FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 24, 2008
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Awards Inaugural College Scholarship
NEW YORK, NY—Like many other high school seniors across the nation, Holly Hedberg of Phoenix, AZ is currently deciding on which college to attend next fall. But there is one thing she is sure of: at whichever school, she plans to pursue researching the potential causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I don't want other people to go through what I did. I'm not only interested in the disease...I want to make sure others do not go through the same ordeal,” said Hedberg.
When she was nine years old, Hedberg found out that her father had Alzheimer’s disease, and at a time when many young girls would be looking forward to father-daughter dances or other family activities, Hedberg instead had to learn how to become a caregiver.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) this month awarded Hedberg its first AFA Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness College Scholarship. Her compelling essay, a requirement for the competition, recounted what she learned from watching Alzheimer’s disease chip away at her dad, who passed away when she was a high school freshman.
The first runner-up in the 2008 scholarship competition is Terra Joy McNerthney, Makawao, HI, and the second runner-up is Anupa Gewali, Henderson, NV .
AFA introduced the $5,000 scholarship this year to provide an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to give thoughtful consideration to the impact Alzheimer’s disease has on their own lives and others in their family and community. It will be awarded annually.
“Coping with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming for young people. We hope that this was a rewarding opportunity for all the young people who applied—a way to reflect on lessons learned and to better understand what is happening to someone in their family or in their community,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and chief executive officer.
The scholarship is part of AFA’s overall effort through its AFA Teens division to provide an outlet for teenagers to express their thoughts about Alzheimer’s disease and to engage the younger generation in this important cause. AFA is stepping up its efforts to reach out to teens through its new Web site, www.afateens.org, and the formation of chapters of AFA Teens nationwide.
According to Hall, Hedberg’s powerful essay “reflected a maturity well beyond her 18 years.” With great insight, she explored how Alzheimer’s disease taught both her and her father the true meaning of love and family, and the importance of support in the face of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I loved him dearly, and so as he retreated into the abyss of his mind, I let him teach me how to live,” Hedberg wrote. “His complete humility and surrender to what he could not do alone showed me the folly of my own solitude. Since then, I have learned what I can handle, and, like my father, what I can’t.”
For more information about the AFA Teens college scholarship, as well as to read the winning essays, visit www.afateens.org.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization based in New York City that focuses on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and their families, and unites 800 member organizations nationwide that provide hands-on programs. AFA’s services include a toll-free helpline with counseling by licensed social workers, a free caregiver magazine, and National Memory Screening Day. For information, call 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg