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Video: Scholarship helps ISU student with cancer inspire others

Textbooks are expensive, and many students work part-time jobs to pay for them.

Illinois State sophomore Adebosola Akinborho can’t do that. It’s a miracle she can even muster the strength to go to class. That’s because she has cancer, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

But with help from the Red and White Scholarship, Akinborho was able to buy her textbooks last semester. It took some of the weight off her shoulders, when she needed it most.

“Going to chemo, going to classes, and trying to balance the two—it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” said Akinborho, who is undeclared but planning to major in early childhood education.

Doctors found a 7-centimeter tumor in Akinborho’s kidney in 2013, determining it was stage 4 kidney cancer. After three surgeries and the start of chemo, Akinborho transferred to Illinois State.

“I decided that I was tired of sitting at home, and even if I don’t know what my prognosis is, I just felt like doing something that would inspire other people,” said Akinborho, who was born in Nigeria.

Unable to work because of her illness, Akinborho approached the Financial Aid Office for help. That’s when she learned about the Red and White Scholarship, a fund that helps students cover the cost of college when they’re out of other options. It’s given to struggling students who lose a parent, incur unexpected medical expenses, or face other serious challenges—like not being able to afford textbooks.

The Red and White Scholarship helped more than 30 students last year, said Jana Albrecht, M.B.A. ‘06, director of the Financial Aid Office at Illinois State.

“The scholarship is very flexible, and it allows us to do a lot,” she said.

The scholarship means that Akinborho can continue her studies and inspiring others. One of them is sophomore therapeutic recreation major Tia Awumbang, Akinborho’s best friend at ISU.

“Ade’s courage and strength is really what I admire about her,” Awumbang said. “She’s shown me that life’s too short to just sit around. You have to go out and do something, and cherish the life that you have.

“That’s what I really love about her,” Awumbang said.

The Red and White Scholarship is supported by alumni, faculty, staff, and other friends of the University who want to help students who need it most.

“Your donation is definitely going a long way to help students like me,” she said. “Thank you for your support.”

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu. Bob Tomaski can be reached at rdtomas@IllinoisState.edu.