The Vertex Foundation Scholarship helps people with cystic fibrosis (CF) and their immediate family members pursue two-year, four-year or graduate degrees. For the 2020-2021 academic year, we are pleased to award 87 scholarships of $5,000 each to students in the U.S. and Canada.
The program was established in 2017, and since that time, it has awarded more than $1.4 million in scholarships to outstanding students. In addition to supporting the educational aspirations of so many, a unique aspect of this program is the CF community’s involvement, from application to recipient selection. Each year, applicants write an essay as part of the application process, and the essay question is designed by the community. This year’s essay question was:
As someone living with CF or as a family member, you have undoubtedly been touched by the disease. Please describe what makes your CF community unique, and how you have engaged with, or been impacted by, that community.
It was great to hear from all of the applicants about each of their CF communities. It’s clear that the CF community plays an important role in the lives of many people living with CF and their families. As we adapt to more virtual interactions as a result of COVID-19, community is more important than ever. But this situation has also opened the doors to communities that are not bounded by geography.
The scholarship recipients are selected by an independent committee that includes adults living with CF, parents, spouses and siblings. This year, our winners include people living with CF, siblings, parents of a child with CF, and children of a parent with CF.
We’d like to introduce you to just a few this year’s 87 recipients:
Joy A., Arizona State University
Joy will be a junior, studying mechanical engineering.
“While life with CF can be full of surprises and struggles, I felt that there are a lot of moments I just have to laugh about in order to cope with the disease. I thought maybe there was a way to spread positivity and lightheartedness about CF with a larger audience while also increasing awareness. This led me to develop a CF awareness Instagram account, eventually making original posts about everything from procrastinating treatments to a hose popping off the vest. When the account gained traction, I received hundreds of comments from other CFers describing how they related to the account and the laughs it created.”
Cambria B., Seattle Pacific University
Cambria will be a junior, studying political science. She has a sibling with CF.
“Over the past seventeen years (and more than 38 two-week hospitalizations), our CF community is the foundation that keeps my family strong in our fight to live victoriously with cystic fibrosis.”
Nicole G., University of Delaware
Nicole will be starting her freshman year. She’s planning to study chemical engineering.
“Cystic fibrosis affects not only the person diagnosed, but also their entire family. What makes my family unique is that we have two people with CF. My brother, Andre, and I were both born with cystic fibrosis. … Although I would never wish this disease on anyone, I’m thankful I have my brother to lean on.”
Hayden J., University of South Alabama
Hayden will be a junior, studying mechanical engineering.
“The Cystic Fibrosis community is a unique group of people. Despite all of the challenges that CF throws at us, we as a community are driven to fight this disease. This fight along with our refusal to let CF win the battle are what make us so unique. Although never meeting face to face, this community is united with the goal of one day curing CF. It is amazing to see how not only people with CF but others have banded together to help fund research with the hopes to find a cure for CF.”
Cody J., University of South Florida
Cody will be starting his freshman year. He’s planning to study financial accounting.
“It takes a village to be raised with cystic fibrosis. How fortunate am I to have such an amazing, unique village!”
Bethany K., Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Bethany will be a senior, studying geological sciences. She has a sibling with CF.
“For many years, my project and service has been to save my brother’s life. As a geoscience major in my junior year of college, I am leaving artful messages instead of polluted footprints to continue to spread awareness. … For more than my twenty years on earth, we have utilized the power of our family to increase the quality of life and expectancy for people living with CF.”
Sophie M., California State University at Northridge
Sophie will be a senior, studying communications. She has a sibling with CF.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this community, one based on the teamwork and determination of the families within it. We are all in the fight until it is done.”
Elyse M., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Elyse will be a sophomore, studying software development.
“I have been impacted by my personal CF community as I have received copious amounts of support from both my friends and family. I have always been encouraged to pursue my goals despite the setbacks my disease has put forth. Furthermore, my CF care team has a huge impact on my health as they help me see the importance of my treatment regimen and support me in my efforts to develop a healthier lifestyle.”
Else M., University of Puget Sound
Else will be starting her freshman year. She’s planning to study health care sciences.
“Online social media platforms have allowed me to reach out nationally and engage with others living with CF who share their journey online. Seeing others living with the same disease encourages me to keep fighting for my own health, educates me on healthy CF techniques and tips, and gets me involved in online CF exercise platforms. This has impacted my lifestyle; these connections strengthen our community and bring us together.”
Kaylee R., East Arkansas Community College
Kaylee will be starting her freshman year. She’s planning to pursue a career in radiology as an ultrasound technician.
“Being a part of this community means that no matter what happens, there will always be a group of people to turn to, talk to, and encourage during the good times and the bad.”
William “Billy” R., University of Northern Colorado
Billy will be a junior, studying graphic design.
“The care I have received from my doctor and her team has been special and I feel like it's the kind of care you can only receive from patient and caring doctors who take care of patients with CF like myself. Anyone who has been touched by this disease knows all the hardships that come with it, and with that comes a level of passion and drive when treating those affected by CF. I was able to see this firsthand when my CF care team decided to award me with the ‘Cystic Fibrosis Superhero Award,’ an award they give to one patient every year.”
Jennifer S., Georgia State University
Jennifer is a graduate student, studying law.
“One of my favorite aspects of life in the CF community is being able to pay it forward. Growing up, I was encouraged and mentored by others with CF. They gave me hope and inspiration to keep fighting. While many of them are no longer alive, I live to honor them. … My CF community is unique because it spans far and wide, alive and passed, diagnosed and supporter. My CF community is what gives me strength.”
Hayley Z., Stanford University
Hayley will be starting her freshman year. She’s planning to study political science and government. Her father has CF.
“Being nominated to attend an advocacy event in Washington, D.C. to speak to U.S. representatives and senators about my story was when I truly realized how my actions could positively affect others. … Communicating with national leaders about what patients truly need has been an immensely fulfilling act. While perhaps a small act in the scheme of things, it has given me the perspective that my purpose is to cultivate resilience and hope through my actions. I have told my story, and now, I want to help others to tell theirs.”
Interested in applying for the 2021-2022 academic year? Check back here for the link to apply; applications will open in late 2020: https://www.vrtx.com/cystic-fibrosis/scholarships/.