risks included paralysis and possible amputation. I had so much to lose if something went wrong, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. Thankfully, all four surgeries were successful. During recovery, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many of my friends at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me. I felt a responsibility to pay it forward and help those without a medical answer to their disability. But how? After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined the Seeing Eye as a dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. I am commonly asked, "how can you return your dog after so much time together?" Yes, it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye. However, knowing the dogs I raised will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. I've learned that discrimination and exclusion come in many forms. Today, I am the captain of the varsity cheerleading team. Part of my leadership role is to ensure my teammates feel safe. It is very easy for the more athletic girls to rundown those with a lower skill set or, worse yet, body type. As the team leader, I motivate the older girls to empower their less accomplished teammates through positive reinforcement. Celebrating accomplishments pushes each squad member to do their very best. Nurturing a flame adds light, benefiting everyone who surrounds it. Extinguishing a flame detracts and darkens the environment for all. I say, let there be light! The feeling of being discriminated against, because of a congenital disability, still burns within me. That is why I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. I hope to improve the quality of life for those experiencing similar mistreatment. Although ADA laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Pet Lover Scholarship
    Growing up I was surrounded by the love of multiple dogs. But one, in particular, changed my life and career path forever. For most of my life, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes, and my right leg was noticeably smaller than my left. Due to the lack of structural integrity, my kneecaps would fully dislocate with simple leg movements and become locked out of position. The pain was blinding, and dislocations often sent me crashing to the floor. I learned many lessons about discrimination over the years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces, the humiliated teen that would collapse without warning in the hallway with an unexpected dislocation, and the girl in a wheelchair that is too embarrassing for “friends” to socialize with. I endured countless whispers of “what’s wrong with her legs”. Friends left my life as fast as they entered and I was excluded from social and extracurricular activities. You would be very surprised at how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. After years of consultations, I finally found a surgeon that could help. It would take four surgeries over three years, and the risks included severe infection and possible amputation. I had so much to lose if something went wrong, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. Thankfully, all four surgeries were successful. During recovery, there was a lot of time to think. It is depressing watching your peers post photos of a typical high school experience. But lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many of my friends at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me to pay it forward. I wanted to help those without a medical answer to their disability. But how? I was confined to a wheelchair and could barely take care of myself. After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined the Seeing Eye as a dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. Our county chapter is diverse in all ages, races, and religions. We visit various churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers from Atlantic City to Manhattan promoting blind awareness. Our speaking events educate the public about what the blind community endures daily and how much a guide dog can change their world and provide independence. I am commonly asked, "how can you give back your dog after so much time together?" I have successfully raised two dogs for the Seeing Eye, and it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye. However, knowing they will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. My second guide dog was a very special German Shepherd named Masse. He was a "once in a lifetime" dog. That loyal soul who is forever at your side and the best friend you want to take wherever you go. Our work with the Seeing Eye outreach programs brought us to dozens of communities where I learned just how many disabled Americans are in need of help. Personally witnessing the everyday difficulty in which they navigate a world that was clearly not designed for them was life-changing. Because of these experiences with Masse, I have decided to pursue a career in law. My goal is to become a disability attorney and spend my life fighting for the most vulnerable among us. Recovering from surgery, I had two goals. The first was getting back to school in person and reclaiming my spot on the cheer team. The second was preparing Masse for his call back to the Seeing Eye. I spent every day at physical therapy relearning how to walk, with Masse by my side every step of the way. I shortened my recovery time by almost a year, reclaimed my spot on the team, and was inducted into the National Honor Society with a 4.0 GPA. Mission #1 accomplished. Weeks passed and I was down to my final days with Masse. We had one last Seeing Eye event planned, the annual Manhattan Walk. I was finally strong enough to attend, but unfortunately, it was canceled due to Covid. Sulking in my chair, Masse nudged me with his nose, as he so often did. He looked at me as if to say, get your coat, WE'RE GOING! I raced down the stairs, grabbed his vest, and we were on our way. We walked the city streets undeterred by the flashing lights, the honking traffic, and the subway rumbling below our feet. Nothing phased Masse. He was perfect! Approaching the Empire State Building, Masse tucked to my side and sat. As we looked up at the iconic skyscraper, a sea of memories washed over me. I remembered every accomplishment we achieved and every hurdle we overcame to arrive at this perfect moment in time. And I saw the irony. I was supposed to be preparing Masse for his next chapter in life, but all the while he was preparing me for mine. Looking into his soft brown eyes, I knew Masse would fulfill his destiny… And so would I. "We made it Masse," I said. "We both made it."
    Alexis Potts Passion Project Scholarship
    I discovered my passion for helping others at an early age. Growing up, I did not have full use of my legs. I was born with a connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. As a result, I could not fully straighten my legs or point my toes, and my right leg was noticeably smaller than my left. Lacking and structural integrity, my kneecaps would fully dislocate with simple leg movements and become locked out of position. The pain was blinding, and dislocations often sent me crashing to the floor. I learned many lessons about discrimination over the years. I was the eight-year-old cheerleader with bulky knee braces and the humiliated teen that would collapse without warning on the way to class. I endured countless whispers of “what’s wrong with her legs” and was excluded from social and extracurricular activities. You would be very surprised at how cruel people can be when they have only known a life of health and privilege. After years of consultations, I finally found a surgeon that could help. It would take four surgeries over three years, and the risks included paralysis and possible amputation. I had so much to lose if something went wrong, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. Thankfully, all four surgeries were successful. During recovery, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many of my friends at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds inspired me. I felt a responsibility to pay it forward and help those without a medical answer to their disability. But how? After much thought, I turned to my love of animals and joined the Seeing Eye as a dog raiser. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for the first 18 months of life, teaching behavior patterns and handler commands specific to guide dogs. In addition, we familiarize the pups with everyday errands such as grocery shopping and riding public transportation. Once proficient, the dogs are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. I am commonly asked, "how can you return your dog after so much time together?" Yes, it was gut-wrenching to say goodbye. However, knowing the dogs I raised will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. My chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a wide variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers throughout the state sharing knowledge about our program while promoting blind awareness. Today I serve as chapter president. My duties include running weekly meetings and organizing community outreach events from Atlantic City to Manhattan. The feeling of being discriminated against, because of a congenital disability, still burns within me. That is why I have decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. I hope to improve the quality of life for those experiencing similar mistreatment. It is my goal to further disability legislation regarding building codes for both new and existing construction, as well as, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations. Although ADA laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more work to be done.
    Second Chance Scholarship
    For most of my life, the change I wanted to make was being able to walk and run like everyone else. I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. As a result, my right leg was noticeably smaller, and my kneecaps would sporadically dislocate, often sending me crashing to the floor. After years of searching, I found a surgeon in Boston that could help. It would take four surgeries over two years, and the risks were considerable. The procedures required cutting across growth plates and transplanting cadaver tendons, which increased the chances of infection and possible amputation. If something went wrong, I had so much to lose, but I knew this was my best chance at a "normal" life. Thankfully, the surgeries were successful, and I can now walk, run and function like I always dreamed I would. During recovery, there is a lot of time to think. Almost too much. It is depressing to sit on the sideline of life watching your peers enjoy a typical high school experience. But, lying in my hospital bed, I realized something. I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many of the kids I met at the children's hospital would not be as fortunate. Their determination against unbeatable odds was truly inspiring. I soon felt a calling to pay it forward. I wanted to help those in my community without a medical answer to their disability. But how? I was confined to a wheelchair and didn't know where to begin. The answer would soon present itself in an unexpected place. One day, my uncle was taking his dog to a training session and asked me to tag along. The trainer noticed my rapport with the dogs and introduced himself. After hearing my story, he told me about the Seeing Eye, a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. It was the answer I was looking for! The next day, I joined the Seeing Eye as a guide dog raiser. Dog raisers volunteer to foster a puppy for their first 18 months of life, teaching behavior patterns and commands specific to guide dogs. Once proficient, they are called back for their final training and matched with a blind companion. My mission is to help those in need regain the personal independence most take for granted. My chapter is diverse from all ages, races, and religions. We visit a wide variety of churches, synagogues, schools, and community centers from Atlantic City to Manhattan sharing knowledge about our program. In addition, we organize group field trips to familiarize the pups with public transportation and the sights, smells, and sounds of different towns/cities. Also, our speaking events educate the general public about what the blind community endures daily and how much a guide dog can impact their world. I am commonly asked, "how can you give up your dog after 18 months?" I have raised two guide dogs, and it is gut-wrenching to say goodbye. However, knowing they will provide independence to a blind person previously excluded from everyday activities, as I once was, makes the heartache worth it. Over the years, our outreach programs brought me to dozens of communities. Witnessing the everyday difficulty in which the blind navigate a world clearly not designed for them was life-changing. So much so, that I have decided to pursue a career in law as a disability attorney. The feeling of being discriminated against because of my congenital disability still burns within me. Therefore, I will dedicate my career to protecting the most vulnerable among us.
    Bold Reflection Scholarship
    My goals and future aspirations became very clear at an early age. However, it would take a series of unexpected events to lead me to this realization. I was born with a rare connective tissue disorder affecting the development of my lower extremities. As a result, my right leg was noticeably smaller, and my kneecaps would sporadically dislocate, often sending me crashing to the floor. Thankfully, I found a surgeon that could help. It took two years and four surgeries, but I can now walk, run and function normally. Lying in my hospital bed, I realized I was lucky. My disability had a cure. Many at the children's hospital were not as fortunate. Their will to press forward against unbeatable odds inspired me to give back. So I became a member of the Seeing Eye, a philanthropic organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. I have successfully raised two Seeing Eye dogs and participated in outreach programs through NJ. Personally viewing the everyday difficulty in which the blind navigate through a world clearly not designed for them was life-changing. That is when I decided to become a disability attorney and spend my career fighting for the most vulnerable among us. I have been accepted to the University of Alabama, where I will study business and criminal justice. The feeling of being discriminated against because of a congenital disability still burns within me. I hope to improve the quality of life for those experiencing similar mistreatment. It is my goal to improve disability legislation regarding building codes for both new and existing construction, as well as, employment opportunities, government programs, and mass transit accommodations. Although ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws have progressed over the past two decades, I believe there is much more to accomplish.