5 Tips For Winning Scholarship Applications

LinkedIn
TFS Scholarships

Scholarships are a great way to pay for college, and unlike loans they don’t need to be repaid. But winning scholarships takes time, dedication, intensive research, and hard work—especially for essays. It’s deadline time for college applications, so it’s important to start the search for free money now!

The Internet has made the search easy and free, and scholarship databases like Tuition Funding Sources (TFS) offers access to 7 million scholarships and $41 billion in financial aid. Start by filling in the registration; then with a click, the site searches to find any scholarships for which you might qualify. The more information you provide about yourself, the more matches TFS can make.

Undergraduate and graduate students can search for scholarships that fit their interests. The majority of scholarship opportunities featured on TFS Scholarships come directly from colleges and universities, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby increasing the chances of finding scholarships that are the best match for students. Each month TFS adds more than 5,000 new scholarships to its database, maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education.

Richard Sorensen, President of TFS, suggests these tips when applying for scholarships:

  1. Apply for smaller scholarships

Many students look for scholarships that offer big awards but those are also the most competitive. Scholarships with smaller awards are easier to obtain because fewer students are competing for them. These scholarships can help with college costs such as books and living expenses.

  1. Customize your essay

Scholarship judges can tell if you’ve adapted a previously written essay to meet their criteria. Customize your application and use the beginning of your essay to showcase your personality and set yourself apart. Remember, the time you are spending to tailor your essay can be rewarded with a college debt free future.

  1. Submit scholarship applications early

Meet the deadlines and don’t wait until the due date. If the organization asks you to mail the application, don’t try to email it and if there is a maximum word count limit, don’t go over it. Most scholarship providers receive more qualified applications than available funds, so reduce your chances of being disqualified because you didn’t follow their requirements.

  1. Follow your passion

Apply for scholarships that fit your passion and interest. TFS has scholarships for everyone. The more personal the scholarship the higher your chances of winning!

  1. Increase your submission rate

The more applications you submit, the greater your chances are of winning scholarships. Treat applying for scholarships as a part-time job. Organize your free time and try to work on submitting one scholarship application every week and more during weekends. Remember if you spend 100 hours on submitting applications and win scholarships for $10,000 that is a really good part-time job!

TFS has been helping students for over 30 years and offers more than 7 million individual scholarships and more than $41 billion in aid. Visit tuitionfundingsources.com to learn more.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Two Latinas are working together to create a pipeline of diversity in STEM

LinkedIn
young Hispanic woman in lab coat with technology equipment behind her

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, collectively known as STEM make up the fastest-growing and highest paid fields in the U.S. with diverse job opportunities in careers ranging from aerospace engineers, programmer to operations director, yet Latinas only account for 3% of the industry.

Unfortunately, many Latinas are discouraged from pursuing STEM careers and loose interest in these disciplines as early as middle school. This is why early intervention curriculums like the ones provided by XYLO Academy are key to increasing the representation of Latinas in the STEM workforce.

Getting to college is another challenge as underrepresented students face steep costs and challenges to higher education. According to a recent study published in the journal Education Researcher Latino college students drop out of STEM programs at higher rates (37%) that their white peers (27%).

Continual increases in tuition and fees have pushed the cost of college education beyond the means of most minority and underrepresented students. This is why IO Scholarships offers free access to scholarships and financial education so high school, undergraduate and graduate students can find life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

Despite all the challenges, these two Latinas are working together to fix the leaking pipeline, providing scholarships, and creating STEM curriculums for women of color.

Gabriela Forter
Co-founder XYLO Academy

Gabriela Forter headshot

Born and raised in the California San Joaquin Valley, Gabriela’s first introduction to entrepreneurship was during a course with Professor Rostamian at UCLA in 2015. This class significantly shaped not only her academic interests but also her career path. Gabriela and Professor Rostamian have now launched XYLO Academy to scale this same impact. After spending two and a half years at Deloitte Consulting, Gabriela joined Facebook, focusing on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. She is confident that the most meaningful changes in society will come from advancements in disruptive innovations and seeks to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM. She is committed to increasing diversity in STEM and believes that change starts with education.

“Our goal at XYLO Academy is to educate students on disruptive innovation and inspire them to pursue degrees and careers in STEM and with our partnership with IO Scholarships we are creating a pipeline for these students to have access to the best scholarships in STEM and realize their dreams.”

María Trochimezuk
Founder IO Scholarships

María Trochimezuk headshot

Her determination and hard work paid off as she won grants and scholarships to pay for her entire education. In realizing how time consuming and complicated the process of finding scholarships for STEM diverse students was, María Fernanda created IO Scholarships to make things much easier. She learned first-hand to find, apply for and win scholarships and became an advocate promoting scholarships nationwide.

“IOScholarships was inspired by my own experience as I was very fortunate to access scholarships to attend prestigious universities and realized that more could be done to support minority students especially now as STEM education becomes more important to workforce opportunities,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IO Scholarships. “IO Scholarships will not only help underrepresented students find scholarships, but level the playing field so all students have the opportunity to achieve their education goals.”

ABOUT XYLO ACADEMY

We are a group of passionate and skilled storytellers. We believe that students everywhere should have the power and ability to access a world-class education. We believe that technology and innovation, especially disruptive innovation, provides unlimited potential for the future. XYLO Academy introduces this space to students in a bold, story-telling format breaking down any barriers that impede equal opportunity to explore, learn and thrive in the 5 disruptive innovation platforms: Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies, Robotics, Energy Storage and Bio Tech. We have diverse experiences and backgrounds across technology, product innovations and education. We are united in our passion to provide equal access to the study of technology and innovation. Our diversity is our strength, and our mission is our singular focus. XYLO – Unlimited space for learning and opportunity.

ABOUT IO SCHOLARSHIPS

Most of the scholarships featured on the IOScholarships website come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. Each month IO Scholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.

In addition to providing scholarships, IO Scholarships website offers a free scholarship organizer, news articles designed to provide guidance on how to apply for scholarships, and money saving tips. The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

For more information about IO Scholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com or for weekly STEM scholarships email maria.fernanda@ioscholarships.com.

STEM Internship Opportunities for Diverse Students

LinkedIn
female mentor with male student pointing to graph on board

IOScholarships (IOS), the first of its kind scholarship and financial education platform for minority STEM students has been designed with a streamlined user-friendly interface that offers great functionality to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students find STEM scholarships and internship opportunities. IOScholarships proprietary matching algorithm can match students with life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

Statistically speaking, minorities tend to be underrepresented in STEM fields. That’s why corporations often create internship opportunities for minorities entering the industry.

“As the job market is becoming more competitive in addition to GPA and personal achievements, employers want to see applicants who have completed one or more internships,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships.

Below we’ve highlighted some of the many internships for minorities in STEM fields

Facebook Software Engineer Internship

The Software Engineer Internship is available to undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing a degree in computer science or a related field. Interns will help build the next generation of systems behind Facebook’s products, create web applications that reach millions of people, build high volume servers, and be a part of a team that’s working to help people connect with each other around the globe.

Microsoft Internship Program

For Women and Minorities this program is specifically designed for undergraduate minority college freshmen and sophomores interested in a paid summer internship in software engineering. Students must major in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or related disciplines.

Minority Access Internship

The Minority Access Internship Program has internships on offered in the spring, summer and fall to college sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduates, and professionals. Interns receive pre-employment training and counseling on career choices as well as professional development, with the possibility of full-time employment after graduation.

Google Internships

Google offers rich learning experiences for college students that include pay. As a technical intern, you are excited about tackling the hard problems in technology. With internships across the globe, ranging from Software Engineering to User Experience, Google offers many opportunities to grow with them.

The majority of the scholarships and internships featured on the IOScholarships website come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education.

The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

For more information about IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com.

IOScholarships Certified as a Minority-Owned Business

LinkedIn
two diverse tech students in classroom reviewing work on computer screen

IOScholarships (IOS), the first of its kind free scholarship and financial education platform for minority STEM students announced it was granted its Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification as a validation of its status as a minority-owned business.

The certification verifies that IOScholarships, LLC meets the criteria which requires a business to be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by racial or ethnic minorities who are also U.S. citizens.

“Getting our MBE certification was a natural step for IOScholarships as we continue our ongoing commitment to minority students. We look forward to working with our sponsors and partners to continue helping underrepresented students go to college debt-free.” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships.

Most of the scholarships featured on www.ioscholarships.com come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. Each month IOScholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and also posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities. The platform also offers a blog with financial education information and a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

IOScholarships is proud to join the National Scholarship Providers Association an organization that offers tools, resources, professional development, and networking needed to administer a successful scholarship and student support program. In 2019, NSPA awarded $4,275,054,382 to 827,327 students.

For more information about IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com or for weekly STEM scholarships email maria.fernanda@ioscholarships.com.

‘No One’s Ever Talked to Me About This Before’

LinkedIn
Rach Idowu runs a newsletter called Adulting With A.D.H.D., in which she has described the difficulties she faced in receiving a diagnosis for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

By Nicole Clark, NY Times

“When I was a kid, I had the sense things were more difficult for me,” Tiffany Bui recalled. It was hard for her to focus in school, and she was often forgetful. Throughout her life, she said, members of her family criticized these traits as faults.

In the fall of 2020, when she was a senior at the University of Minnesota, Ms. Bui, 21, was struggling with anxiety and depression. She visited the school’s health clinic, where she was prescribed an antidepressant, but her attention troubles persisted. When she later returned to the clinic, the doctor asked if she had considered that she might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or A.D.H.D.

“I started reading up, just doing some self-research about what A.D.H.D. looks like in women, and it was like, ‘Wow, no one’s ever talked to me about this before,’” Ms. Bui said. She wasn’t exclusively consulting medical websites; on social media, she saw posts from women talking about their experiences with A.D.H.D., which she said were “incredibly specific and so relatable.”

Ms. Bui was referred to a psychologist in Bloomington, Minn., where she sat for a neurological assessment sometimes used for diagnostic purposes, most often in children; it included word association tests, math problems and pattern-recognition exercises. Finally, following a lifetime of symptoms, Ms. Bui was diagnosed with inattentive A.D.H.D. (A.D.H.D. falls on a spectrum of three “types”: inattentive, hyperactive or combined type. Inattentive is used to describe symptoms like forgetfulness and other traits related to concentration.)

Ms. Bui’s story is not uncommon: Many women and people of color are only now learning, after years or even decades of difficulty, that they may meet the diagnostic criteria for A.D.H.D., thanks in part to a wave of creators on social media trying to spread awareness.

These creators are sharing webcomics (like Pina Varnel, 31, who is known as the A.D.H.D. Alien on Twitter), videos (Dani Donovan, 29, does so on TikTok, and Jessica McCabe, 38, on YouTube), newsletters (like 26-year-old Rach Idowu’s Adulting With A.D.H.D.), blogs (such as 36-year-old René Brooks’s Black Girl Lost Keys) and memes (“tell me you have A.D.H.D. without telling me you have A.D.H.D.”) that aim to help people identify symptoms and find community.

Dr. Lidia Zylowska, a psychiatrist and the author of “Mindfulness Prescription for Adult A.D.H.D.,” said that she had not observed an uptick in women of color being diagnosed with A.D.H.D. However, she noted, “there is an increasing trend in awareness in the A.D.H.D. field and the general public that people of color, and especially girls and women of color, maybe overlooked and not given the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and treatment.”

Though medical researchers found, in a recent review of more than 300 studies, that A.D.H.D. was overdiagnosed (and overmedicated) in children under the age of 18, those diagnoses skewed toward certain demographics. White children are more likely to receive diagnoses and treatment for A.D.H.D. then children of color, as diagnostic models have long been based on research focused on young white boys.

Symptoms of the disorder may present differently in girls, and the emotional toll can be intense; one longitudinal study focused on girls and young women found that subjects who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. as children showed marked impairment 10 years after their diagnoses, including a high risk of self-harm.

“Eventually you hit a wall academically or professionally, and then you need to address all of these layers of built-up failed coping strategies,” said Leah Islam, 28. Mx. Islam had struggled with depression since age 13 but did not receive an A.D.H.D. diagnosis until turning 21. Their parents hadn’t supported their search for mental health care; it wasn’t until recently that Mx. Islam began discussing medication with their mother.

For some people, A.D.H.D. content represents a step toward identifying or explaining the ways they have felt different. It has also helped them advocate for their own evaluations; because A.D.H.D. is thought to be diagnosed in childhood, getting evaluated as an adult can be challenging (especially for people of color, who face implicit bias when seeking health care). People with A.D.H.D. are also more likely to be unemployed and therefore uninsured.

When Ms. Idowu, who lives in England, sought a referral for an evaluation through the U.K.’s National Health Service, her family’s general practitioner said that she didn’t match the profile of a person with A.D.H.D.

Ms. Idowu had read on Reddit about the difficulties of getting an evaluation and had come prepared with anecdotes from her childhood, as well as more recent workplace examples. She was given a referral, and nine months later she was able to see a specialist. Her most popular newsletter send details this process; some subscribers have told her it helped them navigate their own diagnostic processes.

A.D.H.D. has been diagnosed in 9.4 percent of children in the United States, according to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with rates rising in the past two decades. It is debated whether children grow out of it in adulthood, an attitude that is evolving as recent research shows diagnostic rates growing rapidly among white adults.

By adulthood, many without diagnosis or treatment have spent years feeling isolated or different. Dr. Courtney Pflieger, a private-practice psychologist who herself has A.D.H.D., said that people with the disorder often experience negative feedback as adults. “It really feeds: ‘What’s wrong with me, I must just be broken,’” she said.

Ms. Bui’s own symptoms went unnoticed for years because she was able to do fine in school. Like many others who aren’t diagnosed until adulthood, she was “masking” her symptoms — adapting to neurotypical behaviors and standards in order to fit in. (Masking forgetfulness, for example, might mean privately relying on a bulwark of organizational strategies — like setting phone alarms for every step of doing laundry.) She still doesn’t feel comfortable telling her family about her diagnosis.

Click here to read the full article in the NY Times.

UCLA introduces American Sign Language/Deaf culture course to dental students

LinkedIn
American Sign Language instructor Andrew Moore, top left, teaches a virtual class on ASL at UCLA in April.

By David Burger, ADA News

Los Angeles — According to the National Association of the Deaf, there are nearly 50 million Deaf/Hard of Hearing people in the U.S. There are communication barriers between the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community and the dental community that needs to be addressed and overcome.

To improve this communication process and address these barriers, in April the UCLA School of Dentistry launched a five-week long elective course for dental students on Deaf culture, Deaf history, and American Sign Language so that the future dentists will have a basic understanding and be prepared in their interactions with Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients.

“The more we can do to increase awareness and education of the community as a whole will hopefully benefit overall patient care in the coming years,” said Benjamin Kurnick, a second-year dental student and co-vice president of the school’s Special Patient Care Club. “This program is a part of the Special Patient Care Club’s overall mission of adding to our fellow dental students’ capabilities in treating and interacting with the special needs community.”

The virtual lunch-time class is taught by Andrew Moore, an American Sign Language instructor and Deaf interpreter, who has developed the curriculum specifically tailored to dental students.

Mr. Moore became involved in offering the program when Mr. Kurnick approached him with the brainchild.

“After discussing ideas, I was thrilled to agree and accept this unique opportunity,” Mr. Moore said. “Upon taking these classes, I hope that these dental students will gain appreciation, awareness, sensitivity, and understanding when interacting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients.”

In Mr. Moore’s education, he addresses various forms of communication methods and barriers. These communication barriers can be removed by providing interpreters, using clear masks, illustrations/picture boards, pen/paper, gestures and voice-to-text apps.

Approved by the UCLA School of Dentistry Office of Student Affairs, with funding secured through the UCLA Student Organizations and Leadership Office, the course emphasizes that communication is key for all patient-centered care, said Eric Sung, D.D.S., professor of clinical dentistry at UCLA and the course’s faculty advisor.

Click here to read the full article on ADA News.

IOScholarships Provides Free Access to STEM Scholarships

LinkedIn
female grad student wearing her graduate robe and holding cap in her hand

IOScholarships (IOS), the first of its kind scholarship and financial education platform for minority STEM students recently announced the launch of its search engine website. The technology has been designed with a streamlined user-friendly interface that offers great functionality to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students find STEM scholarships.

IOScholarships proprietary matching algorithm can match students with life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

Continual increases in tuition and fees have pushed the cost of college education beyond the means of most minority and underrepresented students. Even though STEM occupations have outpaced all other job growth, African Americans represent only 9% of STEM workers, while Hispanics comprise only 7% of all STEM workers.

“IOScholarships was inspired by my own experience as I was very fortunate to access scholarships to attend prestigious universities and realized that more could be done to support minority students especially now as STEM education becomes more and more important to workforce opportunities,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships. “Students should think about finding scholarships like it’s a part time job.”

The majority of the scholarships featured on the IOScholarships website come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. Each month IOScholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and also posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.

IOSSCholarships promo poster with diverse students in the background

In addition to providing scholarships, the new IOScholarships website introduces a free scholarship organizer, news articles designed to provide guidance on how to apply for scholarships, and money saving tips. The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

For more information about IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com or for weekly STEM scholarships email maria.fernanda@ioscholarships.com.

Singer with disability shines in Ali Stroker’s new kids book

LinkedIn
Cover image of the childrens book of an Ali illustration

By the Sentinel-Tribune

Broadway star Ali Stroker says she always felt like her “most powerful self” when onstage, and now as the co-author of a new book for kids, she’s trying to empower others.

Broadway star Ali Stroker says she always felt like her “most powerful self” when onstage, and now as the co-author of a new book for kids, she’s trying to empower others.

Stroker teamed up with her friend and middle grade author Stacy Davidowitz and set out to create a familiar character: a young girl in a wheelchair named Nat who wants to perform in a local musical.

“The Chance to Fly” — published this week — was a way for the actor to share her own experiences as a person with a disability and big dreams. Stroker, who has used a wheelchair since a car accident paralyzed her when she was 2, says she wanted to help kids with disabilities recognize themselves in the book. Even before winning a Tony in 2019 for her role in the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma,” Stroker served as an example of a person who doesn’t let limitations prevent her from achieving her goals. She made history as the first actor in a wheelchair to win the award and dedicated it to all kids with disabilities waiting to be represented in theater.

Stroker said she was driven to write “The Chance to Fly” because she didn’t have any stories like it to read when she was in middle school. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Stroker talked about the challenges of writing a story similar to her own, representing people with disabilities, and naming her wheelchair.

AP: Nat loves musicals and performing. How did performing make you feel at her age?

Stroker: On stage, I felt like I was my most powerful self because people were looking at me and staring at me. But it wasn’t just because of my wheelchair and it was a safe place to be different kinds of people. For a long time, I felt like I had to be, you know, like happy and OK and inspirational for other people. And when I was on stage and I was playing a character who was going through something, I got to express all those other things that were living inside of me. Writing this book as well and going back to those really vulnerable, scary, first time moments was so healing. And I think teenage Ali was just really brave and really tough. And I feel so proud of where I am now.

AP: Nat sometimes feels embarrassed about her wheelchair. Was it hard to write about that?

Stroker: It was a challenge for me to go back to those moments. One of the ways I describe it is just like you feel like you’re like so hot and you feel like people are looking at you for the thing that you are most self-conscious of, and maybe the thing that you have the most shame about. And it’s just overwhelming. But I wanted to write it because whether you have a disability or you’re in a wheelchair or not, you have those self-conscious and really difficult moments in your life, especially as a teenager, when you just want to be like everybody else, but you’re not like everybody else. And the reason it needed to exist in this book is because I want young people to know that they’re not alone in feeling like that.

AP: The adult directors of the show cast Nat but tell her she doesn’t have to dance, which upsets her because doesn’t want special treatment. Why was that important to include?

Stroker: What’s so beautiful about living with a disability is that your creativity to solve problems is so accessible. It’s so heightened because this is a part of your everyday life. Nat is really disappointed, but then she goes away and she shares with her friends, her peers what’s going on, and then they offer to help her and they are going to not wait for the adults to solve the problem, but they are going to come up with the answer. That’s an ideal situation when you can ask your home team, the people that you trust the most for help, and then you can come up with a creative solution.

Click here to read the full article on the Sentinel-Tribune.

Chefs and cooks in the disability community share recipes for accessibility

LinkedIn
Chef Regina Mitchell prepares vegetables in her home outside of Las Vegas. Mitchell, who is blind, teaches Zoom cooking classes through the Nevada-based organization Blindconnec

LUCAS KWAN PETERSON

Chef Regina Mitchell’s Zoom cooking class begins like a lot of Zooms: friendly banter, reminders to mute here, some technical adjustments there. A few minutes after the 4:30 p.m. start time, there are about 20 people on the call. The menu for tonight: a vegetable stir-fry and a lemongrass-ginger soda.

“The blind can cook!” she says to the camera and laughs. “People say when you have lemons, you make lemonade. I turn lemons into limoncello. Or a lemon pavlova.”

PHOTO: (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Mitchell, 60, became blind as an adult. She teaches cooking through the Nevada-based organization Blindconnect and its life skills-based program, Angela’s House. On the first and second Wednesdays of the month from her kitchen in the Las Vegas Valley, Mitchell emphasizes fun and skill-sharing to help visually impaired people feel comfortable in the kitchen.

Food and cooking are essential areas where those with disabilities can often be invisible or overlooked. But Mitchell and other advocates are working hard to address the problem by offering classes and resources and putting forth ideas to make cooking and recipes accessible.

Soon, the class begins in earnest. Much of the process is what you might expect — verbal instruction, chopping, peeling, simmering — but Mitchell emphasizes kitchen safety and exploration through touch and smell.

“I encourage you to feel the difference between corn starch, flour, confectioner’s sugar,” she says. At another point, while peeling a piece of ginger with a spoon, she reminds students, “Feel it before you peel it,” to better acquaint them with the rough-skinned root. She suggests students rub spices together in their hands to “wake them up,” which also makes them easier to identify.

Mitchell’s journey to teaching grew from necessity. “It’s a place to come; it’s a place to connect,” she says of her Zoom classes. “It’s a place to gather; it’s a place to be able to say hi. Because really, as blind individuals, we are already isolated.”

Growing up in Compton, Mitchell learned a love of food and cooking from her mother and grandmothers. Thrust into a caretaker role as a teenager after the death of a sibling, Mitchell relied on a couple of go-to dishes to feed her family: enchiladas and tacos.

After she and her future husband, Stan, met at church, the couple moved to Seattle where Mitchell enrolled at the Seattle Culinary Academy. After cooking and consulting for years as a professional chef, which included brief internships with Emeril Lagasse and Julia Child, Mitchell moved to Las Vegas for a job.

In 2011, she began to feel pain — eye pain. At the hotel where she was working, she began to notice a change. Her walking became unsteady; she felt off-balance. “I realized I didn’t have that gait like I used to have,” she says. Her colleagues noticed. “I had to ask people at work to help me read some things, undercover, of course.” Over the next several months, her vision deteriorated.

She was eventually diagnosed with bilateral panuveitis, a condition that affects the middle layer of the eye and robbed Mitchell of her sight. Her doctor wouldn’t let her return to work.

“I lost my vision, I lost my job. What do I do?” Mitchell remembers thinking. At the time, she was 50.

In the United States, 26% of adults, or 61 million people, live with some type of disability. Of those, 6.8% have an independent-living disability — something that would cause difficulty running errands alone; 5.9% are deaf or severely hearing impaired and 4.6% are blind or severely visually impaired.

Studies have shown that food insecurity, or lack of reliable access to nutritious food, is more likely to occur in households where there is someone with a disability, further demonstrating the need for accessible classes, websites and tailored teaching strategies. A study from the USDA’s Economic Research Survey estimated that 38% of households with low food security included an adult with a disability. Poor diet, the study noted, can exacerbate health conditions and disabilities.

“Who, above anyone, could use information on how to cook?” says George Stern, a deafblind writer and disability rights advocate living in Lubbock, Texas. The disabled “benefit as much as anyone from that knowledge, if not more,” he said. But to reap those benefits, companies and businesses must make access for all a priority.

Stern says we must stop thinking about providing accessibility as a burden or barrier because it’s not. “Accessibility goes past the needs of any one disability class. An accommodation that benefits deafblind people benefits sighted people. Accommodations that benefit people in wheelchairs benefit non-disabled people.”

He cited the installation of accessible ramps in front of businesses as an example. Initially, some may complain about the cost or inconvenience, “but then you see the benefits,” for all people: parents with strollers or people making deliveries.

Kitchens and culinary spaces also should be designed with access in mind — not retroactively making accommodations. “Universal design is welcoming from the get-go,” Stern says. “We’re assuming disabled people exist because yes, hello, we do.”

The food industry, from kitchens to restaurants to culinary training spaces, still feels “off-limits” to those with disabilities, Stern says. He recalled applying for a job at a pizza parlor but was told he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace. The prevailing attitude, he says, is one of, “I’m going to assume what you can do based on what I assume I couldn’t do.”

Stern, who has written about the importance of alt-text and website accessibility for Serious Eats, wants to challenge traditional thinking about what those with disabilities can or cannot do, and are or are not interested in. “The crucial thing is that disabled people can contribute in ways they’re not thinking of.”

Stern’s partner, Danielle Montour, is an assistive technology specialist and amateur baker who graduated from the Colorado Center for the Blind’s Independence Training Program. She was born with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer, and is blind. There’s fear in non-disabled communities, Montour said, regarding letting those with disabilities into a kitchen — specifically near knives and stoves. While the fear may come from a place of caring, “It just perpetuates this cycle of blind people who have to go elsewhere to get basic skill training,” she says.

“I understand the intention might be well, but the road to hell is paved with them.”

Montour’s medium of choice is baking, but she found that recipes often relied too heavily on visual indicators. She emphasized the need for different metrics for quality and doneness.

“I don’t want to know when something is golden brown,” she says. “If your only indicator is the color, I’m going to look for [another recipe]. What does it smell like? What should it feel like? What is the consistency of pastry cream? None of the recipes I saw told me what that should be.”

Mitchell, with her adult-onset blindness, was forced to make adjustments in the kitchen, which had been her solace for years. She met Raquel O’Neill, the president of Blindconnect, who introduced her to the concept of blindness skills, which include communication, orientation and independent living. In 2019, Mitchell began teaching cooking with Blindconnect.

Out of necessity, Mitchell’s food vocabulary expanded as a result of her blindness. “I’m trying to describe [food] to my listeners, I’m trying to describe it for the people in my Zoom class: This is what you’re going to be tasting if you do this right,” she says.

She recalls one simple but instructive memory from culinary school, before she had lost her vision. “My professor had us write how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” she says. “And at the time as sassy culinary students, you think you know it all. All of us failed it.”

The problem? The instructor wanted the students to write as if the person following it had never read a recipe. “I take five steps to my cupboard, I open my cupboard with my left hand. I take my right hand, I reach into my cupboard. I pull out my bread,” Mitchell recalls. “I pull my drawer out and I reach in with my left hand and I pull out my knife.”

That experience informed her teaching philosophy in a profound way: “That brought back the memory of being descriptive,” she says. “I thought, ‘Ah, that’s how I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna take that approach.’”

Read the full article at LA Times.

US Eases Student Loan Relief for Those With Disabilities

LinkedIn
Graduation cap sitting on a pile of giant money coins next to a pencil holder in front of a blackboard

BY COLLIN BINKLEY, U.S. News

The U.S. Education Department is canceling student debt for more than 40,000 Americans who were previously granted loan forgiveness because of disabilities but later had their debt reinstated after they failed to submit certain paperwork, the agency announced Monday.

The action targets a loan forgiveness program that aims to help people with disabilities but that critics say carries overly burdensome rules. After being granted loan forgiveness, borrowers are required to submit documentation of their earnings for three years. If their earnings go beyond certain thresholds — or if they fail to submit documentation — they’re back on the hook for their loans.

Acknowledging the program’s challenges, the Education Department said it will relax the rules during the coronavirus pandemic and consider other changes to the reporting requirements in the future.

Until the federal government declares an end to the pandemic, more than 190,000 borrowers who are now in the three-year monitoring period will not be required to submit proof of their earnings, the agency said. Another 41,000 who had debt reinstated over paperwork issues will again get loan forgiveness, amounting to a combined $1.3 billion.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said borrowers with disabilities should not “put their health on the line” to submit earnings information.

The measure was a disappointment to advocates who have called for a total overhaul of the program. Student Defense, a Washington legal group, said the action helps a small fraction of borrowers eligible for the program. The group has urged Biden to automatically clear loans for all eligible borrowers, and to eliminate the monitoring period permanently.

Alex Elson, senior counsel for the group, said the new measure “is not a victory for students.”

“There are roughly 400,000 borrowers with disabilities who the Social Security Administration has already determined are legally owed debt relief,” he said. “The Department of Education knows exactly who they are but is choosing to do nothing for them.”

A senior department official briefing reporters said the agency is exploring permanent changes to the program, but that they would have to go through a federal rule-making process that requires months of negotiation.

The program was created to help people who are “totally and permanently disabled” and unable to generate significant income.

Borrowers are eligible if they can submit documentation of a mental or physical disability that has continued at least five years or is expected to last for that long. During the monitoring period, their incomes must not exceed the poverty level for a family of two in their state.

The program came under scrutiny in 2016 after a federal watchdog found that the income reporting rules were a major hurdle for borrowers. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that in 98% of cases in which loans were restored, it was because borrowers did not submit the right paperwork, and not because they were earning too much.

Click here to read the full article on US News.

Med Student’s Disability Helps Him Connect With Patients

LinkedIn
A man siting in a wheel chair is wearing a medical jacket and is smiling at the camera

By Nick Romanenko

Tom Pisano has been working on both a medical degree and doctoral degree in neuroscience to help to study and treat conditions like his own.

When Tom Pisano started making rounds in his wheelchair, he worried his patients would consider him less capable than his Robert Wood Johnson Medical School peers.

However, he quickly found it had the opposite effect on patients and put them at ease.

Photo : Rutgers

“Patients are more willing to share what’s really bothering them,” said Pisano, 33, who was paralyzed from the chest down during a skiing accident at 19, during his first year of college. “Everyone has an internal struggle or challenge of some form, mine is just visible. That helps give me a connection with the patient.”

On Friday, during what is nationally known as Match Day, Pisano was one of 162 soon-to-be physicians in RWJMS’s Class of 2021 who discovered the name of the residency program where they will spend the next three to seven years training in the medical specialty of their choice.

Nine years after embarking on his journey to earn both a medical degree and doctoral degree in neuroscience, he was elated to learn he was matched with his first choices: an intern year at Mount Sinai Morningside-West, followed by a residency at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Neurology. He will continue his medical training working to study and treat neurological conditions.

“I feel so fortunate to have gotten exactly what I wanted for my preliminary and advanced neurology residency,” said Pisano, who grew up in Alexandria Township, NJ, but now lives in Manhattan with his partner. “I can spend my first year close to my partner, who is a pulmonary critical care fellow also at Mount Sinai Morningside-West.

Pisano is among 95 percent of his classmates at RWJMS who matched to the residency of their choice. Among them, 35 students matched to a New Jersey program: 22 students matched to a Robert Wood Johnson Medical School program, and four to  New Jersey Medical School.

“Our medical students have my greatest respect for the work they have accomplished these past four years, and for the exemplary way that they have conducted themselves during the pandemic,” said Robert L. Johnson, interim dean of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and dean of New Jersey Medical School. “Their success and resilience are evidenced by the excellent programs into which our students matched to continue their specialized education as residents.”

When Pisano was in his first year in college at the University of Virginia, medical school was not his end goal. But after his accident and rehabilitation, the doctors told him he would never walk again, and he had to learn to navigate his new life. Pisano returned to school with a renewed focus.

“When you get down and depressed, you try to rethink your life. The new purpose of my life became to help others and have fun doing it. I found medicine and medical research was the way to do it,” said Pisano, who graduated from UVA in 2011 with a double major in cognitive science and biology.

He spent the following year trying to determine whether he wanted to attend medical school to become a neurologist or graduate school to become a researcher in the field of neurology. After a stint as a research participant and researcher in the spinal cord division of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, Pisano decided he would do both.

“I want be a neurologist who sees patients and I want to do clinical-based research that somehow improves my patients’ quality of life,” he said. “The best way I concluded doing that would be to treat few subsets of the population with diseases that I’m also researching.”

He knew he could accomplish this in New Jersey through a combined program that sandwiched a graduate research degree between four years of medical school. When he graduates in May, Pisano will be one of a handful of RWJMS classmates who started medical school at the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which became part of Rutgers in 2013.

Last year, after Pisano finished his graduate program and was wrapping up his third year of medical school, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail his progress. He wasn’t sure if he’d still be on track to graduate this May.

“When the world was collapsing in March or April, I thought, ‘I want to graduate, but if the attendings (physicians) teaching me have to go save lives, I’m more than OK with that,’” he said.

Read the full article at Rutgers.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Lumen

Lumen

Verizon

Verizon

Leidos

Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Conference
    August 19, 2021 - September 28, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Conference
    August 19, 2021 - September 28, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022