Meet Our 2022 Scholarship Recipients
Six outstanding local high school seniors were selected to each receive a $750.00 scholarship. The leadership contributions of these remarkable students fostered a more welcoming and accessible community for people of all abilities. The honored recipients included Meghan Adams and Kaylie Sheffield from Timberlane Regional High, Rowen Gillespie and Reese Patchen from Pelham High School, Brooke Iaci from Pinkerton Academy, and Valerie McDonnell from Salem High School.
Meghan Adams – Timberlane High School
Growing up in a family touched by disability Meghan personally understands the importance of access, opportunities, and inclusion for people with developmental and other disabilities. The close sibling bond she shares with her older brother who experiences Autism has fueled her leadership journey. When another family in her community desperately needed a new accessible van, she made and sold bracelets to raise funds so they could have a means of transportation. Not only has Meghan excelled academically at Timberlane High School, she has also supported her school’s Unified Physical Education Program where kids with and without disabilities train and play together and students develop friendships and understanding. In the greater community, she has raised awareness and funds through Autism Walk events and has been involved in the Special Olympics program. Meghan plans to pursue a degree in Occupational Therapy and work with people with disabilities so they can live more independent and meaningful lives.
Kaylie Sheffield – Timberlane High School
As a leader Kaylie understands the best way to empower yourself is to empower others. Kaylie has strong values around community inclusion after witnessing her sister’s challenges caused by a stroke at birth. A person’s disability does not define who they are and that is why Kaylie’s has supported her school’s Unified Physical Education Program where kids with and without disabilities train and play together. In this leadership role Kaylie worked with her fellow peers to adapt sports activities in an effort to remove physical barriers faced by some students with disabilities. At school, Kaylie has taken on various leadership roles and has been an active participant in many clubs and organizations including The Key Club, Best Buddies, etc. as well as serving as the Student Council President while excelling academically. Kaylie is considering a future career in Political Science, Public Relations, or a related field where she will continue to foster inclusion and work to remove structural and attitudinal barriers people with disabilities still face today.
Rowen Gillespie – Pelham High School
As a passionate leader and mental health advocate Rowen has been open about and shared her personal struggles with anxiety. As a public speaker she has raised awareness and acceptance about mental health issues in her school and greater community. Throughout her life Rowen has been extremely germophobic and was so afraid of germs that it stopped her from enjoying most childhood activities. She was not able to touch her shoes, door knobs or eat certain foods due to the constant fear and panic she felt. At school she experienced regular panic attacks. Rowen sought the assistance of a mental health professional and has worked hard to overcome her fears and live the life she has always wanted. Now Rowen is able enjoy trips to the museum or park with family and friends. Her fear no longer controls her. With courage and determination, Rowen brought her school and greater community together to foster an open and honest dialogue in an effort to bring new light and understanding around the topic of mental health. She wants others who experience these struggles to know they are not alone and feel supported. Rowen has distinguished herself academically and plans to become a veterinarian surgeon.
Reese Patchen – Pelham High School
As a talented athlete on the field hockey team, Reese demonstrated strong leadership and communication skills. She led by example and enthusiastically welcomed and mentored new freshman and sophomore athletes to promote a more inclusive team spirit. This approach resulted in increased field time and a more positive and collaborative team dynamic. Reese, who also excelled academically, plans to pursue neuroscience and behavior with a minor in gender studies. She aims to use her knowledge and expertise in the field of mental health. Reese will promote greater acceptance for those who experience mental illness and work to increase access to mental health treatment and support.
Brooke Iaci – Pinkerton Academy
Growing up experiencing Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) presented many challenges and struggles for Brooke. While the accommodations and modifications outlined in her Individual Education Plan (IEP) and the support of educators helped Brooke in school, it was her unending perseverance and commitment that resulted in her achieving academic excellence. She never gave up, not even on the most challenging days. It wasn’t always easy and peers sometimes made fun of her and other peers with disabilities for seeking support in the resource room. In response, Brooke acted and demonstrated courage, compassion, and maturity. She spoke out publicly and increased awareness and acceptance of students with disabilities to foster a more positive school culture. Brooke plans to pursue nursing so she can continue to lead by example, help others, and ensure people with disabilities can receive culturally competent care.
Valerie McDonnell – Salem High School
Growing up with a sibling who experiences Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Valerie witnessed the emotional trauma her sister experienced due to bullying over the years. As a result, Valerie has worked hard to promote a more positive school culture and foster acceptance for students with disabilities at her school. Her leadership contributions in the Best Buddies club which was rebranded as “Students Understanding Real Friendships” (S.U.R.F.) resulted in broader community outreach events that have resulted in greater genuine social connections between neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals. Valerie will pursue a degree in Political Science and aims to work on expanding policies that increase greater access to education as well as accommodations in support of the needs of students with disabilities. She hopes that with her public policymaking efforts and increased awareness about bullying that more students with disabilities can achieve a true sense of acceptance and belonging at school.
Congratulations to this year’s scholarship recipients!