Meet a Neat Champions Scholarship Recipient

This woman is a role model for young adults, with big dreams about a brighter future.

Every year, the Arthritis Foundation awards $5,000 in college scholarships to deserving students who have arthritis or a related rheumatic disease.

Recipients are considered based on their arthritis challenges and achievements, their impact on the arthritis community and their educational and professional goals. They serve as positive role models and leaders, living their best life while empowering others to do the same.

The application period for the 2023-24 term is now closed.

Among 20 recipients of 2022-23 Arthritis Foundation scholarships was Marie Schultz (not her real name), who is studying to be a psychologist.

Marie, now 24, started having knee and shoulder pain when she was 10, followed at age 13 by a diagnosis of the hypermobile type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a group of arthritis-related diseases.

“Over the years, my pain has worsened immensely,” Marie says. “When I was 17, I had to stop my 13-year-long competitive swimming career. As I became a young adult, life became even more difficult.

“I learned that most of the time, I can’t physically cook a meal that takes longer than 30 minutes. I need lots of places to sit around my house. I learned how to shower while sitting because sometimes I can’t stand.”

Marie says studying when she’s in pain is beyond challenging. And she can’t go about her daily tasks without some sort of struggle. Despite the challenges, however, she has accomplished a lot besides her swimming career.

She earned her associate’s degree in psychology in just one year with a 4.0 GPA. This spring, she’ll receive her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in statistics. Then she hopes to pursue a doctorate in the field, focusing on social justice.

“My ultimate goal is to become a social psychologist,” she says. “I want to advocate for marginalized groups of all types and help end inequities that society continues to perpetuate.”

To support the arthritis community, Marie has been serving as the young adult chair on the Arthritis Foundation’s local leadership board in her area. In that role, she created a young adult committee to participate in health fairs at a nearby medical center.

She also formed a team for last year’s Jingle Bell Run fundraiser for arthritis research and resources. In addition, she was a facilitator of a Live Yes! Connect Group for young adults and hosted a young adults social event.

“This feels like the path I’m supposed to be on,” Marie concludes. “My dreams are big, but I have the motivation, dedication and passion to succeed. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome has broken me, but it has also made me who I am.”

These awards are generously funded by Dr. and Mrs. Walter J. Winterhoff and Dr. Smriti Bardhan. Between 2010 and 2022, this program has supported dozens of college students through a total of $845,000 in awards.

Scholarship reviewers include members of the Arthritis Foundation’s national and local leadership boards, higher education experts, health care providers and past scholarship recipients. The selection process is blind, so applications are reviewed anonymously.

For any questions about the Arthritis Champions Scholarship program, email [email protected].

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