These days, it seems like scholarships, internships and diabetes-focused jobs and careers are much more visible than they used to be for young adults living with diabetes.
A news story that caught our eye recently involved a Southern attorney and fellow type 1, Byron David, who's stepping up to help the younger generations of PWDs (people with diabetes) further their education. We're grateful to have PWDs "paying it forward" like this, working with existing D-scholarship orgs to open opportunities to young people already grappling with the burdens of diabetes. Our correspondent Mike Lawson stepped up to learn more:
When he was a law school student at the University of South Carolina, Byron David started noticing that he had a thirst that couldn't be quenched. He found himself going to the bathroom frequently. And I think most of you can predict where this story is going...
Byron went to the school's infirmary where his blood sugar clocked in at 540 mgdL. And so at age 25 when he was halfway through law school, a type 1 diagnosis came into his life. At the time, he saw the diagnosis as a threat to his plans to become an attorney.
But Byron didn't let his diabetes derail his legal education. He graduated with honors and got his law degree, opening up the David Law Firm in Conway, South Carolina (part of the Myrtle Beach metro area). His firm focuses mostly on workers' compensation and social security disability law.
Since he was already in law school and out of the house at the time of his diagnosis, Byron's diabetes wasn't an extra burden on his family in terms of sending him off to school. But he understood how that can be the case for those who are diagnosed at a younger age.
So he set out to do something about that financial burden for young adults with diabetes who are entering college.
Late last year, Bryon created an annual scholarship aimed at new college students with diabetes. The $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to a South Carolina resident with type 1 diabetes. It's set up through the 9-year-old Diabetes Scholars Foundation, which is the only student scholarship program aimed specifically at U.S. students with type 1 diabetes. In the past five years, this not-for-profit org has given out more than $500,000 to type 1 youths! The list of individuals, organizations, and companies contributing to their program continues growing each year -- giving more and more PWDs a chance for educational assistance.
"I have been blessed," Byron says. "I am in a fortunate position where I can give back and help people."
Applications are being accepted until May 15, 2013, and the recipient will be announced the first week in June.
Living in South Carolina is a requirement for this particular diabetes scholarship, but the Diabetes Scholars Foundation offers many different scholarships to students with type 1 diabetes who plan to attend a four-year university, college or technical school.
The Diabetes Scholars Foundation has been supporting families with type 1 children since 2004, when they started offering scholarships for families to attend the annual Children With Diabetes "Friends For Life" conference each summer.
In 2008, the Foundation began offering college scholarships, and to date has given away over $500,000. The scholarships are awarded based on many different qualifications including specific areas of study and geographic location.
Foundation president Mary Podjasek, whose husband and daughter both have type 1 diabetes, said the organization has a mix of private donors and corporate sponsors offering scholarships. Byron is one of 12 individuals, companies and organizations listed on the Foundation's website as contributors, including Lilly Diabetes and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust that each award multiple scholarships every year.
So, is there an increase in the scholarships being available for the college-age Diabetes Community?
Mary says the number of scholarships and sponsors has changed each year and consistently gone up since the foundation started awarded scholarships in 2005.
Fellow PWD Christina Roth, who serves as president and founder of the non-profit College Diabetes Network, which helps young people set up support networks at their various schools, doesn't think she's observed more scholarships. She sees the Internet as the big difference. "Scholarships for kids with diabetes have been around for a long time. There just hasn't been one place to go to find them," she says.
When Christina was headed off to college, she didn't even seek out any diabetes-related scholarships because she "wanted nothing to do with diabetes at that time." But looking back, she sees the benefit and need for those opportunities.
"Diabetes is hard. We might as well get a few perks," she says.
Both her CDN organization and the D-Scholars Foundation curate lists of available scholarships on their websites that are completely diabetes-specific, and she hopes these are great resources for families who might be searching online. Some opportunities can also be found on individual campuses and even through high school scholarship books that list these items.
Note that the scholarships offered through the Diabetes Scholars Foundation are not need-based, meaning the applicants are not required to show a financial need for the money. But Mary said that a letter from a doctor, diabetes educator or endocrinologist is necessary.
"We want to see that a student is ready to take that next step into adulthood, an is ready to take the responsibility of caring for themselves with type 1," she said, noting that the foundation doesn't look at A1C.
Last year, the Foundation received 650 applications for the 49 scholarships that they gave away.
And a majority of them were eligible, something Mary sees as a positive because it proves that "diabetes doesn't stand in their way."
She hopes the dollar amount and number of students the Foundation can help will continue to grow, but that's of course dependent on the number of donors willing and able to step up and offer funds.
Like what Byron has done in South Carolina.
"I'm honored to be able to help someone starting a new life chapter," he said. "And I hope to remind younger type 1 diabetics that they are not alone and can still be successful, despite the disease."
We â™¥ the Bryons of the world. Thank you!