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 Cierra Abbott, one of this year’s award recipients, to learn a little more about her personal connection to ALS, what receiving the scholarship means to her, and what her future plans are.
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?
My father, Mark R. Abbott, was diagnosed with ALS in the Summer of 2011. I was 12. He passed away in January of 2014. I was 14. My mother, sister, and I were very fortunate to be able to keep my father at home during his battle with ALS.
60 percent of people don’t know what ALS is. What do you wish people knew about the disease?
I wish people knew that many treatment methods are still in their trial phases and there is no cure or medication that has been proven to slow the progression of the disease in the body. ALS is quite rare so the likelihood of someone knowing a person directly affected by the disease is slim. Overall, I hope for greater awareness surrounding ALS.
How will the Jane Calmes ALS Scholarship Fund impact your future?
This scholarship will help to fund my last year of my undergraduate studies at Western Colorado University in Business Administration and Environment and Sustainability while I am simultaneously starting to pursue an Outdoor Industry MBA through Western Colorado University. I could not have been able to afford my last year of school without the help of this Scholarship. Now I can focus on my studies and ensuring that the work I pursue upon graduation will help to market sustainably minded products that ultimately help to protect our environment.
What are you planning to study and why?
I study both business and environment and sustainability. This is because I believe there to be a direct correlation between our social and ecological injustices. My hope is that I can bring awareness to these injustices through the promotion of sustainably minded products from inclusive companies within the Outdoor Industry. I am hopeful that my capstone project for the Outdoor Industry MBA at Western will also focus on this issue and allow me to work to create a more inclusive, accessible, and well-rounded snow sports industry.
What do you like to do when you aren’t in school?
When I am not in school, I enjoy mountain biking around the Gunnison Valley, fly fishing, hiking, and camping in the summers and I am an avid snowboarder come wintertime. When I am not in class or doing homework, I am probably outside enjoying whatever weather Sunny Gunni has to offer that day. I am also a high school volleyball coach for Crested Butte Community Schools, and a member of Western’s club volleyball team after my NCAA Volleyball career was cut short due to injury.