Student with cystic fibrosis sets sights on college

Paige DeKoning among first to earn new scholarship

Photo provided by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated
Despite being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Paige DeKoning is pursuing an active and fulfilling life.
Photo provided by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated
Paige DeKoning is now attending Berry College after she was one of the first to be awarded a newly created scholarship.

One Alpharetta student has beaten the odds against a life-threatening genetic disease and is living life to the fullest. Recent high school graduate Paige DeKoning, 17, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child, but she isn’t letting that stop her from living her life.

“Cystic fibrosis has changed my life,” DeKoning wrote in her scholarship essay. “It has caused my family hardships, but it has also allowed my family to really get involved in the cystic fibrosis community to try and find a cure. In an odd way, it is also through cystic fibrosis that my family shows how much they love and support my brother and I, whether it’s through moral, emotional or financial support.”

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, inherited disease that damages the lungs and other organs. It causes buildup of mucus in the lungs, leading to chronic infections and difficulty breathing. The average age of survival is 41 years, and it affects 75,000 people in North America, Europe and Australia, according to Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated. There is no known cure.

DeKoning, however, has learned to work with her struggles and is determined to reach her goals. She was involved in numerous extracurricular activities in high school, including horseback riding, teaching religious education and serving as a camp counselor.

“[Cystic fibrosis] has helped shape my perspective on life,” DeKoning said. “It has made me more aware of how precious my life is and has taught me to embrace the obstacles that come my way rather than trying to run, because I know that I cannot outrun time.”

DeKoning is now entering a new chapter in her life, after being accepted to Berry College to study animal sciences. She is one of the first recipients of the “All in for CF” scholarship, which granted her $5,000 to attend. Only 40 people were awarded this scholarship by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, a company devoted to researching and developing medicines for people with cystic fibrosis.

Scholarship recipients like DeKoning were chosen by an independent committee of cystic fibrosis community members. Essays, community involvement, financial need and academic achievement were all considered during the process.

“I believe that CF has helped me realize how fortunate I am,” DeKoning said. “Yes, I do have a genetic disease, but I am healthy; I can afford the medications I need; and I have a family to help support me. [It has] helped me speak up and try and make a difference in people’s lives.”. ■


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