So many of us are showing strength in these times of uncertainty, and health issues continue to be at the forefront of our lives.
For one extraordinary student, persevering through incredible obstacles is leading her to fulfill a dream of helping others.
Ashley Sanchez, 23, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 2 weeks old. Since then, she said, she has been on many different kinds of therapies and treatments to reduce the constant mucus buildup in her lungs and the damage to her digestive system.
She was homeschooled up until college. But now she is attending Florida International University pursuing a master’s in occupational therapy.
Sanchez was recently selected as the recipient of the AbbVie 2022 Thriving Graduate Student Award as a part of its CF scholarship program. She was awarded a $25,000 scholarship in her pursuit of higher education.
In her winning essay, she wrote about wanting to make a difference “in the lives of all individuals, but specifically, the lives of others with CF.”
“I would love to work on research that can help CF patients increase their overall independence both in and out of the hospital.”
The disease affects her life, she said, “but I have not let it take over it.”
“My daily routine consists of doing my aerosol treatments which can take up to two hours in the morning, getting chest physical therapy, taking my enzymes after every meal, and finally completing two more hours of aerosol treatments before going to bed. I visit my pulmonologist once a month and have been admitted to the hospital approximately 10 times throughout my life to use more invasive measures such as I.V. medications to raise my P.F.T’s.”
PFT stands for Pulmonary Function Test. Most CF patients are sick in the hospital every other month, she said.
“Outside of the treatments and therapies prescribed by my doctor, I make sure to eat healthily and maintain a fit lifestyle,” Sanchez said.
“I have always lived an active lifestyle by participating in many different sports and working out at the gym. Throughout high school and in college, I played many different sports including soccer, basketball, flag football, volleyball, human foosball, and swimming. Several times throughout the games or practices, I had to step aside to cough or take a break because I could not keep up with my other teammates. However, I did not let that stop me from doing what I love, instead, it motivated me to continue to live an active lifestyle which I still have today.”
As a college student, she has had to adapt a lot to follow her dream.
“Being a student in a real classroom with an in-person professor was completely new to me. I had a lot to get used to all at once. However, I did take the opportunity to meet a lot of great friends I still have today and become as involved as possible. This past April, I was able to graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and recreational therapy as part of Florida International University’s Honors College.”
Throughout her undergraduate studies at FIU, she has been a volunteer with more than five organizations, been part of six different intramural sports teams and been the social media coordinator in the Pre-Therapy Students Association Club. She has also participated in a Chicken Key Cleanup service project.
In addition to the recent award, Sanchez received the Boomer Esiason Foundation General Academic Scholarship, and the Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón Presidential Medal of Freedom Scholarship. She recently earned certificates in suicide prevention and CPR.
“It is a huge honor to receive the title of the 2022 AbbVie Thriving Graduate Student Scholar and I am forever grateful,” Sanchez said. “The moment I received the news, I ran to my parents to tell them and we screamed and shed a few tears together because it was such a big moment for me.
“It was my validation that I would be able to be financially stable throughout the 2.5 years of my master’s program and that I do have what it takes to complete the program and change people’s lives as an occupational therapist,” Sanchez said.
“Being that it was my fourth year applying for the scholarship, I had little to no hope that this time around would be any different. However, in a way, it shows how persistent and maybe stubborn I can be when it comes to achieving my goals.”
Mental health luncheon is March 5
The seventh annual Hope and Recovery Mental Health Luncheon benefiting The Key Clubhouse of South Florida will be on March 5 at 11:30 a.m. at the Pullman Miami Airport Hotel, 5800 Blue Lagoon Dr. This year’s theme is “Stand-Up for Mental Health.”
Headlining the event will be David Granirer, who founded Stand Up For Mental Health, his award-winning program that teaches comedy to people with mental health issues. Granirer, who has bipolar disorder, has taught stand-up comedy to recovering addicts, cancer patients, and people with mental illness since 2004.
Alexis Frazier, morning traffic reporter at WPLG-Channel 10, will serve as emcee. Tickets are $125 at www.keyclubhouse.org.
The Key Clubhouse of South Florida is a nonprofit organization that offers a free work-centered program for adults living with serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression.
Teens can sign up for free summit
Pain 2 Purpose will host its fifth annual Teen Summit with a mission to raise awareness on domestic violence among teens. “Empower Me” will be held 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Feb. 25, at the JL (Joe) & Enid W. Demps Park, 11350 SW 216th St.
Included will be interactive break-out sessions facilitated by experts in the areas of Suicide and Depression, Bullying/Cyber-Bullying, Teen Dating, Self-Esteem, and Financial Literacy.
“I wanted to incorporate topics other than domestic violence,” said Pain 2 Purpose founder Shanda Roberts. “As a survivor of domestic violence, my abuse began as a teenager and I personally dealt with these very same issues — suicide, depression, bullying, and self-esteem.”
This is a free event and registration is required. Lunch and entertainment is provided. Learn more and sign up at www.pain2purpose76.org
Write to ChristinaMMayo@gmail.com with news for this column.