Georgia Teen Wins National Alzheimer’s Awareness Scholarship Essay Contest
SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) has named Mary Willis, of McDonough, Georgia, the first winner of its National Alzheimer’s Awareness Scholarship Essay Contest 2022 and awarded him a college scholarship of $5,000.
Willis was chosen from nearly 1,800 entries nationwide for her essay about her grandmother Frances, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Mary was just nine, and the lessons she learned. learned while her grandmother was suffering from the disease.
Her essay describes her close relationship with her grandmother Frances and, despite the difficulty of watching Alzheimer’s disease change her grandmother, it taught her a lot about herself and helped her understand that her greatest memories of her were what shaped her into the person she is today.
“I grew up going to church with her and watching how committed she was to the faith and how much she wanted to make a difference in others,” she told WSAV. “I loved the way she smiled at other people and I think that’s why I have the personality I have today and how much I love talking to people. That’s one of the qualities that have always marked me.
Along with going to church with her grandmother, Willis also enjoyed special sleepovers at her house.
“I really loved it because she would let me sit up in her bed and she would make me PB&J’s on white bread, which my family didn’t have at home, so it was like a treat . She would cut the crust out of it and just let me sit in her bed and watch movies.
Even through those sweet times, Willis knew his grandmother was a hard worker who sacrificed a lot for her family.
“My work ethic in all aspects of my life represents the two jobs she worked to send my mom to college. I strive to be the best student and teammate I can be because I remember what my grandmother gave up to give my mother her best shot. My drive to be the best person I can be, not just for myself, but for those around me, reflects the kind of person she was. My grandmother inspires me daily to change the world, even if it starts small,” she wrote.
Frances’ hard work and sacrifices paid off as her daughter Christy Willis, who is now retired, graduated from college and became the financial director of Henry County Schools and Willis, the founder of the project. Passion in which Henry County students collected donations. for memory care settings and see first-hand the effects of the disease on those diagnosed as well as their family and friends. Willis is also a student at Auburn University who plans to open a chapter of the Passion Project there as well.
“When I was at orientation, I actually noticed there wasn’t much in there that talked about dementia or Alzheimer’s and I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be perfect. I really hope to open a chapter of the Passion Project and bring in other students who may have had similar experiences like me with their grandparents with dementia or a loved one to be a kind of support system first and foremost! .
Willis believes anyone can change the world even if it starts small, as Frances inspired her to do.
“You can really work for anything you want to accomplish. Even if you didn’t grow up super rich, or with a lot, you can still work for something and there are people who support you and want you to succeed. My mom worked really hard to be where she is now, but that comes from my grandma. She had this support from my grandmother. When you watch people go out of their way to make sure you have the best shot, it really helps you work harder too.