By Kim D Erickson
Rotary story highlighted in Siuslaw News by Jared Anderson/Siuslaw News
“I have a disability and I’m not ashamed of it,” Siuslaw High School junior Cameron Kentta wrote. “I may have my bad days and wish that I was never born with this, but at the end of the day, I know I may not be able to cure it, but I can battle it. Whatever boundaries I have, all I need is just that small nudge in life and I will be able to push through it in no time.”
It’s the nudge that Cameron’s mother, Kim Erickson, is looking to give a high school senior next year with the Rotary Club of Florence Presidential Award, which this year is dedicated for students who experience disability.
“I feel like when you pick your own scholarship, it should be something that you’re very passionate about and have a lot of interest in,” said Erickson, who is the Rotary president for 2020-21.
Every year, the president is allowed to pick the theme for the scholarship.
“I chose something that’s very important to me and not noticed enough with students,” Erickson said. “For many people that are not aware, my daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was three years old.”
After Cameron was enrolled in school, that determination was reassessed and she was re-diagnosed with severe anxiety.
“Every year we meet and do an individual educational plan (IEP) for her to get her help in school that she needs, because things are definitely a challenge for her,” Erickson said. “I feel that there’s a lot of other students that go through the same thing.”
From social stigma to difficulties with homework, getting the GPA required for many scholarships can be difficult to meet for students, many of whom simply give up on the scholarship process.
“It’s not because they’re not trying just as hard as every other student,” Erickson said. “Sometimes, they try even harder, and constantly feel like they’re failing on many occasions. I feel like they should have the same opportunities that every other student has, and go to college with confidence that that hard work they put in is just as important as every other student.”
Erickson, who has been working with Siuslaw School District’s Special Programs Director Lisa Utz on the scholarship, said that people should take the time to look at each student equally.
“They might be different, but they can still achieve everything that any other student can. They just might do it a different way and process things differently,” she said.
It’s a sentiment Cameron echoed.
“I want all the people who have a disability to know, you’re not alone,” she wrote. “I have a disability and even though it may be different from what you have, I know what it is like and how it feels. You don’t have to go through that path by yourself.”
Anyone, including non-Rotarians, can donate to the scholarship fund. To contribute, contact Kim Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send donations to Rotary Club of Florence, P.O. Box 294, Florence, OR 97439.
For more information about Rotary Club of Florence and its work in the community, attend the weekly Zoom meetings at noon on Tuesday and visit theflorencerotary.org.