The Adams scholarship is awarded annually to Massachusetts high school graduates who score "Advanced" in in one area of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam and at least "proficient" in the other as well as scoring in the top twenty-five percent of their school district on the exam. Judy's test scores were stellar and she was well over the twenty-five percent mark on her scores.
However, Judy happens to fall on the autism spectrum and took an extra semester to graduate from high school (the prestigious Boston Arts Academy, a Boston Public Schools pilot school where she majored in Theatre). While no one is questioning that Judy has disabilities (for which she was on an individualized education plan and continues to receive services through the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission), the Massachusetts Office of Financial Assistance, who administrated the scholarship for the Massachusetts Department of Education insist that Judy did not meet the requirement of enrolling in the first traditional semester following graduation.
Yet Judy did begin college the first traditional semester following graduation. Her graduation took place in February 2009 (well after spring semester began at all state colleges and universities) and she enrolled the next traditional semester which was Fall 2009.
It is clear that the impact of the decision of the Massachusetts Office of Financial Assistance is discriminatory against Judy on the basis of disability. Judy required an extra semester to graduate from high school because of her disabilities and because of this her Abigail Adams Scholarship has been revoked.
Additionally it seems the Office of Financial Assistance has told Judy's family that her involvement and receipt of support services from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commision prohibits her from receiving the scholarship she earned. This is not stated in any of the materials about the scholarship and is blatant discrimination. There is no plausible explanation for barring this young lady from this scholarship except that the Office of Financial Assistance feels that someone on the autism spectrum who has met all listed criteria for the award is not worthy because of the fact that she has a disability.
Like all individuals diagnosed on the autism spectrum Judy struggled to succeed in school. As she says, "Some of us don't learn by osmosis." She had to work hard to undertand non-verbal communication, figurative language and on organizational skills and expressing herself in writing. There were times when she wanted to give up. The second half of her junior year she had to re-take two classes at night school and the next school year took two more night school classes to be able to graduate in February. She missed out on walking across the stage to receive her diploma with her classmates, a big deal in small arts school with a focus on the "ensemble", and instead graduated nearly eight months later in a small private ceremony. Judy worked as hard, if not harder, than many for her chance at college and success, yet her scholarship was plucked away.
Judy is excited to be returning to college next fall as a sophomore. First semester freshman year she even made Dean's List. Yet the Office of Financial Assistance still refuses to reconsider their decision and grant her the scholarship she earned.
You can reach the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance at
454 Broadway, Suite 200
Revere, MA 02151
Phone: (617) 727-9420
Fax: (617) 727-0667
Or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
And insist Judy Terranova's scholarship be reinstated.
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