Congratulations to the 2016-2017 scholarship winners

Shannon C.

“Having juvenile idiopathic arthritis has allowed me to appreciate the early challenges I faced throughout life and reflect on the opportunity it has provided for me: whether that is raising money for the annual Jingle Bell Run or working as a camp counselor, I have been able to incorporate a large part of my life into momentous volunteer and leadership experiences. I have transformed what was once considered a crippling disease into a source of strength and motivation for me to accomplish the goals I have set for myself as a person and a student.”

Sarah C.

“Since I was two years old and learning to read, I used books and writing to absolve myself of a painful and confusing dissonance in my body. Literary experience heals the wound of my arthritis without undermining the unique privilege of living with, empathizing with, and having to the opportunity to advocate for the disabled. Every human, whether disabled or not, has a unique story, and when you can use literature to express that story, you begin a process of healing, self-actualization - and yes, even inspiration - that can literally permeate through generations.”

Jackie C.

“My long journey to diagnosis has challenged me both physically and emotionally. Through it all, I’ve fought to keep a learning mindset. Because of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), I turned my personal challenges into opportunities to challenge the status quo. AS has given me the strength to conquer the world.”

Sara C.

“My lobbying was a success in more ways than one. I was very proud when my Congressman agreed to co-sponsor the bills that would improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with arthritis. And just as importantly to me, my experience in D.C. made me realize that I would want to dedicate my life to helping people and advocating for those in need. Arthritis may be my biggest foe, but the opportunities that is has given me and the friendships and experiences I have gained have enriched my life.”

Bridgette D.

“It has been a strenuous yet undeniably rewarding journey to have endured psoriatic arthritis since I was eleven years old. With the strengthened persistence and tenacity that I’ve accrued in living with this illness and just as I refused to let pain and stiffness hold me back in high school, I shall persevere in my future studies. Arthritis is a draining, unrelenting force that shows no bias in who it chooses, but those that do not let it overcome them have unconquerable possibility.”

Rachel F.

“I was thirteen when I was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), and it hit me like a train. My developing dreams crumbled before my eyes as this nightmare unfolded. JIA posed a life-defining choice for me—to live at the mercy of a disease, or to overcome it. All trials offer two approaches. Victims and victors are decided in the moment a mentality is chosen. JIA continues to be a horrifying challenge, but it has given me the opportunity to be the victor—to learn that I am intrinsically capable, beautiful regardless, and eternally valuable. Today I look steadily in the face of hardship and tell it with certainty, ‘I can.’”

Nicole H.

“The advice I would give to anyone in school with a rheumatic condition is that your condition defines you, and you should allow it. However, there is a catch. You are not defined by what your condition does to you, you are defined by what it does for you. You are not defined by how far you can run on the basketball court, how you might need assistance taking your notes, how often you miss class, or by how many times you have to cancel plans with your friends. Living with a rheumatic condition will offer you more opportunities than you can anticipate, teaching you lessons such as patience, compassion, and resourcefulness. The qualities you gain and the lessons you learn because of your condition should be what define you. Find people to be your strength when you feel you don’t have any left to give, and always focus on what you can do as opposed to what you cannot.”

Christina I.

“Schooling Your Rheumatologic Disease
1) Make it work: This is the most important piece of advice I have to offer. There are always accommodations to help you participate in activities, just like your peers.
2) Know thy self: You also have to know your limitations, it’s a skill.
3) Ask for help: There are people who can help you, you only have to ask.
4) Let it go: Sometimes, you will be in ridiculous situations where you have to ask for help. These things you just have to laugh about.
5) Have fun: Despite what your body thinks, you’re only young once!”

Timothy L.

“Persistent is the one word to describe my journey through life since I was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis in 6th grade. Through my struggles with pain and fatigue I have become a more persistent person. I understand how to endure, yet overcome this suffering. I have learned to be persistent in finding new and creative ways to study since my disease does not allow me to sit in a chair for more than an hour. I have learned the ability to endure and understand suffering, how to strive toward high goals and accomplish them. Living with juvenile arthritis has taught me that persistence is the key to success.”

Kristine M.

“My advice: No plan is failed; it is changed for the better. Rheumatoid arthritis causes disruptions in short and long-term plans. In daily life, I experience unexpected symptom exacerbations that force me to treat my body with a gentler pace. In my broader life, I am stymied by stigma and the public’s lack of knowledge of what I am capable of doing. I now focus my efforts on advocating for individuals with rheumatic disease. While this was not my original plan, I am confident that this role is the best use of my skills and personal experiences, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help others like me pursue their dreams unhindered by the label of disease.”

Mikayla M.

“When my family and I were invited to attend the annual Advocacy Conference with the Arthritis Foundation I was still not completely as ease telling my story to others. However, as the day went on I became more comfortable speaking up, and since then I’ve had the confidence to share my story with others in the community. This led to the most impactful opportunity I have received; being invited by my Congresswoman to speak in front of the United States Congress. I had the opportunity to speak for the 300,000 children who did not have the same chance to tell their own story. I’ve been able to turn challenges that I face into opportunities because of the confidence I’ve acquired through events like this. Sometimes the thing that is most challenging is finding the silver lining and keeping a positive outlook when you’re faced with a rheumatologic disease.”

Anna R.

“I felt so alone, scared, and victimized when I was first adjusting to my diagnosis - completely alienated from my peers and friends, always wondering why I had to go through the pain. But through the pain, I’ve been able to touch so many lives by speaking at my local Arthritis Walk, helping young kids cope with their disease, and offering support to those going through the same thing as me.”

Rachel S.

“Walking is hard. Sitting is hard. Holding a book and washing my hair and going to sleep are hard. It has definitely not been the "college experience" everyone reminisces on. But for those coming to college, I promise there is still tangible, sparkling, existing hope. Hope to have genuine friendships that take care of you when you’re hurting. Hope to have such an amazing time that you’re left speechless. Hope to succeed in your classes and to hold positions in clubs, and to not let this disability define you. You can prove to this bully of arthritis that all of your doors of opportunity are still open, and just because of him, you’re going to zealously run through them.”

Brooke W.

“Living with juvenile arthritis for the past decade, I have realized that I am capable of achieving anything I set my mind to. I am a person who refuses to accept mediocrity and will do whatever it takes to reach my fullest potential. This disease has taken so much from me over the years, but it has also given me an amazing opportunity - the chance to help others reach their fullest potential. Since 2012 I have been mentoring other children and teens with arthritis, assisting them in their own journeys, and I cannot imagine doing anything else.”

Chandler Y.

“Rheumatoid arthritis has taught me many important life lessons, particularly the value of living a meaningful life in the midst of struggle. Through the downsides I have faced with my disease, I have learned not to let the experience of pain lead me because though I have arthritis, it doesn’t have me. I won’t ever let it hold me back from accomplishing my dreams.”

Julian A.

“At the beginning of my junior year, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I was at a crossroads; I faced the decision to live my life as defined and limited by this disease or take back control of my life. I chose to let my disease empower me, and I turned towards the opportunity to help others with IBD.”

Patricia A.

“Conversations with two strangers with IBD first made me recognize that I could use my diagnosis as a connector, rather than a definer. With each smile I share with a fellow IBD patient, I see that my greatest strength is my desire to share optimism through our network of advocates and friends. This infinite, collective strength gives voice to the tenacity within myself that allows me to minimize my daily struggles as I focus on our global fight for a cure.”

Jacqueline C.

“Now I was facing the biggest blockade of all, four exams and surgery. It was then I realized that life’s most challenging moments give me the opportunity to see how strong I can be. I now see Crohn’s disease differently. I’ve learned it is not a blockade, it is a hurdle I occasionally have to jump over. The more often you jump, the higher you go.”

Lakmal E.

“Some inspirational advice I would give others living with IBD would be to take every day as a new start and regardless of the struggles or hardships, try your best. In high school or college, you will face numerous academic obstacles, so I recommend that you embrace this challenge and look for this opportunity to better yourself and get over that hurdle. All of us were put on this earth for a reason and I believe having IBD is a gift because of our influence on those around us.”

Karleigh G.

“I had my whole life planned out in second grade so you can imagine my devastation when my Crohn’s disease diagnosis in fourth grade impacted the path I had set for myself. With my original plan out the window, I chose a new challenge. Living with Crohn’s has taught me to persevere when adversity strikes. It’s taught me to stand up tall and face challenges head on.”

John G.

“Through two half-marathons with Team Challenge, not only have I raised nearly $17,000 for an IBD cure, but I have seen myself grow as a human being. I have met many people affected by IBD who have shown me I shouldn’t shame myself for running slowly, but I should be proud for completing such a challenge with Crohn’s. I may not be the fastest runner on the cross country team or the lacrosse player with the most goals, but I come back every year and face the challenges ahead of me.”

Joshua G.

“As I grew older, I comprehended that I could either be a victim of a lifelong disease, or part of its solution. I realized that my Crohn’s was providing me with an opportunity to make a difference.”

Julia G.

“Inspired by my doctor’s scientific and humanistic brilliance, I pursued experiences to explore what constitutes a strong doctor-patient relationship. Through such experiences, I have developed an understanding that familial support, education, and empowerment play an important role in positive health outcomes.”

Chloe G.

“My leadership in the Crohn’s community has given me strength and perspective; I realize that life is only as good as one makes it. Fortunately, having Crohn’s changed my outlook on life for the better and has given me the rewarding experience of helping others.”

Nikki H.

“The experience of being a patient provided me with an unparalleled understanding of the power of medicine, as well as the impact physicians have on the everyday lives of their patients. This novel perception of what it meant to be a physician served as the primary source of my attraction to a career as one. My diagnosis with Crohn’s disease was a blessing in disguise, because it ultimately taught me how to turn adversity into opportunity.”

Jamie H.

“After years of dealing with life-altering symptoms, I welcome my diagnosis and now share my passion for nutrition, exercise, and healthy living not only to those with IBD, but also to the general population. On my blog, I share my journey and passion to empower my readers that they too can take control of their lives, feel well, and improve their health.”

Balram P.

“With Crohn’s, there’s a lot out of your control. There’s only one thing you can control - your attitude. Keep a positive attitude.”

Emily R.

“The mornings I’m too sick to get out of bed become perfect days to brainstorm new ideas for art projects. The hours of downtime due to my disease are my time to catch up on homework. When I drive from my university to my home for doctor appointments, I get to practice my off-key car singing and visit my family. Every situation has positive angles, and every obstacle is just a new challenge in need of a creative solution.”

Scott S.

“Perhaps the most surprising consequence of my diagnosis was that I learned that I am an extremely lucky person, not despite my disease, but because of it. Due to the struggles I have had to overcome, I have learned firsthand the power of remaining positive and now carry the belief that I will be able to conquer any adversity I face in the future.”

Christopher T.

“After much thinking about my disease and my outlook, I realized that my diagnosis was nothing to be ashamed of and would not hold me back.”