Valerie Rewa: Thriving in College

For Rewa, having arthritis has fueled her passions and involvements on campus.

By Mackenzie Wells

Valerie Rewa refuses to let arthritis slow her down. In fact, the 20-year-old says having arthritis has inspired many of her life decisions so far – from her choice of major to her position in her sorority. Diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) at just 13 months old, Rewa says she doesn’t view her condition as a burden, but instead as a fundamental part of her identity.  

“Who I am today is because of what I’ve gone through with arthritis,” she says. “It's a part of my life, and a part of me.”

Connecting on Campus

A junior at the University of Mississippi, Rewa majors in biology and plans to attend medical school to become a pediatric rheumatologist. She is also the national philanthropy chair at her chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) – a sorority who supports the Arthritis Foundation as their national charity.

Rewa says that AOII’s connection to the Arthritis Foundation was a key reason she joined. Additionally, two of Rewa’s sorority sisters have arthritis. Having friends that understood her struggles helped her through the transition from high school to college, she says.

“I knew I could make friends anywhere, but AOII gave me that connection to the Arthritis Foundation that I think I definitely needed,” she says. “Having that community and having someone who understands what you're going through makes it a lot easier in any situation.”

In her role as philanthropy chair, Rewa plans events to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation. This year, her chapter is piloting Connect on Campus – an Arthritis Foundation program that connects college students with arthritis and provides support for the tough transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Helping launch the Connect on Campus program is one way Rewa pays it forward.

“Saying you have arthritis is not usually an icebreaker when meeting new people, so it’s hard finding others going through the same things as you,” she says. “With this program, we want to offer a welcoming and open community to anyone who needs and wants support – whether they are a part of Greek life or not.”


Finding Balance in the Busy Season

In addition to her involvements with AOII and the Arthritis Foundation, Rewa is a member of the honors college and a teaching assistant. She also minors in Spanish and plans to study abroad in Spain for the spring semester. Because of her achievements as an exemplary student and role model in the arthritis community, Rewa has been awarded the Winterhoff Arthritis Scholarship for the past two years.

With such a busy schedule, Rewa says she has to make a conscious effort to safeguard her health and listen to her body when it’s time to rest. She also takes care of herself by choosing healthy foods whenever possible.

Rewa says she relies on close friends to remind her when to slow down and help her balance her health with her commitments. Her roommates know what day she gives herself a shot and check in to make sure she takes it. She has another friend who keeps her accountable to work out whenever she feels up to it; the two have been training for a half marathon together.

“I think it's really important that you find people who hold you accountable, because like anything, it is hard to do by yourself,” Rewa says.

Advice to Others: Stay Positive

Though Rewa successfully manages her medical care now, she says certain things were especially challenging in the beginning – like keeping up with shots and medications.

“My mom always gave me my shots and stored my medications,” she says. “So, it took a while to work out the kinks and get into the groove on my own.”

During her first semester of college, Rewa shipped her medications to the university health clinic so nurses could administer her shots. She says it was a nice transition from having her mom do it, and it helped her establish a medication routine. But she worried the clinic wouldn’t store her medications properly, which prompted her to give the shots herself.

During her freshman year, she also had to switch to a different medication because her family history had put her at high risk for lymphoma. The process of finding a new medication and dosage took almost eight months. Having this problem at the beginning of college only made it more difficult, but she remained hopeful with the support of family and friends, she says. Plus, past experience finding a successful medication taught her patience– which eventually paid off. Today, Rewa is on a new medication that helps manage her symptoms and thrive academically and socially.

Rewa advises any teen making the leap from high school to reach out to people and organizations who have the resources to help, like the Arthritis Foundation. “It you don’t’ know something, ask,” she says.

She also says it’s important to keep a positive attitude and embrace having arthritis, instead of hiding it or ignoring it. Once you do that, she says, it’s easier to shift away from a self-pitying mindset to one that’s empowered, even during the toughest times.

“It can get frustrating, but I think that it's important to trust that something will make it better,” Rewa says. “It may be hard now, but it will get better.”

I Want to Contribute
I Need Help
  • Donate


    Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.

  • Volunteer


    Join us and become a Champion of Yes. There are many volunteer opportunities available.

  • Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Take part to be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis.

  • Partner


    Proud Partners of the Arthritis Foundation make an annual commitment to directly support the Foundation’s mission.


Ways to Give

Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life. Whether it is supporting cutting-edge research, 24/7 access to one-on-one support, resources and tools for daily living, and more, your gift will be life-changing.

Make a Donation

Help millions of people live with less pain and fund groundbreaking research to discover a cure for this devastating disease. Please, make your urgently-needed donation to the Arthritis Foundation now!

Become a Member

Become an Arthritis Foundation member today for just $20. You'll receive a year's worth of Arthritis Today magazine, access to helpful tools, resources, and more.

Make a Honor or Memorial Gift

Honor a loved one with a meaningful donation to the Arthritis Foundation. We'll send a handwritten card to the honoree or their family notifying them of your thoughtful gift.

Gift Planning

I want information on ways to remember the AF in my will, trust or other financial planning vehicles.


Volunteer Opportunities

The Arthritis Foundation is focused on finding a cure and championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing information, advocacy, science and community. We can only achieve these goals with your help. Strong, outspoken and engaged volunteers will help us conquer arthritis. By getting involved, you become a leader in our organization and help make a difference in the lives of millions. Join us and become a Champion of Yes.

More About Volunteering


Give Just 10 Minutes.

Tell us what matters most to you. Change the future of arthritis.

By taking part in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment, you’ll be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis, for yourself and for 54 million others. And all it takes is just 10 minutes.

Your shared experiences will help:

- Lead to more effective treatments and outcomes
- Develop programs to meet the needs of you and your community
- Shape a powerful agenda that fights for you

Now is the time to make your voice count, for yourself and the entire arthritis community. 

Currently this program is for the adult arthritis community.  Since the needs of the juvenile arthritis (JA) community are unique, we are currently working with experts to develop a customized experience for JA families. 

How are you changing the future?

By sharing your experience, you’re showing decision-makers the realities of living with arthritis, paving the way for change. You’re helping break down barriers to care, inform research and create resources that make a difference in people’s lives, including your own.

Get Started


Meet Our Partners

As a partner, you will help the Arthritis Foundation provide life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections for people with arthritis, the nations leading cause of disability. Join us today and help lead the way as a Champion of Yes.


Our Trailblazers are committed partners ready to lead the way, take action and fight for everyday victories. They contribute $2,000,000 to $2,749,000


Our Visionary partners help us plan for a future that includes a cure for arthritis. These inspired and inventive champions have contributed $1,500,00 to $1,999,999.


Our Pioneers are always ready to explore and find new weapons in the fight against arthritis. They contribute $1,000,000 to $1,499,999.


Our Pacesetters ensure that we can chart the course for a cure for those who live with arthritis. They contribute $500,000 to $999,000.


Our Signature partners make their mark by helping us identify new and meaningful resources for people with arthritis. They contribute $250,000 to $499,999.


Our Supporting partners are active champions who provide encouragement and assistance to the arthritis community. They contribute $100,000 to $249,999.