FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 6, 2014
ALZHEIMER'S FOUNDATION OF AMERICA AWARDS COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS
Teens' Heartfelt Essays Show That the Power of Love Triumphs Over Disease'
NEW YORK (May 6, 2014) — "Would you like a hard candy?" For Laura McCarter, of Newark, Del., this simple question that her grandfather has asked time and time again became a powerful illustration of how Alzheimer's disease dramatically changes someone's life and the lives of those around them.
In a moving essay that toggled between cherished childhood memories and the realities of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, McCarter, 17, relied on her grandfather's recurring question to paint a picture of love, strength and patience. Her words have earned her the $5,000 grand prize in the Alzheimer's Foundation of America's (AFA) 2014 Teens for Alzheimer's Awareness College Scholarship competition, AFA announced today.
This year, AFA awarded a total of $12,000 in scholarships to 10 college-bound students whose essays—the main requirement of the competition—demonstrated how their relationships with people with Alzheimer's disease have shaped their personal lives. The national organization has awarded the college scholarships annually since 2009.
"We were tremendously moved by the powerful essays these teens shared," said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA's chief executive officer. "It is truly amazing that they, at such a young age, are able to reflect on the impact of this devastating disease with candor, tenderness and a positive outlook."
Morgan Olson, of Guilderland, N.Y., was named first runner-up and netted a $2,500 scholarship, and Hannah Chute, of Marion, Iowa, was named second runner-up and received a $1,000 scholarship.
For the first time, AFA also awarded seven honorable mention scholarships, of $500 each: the recipients are Emily Bonasia, of Coral Springs, Fla.; Jasmine Huynh, of Bakersfield, Calif.; Lauren Marshall, of Coventry, Conn.; Laurel Nalezny, of Naperville, Ill.; Lily Obeda, of Minneapolis, Minn.; Micah Lee Rubart, of Woodinville, Wash.; and Makayla Urbauer, of Lincoln, Neb.
Grand prize-winner McCarter's 81-year old grandfather has been living with Alzheimer's disease for five years. The high school senior, who will attend Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga., this fall, likens having the brain disorder to walking in a dark forest.
"In my mind, I compare it to people walking through a forest as the sky gets dark: They are still in the same situation and have the same ethics, they just need a flashlight to help find their path … that is what my family members and I are doing; we're flashlights guiding my granddad through everyday tasks," she wrote in her essay.
Olson, the first runner-up, put her creativity to work on the Alzheimer's floor of a local nursing home, where she introduced a sign-language activity to help spark conversation among the residents. She plans to attend Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., in the fall and hopes to pursue a career in geriatrics.
Chute, the second runner-up, wrote her essay in the form of a letter to her grandfather, who had Alzheimer's disease and recently passed away. She recounted memories the two shared throughout her life and the lessons she has learned from her family's experience, including hope and the importance of raising awareness of the disease.
"Despite your circumstances, you have still managed to lead an incredible life and teach me so much," Chute wrote, "and for this reason, I know that Alzheimer's will never win, because you already have."
The college scholarship is just one of the many features of the Young Leaders of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, which aims to educate and engage teens and college students, many of whom are caregivers themselves. Students also have an opportunity to connect with peers by forming chapters in their neighborhoods or participating in an online support community.
For more information and to read the winning scholarship essays, visit www.youngleadersofafa.org
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About Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include a toll-free helpline staffed by licensed social workers, educational materials, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers, and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-232-8484, visit www.alzfdn.org, follow us on Twitter, or connect with us on Facebook.
Contact: Amanda (Hirschhorn) Secor