There can be no doubt this time of year means “back to school” to so many families around the country. As students return back to campus, this year, we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to some of this year’s recipients of the 2023 Jane Calmes Scholarship Fund.
Established in 2019, the fund was created to support post-high school education for students whose lives have been impacted by ALS. Since its inception, The ALS Association has awarded almost $2 million in scholarships to nearly 350 students nationwide who are pursuing an accredited college degree or vocational certificate. We were proud to award $265,000 in scholarships to 53 students for the 2023-24 school year.
“Families lose a lot of financial wherewithal because of this disease,” said Mark Calmes, member of The ALS Association’s National Board of Trustees, and founder of the scholarship fund. Mark and his family created the fund in honor of his late wife, Jane, who fought ALS for eight years, and passed away in August 2017. “That causes a lot of families to lose the financial ability to send their kids on to postsecondary school, whether that’s college or vocational school. The positive side is that we are fulfilling that unmet need.”
Here is what some of the 2023 Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund recipients are doing with the support they have received:
Lauren has been a recipient of a Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship for four years now, which has helped her purse a degree in architecture at Arizona State University, the alma mater of her uncle and godfather Jeff, who passed away from ALS. She is on-track to graduate magna cum laude in April 2024. “The generous financial support has helped me to attend Uncle Jeff's alma mater and has allowed me to only need to work part-time which has made it possible for me to participate in extracurricular activities with my school, church, family and friends,” she said.
Sara’s father was diagnosed with ALS during her senior year of high school. She is using her scholarship funds to pursue a public health degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with plans to attend medical school after graduation. “Public health is near and dear to my heart as someone who wants to not only treat people who are already sick, but help individuals, communities, and populations lead healthier lives and prevent disease,” she said. “The best thing this scholarship has given me is the ability to spend more time with my dad during my time off from school, rather than working to pay for college.”
Haleigh’s path of study has also been influenced by her father’s fight with ALS. He was diagnosed during the pandemic and passed away just before she entered college two years ago. The fund helped allow her to transfer to the University of Texas at Austin. “I plan to study biochemistry and potentially do research in ALS and other types of neurological conditions,” she said. “ALS changed my life forever. The psychological toll this condition has is unprecedented. All I want to do is save others from having to go through the turmoil of this condition.”
Kimberley had to interrupt her college career to help care for her mother when she was diagnosed with ALS. Her mom passed away in 2022, and Kimberley has recently returned to the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she is studying cyber security. “Taking a break from my education to care for my mother over a span of two years was a challenging decision, and I was apprehensive about the financial implications of returning to college. This scholarship not only acknowledges my journey, but also grants me the opportunity to pursue my academic aspirations without the weight of financial worries,” she said.
Paddy’s father lived with ALS for nearly 12 years before passing away a year and a half ago, all the while teaching his son how to work hard, keep a positive attitude, and never give up. “I am currently a junior (at Michigan State University) majoring in mechanical engineering,” Paddy said. “Growing up I always drew towards seeing problems and trying to find solutions. My family has a long history of having engineers, including my dad, so I have gained a lot of support and experience through asking questions and seeing what my family members do.”
Audrey’s mother was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 50, and her grandfather, aunt, and uncle on her mother’s side also suffered from ALS. In part because of this family history, she’s decided to study nursing at the University of Louisville. “This scholarship allows me to put my full focus towards my learning therefore I will ultimately be successful in my college education and career,” she said. “I want to share a little advice when dealing with ALS, or disease and grief in general. Even when it seems impossible, there is a way to find hope and peace in the midst of sorrow and struggle. Find something positive and hold on to it, it makes a huge difference!”
The Association’s goal is to fund as many students as resources allow, at $2,500 per semester or $5,000 per year.
To learn more about The Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund, and how you can get involved to help support these efforts, visit our website HERE. To learn how you or someone you know can apply next spring, visit our website HERE.