Recognizing academic achievementin the rare disease community

2018 Recipient

2018 Recipient


Heather-Full-Image

Heather

19 years old
Acworth, GA

High School:
Harrison High School
Kennesaw, GA
Graduated May 2017

College:
Asbury University
Wilmore, KY
Entering fall 2018
Enrolled at Covenant College from fall 2017 to spring 2018

Rare disorder:
I have eosinophilic esophagitis or EoE. I had been having undiagnosed chronic health issues for a long time. I had an endoscopy done of my throat and intestines which lead to my official diagnosis in December, 2016. I was surprised when I got the diagnosis because I was so used to not knowing what was causing my symptoms. No one has ever been able to tell me what was wrong. I’ve tried lots of different diets including gluten free, avoiding dairy, and avoiding different foods. I have problems with swallowing, a chronic cough, lose my voice easily, and have acid reflux problems. In addition to getting the EoE diagnosis, I’ve had Lyme disease and it has been complicated trying to figure out how to manage both.My medical and physical challenges have really helped me learn to have faith, and trust God in a very real way. There are a lot of things that should break me but have only made me stronger. God has used this struggle to help me understand and empathize with others who are hurting. I seek to find the good in every day and focus on what I can do, rather than what I can’t, and make the most of those things.

Favorite subjects:
I’ve always loved social studies, and especially learning about other cultures. I enjoy listening to and hearing about other people and their experiences, what they have learned and how they live. I also love writing and enjoy expressing myself through the written word.

Favorite activities:
All through high school and college, I have run cross country and track. I love to run, and I have enjoyed getting to know my teammates and compete. Although it has been difficult with my health issues, and I have had to take time off, it has been one of my favorite activities. I also enjoy singing and being involved in my church choir. I find worshiping through song to be really powerful. In addition, I like to read, journal, and write devotionals for those struggling with mental and physical health problems on my website.

Academic and professional plans:
My major will be intercultural studies, with a focus on cross-cultural ministry. It includes a combination of classes in Christian ministries, Bible, and intercultural studies. I’d like to be involved in cross-cultural missions, either in the states or overseas. I’m also minoring in Spanish and English as a second language (ESL). This year I have had a chance to teach ESL and help immigrants learn how to speak English. It is great to teach English, develop relationships, and communicate across cultural boundaries. In the future, I’d love to continue to teach English. In the near future, I’d like to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country and experience living in another culture and communicating in another language.

Proudest moment to date:
I have had a lot of ups and downs with running due to my health and injuries. During my sophomore year, I had my personal best running time and was able to break 21 minutes for a 5k. I struggled after that year with my health and was unable to compete for a season. I didn’t think I would ever be able to break the 21 minute mark again. However, in my senior year I did it, which was incredible! And this year, I was able to run even faster. I had thought I would never be able to compete at the same level again because of my health and was thankful to be able to be in that condition despite all the things stacked against me.

How I found out I was the ACES 2018 recipient:
I was in the mail room at school and got the letter. I was bracing myself to see a letter telling me I did not receive the scholarship. But when I opened it, I saw that it was an acceptance letter! I called my parents, and we were all very excited. It is really incredible to receive this scholarship.

Advice for students applying for ACES next year:
I have been very involved in a number of different groups in my church, community, and school, and have been working very hard academically and in sports. The advice I would give a student is to be honest and open and share parts of your story through writing the personal statement. Be open and real about your dreams, your passions, and your gifts.

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