Students raise money for DefIANt scholarship



Gannon University students Brandon Boyce and Nick Carneval walked 36 miles to North East and back to generate support and funds for the DefIANt Scholarship. This scholarship makes higher education more accessible for disabled students.

Anna Malesiewski, Assistant Editor

Pursuing higher education can be difficult for any young adult, and sometimes high financial costs can make college inaccessible for some students. For a student with a disability, it can be even harder to pursue higher education.
Ian Malesiewski knows this struggle. Paralyzed from the age of 16 due to a freak wrestling injury while attending Cathedral Prep, Malesiewski created the DefIANT Scholars Program, a scholarship fund to benefit students with physical and intellectual disabilities and help them seek higher education.
“A lot of the time, people with spinal cord injuries don’t get to receive higher education, so I’ve been really lucky,” said Malesiewski, who attends the University of Miami.
This scholarship for Erie County students was formed this summer under the North East Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting donors in benefiting their communities.
Nick Carneval, a junior finance major at Gannon University and one of Malesiewski’s best friends, was there for the beginning stages of development for the scholarship fund.
“When Ian first approached me about this, he said, ‘I was so lucky to have the resources I did to get a college education despite my disability. I want other kids to do the same; I don’t want something such as a physical disability preventing them from being able to exercise whatever their mind is able to do,’” Carneval said.
Carneval and Brandon Boyce, a junior mathematics and psychology major at Gannon, along with all of the members of Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE), have generated an outpouring of support, especially within the Gannon community.
“Every single member of PIKE has their own little network,” Carneval said. “I wasn’t going into this alone because I have a team of 45 guys backing me up.”
Carneval and Boyce undertook a 36-mile walk to benefit the DefIANt scholarship fund. The pair walked 36 miles, to North East and back, picking up litter along the way. The walk took roughly 10 hours in total, and 83 donors each sponsored a mile of the journey.
According to Carneval, there has been a huge network of support, especially within the Gannon community.
“Gannon is a good target market to get this out because it’s a close knit community,” Carneval said. “Word spreads really fast and we were able to get really good feedback.”
Boyce said that the idea of the walk came about as not only a fundraising effort, but also a symbol of gratitude.
“We wanted to walk because it’s something a lot of people take for granted,” Boyce said. “People with certain disabilities don’t have the ability to walk. Since we take it for granted we wanted to make it a challenge.”
Boyce is also personally moved by Malesiewski’s story, as well as his perseverance and support for others with disabilities.
“I think it’s really important that we care for the people who are less fortunate than us,” Boyce said. “The fact that Ian is so dedicated to this is inspiration enough for me.”
Boyce and Carneval said that the best way to support the scholarship fund is to share information, especially through social media.
“Everyone has their own little network,” Carneval said. “I look at those people who share it as members of my team.”
The members of Gannon’s men’s cross-country team also supported the DefIANt scholarship by running 15 miles from the Recreation and Wellness Center at Gannon to North East on Saturday.
The run brought in more donations toward the scholarship fund and brought awareness to the efforts put in by others.
Alex Chelton, a member of the team and a sophomore biology major, believes the DefIANt scholarship fund is important in helping those with impairments.
“It helps students with disabilities obtain financial help to receive education that they may not be able to achieve without the help from the fund,” Chelton said.
Both Boyce and Carneval agree that the DefIANt scholarship fund is integral in giving students with disabilities the resources they need to further their futures.
“There’s a lot of people within the disability community that have a drive for success, and they want to capitalize off of opportunities that can help them achieve their goals,” Carneval said. “This scholarship is meant to be one of them.”

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