As students are returning back to school across the nation, The ALS Association shared the announcement of an award of $350,000 in scholarships to 70 students for the 2022-2023 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 impacted by ALS. Since its inception, the Association has awarded $1,545,000 in 309 scholarships for students nationwide who are pursuing an accredited college degree or vocational certificate.
“The financial burden of ALS is devastating to families, and kids are all too often collateral damage,” says 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. “The disease forces many students to delay their education so they can pitch in as caregivers, while others lose the financial ability to attend school altogether. I’m very pleased the fund is able to help some of these students get back on the education path that was disrupted by ALS.”
We recently talked with Veronica Darland, one of the 2022 scholarship recipients, to learn more about her connection to ALS, what receiving the scholarship means to her, and her future plans in journalism.
The Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund was established to help people who have been impacted by ALS pursue their education. What is your personal connection to ALS?
In the month of March of my sophomore year in high school, my mother lost her ability to walk out of nowhere. It was later confirmed in the summer that my mother had a rare case of ALS. Since she has been diagnosed with ALS, she has lost the ability to move the lower part of her body and lost her ability to write and speak.
It’s estimated that more than 60 percent of people don’t know what ALS is. What do you wish people knew about the disease?
I wish people knew ALS is a disease that can become very aggressive very quickly. Within a matter of months my mother went from walking, to using a cane/walker, to having to use a wheelchair. As she continued to lose movement in her lower body, she also started to lose the movement in her upper body which affected her ability to write and speak. As of right now, there is no cure for ALS so these people who are living with the disease are suffering from all of the pain.
How will the Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund impact your future?
Due to my mother’s diagnosis of ALS, my mother was no longer able to work as she was unable to do what was required of her. With my mother no longer able to work, that led to my father being the only person in the household to have a job. A year later, during my junior year, everything shut down because of the Coronavirus. COVID affected my family just like others in a horrific way. Everybody in my family got COVID. Unfortunately, my father got the worst of it. On November 15, 2020, our family received a call from the hospital that my father had passed away from the virus. Since my father was the sole provider for our family, losing him caused us to lose most of our financial support. After my father passed away, our family only has what my mother gets from her survivor benefits and her disability benefits each month. We use the money my mother gets towards necessities that we need to survive. The only way I can go to college would be if I get scholarships that pay for everything.
What are you planning to study and why?
I am planning to study Multimedia/Journalism. I want to pursue a profession in journalism where I can make a difference in the world. Journalism is a means of communicating with people all over the world, and because this world is regrettably filled with so much negativity, I don’t want to convey the bad news; instead, I want to spread the good. With my journalism degree, I wish to inspire people by educating them of all the good things that are happening in the world.
What do you like to do when you aren’t in school?
When I'm not in school, I love watching Marvel movies. I’m a huge Marvel fan so I have watched every single movie and TV series that Marvel has produced.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I just want to thank all of the supporters of ALS that are working on a cure for this horrible disease.