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“Why are you interested in working with older adults?” For five years, students at Middletown High School in New Jersey have written essays in answer to this question in hopes of earning a $1000 scholarship.

The Brown / Kraus Scholarship is sponsored annually by Cristine Henage, EdD, herself a Middletown High School graduate with a lifelong interest in working with older adults. As program manager for the Carolina Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program, Henage ensures that important geriatrics training occurs in the health care workforce across North Carolina. The scholarship was established in 2015 at Henage’s alma mater in honor of her aunt, Sandra R. Kraus.

Here’s the winning entry from Matt Cardano, a Middletown High School scholar and athlete who will be attending college and playing tennis at Loyola University in Baltimore in the fall of 2020. Kraus Brown Scholarship WinnerCongratulations Matt! We know that whatever path you take, you’ll find a way to meaningfully connect with older adults.

From a very young age, my eagerness for interacting with others was very clear. Always lending a hand when the opportunity presented itself, my mom claims that I was the prime example of putting others before myself, and I still retain this unique quality today. However, it was not until I got older when I realized my strong interest in working with older adults, and this recent discovery makes me a perfect fit for this well-respected scholarship.

When I depart for college, I will be studying to become an occupational therapist, someone who works with people in trying to recover and develop lost life skills. Healthcare therapy is an ideal category of profession for me, and it will definitely allow me to have an impact on older adults and help improve their everyday lives. Just being in the presence of the elderly makes me very excited, because I know that I can learn a lot from them. These people have been through so much more than I could even imagine, and I could honestly sit and listen to them share their stories and experiences for hours on end.

The valuable lessons learned through interacting with older adults can not be found anywhere else, and I look forward to taking in any and all information that I can.

My passion for working with older adults has most definitely stemmed from the time I have spent with the older people who I love the most in this world. My beloved grandmother, to start, is one of the most caring and inspirational humans I have ever met, not just in the elderly category. At 88 years old, she is battling cancer for the second time, losing her voice day by day, and starting to have trouble breathing. She struggles to be mobile without a machine that provides oxygen, and although she views this as defeating, I tell her all the time that it only makes her seem stronger. I always give her my company, whether it be going on walks with her, playing card games, or even just talking on the phone. It is not easy teaching older people the modern ways of our evolving world, however, due to my patience and determination, I was able to show her how to use an iPad, which allows us to facetime as well as gives her an unlimited range of opportunities. Seeing the effect that I have had on my grandma is extremely fulfilling,and she has forever changed the way that I view our society.

The other older adult who has influenced me more than I could ever imagine is my grandfather, who I have labeled as my biggest role model in my life thus far. Having bad knees for as long as I can remember, he was always too nervous to get the surgery. But, he was able to build up an immense amount of courage and get the double knee surgery he so desperately needed. After the operation was completed, he needed to attend lots of therapy sessions in order to regain his strength back as well as to relearn how to do certain skills that he had lost the abilities to do. I would often accompany him to these sessions, not only because I cared about him, but I was genuinely interested in what was happening.

I was lucky enough to witness my grandpa persevere in ways that I had never seen before, and all of the people around him were so encouraging and had such a positive impact on him. Seeing the smile on my grandfather’s face the moment he had finally learned how to walk on his own again is something that I strive to be a part of in my near future. The progression and improvement were nothing short of incredible, and I am forever grateful for this life-changing experience.

Working with older adults is a privilege, and I am confident in my abilities to help make a difference in these special peoples’ lives. I would be honored to be granted the Brown/Kraus Scholarship in Gerontology, and I hope my passion is as exceptional and distinct as I know it is.