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Journey of 2019 Lupus Canada Scholarship Recipient, Ruth Huang

The Lupus Canada Scholarship gave me hope. I was diagnosed with lupus right before my 13th birthday. At the time, my top priorities in life were acing the next math test, making it to school play rehearsal on time, and impressing the cute boy in my math class. Anything beyond the next month was ages away, and university? I had barely even given it a second thought.

4 years later, there I was, submitting my applications. My grades were good enough — I was lucky that my lupus hadn’t forced me to miss too much school — but I was suddenly very aware of how empty my bank account was. It was never easy for me to find an entry-level part-time job. First, any prolonged exposure to sunlight was a non-starter for me, so that ruled out summer camp counselor and any outdoor sports related positions. I also had to maintain a regular sleep schedule. I had discovered over the years that getting a full 9 hours of sleep each night was essential (and I mean ESSENTIAL) for me, otherwise I would not be able to function during the day. This meant any positions in restaurants that stayed open until midnight were out of the question, as well as movie theatres and even some clothing stores that stocked their shelves after closing. Finally, I needed a flexible schedule. Living with lupus meant not knowing when I’d need a day off, suddenly, and I had to be able to find someone to cover for me on short notice.

In summary, I had not held many paying jobs over my high school years, and that was unlikely to change during university. I realized I was likely going to come out of university with a significant amount of student debt. My mother works at a credit counselling company: she often meets with clients who are still paying off their student debt a lifetime later.

I applied for the Lupus Canada Scholarship at the suggestion of my doctor at SickKids. I had applied to many scholarships already and was slightly discouraged at the thought of having to write another essay. However, this application turned out to be the easiest to write — I simply told my story. The words seemed to spill out naturally.

With the Lupus Canada Scholarship, some grants from OSAP and an entrance scholarship from the University of Toronto, I was able to get through my first year of university with almost no student debt. In my second year, I secured a research position over the summer with a physics professor, which allowed me to earn enough money to pay for another year of debt-free education. I hope to do the same this summer.

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