Each year, The Ability Center pairs with the Auxiliary to The Ability Center to present college scholarships for individuals with disabilities.
If you were to ask Nick Gulch his favorite activity, you’d likely find him with a camera on his arm or golf club in his hand. This experienced high school grad is shaking up the media industry and shows no signs of stopping. Nick Gulch, Whitmer High School grad and recent Ability Center scholarship recipient, is using his disabilities to serve as a platform to make others aware that anything is possible. Nick is gifted with a unique perspective on disability and leadership traits that many admire.
While attending Whitmer, he participated in the Media Arts Program and developed basic skills about how to be a news reporter, tv news anchor, and creating and editing movies. Not only did he excel in the classroom, he took his talents to the as a team announcer for baseball, high school football videographer, president of CTSO Media Arts Program and has been a member of the honor roll every year since 4th grade. Nick’s panther pride landed him the Washington Local School Superintendent Award for Loyalty in February 2018.
Mixing his love of sports and media, he is combining his two passions into a career. His resume is filled with awards, volunteer positions and accolades from many different professional and social organizations.
Expanding on the skills he knows best, he will attend Owens Community College in the fall to study media arts. Nick shares, “This degree will allow me to promote inclusion and inspire others with disabilities to understand that anything is possible.”
Nick carves out time in his busy schedule to teach youth with disabilities to golf, Nick travels the state to advocate, educate, and empower people living with muscular dystrophy as the 2018 Muscular Dystrophy Association Ambassador for Ohio. This honor is closest to his heart. Nick explains, “Being the MDA Ambassador is important to me because I can tell kids to never give up on their dreams and to just do your best and always have fun. I will also get to meet many MDA sponsors and thank them for all that they do for MDA families like mine.”
His long list of accomplishments also caught the attention of BCSN who granted him the BCSN Joe Rychnovsky Inspiration Award at their annual awards show.
Nick thanks the Auxiliary to The Ability Center, “I would like to tell the women of the Auxiliary thank you very much for the scholarship because it will help me get to my goal of being a Sports Broadcaster. Everyone that I met at the ceremony was very nice and made me feel like I was important.”
Cori Fischer will soon be making her mark in the medical field. Her long list of academic and scholastic achievements has landed her a scholarship to Gannon University as well as The Ability Center’s college scholarship in collaboration with the Auxiliary to The Ability Center. A grad of Southview, she took every opportunity to get involved, give back to her community, and inspire others living with disabilities.In her scholarship essay, "This Will Not Define Me" Cori shares, “My disability affects my life in ways that most are unable to truly understand, that is unless they have a disability. I was born with a mild form of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.
I went from being a competitive gymnast to having difficulty walking. I was scared, embarrassed, and very self-conscious. It's very hard to look at my legs and feel like they are mine. I try so hard to control them, but no matter how hard I try, they just don't work like they used to. It's nerve-racking because I continue to have new symptoms, so I just don't know what to expect. However, I do know one thing about spastic diplegia, these 15 letters have made an incredible mark on my life.”
“Thank you, spastic diplegia, for showing me that life doesn't have to be easy for it to be good! Thank you for showing me how to speak up, even if I am afraid. Thank you for teaching me how to appreciate the things I used to take for granted. Thank you for showing me how determined and strong I can be even when things are headed in the wrong direction. Thank you for showing me that I can accomplish/overcome any barrier. standing in my way. Thank you for showing me how to thrive despite many obstacles. Thank you for showing me my future passion of being a pediatric occupational therapist,” Cori explains.
Her goal is to take lessons she learned in the classroom and apply them to help others living with disabilities live a thriving life.
She explains, “This disability has provided me with a career path that I may have not even known existed. Because of my experiences, I have a unique perspective and empathetic understanding that is quite different than most.”
As a volunteer for Friendship Circle, Cori cooks, crafts, bowls with a person with autism. Through the program, Cori explains, “We help them complete tasks that they may need help with and also help them cope with any difficulties that they are having. We are always there for them when they need someone to talk to.”
She finds this work rewarding and great practice for her future career as an Occupational Therapist. She was recently accepted to and will begin classes in the fall. Cori hopes to collect these experiences and benefit those living with similar disability and show them to live independently, set goals, and achieve great success.
Her scholarship references explain, “She advocates for herself and works hard for everything! She has my highest recommendation.”
Her accolades revolve around service to others as well as scholarship achievement, she has been named on the National Honor Society Honor Roll every year, chairperson of Community Service Med Tech Class and professional development. Cori was even recognized with the Chuck Ealey Undefeated Spirit award.
“Cori’s ability to multitask and balance her time are both indicators that she is dedicated to many causes and her schooling.”
She says, “Through my volunteer work and future career, I aspire to provide others with the same creative problem solving, hope and encouragement that I received, and raise more awareness for movement disorders of all types.”
Conor Smenner always encourages his peers to challenge their perspective on disability. A recent grad of St. John’s Jesuit High School, Conor is a student, friend, volunteer, Ability Center scholarship winner, and individual living with cerebral palsy.
Conor explains, “Cerebral palsy (CP) has been a positive in many ways. I am fortune my CP does not affect my learning or thinking. This has allowed me to develop a strong nature for always thinking outside the box when presented with challenges to constantly to have a positive outlook. I am very academically driven and strong willed and want to pursue a college degree.”
His lengthy list of extracurriculars is impressive but pales in comparison to the personal impact he’s had on those around him. “Expressing my opinions, beliefs and values to those that I have encountered in my life has given me the strength to allow others to see me an as equal. Wherever I go and whomever I meet, my influence always creates positive energy which enlightens and encourages others to be confident,” reveals Conor.
He has been named Toledo Blade Student of the Week, education inclusion speaker, and Committee Member of Catholic Diocese Inclusion. Conor has participated in the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society while at St. Johns.
In his spare time, he works as a camp counselor at Springhill camps in Evart, Michigan.
His scholarship references indicate his commitment to action, “If he starts something, he finishes it.” Another explains, “He helps others around him with his outgoing personality and joyful outlook on life.”
Watch as Conor crosses the stage at SJJ graduation:
The lengthy list of achievements for Uhunoma, known as “Noma” to those who know her best, solidifies her commitment to education and passion for disability rights. Named on both Dean’s and President’s Lists for her academic success, Noma works rigorously to break barriers for individuals living with disabilities.
Noma, 2018 Ability Center Scholarship recipient, had her leg amputated when she was three years old. Living as an above the knee amputee for most of her life, she learned to adapt to different situations. Noma plans to use her experience around the medical profession to help others.
Her story speaks to many young women who live with disabilities. Regardless of her physical challenges, she is aware of her ability to succeed and never shies away from an opportunity to get involved.
References in her application refer to her as a person who thrives on interacting with diverse people. Another commented on characteristics that make her unique, “Diverse, intelligent, creative and caring are words used to describe Noma. She brings medical ethics, care, and access.”
Another adds, “She is deserving of recognition for her personal and academic achievements and for her zest for life.”
Destined to provide a new understanding of disability in the world of nursing and medicine, she thanks the Auxiliary for helping to make it happen, “Thank you so so much! It is my dream to be a nurse and this scholarship has made it possible for me. I was so concerned about how I will finance my final semester in nursing school, but now with this scholarship my worries are gone. Knowing that I have so many people that believe in me is driving me to excel in school. I am so thankful for The Ability Center’s constant support in my college career.”