Cancer Survivors Leap College Hurdles With NCCS Scholarships and Support

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A scholarship didn’t necessarily mean the difference between attending college and not going at all for 19-year-old Neha Kundagrami. But the financial help she received from The National Children’s Cancer Society had a profound impact on her student experience at the University of Maryland.

National Children's Cancer Society

The National Children's Cancer Society

“The mission of the NCCS is to help any child with cancer and their family, both during treatment and long after they leave treatment,” said Pam Gabris, a registered nurse and coordinator of the Beyond the Cure program.

A scholarship didn’t necessarily mean the difference between attending college and not going at all for 19-year-old Neha Kundagrami. But the financial help she received from The National Children’s Cancer Society had a profound impact on her student experience at the University of Maryland.

“It meant the difference between going to college stressed about loans and paying for those, and going to college without worrying, and being able to enjoy the experience more,” said Kundagrami, who was diagnosed at 16 with B-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. “My cancer treatment had taken a lot out of my family financially. I applied for around 25 scholarships that are given to cancer patients, and the NCCS was the only one that helped me out.”

Just as rewarding, the organization also connected Kundagrami with other college age survivors. Those new friends, who share her challenging life journey, helped Kundagrami navigate the parallel experiences of exiting treatment and entering a university.

“The NCCS survivorship community reminded me that there are others like me living every day and that they did it. They were there to talk to and listen and share experiences with,” she explained. “Things like cancer change you and they helped me readjust to life after cancer. They showed me how to live again after I was dying.”

Kundagrami is now a sophomore working toward a double major in finance and supply chain management, as well as fulfilling her pre-med requirements.

The NCCS offers college scholarships to childhood cancer survivors through its Beyond the Cure Ambassador Scholarship Program. Scholarships are available to survivors who have demonstrated the ability to overcome the difficult challenges of cancer with determination and motivation.

“The mission of the NCCS is to help any child with cancer and their family, both during treatment and long after they leave treatment,” said Pam Gabris, a registered nurse and coordinator of the Beyond the Cure program. “We want every survivor to have the support and tools they need to thrive, and for many of them, college is a lifelong dream that we can help fulfill.”

Hyram Judd is another survivor who attends college with the help of an NCCS Beyond the Cure scholarship. The 25-year-old is a third-year medical student at Midwestern University in Arizona. He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 4, underwent four years of chemotherapy and has been in remission since completing treatment. Judd learned about the Beyond the Cure scholarship program while searching for scholarships online.

“It was a huge help to me, as the cost of medical school around the country averages over $40,000 a year,” said Judd. Like Kundagrami, Judd’s scholarship led him to have a deeper relationship with the NCCS.

“I’m now an ambassador for the organization, working to spread cancer awareness, mentoring and networking with cancer patients and their families, and befriending pediatric cancer patients in my area,” he explained.

Scholarship applications are available starting this month and can be found online at beyondthecure.org/scholarships. Applicants must be under age 25 and diagnosed before the age of 18 with cancer or a high grade or anaplastic brain tumor. Students must be a U.S. citizen living and attending school within the country and accepted into a post-secondary school for the 2015-16 academic year. The application deadline is March 31.

The mission of The National Children's Cancer Society is to provide emotional, financial and educational support to children with cancer, their families and survivors. To learn more about the NCCS and its support services, visit thenccs.org. For information and resources for survivors, including a Late Affects Assessment Tool and college scholarship opportunities, visit beyondthecure.org. The National Children’s Cancer Society is a 501C(3) organization that has provided more than $61 million in direct financial assistance to more than 36,000 children with cancer. Visit the NCCS on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thenccs.

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Lori Millner
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