IBD Scholarship Recipient Spotlight: Leslie Hernandez

Leslie Hernandez
Ahead of the 2020 AbbVie IBD Scholarship deadline, we caught up with our past recipients to learn about life after receiving the scholarship and the impact it has had.

You know what they say – when the going gets tough, the tough get going! When Leslie Hernandez started experiencing symptoms of ulcerative colitis, her parents considered pulling her out of school until she was healed – but there was just one problem: there was no cure for her illness.

This forced her to become even stronger, because being strong was the only way she could achieve her dreams. This meant that despite her invisible illness, she had to put in twice the amount of effort that other colleagues were putting.

It was through her resilience and strength that she was able to raise her marks one semester at a time, while still maintaining her community involvement.

And that’s how she became the person she always dreamed of being: an Honours Chemistry with Thesis graduate from the University of Windsor, a Teaching Assistant for the School of Dramatic Art, an intern of the Arts Management Certificate program, and one of the eight students accepted each year to the world-class National Theatre School of Canada in Montréal for their Production Design & Technical Arts Program.

What have you done or are currently doing with the IBD community?
Aside from accepting the invite to join the annual Abbvie IBD scholarship Selection Committee after receiving my scholarship, I am on a pause from any formal involvements with Crohn's and Colitis Canada due to the nature of my intensive program at school. Despite this, I do my best to speak openly about my personal IBD journey so that others around me, who may not necessarily know who to reach out to, are aware that I am happy to chat about these gastrointestinal issues anytime. 

How has receiving the AbbVie IBD Scholarship impacted your journey through school?
Receiving the AbbVie IBD Scholarship during my first year of the same program that I am about to graduate from has been such a relief. Moving to a different province for school is stressful enough, but when it is specifically for a conservatory-type program to follow my dreams, it lifts a huge weight off your shoulders of having to navigate through the financial burdens of starting fresh. This scholarship has allowed me to let go of anything holding me back so that I may achieve my greatest potential. I am so thankful that this scholarship allowed me to focus my resources towards putting my all into my dream school. 

What advice do you have for students who are thinking of applying for the scholarship? 
My advice for students who are thinking of applying for the AbbVie IBD Scholarship is to open a new document and just start writing – write anything and edit it down later; it doesn't hurt to try! I discouraged myself from applying for years because I thought I wasn't good enough. My loved ones continued to encourage me to apply, but I never did because I was afraid about the number of other people who were also applying. Forcing myself to apply made me realise that the number of people applying should not affect how much I believed in my potential and myself. You can do it!
To learn more about the AbbVie IBD Scholarship and submit your application, click here.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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