2014 Top Scholars - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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2014 Top Scholars


One top scholar each year is awarded a four-year Presidential Scholarship. This award was started by the National MS Society’s 2005–2011 president and CEO, Joyce Nelson.

Megan M. Lafferty - National MS Society Presidential Scholar

Megan LaffertyFunding provided by the Upstate New York Chapter and Genzyme, a Sanofi company
Upstate New York Chapter
Person with MS
4.0 GPA; Top 1% of Class, High ACT Scores
The Examined Life
Social and outgoing, yet quiet and also introspective, Megan has a myriad of skills and talents. She is a powerhouse of social activity (class and student council presidents, debate and pep clubs); a beehive of physical activity (varsity basketball, softball and cross country); and also an accomplished scholar (four-year straight ‘A’ student). But when the world closes in, she retreats to her favorite backyard tree, climbing into her leafy nook that offers “a quiet space for me to examine life.” She is interested in the study of medicine, especially ophthalmology ever since she was diagnosed. She has already learned that “dealing with my MS is just part of accepting me.” Watch out world. Here comes Megan!

Each year a four-year scholarship is awarded to a top scholar in honor of the Society’s past president and CEO, General Mike Dugan, USAF, retired.

Luke F. Mainwaring - National MS Society Mike Dugan Scholar

Luke Mainwaring, Mike Dugan ScholarFunding provided by the Central & Eastern Virginia Chapter and the Modestus Bauer Foundation
Central & Eastern Virginia Chapter
Father with MS
Straight ‘A’ Student, Very High SAT/ACT Scores
The Science Guy with the Human Touch
Science is only one of Luke’s passions. An exemplary student, he was a summer medical science research assistant at Virginia Commonwealth University where he conducted experiments and shadowed neurosurgeons at work. He is especially interested in MS since his father lives with the disease. Luke credits him with his decision to concentrate on neuroscience in the future, perhaps as a research physician. At the same time, Luke’s humanitarian nature led him to open a charitable café for his fellow students, the profits from which were given to MS and other charitable causes. He is surely slated to continue to make significant contributions in his personal and work life in the future!

Meredith A. Gingold

Meredith Gingold
Upper Midwest
Father with MS
4.0 GPA, Straight ‘A’ Student, High SAT/ACT Scores
Butterflies and Dreams

For Meredith, it all began at the museum with her father. They loved watching the butterflies — so beautiful and carefree. Over time, Meredith became even closer to her dad when his MS forced an early retirement and she became an eager caregiver. Her dreams of a medical career were cemented even stronger when she attended a summer apprenticeship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She now knows she will seek a degree in public health on her way to medical school and perhaps further study in biomedical ethics. A well-rounded student, with high academic achievement throughout high school, she will certainly make her dream a reality.

Keilah D. Hawk

Greater Carolinas ChapterKeilah D. Hawk
Mother with MS
4.0 GPA, Top 10% of Class
Her Way Out
Pursuit of a career in math and engineering is top of mind for Keilah. She has prepared well in high school – 4.0 GPA, editor of yearbook, National Honor Society, church and community leader, college intern in mathematics sponsored by North Carolina Governor’s College and on and on. She knows her chosen career will be challenging, especially in a male dominated field, but she is determined to succeed, especially as she is the first in her family to go on to college. As a caregiver for her mother and grandmother, she has learned valuable skills of self-sacrifice, patience and compassion. Coupled with her scholastic aptitude and proven academic excellence, she is well on her way to a brilliant future

Taylor K. Martin

South Central RegionTaylor Martin
Mother with MS
Second in her Class of 174
Staying Positive
As a primary caregiver for much of her young life, Taylor has learned what is really important to her — helping others. She wants to study medical lab science with the hope of becoming a hematologist. Her passion for this field has been honed by experiences living with a mother with MS. Although her memories are never sugar coated – ambulance rides, hospital visits, medicine bottles on the living room floor — she chooses to remain hopeful and positive that she can help make a difference in other people’s lives. She will give her personal best to any career she chooses as she has already demonstrated since she was a kid caring for her family.

Sicily J. Mathenia

Mid America Chapter Sicily Mathenia
Person with MS
4.0 GPA, Top 5% of Class
All The World's a Stage
Actress, opera singer, violin player — musical theater is Sicily’s passion and calling. She describes her craft: “The telling of a story that can be universally felt is to be part of something bigger than ourselves.” An MS diagnosis in her sophomore year has not altered her career decisions. She plans to continue to hone her many skills in the next four years of college. She informs us that every story, whether in a musical or play or in life has conflict and struggle. For her, “MS is not the central conflict” but one of many of life’s challenges. Sicily is already well on her way to a professional career. She has performed in the cast of the Kansas City Repertory Theater and the Musical Theater for Young People. Take a bow, Sicily!

Miranda L. Mullen

Miranda MullenFunding provided by the Upper Midwest Chapter and Genzyme, a Sanofi company
Upper Midwest Chapter
Mother with MS
3.8 GPA
A Born Leader
Miranda’s family have all pulled together to support their mother and to keep the family strong. Miranda and her siblings perform most of the daily chores while working part-time jobs to contribute to the household income. In her spare time, Miranda has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities in her community. She put together a highly successful MS fundraiser, for example, with a one thousand dollar goal that realized three times that amount. She has also taken on leadership roles in FAA and 4-H while practicing a valuable principle of teamwork first. She would like to major in neuroscience next year as a prelude to eventual medical school.


Bailey N. Pierson

Bailey PiersonFunding provided by the Indiana State Chapter and Genzyme, a Sanofi company
Indiana State Chapter
Person with MS
Valedictorian of Class, Straight ‘A’ Student
Instant Adulthood
Scholar, athlete, class leader, Bailey blooms wherever she is planted. Life, however, has not always been a bed of roses. At sixteen, she was told she has Multiple Sclerosis and her world changed. As she puts it: “I became an adult as a result of two words.” Not one to take bad news lying down, she realized early on she had to take on adult decisions She says she had no time for a pity party “I had to be the one taking responsibility for what I would let happen to me.” An early life lesson taught her that although she may not be invincible, life goes on. She is graduating first in her class and is on her way to taking pre-pharmacy courses at Purdue. One would be hard-pressed to find a more determined young person!

Bryan Rodriguez

Greater Delaware Valley ChapterBryan Rodriguez
Mother with MS
4.7 GPA; High SAT Scores
Renaissance Man
Bryan, as they say, has all the ‘right stuff.’ He has excelled academically (four-year straight A student) while being his family’s chief caregiver for his mom who has MS. He writes poignantly of her loss of vision, a painful experience for anyone, but especially for a professional photographer. He is a committed community leader, tutoring inner city youth and completing trips to China, Belize and Costa Rica on school service projects. Bryan also has a strong work ethic and extraordinary personal drive as demonstrated by returning to school after a concussion sidelined his football career. He will study international relations and business as a prelude to law school. In a tribute to his mom, he says he will always keep his 20/20 eyes on the ball!

Jaysie K. Sexton

Jaysie K. SextonFunding provided by the Kentucky-Southeast Indiana Chapter and Genzyme, a Sanofi company
Kentucky-Southeast Indiana Chapter
Father with MS
Top 5% of Class
Healing: An End to Suffering
Jaysie learned about MS early in life watching her dad’s struggles to stay well. Yearning to be of help, her childhood pain turned into a strong resolve to be a physician, perhaps a neurosurgeon, to become a member of the healing professions. She has prepared well taking possibly every AP class her school offers on her way to pre-med college studies. She understands at an early age a profound truth taught to her by her father who told her: “Healing is not the termination of a disease, but the ending of suffering.” From all reports, from teachers and counselors, Jaysie has the academic ability coupled with the drive and strong work ethic to succeed in her chosen career.

Kayla Sica

New Jersey Metro ChapterKayla Sica
Father with MS
4.0 GPA, Top 5% of Class, High SAT Scores
Science Whiz Kid
There is no science course offered by her school that Kayla hasn’t aced: chemistry, physics and biology. She represented her school at the New Jersey Science League, Biology Team where she beat the top student in their division twice. She is also a well-rounded person — volleyball team captain, student council representative, girl scout leader, to name a few. She will use these academic and social skills to study biochemical engineering as a preliminary step to entering the pharmaceutical field in research and development. Her career goal is a tribute to her father who lives with MS and has been a role model of strength and determination through adversity.

Matthew J. Walls

Matthew WallsFunding provided by the Northern California Chapter and Genzyme, a Sanofi company
Northern California Chapter
Person with MS
4.0 GPA, Perfect Math SAT Score
Lemons into Lemonade
This multi-talented young man has many attributes among them academic competence, sports prowess and leadership ability. Upon learning of his MS, Matt rearranged his priorities and moved ahead. When his poor eyesight precluded playing his beloved soccer, he became the team’s referee. He also became a summer counselor at a camp for visually impaired children. His internship at a biomedical company has spurred him to pursue a career in biomedical engineering where he would be able to be part of a research effort to find life-changing drugs. His past successes and his great sense of optimism have led him to realize that “my MS has opened up opportunities that I may otherwise never have known.” His future is bright; his contributions endless

Catherine Wythe

Catherine WytheFunding provided by the South Central Chapter and Genzyme, a Sanofi company
South Central Chapter
Father with MS
Top 1% of Class, High SAT Scores
Kick-Start to the Future
Natural leader, creative problem solver, compassionate caregiver, ace tennis player — Catherine is all of these and more. Learning to multi-task has been a necessity as this young woman juggles her time to care for her dad during the day while her mom works; perform most of the household chores; and work two part-time jobs after school. At the same time, she will graduate in the top 1% of her class and is on her way to Stanford to study biomechanical engineering or neonatology as a preparation for future medical school. She sees all of these activities as ways to be fully prepared to take on many of life’s challenges as a kick-start to her future.