Our 2018 College Scholars
About the College Scholars Program: Children’s Cause offers an annual opportunity for two childhood cancer survivors to gain valuable cancer advocacy experience. College Scholars, who receive a $2,000 academic scholarship, agree to complete a project of their choosing related to childhood cancer advocacy.
If you're interested in applying for the 2019 College Scholars Program, learn more here.
We're pleased to introduce our inaugural College Scholars, Melissa and Malachi:
Melissa was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma her freshman year at Colgate University. She spent seven months in treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering, which she describes as the most physically and emotionally difficult period of her life.
When she returned to college after being declared cancer-free, she shifted gears academically and began to pursue a degree in Molecular Biology. She became a Research Assistant at NCI, where she had the opportunity to study drug-resistant Ewing's Sarcoma and Rhabdomyosarcoma in children and young adults.
Today, Melissa is a medical student at George Washington University's School of Medicine, Class of 2021. She serves as the Vice President of the Latino Medical Student Association and sits on the executive committee of the GW School of Medicine's chapter of the American Medical Association.
"I'm one step closer to becoming a pediatric oncologist and giving back to the community that I am intrinsically connected to," says Melissa. "I want to participate in the College Scholars Program so that I can be an advocate for children with cancer and work to better the field of pediatric oncology research from a legislative perspective."
At age 6, Malachi was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). "The hospital was my home from six to eight years old," says Malachi. Just months after finishing a year and a half of intensive therapy, he relapsed and was successfully treated with an umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor.
Today, Malachi is a high school graduate with plans to study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Malachi has proven his commitment to helping other children overcome challenges through his volunteer work with the children's ministry at his church and by providing support to children hospitalized during the holidays.
"As a society, we're very unaccepting about issues that don't impact us directly. We must stop and make a change: We must come together and fight for the lives of our children," says Malachi.
For Melissa's College Scholars project, she plans to create a pediatric oncology advocacy group at her medical school -- and eventually others. Melissa aims to empower medical students in the DC area to become childhood cancer advocates, creating a new cohort of informed, engaged voices speaking up to lawmakers about research and healthcare issues that impact children with cancer and survivors.
"The creation of this interest group in alliance with CCCA will create a local population of medical students who are eager to support a shared mission," said Melissa. "Bringing our white coats to Capitol Hill will demonstrate that the medical community stands in solidarity with the CCCA mission of advancing childhood cancer research and care."
Specifically, Melissa plans to launch a letter-writing campaign to connect medical students with their lawmakers and plans to distribute CCCA advocacy toolkits at relevant events in the DC area. Next spring, Melissa hopes to bring her new network of advocates into the fold for the 2019 Alliance for Childhood Cancer Action Days on Capitol Hill.
Malachi has been cancer-free for the past ten years because a transplant saved his life. Now, he wants to give back and encourage others to become bone marrow donors.
For his College Scholars project, Malachi will organize a bone marrow drive in local community in Alabama.
Malachi is also passionate about promoting awareness and driving policy change. "We must demand changes from the people who are in positions of power to make them," says Malachi. "We need a worldwide childhood cancer movement to stop this disease from taking our children."
Change starts at home and Malachi's project will make an impact in his local community and it might just save the life of a child.