North East Community Foundation is proud to partner with Ian Malesiewski to create a new scholarship designed to empower, encourage and uplift local students.
The DefIANt Scholars Program is a scholarship available to seniors in Erie County who have a physical or intellectual disability.
The announcement is timed to coincide with National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, said Malesiewski, a North East native and athlete who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2016 and is now a quadriplegic.
Since that day, Malesiewski has fought to not just survive the injury but thrive. By calling upon that same defiant spirit and work ethic that defined him as an elite football player and wrestler, he was able to transition from a hospital bed to graduating from Cathedral Prep in the top of his class and going on to attend college.
He is currently in his junior year at the University of Miami, with his sights set on law school and a career advocating for disability rights.
“The number of students with disabilities who are able to go on to pursue higher education is disappointing,” Malesiewski said.
But he understands why. There are so many challenges – from physically navigating the new environment, to taking notes and completing assignments.
Malesiewski relies on technology, like a special mouse he uses with his mouth to type, along with the support of friends, family and even athletes like NFL player James Conner.
“I have a great support system,” Malesiewski said. “But not everyone does.”
DefIANt Scholars aims to make the transition to college less difficult. Its mission is to help aid the disabled community in an attempt to break down barriers, stereotypes and misconceptions inside and outside of the classroom.
“Anyone may donate to the DefIANt Scholars Program,” he added. “Any amount is appreciated.”
To donate, mail a check to North East Community Foundation, DefIANt Scholars Program, P.O. Box 327, North East, PA 16428.