Earlier this year, we were proud to announce the seven 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. This year’s group of applicants and especially the 2017 recipients are truly inspiring and are living proof of overcoming odds to achieve dreams, so we love getting to let you know more about these bright students and their career goals.
Facing the Challenges of Cerebral Palsy
From the start, Elizabeth was extraordinary. She was born two months premature in a set of quadruplet girls.
For over a year, everything seemed normal, until Elizabeth’s parents realized she wasn’t sitting up on her own and couldn’t crawl or walk like her sisters.
The doctors diagnosed her with Cerebral Palsy, which is a condition caused by a lack of oxygen to an infant’s brain (asphyxia) during childbirth. There are multiple complications and symptoms that can arise from a condition like Cerebral Palsy, and it’s rarely the same for each person affected. Some of the potential symptoms of cerebral palsy may include:
- Muscle tone variation
- Seizures and/or tremors
- Difficulty with walking or unusual gait
- Difficulty with coordination and motor skills
- Delays in speech development
- Neurogenic bladder or urinary incontinence
- Delayed development
Elizabeth has now lived with Cerebral Palsy for almost 24 years, and for her, the condition affects her whole body and many other aspects of her life.
“Thankfully,” she says, “I do not have to face this challenge alone.”
Finding Joy in Family, Sports, & School
Elizabeth’s family has been with her every step of the way since her birth. Although living with Cerebral Palsy does make her somewhat dependent on her family for her daily care, they state that “the joys and opportunities that have come through sharing life with [Elizabeth] far outweigh any sacrifices.”
One joy that Elizabeth found at just eight years old is Paralympic Boccia. She found the challenges of the sport perfect for a competitive outlet, and Boccia is perfect for her physical abilities.
Even today, Elizabeth is still actively participating in Boccia, and she competed in the 2017 National Championships most recently.
“I also co-chair the Youth Development Taskforce for Boccia’s national organization, USA Boccia. The Taskforce’s vision is to expand youth participation in Boccia at the regional and national level,” Elizabeth states.
Despite her condition and her avid participation in Boccia, she worked hard in school, made excellent grades, and graduated from John Brown University with her Bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies. Her time in college strengthened her passion to help others, particularly at the policy level of social work.
During her time at school, she finally got to experience living apart from her family and having assisting staff for her daily care and needs, which was another step toward the independence that Elizabeth craves, although she is grateful beyond words for her family’s unending support.
Working To Become a Leader in Social Change
Currently, Elizabeth is now completing her Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Illinois, and she is beyond thrilled to be able to start on this new adventure and continue her preparations for her career through higher education.
She plans to concentrate on Leadership and Social Change. When talking about why she chose this field, Elizabeth is excited and hopeful.
“I value social work, because it is an opportunity to truly meet people where they are and empower them to fulfill their potential by offering new skills and resources. With my degree, I seek to impact the disability service system in our country, advocating for the dignity and well-being of all people across the spectrum of ability,” Elizabeth says.
Even though Elizabeth faces a daily battle, she says she refuses to allow Cerebral Palsy to become a prison or limit her in any way. She is determined to use her own experiences to make a difference in others’ lives.
We are all certain that with her drive and dedication, she will go far in improving the lives of others living with disabilities, and we wish her the best of luck in her future goals!
About the 180 Medical Scholarship
College isn’t always easy to afford, and we know that there can often be extra financial hardship heaped on students who live with conditions like spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, neurogenic bladder, and/or an ostomy (ileostomy, urostomy, or colostomy). That’s why 180 Medical established a scholarship program to help those aspiring students work toward achieving their dreams.
We’re accepting applications for the 2018 180 Medical College Scholarship Program now through June 1, 2018! You can download an application and get full information at www.180medical.com/scholarships.