Three highly qualified college students with autism were awarded The Matthew Paul Finnigan Memorial Scholarships for the 2018/19 School Year.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / PRURGENT
Today, the Autism Society of California, the Finnigan family, and the Community Foundation for Monterey County announced the names of three highly qualified California students who won Achievement Scholarship awards through the National Achievement Scholarship Program.
Erica Wynne of Belmont was awarded $1,500, and Brianna Wilbon of Seaside and Stephen Hinkle of San Diego each received $500. The Scholarship Selection Committee stated that these three individuals were selected based on the breadth of their experiences, demonstrated ability to overcome adversity, and commitment to pursuing careers assisting others.
Erica Wynne will be graduating from Carlmont High School in June 2018 and plans to become an elementary school teacher. An avid reader and passionate musician, her extracurricular interests include singing in her school’s A Capella choir (which performed at Carnegie Hall), playing the piano, volunteering with her local library book club, and participating in community service and outreach through the Carlmont High School Interact Club, where she is the Event Organizer. Describing why she chose to pursue a teaching career, Erica states, “I want students to learn and become interested in the world around them. I want them to become the heroes in their own stories. I want to show them how life will have bumps in the road, but motivation and determination can help them overcome anything, like my autism.”
Brianna Wilbon is a senior at Seaside High School, where she will be graduating in June 2018 as Salutatorian of her class. Her leadership in various environmental initiatives – including implementing a campus-wide recycling program, which required her to make presentations to school staff, the Seaside City Council, and the local Fish and Game Council – greatly impressed the Scholarship Selection Committee. Brianna plans to attend California State University Long Beach and major in Psychology, with a long-term goal of opening her own therapy practice. She states, “My desire is to help people overcome their own challenges.”
Stephen Hinkle is pursuing a Ph.D. in Disability Studies at Chapman University. A 1997 graduate of Scripps Ranch High School, Stephen earned his Bachelor’s Degree from San Diego State University and Master’s Degree from Northern Arizona University and is currently an adjunct online lecturer at Lesley University. An international speaker on disability rights, Stephen serves on the Board of Directors for both Autism Society of San Diego and Disability Voices United and was featured in the 2008 documentary film, “We Thought You’d Never Ask: Voices of People with Autism.” After graduate school, Stephen looks forward to continuing a career in policymaking “to change the outcomes and increase the number of people with disabilities who have successful outcomes in life.”
The Matthew Paul Finnigan Memorial Scholarship Fund honors the memory of Matthew Finnigan, a young adult with ASD whose life was taken before he could achieve his goal of helping others. Matthew was attending college in Monterey and planned to use his educational interests in STEM fields, as well as experiences facing and overcoming challenges, to research and analyze biological and environmental factors and develop interventions that might reduce the symptoms of ASD. When asked what is truly important in life, Matthew wrote, "You have a legacy that will live on as long as their stories about you keep being told," and reminded his reader to "always look on the bright side of life."
This permanently endowed fund was established with gifts from the Finnigan family and friends, and matching funds from Chevron, to assist students with ASD whose interests align with those Matthew had, to realize their educational goals.
The Matthew Paul Finnigan Memorial Scholarship program is open to California students with ASD (DSM-IV or later criteria) studying full-time or part-time and pursuing a career in the fields of Psychiatry, Psychology, Statistics, Chemistry, Math, researching cures or management of autism, or a career which will help adolescents on the Autism Spectrum. The Autism Society of California is honored to assist the Community Foundation and the Finnigan family in the application and selection process for this important award.
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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Beth Burt at 1-800-869-7069 or email at autismsocietycagmail.com.