The NIDRR-funded Center on Families with Disabilities Through the Life Cycle: Disability Culture Perspectives at Through the Looking Glass just announced the results of their 2014 College Scholarships for Students of Parents with Disabilities program! More than 700 essays were submitted for the program, with 16 students receiving $1,000 scholarships. In their essays, the students describe the routine, remarkable, and sometimes difficult stories of parents with disabilities and their children. Despite the wide variation in parental disability and other demographic features among scholarship applicants, several consistent themes emerged that have been documented over the years by Through the Looking Glass in national research studies: the normalcy of growing up with a parent with a disability, and the resilience and strength of these families despite social and financial obstacles.
The 16 winners attend or will attend colleges and universities across the US. Selection criteria included academic performance, community service, letters of recommendation and an essay describing the experience of growing up with a parent with a disability. Students applying for these scholarships included those with parents who were quadriplegic, blind, deaf, amputees, as well as parents with spinal cord injury, cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, mental illness, ALS, HIV/AIDS, traumatic brain injury, muscular dystrophy, or intellectual disability.
According to TLG, there are almost no scholarships for the hundreds of thousands of students who have parents with significant disabilities or medical conditions. These awards not only recognize the diversity and contributions of these families, but their financial need. U.S. families with a disabled parent are twice as likely to be below the poverty level than are families with non-disabled parents. In addition, standard college financial aid applications do not typically weigh the considerable medical or specialized equipment expenses that many parents with disabilities incur. These expenses can substantially reduce the family income by tens of thousands of dollars each year.
A new round of scholarships will be announced in January 2015. All of the submitted essays will be used by Through the Looking Glass to document the experiences of students who experience disability in their families.