The Elizabeth Auger Annual Scholarship for Students with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes was created to honor the efforts of diabetes patients and assist diabetic students with achieving their dreams.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body converts food to energy. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, require patients to manage their care while also powering through life’s ups and downs to achieve their dreams.
This year’s scholarship winner, Sophia Salyers, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a baby and has never known life without managing her condition. However, Ms. Salyers has learned to see her condition as a strength, an opportunity to educate others about diabetes, and serve as a role model for overcoming challenges and having faith in times of difficulty. Ms. Salyers is a role model for everyone and hopes to impart the wisdom she has garnered at such a young age to others as a professor of psychology.
Ms. Salyers is currently a junior at the University of Kentucky where she is majoring in Psychology with a Social Science Research Certificate. After graduation, Sophia hopes to return to the University of Kentucky to pursue graduate studies in Psychology and Law or pursue forensic psychology. She has always been enthusiastic about education, but psychology has captured her curiosity. She says, “I love learning how people think and interpret the world around them. Psychology has an impact on our daily lives. We all have different experiences that challenge us, motivate us, and make us who we are.” Through teaching and research, she hopes to reach as many students as possible.
Ms. Salyers has been passionate about learning and education throughout her life. School was often her method of escape during “bad diabetes days.” But in addition to the joy she finds in reading and learning, Sophia has chosen a career in education because she wants to help young people who struggle with many different types of invisible challenges–chronic medical conditions being only one besides poverty and food insecurity, mental health challenges, or any other circumstance that serves as an obstacle. During her senior year of high school, Ms. Salyers worked in the classroom with students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Humbled by the experience, Ms. Salyers explains, “[These] students truly had more struggles in their lives outside of school than anyone I’ve ever met. My small problems of a faulty pancreas seemed much smaller, but it took hearing my story for them to realize that even people that seem to have perfect lives often invisibly do not.”
A large part of this effort centers on being aware that you might not know what a person is going through and it is only through opening yourself up to learning through empathy that true change can occur. One of Sophia’s greatest strengths is humbly and gracefully advocating for others through example. She recalls having to educate her own teachers on why it was important to leave class for a snack or why she didn’t feel like playing. Speaking up is a remarkable act of courage, especially when it is a child expressing themselves to an adult authority figure.
Sophia encourages students everywhere, particularly those who are struggling with a chronic or invisible illness, to know that they are not alone. She says, “there will be bad days but finding your support system and outlet for stress will be the keys. God has a plan for all of us. Use those bad days to mold you and your values.”
The inspiration for this positive outlook came to Sophia from her grandfather. Though he passed away in 2014, she remembers sitting underneath the Kentucky pine trees with him on “bad diabetes days,” where he made her smile and taught her to know her values and hold true to them.
Ms. Salyers plans to apply to the University of Kentucky graduate program in Psychology and Law. She has always called Lexington home and hopes to continue giving back to her community. Ultimately, she hopes to become a professor at the University of Kentucky and support the department she has called home for many years.