This spring, The ALS Association awarded $470,000 in scholarships to 94 students across 35 states for the 2020-2021 school year through The Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund. Established in 2019, the fund was created to support post-high school education for students whose lives have been financially impacted by ALS. Scholarship recipients receive $5,000 per year to help cover the cost of education.
While the ongoing pandemic continues to put schools across the country at a disadvantage as they are trying to figure out distance learning and quarantines, we continue to do what we can to make sure the students in our ALS community are able to overcome the devastating financial impact of ALS.
The Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund was established by Mark Calmes, vice chair of The ALS Association’s National Board of Trustees. The scholarship fund is named in honor of his late wife, Jane, who lived with ALS for eight years until her passing in August 2017. “After she died, I began to think of ways to honor her courageous spirit and compassion,” said Mark. “The idea of a scholarship program resonated with me because Jane was always keen on the lifelong benefits provided by education.”
We recently talked with Bandon Staple, one of this year’s award recipients, to learn a little more about his connection to ALS, what receiving the scholarship means to him, and what his future plans are in healthcare.
The Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund was established to help people who have been impacted by ALS pursue their education. What’s your connection to ALS?
Both my Father and Grandfather suffered from ALS.
60 percent of people don’t know what ALS is. What do you wish people knew about the disease?
ALS is very rare with fewer than 20,000 US cases per year, and while medication and therapy can slow the disease and reduce discomfort, there's no cure.
How will the Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund impact your future?
Receiving a scholarship would have major impacts on my education by enabling me to focus more time mastering the principles I need to be successful in my field, instead of constantly worrying about financing my degree. I can spend more time performing community services with ALS and be the first in my family to attend college where I will be able to work towards completing my degree, support my family, and break our poverty cycle.
What are you planning to study and why?
I am studying Pre-Med Biology as a part of the accelerated BS/MD Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. I am studying medicine with three main educational and career goals. The first is to complete my pre-med, neurology-based Biology degree, and advance to become a Neurologist. I plan to focus my career on leverage advanced capabilities, like Artificial Intelligence, to gain new insights into the complex genetic, proteomic, and molecular factors that underlie ALS, but is not yet available to medical professionals. This will enable me to model, predict, and deliver the next generation of precision therapies to combat the disease.
The second of my goals is to serve in leadership roles of ALS and other neurological-related professional and community organizations, like The ALS Association, to improve my knowledge of the developments in the field, advocate for policies that positively impact patients and their families, and support research that accelerates the delivery of new ALS therapies.
My final goal is to be an effective mentor that inspires the next generation of ALS-focused professionals.
What do you like to do when you aren’t in school?
When I am not in school, I like to play soccer as I am a former Wendy’s High School Heisman Soccer player of the year. I also like to cook Jamaican food and listen to reggae music because of my Caribbean heritage.