SIKESTON - The words "you have cancer" are difficult to hear, especially at a young age. And when the family is struggling to balance the expenses of tuition and medical bills, the cost of cancer medical treatments can easily erase the possibility of higher education.
But the American Cancer Society Heartland Division wants to help ease that burden. The Young Cancer Survivor Scholarship Program awards $1,000 per student per year. Scholarships are paid directly to the accredited institution and are to be used for tuition and fees.
"Finding out you have cancer is so devastating and when you're young with you're whole future ahead of you and you find out on top of the disease you can't afford to go to college, it's overwhelming," said Robin Stoner, cancer control specialist. "It's like, what else is going to happen? With this scholarship, young people have a second chance, an opportunity to continue on and fulfill their lifelong dream. It gives them the chance to say they're not going to let cancer take over their entire lives."
Eligibility criteria includes being a legal resident of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska or Oklahoma, age 25 or younger at the time of application and diagnosed with cancer before age 21.
Applicants must be accepted to an accredited institution of higher education including junior college, college, university and vocational technical schools and if currently in college, must have a grade point average of at least a 2.0 (based on a 4.0 scale) or equivalent.
Along with the application, the student needs to include a recommendation from a teacher and a physician verifying diagnosis and one from someone unrelated to the youth. A transcript of academic records from high school or college must be sent as well as an essay on personal goals/future plans and acceptance letter from an accredited university, graduate school, community college or vocational technical school. A personal interview with an American Cancer Society volunteer is conducted also.
Scholarship recipients are required to serve a minimum of 25 volunteer hours with the ACS.
"This scholarship is so important because in the midst of something so seemingly horrible in their young lives, this scholarship is giving them something to look forward to," said Audrey Royster, income development specialist.
"They may be fighting the battle with cancer, but that doesn't mean they have to stop everything else while they fight it. They can still go to school, don't have to worry about paying for the entire tuition and can work toward being who and what they want to become some day. When you have cancer, being able to pay for college shouldn't be something you have to worry about."
Applications are available by calling 1-877-398-8285. Postmark deadline for applications is June 1.
All scholarships are awarded at the discretion of the ACS' Heartland Division and are based on the student's academic performance, community service and leadership. Scholarships are awarded on a first-come first-serve basis and will be limited to availability of funds.