By Deron Hamel
Volunteering and giving back to her community has always been important to Sierra Spence, so it’s no surprise she plans to pursue a career helping others once she completes her studies.
Sierra lived with seizures from the time she was 10 months old until December 2016, when she underwent brain surgery which partially removed a rare ganglioglioma tumour.
Since her surgery, Sierra has not had any seizures, but it was her experience of living with epilepsy that inspired her to want to help others, she says.
“My life journey with epilepsy has motivated me to always focus on moving forward and helping others to overcome their challenges,” Sierra says.
To give back to her community, Sierra has volunteered with senior citizens, children with special needs and children with disabilities. Sierra has also volunteered at the Niagara Children’s Centre and with the Brock Niagara Penguins, a swimming and gym program for youths and adults with disabilities.
Sierra has also been active in raising epilepsy awareness and has volunteered at Epilepsy Niagara for several years. She has mentored children living with epilepsy and has participated in fundraising events. In high school, Sierra organized epilepsy awareness events and even shared information about first aid for people with seizure disorders.
“These opportunities to work with, learn from and support members of our community have made me realize how strongly each of us can positively impact the lives of others,” she says.
Sierra is currently enrolled in an educational program to provide supports to children with special needs. Eventually, her goal is to work with children who have special needs, she says.
“My experiences living with epilepsy and working with others have motivated me to continue to be actively involved, show initiative and to see the value in taking a leadership role to influence change and make the world a better place for everyone to live in,” she says.
Sierra is one of the recipients of this year’s Osler Epilepsy Scholarship. The $1,500 scholarship, formerly called the OBCL Epilepsy Scholarship, is being offered to six students this year.
Osler Epilepsy Scholarships are awarded each year to exceptional students who have confronted and overcome remarkable barriers in their academic and personal lives due to their epilepsy.
As part of this year’s application process, students submitted a 600- to 900-word essay focused on how they could see themselves helping an epilepsy association or another charitable organization in the future, based on their personal experiences.