Lesson Learned: No One Is an Island

Growing up with arthritis, Joshua figured out ways to empower himself and now heads to graduate school supported by an Arthritis Champions Scholarship award.

At the Arthritis Foundation, we are proud to support the rising generation as it joins the movement to help conquer arthritis for good. Every year, we award $5,000 college scholarships to deserving students who have arthritis or a related rheumatic disease. Recently, 14 additional scholarships were funded for 2021-22 by the Ruth Lape Scholarship of the Lichliter Charitable Trust, meaning that even more applicants will now receive awards.

The 2021-22 Arthritis Champions Scholarship program is funded by the Walter J. and Kathryn M. Winterhoff Endowed Scholarship Fund, Dr. Smriti Bardhan College Scholarship Fund, Alpha Omicron Pi and the Ruth Lape Scholarship of the Lichliter Charitable Trust. Between 2010 and 2021, this program has supported 85 college students with a total of $745,000 in awards, including the 14 recent additions.

Scholarships are awarded annually to deserving students with arthritis or a related rheumatic disease who impact the arthritis community, serving as positive role models and leaders, and live their best life while empowering others to do the same.

There were 160 applications this year, and the number of awards more than doubled since last year, from 15 to 34. 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 2021-22, our committee selected ten scholarship winners who were previous scholarship recipients, plus 24 new recipients.

One of the new recipients, Joshua James, is a great example of someone who achieved educationally and personally despite his juvenile arthritis (JA). He has gone above and beyond to support the JA community and plans to pursue a profession helping others.

Joshua, born in Fontana, California, and raised in Long Beach, was diagnosed with arthritis at age 4. It went into remission eight years later, but in his junior year of high school, Joshua’s arthritis returned with a vengeance. “It took over my entire life,” he says. “It disrupted my sleep, my education and my family’s financial situation. I missed weeks of school for surgeries and treatment. I gained a lot of empathy for all people with diseases and disabilities and the impact they have.”

Joshua’s involvement with JA Camp Esperanza gave him a good understanding of how to help others dealing with similar challenges. He has been dedicated to the National JA Conference, as well as Walk to Cure Arthritis and Jingle Bell Run fundraising events. In college at California State University, Fullerton, he learned even more about leadership while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in public relations. After graduating, internships at North Carolina State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and elsewhere further enhanced his communication and leadership skills.

This fall, Joshua, now 26 — with support from his new Arthritis Foundation scholarship award — will begin pursuing his Master of Science in higher education counseling at California State University, Long Beach. He will also serve as assistant resident life coordinator for student housing there.

Along the way, Joshua has developed an interest in boating after working part-time for water sports businesses in Long Beach. “I hope to one day get a captain’s license and continue boating as a lifelong hobby,” he says.

Growing up with JA has taught Joshua some lessons that can help others with their own journey. “Keep moving forward. Learn to use all the resources that are available to you and figure out ways to empower yourself. No person is an island. And remember: Reach out to people for support and allow others to support you.” —TONY WILLIAMS

Applications for the 2022 scholarships will be accepted beginning in January 2022. For any questions regarding the Arthritis Champions Scholarship program, contact Andrea Ring at [email protected].