Program awards ten scholarships to entrepreneurial women living with autoimmune diseases
March 17, 2023 Boston, MA – The Chronic Boss Collective is thrilled to announce the winners of the second annual Chronic Boss Scholarship awards. The scholarship is aptly awarded in March, which is both Autoimmune Awareness Month and Women’s History Month.
The Chronic Boss Scholarship (offered through bold.org) seeks to reward women living with autoimmune diseases who have persevered and succeeded. Women who have an entrepreneurial spirit, whether that is in launching an initiative, a company, a campaign, a startup, a blog, a club, a fundraiser, or other endeavor. Scholarships are awarded in the amount of $1,000 to ten outstanding Chronic Bosses.
In its second year, the Chronic Boss Scholarship received 492 applications from remarkable women across the United States.
“I personally read through every application and let me tell you…the world is a better place because of each and every one of the women that applied to this scholarship. It was incredibly challenging to narrow it down to just ten winners.” Remarked Lilly Stairs, Founder of the Chronic Boss Collective. “The ten winners selected are a group of extraordinary, entrepreneurial women who have transformed their struggle into their strength and built something special from the ground up despite living with an autoimmune disease.”
The winners represent the top 2% of applicants and embody the spirit of the scholarship.
While only a small number of women can win the scholarship, In their essays, several applicants commented on how much it means to them that this scholarship even exists:
“Lastly, I’d like to thank the sponsor of the Chronic Boss Scholarship for this immense opportunity they’ve provided to chronically ill college students across the nation. I think that it’s given us a sense of joy and hope to know that there’s someone out there thinking about us and our needs in pursuing postsecondary education!”
That is what the Chronic Boss Collective is all about. Offering a space for the women who want to dream big and maintain their health with no tradeoffs.
Manalapan Township, NJ
Living with Grave’s Disease
High School Student
Rachel’s diagnosis with Grave’s Disease resulted in a desire to help others and a catalyst for her work developing impactful fundraisers. At only 11 years old, Rachel launched her first fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Thyroid Center in honor of the staff that helped her heal. She formed her own travel agency and developed custom travel itineraries in exchange for donations.
Rachel didn’t stop there…
“I married my business and philanthropic interests. I treated each fundraiser as an entrepreneurial venture, strategizing to increase revenues and cut costs, marketing on social media, and developing pitches for local companies.”
Rachel has developed over twenty-one fundraising events raising over $18,000 for twelve non-profit organizations.
Upper Marlboro, MD
Living with Sjögren's Syndrome
While being treated for Sjögren's Syndrome, Taylor discovered that there was a lack of representation of African American women treating her and that African American women are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions. This experience paired with her studies, inspired her to found the She Rose Initiative.
“Throughout diagnosis and treatment, my symptoms were turned away numerous times by healthcare professionals due to my race. This left me feeling alone and helpless with my disease. There were many nights that I cried alone in my bed after visiting emergency rooms due to Sjögren's Syndrome just to be sent home with no solution. This struggle prompted me to turn it into a strength by establishing my organization called She Rose Initiative. She Rose Initiative strives to empower and uplift young African American girls and women to become leaders in health and STEAM fields to eliminate health disparities, increase early diagnosis of chronic disease, and reduce misdiagnosis of chronic illnesses among African American girls and women. Through She Rose Initiative, I provide scholarships to students pursuing a degree in health and STEAM fields. To make a meaningful impact, I created a podcast highlighting stories from African American women who broke barriers in health and STEAM fields. In addition, I travel to schools in my community to provide STEAM experiments and demonstrations.”
San Luis Obispo, CA
Living with Hashimoto’s
Annika was diagnosed as a sophomore in high school with Hashimoto’s. After her diagnosis, she found her way to tractor restoration projects which served as an escape from the realities she faced managing her chronic illness. Soon after, a hobby became a business.
“I now run "THAT TRACTOR CHICK," an antique tractor restoration business that provides mechanical assistance, apparel and more in an attempt to encourage young ladies in the field of mechanics. Finding my niche and learning how to work around the hiccups that life throws at me has been an incredible experience that I wouldn't trade for the world.”
Living with Lyme Disease
Grace credits her lyme diagnosis with helping her become a more compassionate person and understanding of others’ struggles. She believes that this has inspired her to help others in ways she may not have otherwise, particularly through the development of a public speaking training program she created to help others conquer their fear and find their voice.
“I developed the free public speaking training event called “Speak Out!” for low-income middle school students six years ago. I led “Speak Out!” for four years while I was in high school, devoting 600+ hours and training more than 100+ middle-school participants, seven of whom earned tuition scholarships. “Speak Out!” was promoted on schools’ websites, newsletters and in the local media. Word of the event has reached more than 200,000 people so far.”
Living with Type 1 Diabetes
High School Student
When Arianna was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, she tried to minimize her time thinking about her disease but as time went on, she became more connected to the T1D community and this propelled her to give back and support others living with the condition.
In addition to being an active advocate with JDRF, Arianna is currently developing an app for T1D patients!
“My newly diagnosed 11-year-old self would have never considered a career even remotely related to diabetes; I thought that I dealt with the disease enough in my personal life. But these experiences have allowed me to truly find my passion for health care, especially in the field of diabetes. I am currently developing Daia, which is an app to help with managing blood sugar levels, especially during difficult situations. If you are working out, going to a sleepover, going to a party, or going to be in any situation where you are concerned about your blood sugar, Daia allows you to share your blood sugar and location with select emergency contacts for a designated period of time. If your blood sugar does drop dangerously low, the user’s phone will display relevant medical information so somebody near them who may know nothing about diabetes can hopefully help them out.”
Living with multiple autoimmune diseases
Kristina is no stranger to pain. In addition to being a survivor of childhood trauma and becoming a young widow in her early 20s, she lives with multiple autoimmune and chronic conditions. But she is “a survivor, a fighter, and an advocate” and she’s building a business that supports others who have walked in her shoes.
“Living with an autoimmune disease used to define me; I felt weak and ashamed. My long list of illnesses followed me around like a plague that I was desperate to hide. Today, I speak openly about my autoimmune disorders and actively educate others. I am proud of the struggles that have made me who I am today.
Growing research shows a strong correlation between autoimmune disease and childhood trauma—I am committed to bringing more awareness to this topic. Currently, I am building a business supporting mothers healing from childhood trauma. I provide education, support, and resources on living with autoimmune diseases and mental health support.”
Learn more about the Awakened Mom Life Healing Academy.
Living with Type 1 Diabetes
High School Student
Claire was diagnosed at just two years old with Type 1 Diabetes. From an early age, she took an active role in her health and later began making an impact to help others.
In 7th grade, Claire thought an artificial pancreas system would be an awesome science project that would improve her life. With the help of her father, she implemented the OpenAPS system, improved her ability to safely sleep through the night and won first place in the science fair!
Claire’s brilliance didn’t stop there…
“On my ten-year “diaversary,” I wanted to give back to those less fortunate. I discovered the charity "Life for a Child" and planned a fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars to go towards providing vital diabetes supplies and education to children in developing countries. I created a diabetes awareness video and organized a week-long education effort at my school. I continued my efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic by designing and selling homemade continuous glucose monitor patches online and donating the proceeds to the charity.”
Living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
At age 15, after almost a year of eliminating diagnoses, Emma was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis. This diagnosis changed the trajectory of her life. After completing undergrad she knew she needed to carve out a career path for herself that would build work with her body and not against it so she started a freelance business…and wrote a book!!
“Through trial and error, I learned to manage my energy and listen to my body. I freed myself from strict schedules so I could deliver quality work on deadline without making myself sick. The results were better than I could have imagined. I’ve been freelancing for 14 years and now have a thriving business with a roster of happy clients, most of whom have no idea about my chronic illness.
Actually, some of them have probably figured it out by now because, in 2022, I published a novel based on my personal experience with chronic illness. I dedicated On the Bank of Oblivion “all the kids who don’t yet have names for what's hurting them.”
Pound Ridge, NY
Living with Type 1 Diabetes
Kaitlyn’s experience receiving a $53,000 hospital bill illuminated how “seriously flawed and starkly inequitable” the American healthcare system is. This propelled her to conduct and publish her own research!
“The challenges accompanying my diagnosis have driven me to uncover the failings of the American healthcare system. My Humanities Research Honors course provided me with the avenue to research this calamity. Through my research, I interviewed various professionals and collaborated with several non-profit organizations. I completed and published my research paper and symposium presentation: How Socioeconomic Status Dictates the Health Care Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Receive in America. I want to dedicate my life to this field of study and activist work.”
Kaitlyn currently works with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the Right Care Alliance (RCA) to transform America’s healthcare system.
North Brunswick Township, NJ
Living with Lupus
Living with lupus has presented Shannon with countless obstacles, but her fight has instilled resilience and inspired her to dedicate her life to dynamic disability and chronic health advocacy as well as pursue a career as a health entrepreneur.
“My fight as a Lupus Warrior for over 12 years has inspired me to be a dynamic disability and chronic health advocate as well as an entrepreneur in the health and wellness industry. I was diagnosed at a time when there were very few treatments for chronic health conditions or education to provide patients with support and self-advocacy. For those reasons, I've had to become my advocate, educate my care team, research my treatments and share valuable information with others as it was the integral component that kept me going. A part of my life's mission has been to create accessible integrative and sustainable health options and create an accessible environment for all to enjoy.”