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Level the Playing Field

When I look back at my life - what I’ve been through with my experiences - I sometimes wonder, “Are things really fair?” I’ve provided some background in previous blog posts (#cantcomplain and #whenwegrowup), but during a recent block party when I was explaining Cardz For Kidz, my health history, and how people could get involved, I got the standard, “Wow, I would never notice” response. But while you might not see it on the outside, I’m

required to take a handful of pills each day and always keep my epilepsy in mind when it comes to all types of decisions (e.g., I won’t accept an interview request that requires driving to the office).

I’ve since realized I need to do more. You see, the difference with my epilepsy and brain surgery is that my first trip to the emergency room (ER) and/or doctors took place while I was in college. My first trip inside that part of the University of Michigan’s hospital was on July 12, 2004, and at the time, the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan only accepted Juniors and Seniors. How it works is that you applied during your sophomore year, you found out during that time frame and during that summer you prepared to become a business school student. I recall my family was all SO excited. I remember when I made the

acceptance announcement to my family, my older sister quickly purchased this t-shirt to celebrate.

I still have it to this day. I don’t know if they even make those shirts anymore since soon after, Stephen Ross made a donation, and the school was renamed to the Ross School of Business.

We were all still focused on the excitement of the admissions and preparing for the new school year when I had the trip to the ER. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was still so excited about my shirt and immediate participation throughout Ross that I didn’t focus on it much (as mentioned before, was included in some photos for brochures and magazines).

I don’t exactly remember the order of operations, but I recall the in-network hospital we were visiting told us they didn’t have the specialists required for my situation. I was transferred to Michigan Medical Center. There the doctors were reviewing my MRIs and tests and told me that I had a brain tumor. I was immediately heartbroken and at that point dropped out of all of my classes.

After a year of testing and some less-than-enchanting conversations with insurance companies, it was found that I had scar tissue on my left temporal lobe and I needed to have it removed to help alleviate the 15+ seizures I was having daily – Read more here in the formal Michigan Medicine article about my condition and Cardz For Kidz.

As discussed in the articles and blogs, I got the surgery and we all lived happily ever after. I returned to school, got a couple of degrees, and am “balancing” a career that I love and a nonprofit I’m passionate about.

Now when I look back at my situation I realize, IT’S NOT FAIR. As noted in my prior birthday fundraiser, there’s a lot that a student had to worry about when they’re thinking about which college they want to go to. There are even more layers added on when that student has “special abilities.” Having surgery in the middle of college was stressful, but it could have been a lot worse. Although my surgery impacted my memory, something I’ll never forget is studying the 4 P’s of marketing before my first post-surgery exam. I struggled trying to get all four. I would remember three, then in pure disappointment give up, look at my notes, and read the last one. Then I’d start with that one, recall two more, then once again fail to remember the fourth. I remember my final attempt, and how I know it to this day, went with the following format and this is how it connects to our scholarship. I would think this is something our overcomers would be contemplating and trying to remember when they’re deciding on schools:

  • Product: What is the quality of the school and how useful will the degree be?

  • Place: Where is the school located? Will there be enough support around campus, and will it be easy enough to get follow up appointments?

  • Promotion: Will the students be able to effectively promote/use their degree to network and find their preferred position after school – need the benefits to outweigh their situation?

  • Price: Too many P’s to remember? That’s where this scholarship will come in to play.

We know that overcoming students already have a lot to keep in mind. Our goal is to help ease that transition based on personal experience. I know there are many scholarships that focus on GPAs, test scores, and/or athletics, but these may not resonate with the people we serve. I know I wouldn’t have been able to retain strong scores in those criteria if my first ER trip would have taken place in middle school or high school rather than college. With that in mind, I know it’s not fair how I received my scholarship, so I’m working hard to LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD.

We’re excited that we have our first scholarship winner, Carys H who plans on attending the University of Akron in the Fall of 2024.

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