Charlotte Smith, a 2005 graduate of Franklin High School, was one of 22 Washington state students recently awarded a scholarship from the Greater Washington Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Totaling $65,000, the grants were made possible by a $250,000 gift from the Seattle-based O'Donnell Family Foundation. Recipients were selected based on academic performance, financial need, volunteer and extracurricular activities, and essays they wrote about the impact MS has had on their lives. The annual program was established this year, specifically for students in Washington state.
For unknown reasons, Washington state has one of the highest incidences of MS in the country. There are an estimated 400,000 Americans facing the unpredictable daily challenges of MS. Its cause and cure remain a mystery.
The scholarships, which averaged $3,000 each, were available to high school seniors, high school graduates or GED graduates who have MS, or who are the children of people with MS, who will be attending an accredited post secondary school for the first time.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. MS is usually diagnosed in young adults in the prime of their lives, between the ages of 20 and 50.
Headquartered in Seattle, the Greater Washington Chapter of the National MS Society serves 23 counties in western and central Washington and provides support to more than 50,000 people, including 7,000 with MS and more than 40,000 others whose lives are directly affected by the disease.