The Hydrocephalus Association (HA) is pleased to announce the 2014 Hydrocephalus Association Scholarship Award recipients. We would like to thank everyone who applied for a scholarship and congratulate those of you who were selected this year. HA’s Scholarship program was established in 1994 to provide financial assistance to capable and promising teens, young adults and adults who live with the ongoing challenges and complexities of hydrocephalus. Since the scholarship program was established, HA has awarded 111 scholarships to 111 deserving future leaders of our community. We are proud to honor these remarkable young adults. In addition to successfully managing their hydrocephalus, these students continue to excel in the classroom, volunteer and give back to help their local communities, and inspire their peers and all of us, demonstrating that hydrocephalus does not stand in the way of pursuing one’s goals.
These eight scholarships were funded by two Gerard Swartz Fudge Memorial Scholarship Funds, two Morris L. and Rebecca Ziskind Memorial Scholarship Funds, two Anthony Abbene Scholarship Funds, the Justin Scot Alston Memorial Scholarship Fund, and the Mario J. Tocco Hydrocephalus Foundation Scholarship Fund.
We are very grateful to the funders for making these scholarships possible each year and to the Scholarship Committee for all their time, support and dedication.
Congratulations 2014 Scholarship Recipients!
Recipient of the Anthony Abbene Scholarship Funds
“I have realized that hydrocephalus does not define who I am. I don’t take anything for granted anymore, and I am a stronger person because of my experience.”
Nicole will be attending Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL, where she intends to obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in nursing. Following graduation, she would like to work at a Children’s Hospital on a pediatric neuroscience floor. Through her personal experiences with hydrocephalus and epilepsy, Nicole will be able to bring a unique quality of care to her patients. “I hope to inspire, educate, and care for families who are impacted by hydrocephalus. I also hope to provide a unique perspective for my fellow clinicians,” she shares.
Born prematurely, Nicole has been defying all expectations doctors have put upon her since she came into this world. “Even though I was extremely small, I was a fighter,“says Nicole. In 2012, she underwent more than ten surgeries due to complications with her shunt and endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV), and she began having non-epileptic seizures. Many people would give up, but she continues to fight, rise above, and inspire those around her.
Nicole loves science, basketball, soccer, hunting for deer and spending time with family and friends. She is a voracious reader and her favorite series of novels are the Harry Potter books. Nicole also enjoys volunteering; she participates in the Greater New England Hydrocephalus Association WALK, the Boston, Massachusetts Hydrocephalus Association Community Network and helps at her church’s Sunday school. Her favorite day of the week is Tuesday because a group she organized, Lunch Bunch, meets with four special needs young adults, to provide socialization skills for them.
Following college, Nicole hopes to form a support group for young adults with hydrocephalus in her area. She reflects, “I hope to be a person who will ignite change and forward thinking, and to be an advocate for the hydrocephalus community at large.”
Recipient of the Mario J. Tocco Hydrocephalus Foundation Scholarship Fund
“As a person living with hydrocephalus, I primarily want one thing: a cure, or at least a better treatment than the existing shunts and procedures. However, in order to eventually reach a goal of getting those things, we need more funding for awareness, education, and research. In order to get funding, people need to be educated on the condition. We need money and recognition.“
Olivia has been accepted at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN, where she will be majoring in Communications and minoring in Psychology. When asked about her educational and career goals for the future, she states, “My main goal in both education and my career is to enjoy what I do, and be successful in making a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth, Olivia also has epilepsy, chiari malformation, slit ventricle syndrome (SVS), negative pressure hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and some learning disabilities. Many doctors refer to Olivia as being “too complex.” Even though she has spent the majority of her life in the hospital, enduring over ninety brain surgeries, she continues to maintain a positive attitude. Living life to the fullest and never letting hydrocephalus define her. “Hydrocephalus does not define me, or my life. I have become a better, more mature person who appreciates everything in life so much more because of my experiences,” she shares.
Olivia is a competitive swimmer, participates in weight training and condition programs, and plays adapted sports year round, including, soccer, floor hockey and softball. She loves all sports, except for golf, and she is a member of the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota Youth Advisory Council (YAC). Through YAC, Olivia participates in photo shoots, commercials, conferences, speaking opportunities and fundraising as an advocate for all children and the hospital. Through her involvement, Olivia secured a summer internship at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota where she will be working on the marketing, advocacy and communication side of the hospital business. Her hope is to make the hospital and community better.
Olivia and her family have participated in their local Twin Cities, Minnesota Hydrocephalus Association WALK, the National Conference on Hydrocephalus, and the association’s 2012 Advocacy Day. These events have given Olivia an opportunity to build and establish relationships. Olivia reminds the hydrocephalus community that they are more than their condition, stating “I am living with hydrocephalus, but hydrocephalus is not who I am.”
Recipient of the Gerard Swartz Fudge Memorial Scholarship Fund
“When I look at myself in the mirror, I see someone who has overcome every single challenge that has tried to throw me off course. I see someone who has become stronger because of those obstacles, yet, has also made me appreciative of the sacrifices that others have made for me throughout my life. I think I am a better, stronger, more compassionate person because of everything that I have encountered due to my Hydrocephalus. When things tend to always come easy to people in life, they seem to forget what it means to have to try, want, or wish for something, because they never had to fight for anything.“
Bret has been accepted at the Community College of Philadelphia, where he will study Diagnostic Medical Imaging and work toward receiving his certification and Associates Degree. Long term, he hopes to find employment at a local hospital where he can work with children or animals.
Bret is interested in animals and he is especially fond of dogs. He is also a fan of wrestling, likes physical fitness and working out, and is very close to his family.
Bret was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at four months of age and he has endured ten surgeries. Three of his surgeries occurred in a matter of two weeks due to a shunt infection, resulting in a brain injury. This left him with left hemiparesis and hemisensory abnormalities. “I have permanent weakness and numbness on my left side which causes many difficulties with my fine motor skill,” he says. Bret has some developmental delays and he shares that he has always struggled in school, especially in Math and English. Nevertheless, he is driven by overcoming life’s obstacles and he does not let his condition control his life. He continues to stay focused and determined, stating, “Becoming successful doesn’t come easy, but I am willing to go the distance in order to be as successful and happy as I can be!”
Recipient of the Morris L. and Rebecca Ziskind Memorial Scholarship
“Hydrocephalus has changed who I am as a person, and my attitude towards things I see in my life.“
Wyatt has been accepted into Butte College, where he will be majoring in biology and minoring in sociology. He is very fond of genetic biology and fascinated by human behavior.
Diagnosed with hydrocephalus shortly after birth, Wyatt has undergone numerous surgeries and endures debilitating headaches. However, he does not let the pain, surgeries, or his condition hold him back. Wyatt continues to thrive and succeed, both in the classroom and in his community. He is determined to use his personal experiences to better the lives of others.
Wyatt’s time is spent volunteering for the Hydrocephalus Association (HA) and HA’s Teens Take Charge (TTC) program. Locally, he has held educational discussions about hydrocephalus in the classroom, attended local support group meetings, and he spreads awareness of hydrocephalus in his annual hometown parade, the Willows Lamb Derby, in Willows, CA. A member of the TTC Advisory Council, Wyatt has written several blogs for the TTC program and joined his peers at the 12th National Conference on Hydrocephalus, 2012 HA Advocacy Day, and the 13th National Conference on Hydrocephalus. He is a skilled runner and he enjoys writing stories and poetry.
Wyatt’s ultimate career goal is to conduct research for a lab or for the Hydrocephalus Association. He states, “I want to work in a lab that is doing something good for the world…That is changing it for the better with biology. I hope to find some kind of cure to a disease or even dare I say find the cure to hydrocephalus that does not require a shunt.”
Recipient of the Gerard Swartz Fudge Memorial Scholarship Funds
“Knowing that the Hydrocephalus Association and support groups exist and that I’m not alone in this situation really helps as well. I know that I can always contact HA if I feel the need to talk about my situation with others or be there for someone else who is in my shoes.”
Shannon will be attending Bucks County Community College this fall. Her ultimate goal is to transfer in two years to Penn State University or Temple University where she intends to obtain a degree in Early Childhood Education.
Passionate about music, Shannon loves singing and participates in the choir. Shannon was introduced to poetry through music and she has become very fond of it. “I really enjoy reading and writing poetry. I use it as a way to release stress and a way to express my feeling,“ says Shannon. She is also part of Operation Eternal Gratitude (OEG) and models with Conway Productions Inc. (CPI). Through modeling, she has gained self-confidence, stating, “Modeling got me to come out from beneath the shell where I used to hide from social situations. This is the one activity that has certainly changed my life for the better.”
Prior to being diagnosed with hydrocephalus, Shannon struggled in school and at home. Basic tasks such as following more than one instruction at a time or paying attention at school were daily challenges. She reflects, “I constantly wondered what was wrong with me…” Following her diagnosis, Shannon’s doctor performed an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) to help relieve the pressure in her brain. The procedure was a success, but unfortunately, her short term memory challenges are permanent.
Even though Shannon continues to struggle with short term memory difficulties, she does not let this stand in the way of achieving her education. Through the years, Shannon has found ways to cope, and developed different techniques and accommodations that would more easily allow her to be a successful student. Since Shannon’s diagnosis she has made the honor roll almost every year. Shannon shows us that with hard work, determination and support, one can accomplish anything they put their mind to. “I am living proof that you can succeed in school and life with hydrocephalus and I want to share that with the world.”
Recipient of the Justin Scot Alston Memorial Scholarship Fund
“Living with hydrocephalus is quite challenging, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.“
Sara is a second year college student at Trident Technical College at Palmer Campus, where she is majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). Using her personal experiences with hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy, she intends to obtain a job at a travel agency so she can help people with physical limitations plan their trips and vacations.
Sara was diagnosed with congenital hydrocephalus prenatally. Throughout the course of her life she has had to undergo numerous surgeries and she suffers from headaches. Even with these challenges, she remains an honor student, volunteers at the South Carolina Aquarium, and advocates for people with physical limitations. Sara shares, “I enjoy sharing my story in order to help and inspire others who are in my similar situation.“
Sara has many hobbies and interests, including, swimming, kayaking, creative writing, traveling, singing and listening to music, and studying Latin and neuroscience. When asked how she would help others with hydrocephalus, Sara states, “I encourage everyone with my condition to reach for the stars and persevere; our dreams have potential to become a reality.“
Recipient of the Anthony Abbene Scholarship Funds
“Prior to hearing about HA, I really didn’t know too much about hydrocephalus. But then I decided to do the WALK which has completely changed my life.”
Dylan has been accepted into Alexandria Technical College located in Central Minnesota. He hopes to complete his basic courses and obtain an Associates Degree in Marketing. Following undergraduate school, Dylan intends to apply to a state college to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. He aspires to own his own company.
Dylan was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at two months of age. Throughout the years he has suffered from excruciating headaches and “it has limited which sports I can play,” says Dylan. He also explains that the condition has not only impacted his life, but his family’s lives as well. “…I can’t even count the times that my parents have had to take off of work.” Even though hydrocephalus has brought its fair share of challenges, Dylan has chosen to use his unique experiences to help others who are dealing with the daily emotions and stress of living with a chronic condition. “Through my story, I want to teach the general public about hydrocephalus and I would also like to help find a cure,” says Dylan.
In Dylan’s junior year of high school he organized the first Anoka Hydro River WALK for his school in Minnesota. This year, he has decided to Co-Chair the Twin Cities, Minnesota Hydrocephalus Association WALK. Outside of school and volunteering, Dylan likes to do anything involving sports, the outdoors, and his family and friends. In the winter he and his family often snowmobile, play broom-ball or hockey. While in the summer, they spend most of their time four-wheeling or jet skiing.
Recipient of the Morris L. and Rebecca Ziskind Memorial Scholarship
“My conditions – Hydrocephalus, Chiari, and Syringomyelia – can change me, but my illnesses will never define me.”
Katie will begin classes this fall at Neumann University to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.
An all-around athlete, Katie competes in swimming, track and field, and field hockey. She takes art classes, plays the guitar, and is passionate about helping others through community service. Katie has also been an active Girl Scout for several years.
Born with hydrocephalus, syringomyelia, and a chiari malformation, Katie has undergone approximately eight surgeries. While in kindergarten, Katie had a chiari decompression. She reflects, “While kids my age were in kindergarten class, coloring with crayons and playing with each other, I was in a hospital in too much pain to move at times.“ Katie cannot change the deck of cards she has been dealt, but she also doesn’t want to, sharing, “I like having my conditions because it has made me into the person I am today.”
An active volunteer for the hydrocephalus community, Katie has participated in WALK events, the National Conference on Hydrocephalus, and support group meetings.