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2016 National Scholarship Winners Announced

TLG’s National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families at Through the Looking Glass announced the fifteen winners of its 2016 College Scholarships for Students of Parents with Disabilities. Over 300 students from across the U.S. applied for these scholarships. Scholarship winners include those whose mother or father has a disability as well as those families in which both parents have disabilities.

Scholarships have been awarded to the following students: Olivia Beck (hometown: Palmer, AK; attending the University of Redlands); Ariauna Carver (St. Louis, MO; Lincoln University of Missouri); Elizabeth Daley (Newport News, VA; Emory University); Sheila Doll (Broomfield, CO; University of Rochester); Jenna Hammond (Manvel, TX; Mount Holyoke University); Julia Hensley (Waco, TX; Harding University); Da Jung Kim (Tampa FL; Emory University); Annalise Lowy (Shrewsbury, MA; University of Massachusetts, Lowell); Jonathan May (Elmhurst, IL; Bradley University); Sarah McAlister (Fort Wayne, IN; Indiana University); Jenna McKeown (Centreville, VA; Virginia Tech); Avalon Mercado (Wilbraham, MA; Hampshire College); Alexandra O’Brien (Fort Collins, CO; Michigan State University); Katherine Sakelariou (Safety Harbor, FL; Shawnee State University); and Maria Zahajko (Lake Forest Park, WA; University of Washington). Click on the student’s name to read her or his essay.

Each award is a $1,000 college scholarship for an outstanding high school senior or college student who has at least one parent with a disability. Selection criteria included academic performance, community service, letters of recommendation and an essay describing the experience of growing up with a parent with a disability. Students applying for these scholarships included those with parents who were quadriplegic, blind, deaf, amputees, as well as parents with spinal cord injury, cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, mental illness, ALS, HIV/AIDS, traumatic brain injury, muscular dystrophy or intellectual disability. As one of several projects of the National Center, these scholarships are primarily funded through the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (Grant #90DP0014). NIDLIRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In their essays, the winning students describe the routine, remarkable and sometimes difficult stories of parents with disabilities and their children. Despite the wide variation in parental disability and other demographic features among scholarship applicants, several consistent themes emerged that have been documented over the years by Through the Looking Glass in national research studies: the normalcy of growing up with a parent with a disability, and the resilience and strength of these families despite social and financial obstacles.

There are almost no scholarships for the hundreds of thousands of students who have parents with significant disabilities or medical conditions. These awards not only recognize the diversity and contributions of these families, but their financial need. U.S. families with a disabled parent are twice as likely to be below the poverty level than are families with non-disabled parents. In addition, standard college financial aid applications do not typically weigh the considerable medical or specialized equipment expenses that many parents with disabilities incur. These expenses can substantially reduce the family income by tens of thousands of dollars each year. Most of the hundreds of essays submitted for these scholarships underscore the need for increased resources and accommodations for parents with disabilities and their families throughout the U.S. Despite some progress, parents with disabilities and their families remain largely invisible in the larger society and are often left to fend for themselves with inadequate and inaccessible resources. For many families, their best and only resources are the family members themselves.

The federal grant which includes funding for these scholarships will be ending in Fall 2016. For now, there will be no scholarships for 2017 or future years. TLG’s website lists additional scholarship resources for students who have a family member with a disability as well as students who themselves have a disability: www.lookingglass.org/scholarships/51-additional-scholarship-resources.