DARIEN, Conn. – Rachel Andriunas, of Darien, has been named to receive a National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, 2014 Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund Scholarship.
Andriunas, 17, a graduate of Darien High School, will attend Sacred Heart University in Fairfield to pursue a degree in math and secondary education.
“I have been really inspired by my teachers throughout my years at Darien High School and I really look forward to doing the same thing for teenagers as my teachers did for me,” said Andriunas.
In addition to being an honors student, Andriunas was a four-year member of the school’s concert choir, of which she was president during her senior year. Andriunas also serves as a check-in receptionist at the Italian Center of Stamford, and she took part in Darien’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program as well as the Names Can Really Hurt Us anti-bullying program.
“I think I have always been a responsible child and was always willing to help out my little brother, Matt,” said Andriunas. “I actually didn’t realize anything was different about my family for years.”
What’s different is that this high school senior’s mother is living with multiple sclerosis. More than 6,000 Connecticut residents live with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure.
“I am the one to get up first, feed the pets, make breakfast and make sure my brother gets out of bed,” she said. “I always made sure I made it to the neighbor’s house so I could ride with them to school and once I got home, I was at the bus stop to get my brother Matt off of the bus. My mom was there, but she was usually in her room resting.”
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis can range from numbness in the extremities, to intense fatigue, to loss of vision and, in severe cases, complete paralysis. The progression, severity and specific symptoms related to MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
As a recipient of the Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund Scholarship, Andriunas is glad that the MS society offers assistance to students who are impacted my MS.
In addition to the emotional toll, MS can have a substantial financial impact on a family. The direct and indirect costs of MS, including lost wages — even for those with health insurance — are estimated at more than $70,000 annually per household. This makes funding a college education that much harder.
Andriunas was recognized by the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, at its annual Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Scholarship Reception, which was held at the Country Club of Farmington, Thursday, June 5. She is one of 18 high school graduates receiving a 2013 scholarship from the Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Petit family scholarships are made possible through the Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund, which specifically supports the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter’s family programs. The fund was established in July 2007 by the family to honor the memory of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who had MS, and her daughters Hayley and Michaela, who were active with the chapter in helping to raise funds to support scientific research for a cure.
Program Continues To Grow Across the Country
The Society established its scholarship program for students who have MS or a parent living with MS eleven years ago, and it immediately became a source of great encouragement for families concerned that MS might put college out of reach. This year, over $1.1 million in awards was presented to over 700 new and renewal recipients nationwide. Applications are evaluated on financial need, academic record, leadership and volunteer activities, a statement of educational and career goals, and letters of recommendation. Applicants are also asked to provide a personal statement describing the impact MS has had on their life. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $3,000 and typically cover one year, although a limited number of awards may exceed this amount.
“For the Andriunas family and the hundreds of thousands diagnosed with MS across the country, there are very few known sources of scholarship assistance specially targeted for these families,” said Lisa Gerrol, Connecticut Chapter president and CEO. “MS shouldn’t stand in the way of an education, and we are hopeful this program will give families some relief.”
Scholarship applications for the 2015 school year will be available online in October. For more information on MS or for additional information on 2014 MS scholarship criteria, please contact the Connecticut Chapter at 860.913.2550 or visit www.ctfightsMS.org.
About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. It is the number one disabling neurological disease in young to middle-aged adults.
About the National MS Society
MS stops people from moving. The National MS Society exists to make sure it doesn’t. We help each person address the challenges of living with MS. Since its founding in 1946, the Society has allocated more than $771 million to MS research projects around the world. We are people who want to do something about MS NOW. Join the Movement®.
Early and ongoing treatment with an FDA-approved therapy can make a difference for people with multiple sclerosis. Learn about your options by talking to your healthcare professional and contacting the National MS Society at www.nationalMSsociety.org or 1-800-FIGHT-MS (344-4867).
Join the Movement is a registered trademark of the National MS Society.