Home » Wellness » IBD Scholarship Helps Students with Crohn’s Disease Reach Their Goals
Leslie Hernandez IBD

Leslie Hernandez

Recipient of the 2017 AbbVie IBD Scholarship

Alison Shore IBD

Alison Shore

Director of Patient Experience, AbbVie

Lori Radke IBD

Lori Radke

President & CEO, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

AbbVie and Crohn’s and Colitis Canada help alleviate some financial barriers so students can concentrate on school, extracurricular activities, and causes close to their hearts.

Leslie Hernandez wants other teens and young adults with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to be proud of their accomplishments and to recognize all that they achieve while living with a chronic illness.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge how far you’ve come, even if it feels like a small step. For someone with a chronic illness with no cure, it truly is a huge achievement to even get out of bed some mornings,” Hernandez says. This is why she encourages students to apply for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s AbbVie IBD Scholarship. “I think the best way you can inspire people is by sharing your story, and sharing your story is one of the bravest things you can do,” she says.

The AbbVie IBD Scholarship Program, in partnership with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, awards $5,000 scholarships to 10 students living with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

Hernandez discouraged herself from applying for the scholarship for many years because she thought she wouldn’t win. She finally applied and was one of 10 recipients of the award in 2017.

The AbbVie IBD Scholarship Program, in partnership with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, awards $5,000 scholarships to 10 students living with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease who are attending a Canadian post-secondary institution in the upcoming fall semester. The program, made possible with support from AbbVie Canada, helps ease financial barriers, enabling students to spend more time on their studies and extracurricular activities. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the program, 20 recipients will receive a scholarship in 2021.

A shared commitment to helping people living with IBD

“We were inspired by the many heartfelt experiences of courage and determination received from applicants across the country,” says Lori Radke, President and CEO of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “Many are actively engaged in the community, hoping to encourage others living with chronic diseases. We are proud to work with AbbVie, on a shared commitment to ensuring that people living with Crohn’s or colitis achieve their goals. Partnerships like this are key to helping us provide programs that help people through all stages of their lives.”

abbvie ibd scholarship program

Alison Shore, Director of Patient Experience at AbbVie, points out that IBD is most often diagnosed in those between the ages of 15 and 30, right when they are pursuing their education or starting careers. “There is enough pressure as a student. Living with a chronic disease adds another complicated layer,” she says. “In addition, financial concerns often cause stress and we know that stress can exacerbate IBD. Providing the scholarship can alleviate some of the financial burden and remove some of the stress, which ultimately allows students to aim higher and pursue their dreams.”

Shore says that the scholarships also help the broader IBD community, as nearly half of recipients are still involved as volunteers or advocates on behalf of others living with IBD. “While each scholarship benefits one student, their continued community involvement has an even greater effect in the community over time,” she says.

Giving back to the IBD community

Hernandez, for example, now sits on the selection committee that chooses scholarship recipients. She has also served as president of the Windsor chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and has volunteered for the Gutsy Walk community event.

After earning her chemistry degree from the University of Windsor, Hernandez graduated last year from the National Theatre School of Canada’s Production Design and Technical Arts program. She is now a production manager for Toronto theatre companies.

“I had planned to do my master’s degree in chemistry, but going through the challenges I faced with colitis put into perspective what was important to me. It pushed me into following my passion that I had prior to chemistry, which was working on the technical side of theatre,” says Hernandez. “The scholarship helped me financially to be able to do an entire 180-degree turn in my career. It took a weight off my shoulders.”

Hernandez adds that the scholarship’s impact reached beyond economic benefits. “Applying for the scholarship gave me a better perspective,” she says. “I have disadvantages, but that’s OK. Being able to reflect on my experiences helped me feel more connected, that there were other people going through a similar journey. I felt validated that I’m not alone in my experiences and that I am actually doing better than I thought.”

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