Announcing Our 2015 Hydrocephalus Association Scholarship Recipients!

The Hydrocephalus Association (HA) is pleased to announce the 2015 Hydrocephalus Association Scholarship 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 135 scholarships to 135 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 nine 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, the Mario J. Tocco Hydrocephalus Foundation Scholarship Fund, and the Hydrocephalus Association

We are very grateful to all the funders and the Scholarship Committee for all their support and dedication.

Congratulations 2015 Scholarship Recipients!

Margaret Wanja

Recipient of the Anthony Abbene Scholarship Funds

“I would encourage the parents to take their kids to school and support them in their future career development. I would like to raise the confidence of everyone with hydrocephalus because the future is bright… we have equal chances”Margaret-Wanja

Margaret is planning to attend Lily of the Valley special school in Nairobi, Kenya.  Being born in Nairobi, Kenya, she experienced a different childhood than most. Diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth, her parents never received the proper resources, information, or support. Most of Margaret’s childhood was spent in the hospital, however, she never lost faith that she could succeed in life. Margaret expresses, “Born in a society where any form of disability causes stigma… I want to prove to the world that disability is not inability.” Looking back, she is forever thankful to her doctor who recommended she receive treatment for her hydrocephalus. At the age of 15, Margaret had a shunt placed. The operation was successful and relieved her headaches.

Margaret intends to graduate from high school within the next two years. Following this, she aspires to join a college that offers vocational skill courses. Margaret’s ultimate career goal is to become involved with a hydrocephalus organization in Kenya.

Ksenia Grozdova

Recipient of the Morris L. and Rebecca Ziskind Memorial Scholarship

“I must admit that living with such a severe condition made my spirit stronger and it is becoming stronger every day. This defined me as a person, made me goal oriented and morally strong, and I believe that is one of the things, which helps me stay on track in science.”Ksenia-Grozdova

Ksenia is a student at the University of Manchester, where she is studying for a master’s degree in Theoretical Physics. In September 2015, she will begin school at the King’s College of London and Imperial College of London joint Centre for Doctoral Training to receive her Ph.D.  After completing her Ph.D. she would like to work to develop new ways of analysis and treatment of medical conditions, such as brain diseases and breast cancer.

Born with hydrocephalus, Ksenia also has severe muscle disease, low vision, suffers from chronic pain, and has been faced with considerable coordination and motor skills problems. Despite the obstacles, she perseveres in life.

Ksenia has worked as a volunteer at the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Society in Estonia where she assisted individuals speaking Estonian and Russian and shared information and resources. In her free time, she enjoys obtaining additional knowledge in a variety of fields ranging from “languages, programming, and application of science, to solving real-world problems.”

Wilhelmina Gilles

Recipient of the Justin Scot Alston Memorial Scholarship Fund

Wilhelmina is a student at Queen Mary’s, University of London, where she is studying drama. As a testament to her hard work and great accomplishments, she has received a conditional offer to spend her second year of studies at Berkley, University of California.Wilhelmina-(Mimi)-Gilles

Wilhelmina was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 5 months of age and has undergone four shunt revisions. Throughout her life, she has struggled with various medical complications due to the condition, including seizures, issues with hand-eye coordination, spatial and perceptual disorders, and slower cognition.  Despite this, she continues to thrive in the classroom and her personal life by finding different ways to cope and adapt on a daily basis. Wiheimina shares, “I try not to let having hydrocephalus dominate or define me, but focus more on getting the best out of life. It has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I hope to have embraced this for all that is it worth”.

Wilhelmina is an enthusiastic theatergoer. She takes pleasure in spending time with her friends, traveling, and exploring everything London has to offer. “I am lucky enough to have been to lots of different countries on holidays and have also lived abroad, in Madrid and Israel. I also have family all over the world,” says Wilhelmina

Sierra Marie Mondin

Recipient of the Mario J. Tocco Hydrocephalus Foundation Scholarship Fund

“I think the most important thing about having a preexisting condition, like hydrocephalus, is knowledge of that subject. I was only a baby when I was diagnosed and was too little to comprehend what any of it meant. As I grew older, I still didn’t take much of an interest in it and didn’t really know how to tell people what it was and I just tried to ignore it. It wasn’t until my VP shunt failed the first time that I thought, wow, this is serious stuff and I want to know more.”Sierra-Mondin

Sierra is a junior at UNC Charlotte where she will be receiving a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She plans to further her education by receiving a master’s degree in Geotechnical Engineering.

Diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 4 months of age, Sierra received a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt shortly after her diagnosis. Luckily, she has not experienced many complications except for a shunt malfunction when she was 11 years old.

Sierra describes herself as an easygoing person that enjoys the little things in life. She loves spending time with family and friends, hiking, running, and playing games. In addition, she has become very involved with various engineering organizations at her college.  She shares that they have, “….helped me meet people from different backgrounds and interests as well as helping my educational and professional career.”

Sierra’s mother passed away over a year ago. Even through this hardship, she is determined to stay positive, “I know my mom is watching over me and is proud over me and is proud of the woman I have become, despite the challenges I have encountered in my life with hydrocephalus.”

John Agar

Recipient of the Gerard Swartz Fudge Memorial Scholarship Funds

“Do I like having hydrocephalus? No, but I would not want my life in any other way. While hydrocephalus has presented me with many challenges throughout my life, it has also made me a stronger person. I know that challenges are a part of life and because I have had to face many of them, I am more confident in my ability to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of my goals.”John-Agar

John is a freshman at Aquinas College. He intends to obtain a degree in Business and Sports management. His ultimate career goal is to become a general manager for the Detroit Tiger’s.

Born prematurely his doctors discovered that he had both hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy during a routine cat scan. His doctors thought he would never walk. John’s parents exposed him to opportunities and did not set limits for him. He underwent years of occupational and physical. He expresses, “Through their guidance and example, I learned that the only obstacles that were before me were the ones I placed there myself and that in order to overcome anything I needed hard work, dedication, perseverance, and a lot of laughter thrown into the mix.”

John grew up in a sports-oriented family. He is extremely passionate about watching and participating in sports, including but not limited to, golf, football, and ice skating. His dad and his younger sister helped him compete in a triathlon and since then, he has been hooked in participating in marathons and triathlons. With his love for sports and his family’s support, he decided to compete in a 5k race and his story was featured on ESPN on the E:60 show. John states, “Because of that opportunity, I have been able to speak to many different organizations about never giving up. I have heard from people as far away as Japan! It is an amazing feeling to be able to inspire others to do things they never thought possible”

William Stokebrand

Recipient of the Gerard Swartz Fudge Memorial Scholarship Fund

William has been accepted to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri where he will be pursuing a four year degree in Mechanical William-StokebrandEngineering. He aspires to become an engineer and hopes to start his own engineering company in the Midwest.

Diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 6 months of age, William has had to overcome many obstacles throughout his young life. He has endured thirty surgeries due to shunt complications and William also has a brain tumor and scoliosis. William reflects, “…Having hydrocephalus encouraged my family and myself to be more involved in volunteering as we spent many hours at the hospital, survived, and wanted to give to others in similar situations.  Giving one’s time to assist others is very rewarding and often makes me forget that I have hydrocephalus.”

William spends much of his time volunteering through church and 4-H activities. He has always had an interest in science and technology.  Growing up on a rural farm in Nebraska, he and his family raise corn and soybeans. He states, “As a farmer, I have practiced being an entrepreneur by raising goats for a hobby and for somewhat of a profit. “

Meir Yishai Barth

Recipient of the Morris L. and Rebecca Ziskind Memorial Scholarship

“My biggest challenge is my inability to read and write in the normal way. I love to write and want very much to be able to do more of it and do it more quickly. Cerebral palsy affects my muscle control in my fingers and my ability to visualize and produce letters. It also affects my eye muscles and my ability to translate the letters I see into words and meaning. This required me to have a Learning Aide through my Middle and High School years.”Barth-Meir-Yishai (1)

Meir will be attending UMass Amherst in order to study Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy, and Disability Studies. He hopes to craft a major that would allow him to study disability issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Diagnosed with hydrocephalus due to a brain bleed, Meir also has cerebral palsy. “I am physically challenged, mildly visually impaired, and dyslexic but my mind and my speech are normal,” Meir explains.  Due to his condition, he is not able to write or read without technology. This has been an extraordinary challenge, but despite he has excelled in school.  Meir was determined and put his mind toward developing strategies and technological solutions that would help him overcome and he succeed with these difficulties. Meir states, “I have multiple challenges but I have also been told that I have many unusual abilities as well.”

For the last four years, Meir has been part of an action research project led by Professor Kramer in the Occupational Therapy Department of Boston University. Together, with a team of other disabled teens, they are creating a program to teach self-advocacy skills to teens with different types of disabilities. Throughout high school, he has participated in competitive debate and was named Novice of the Year by the Massachusetts Debate League. He hopes to be able to use his public speaking skills speaking about disabilities and inclusion at meetings and conferences. In the future, he would like to write a book.

Jackson McCabe

Recipient of the Anthony Abbene Scholarship Funds

“I am extremely proud of the fact that I have never let my hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy hold me back in life, and I can’t waut to continue with the US Paralympic Soccer team over the next four years.”Jackson-McCabe

Jackson has been accepted into Tulane University. He is interested in attending the University because it is researched based. He shares, “I will be making real-world contributions while working towards my undergraduate degree.” Jackson intends to obtain a career in sports medicine and sports management where he can work with disabled athletes.

Jackson was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 9 months of age as well as cerebral palsy. The cerebral palsy mainly affects the left side of his body and he did not learn how to walk until he was two years old. Despite his conditions, sports have always been a huge part of his life. Jackson plays soccer, basketball, and football. He has been a member of the US Paralympic National team since 2010. At 16, he was one of the youngest players ever selected to represent the US in an international match. Currently, he is diligently working to achieve his goal of playing in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.  “Throughout my life so far I have done many things that I am immensely proud of. However, the accomplishment that I am most proud of is my entire body of work with the Paralympic National Soccer Team,” says Jackson.

Nicholas Ryan Zubar

Recipient of the Hydrocephalus Association Fund
Special thanks to Lisa and Erik Chamberlain of Rokton, Illinios, for providing support of this scholarship.

Nicholas will be attending the Fire Science Program at Western Dakota Tech this fall. The program also requires a degree to become an Emergency Medical Technician, which he intends to pursue. Nicholas explains, “Because of my hydrocephalus, I have experienced ambulance and care flight rides and am quite pleased that my chosen degree of Fire Science will assist me in helping others in ways that have been beneficial to me.

Growing up in South Dakota, one of two states without a neurosurgical hospital, Nicholas wasn’t diagnosed with hydrocephalus until he was 13 years old. Throughout his life he encountered numerous health problems, receiving a diagnosis was a relief to him and his family.  Nicholas reflects, “Hydrocephalus has controlled my entire life… After so many years of experiencing head pain, I didn’t know that this wasn’t normal, and learned to live with the pain.”

Nicholas is very involved in his local community. He has put major emphasis on achieving his Eagle Scout Award in the Boy Scouts of America as well as earning his state degree in Future Farmers of America.

Congratulations to all of our Awardees and Finalists!

You inspire us all!