NEW YORK— The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) named Sharada Vishwanath, of Northborough, MA, the first-place winner of its national 2021 Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness College Scholarship Essay Contest and awarded her a $5,000 college scholarship.
Sharada was chosen from more than 2,000 entries nationwide for her essay about volunteering in the dementia unit of a Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center following her grandfather’s death from Alzheimer’s disease and the experiences and memories which she made there.
“Sharada made a positive impact in the lives of the individuals she served while volunteering at a dementia care center, and those same people changed her for the better as well,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President and CEO. “Her compassion, passion for helping others, and desire to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease are truly inspiring. We congratulate Sharada on winning this competition and thank her for sharing her story.”
Sharada’s essay described the impact Alzheimer’s had on her life, starting with her grandfather, who lived with the disease. Following his passing, Sharada became inspired to help others affected by dementia-related illnesses, which ultimately led her to volunteer at the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center’s dementia unit.
Sharada interacted with and got to know the residents at the Center—she learned their stories, formed relationships and enjoyed seeing the smiles on their faces when they were doing their favorite activities or watching favorite movies. Getting to know them and the lives they lived made a tremendous impact on Sharada—in her words, “Even as the threads of their life were unraveling, Alzheimer’s residents filled me with inspiration.”
Sharada’s experiences helped her grow—she learned how to communicate more effectively and be at greater ease making conversation. They also changed her outlook on life—she is more able to live in the moment and appreciate the things in front of her. She said, “There were so many experiences here that opened my eyes and filled me with the fullness of compassion.”
Sharada will be getting further involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease at Johns Hopkins University this Fall—she is interested in computation biology and working on Alzheimer’s research.
AFA’s annual Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness College Scholarship Essay Contest asks high school seniors to describe how Alzheimer’s disease impacts their lives, what they have learned in the face of coping with it and how they plan to help others who are affected by it. This year, AFA awarded over $55,000 in college scholarships to 72 students from across the country. Since the program’s inception, AFA has awarded more than $350,000 in college scholarships to students affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information about AFA’s Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness College Scholarship Essay Contest, call AFA at 866-232-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide support, services and education to individuals, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide, and fund research for better treatment and a cure. Its services include a National Toll-Free Helpline (866-232-8484) staffed by licensed social workers, the National Memory Screening Program, educational conferences and materials, and “AFA Partners in Care” dementia care training for healthcare professionals. AFA has earned Charity Navigator’s top 4-star rating for six consecutive years.