The Lucketts Ruritan Club awarded $5,000 to Rachel Berson toward her studies at Elon University, where she has been accepted into the prestigious Innovation Scholars Program and awarded the Elon Engagement Scholarship. She plans to major in entrepreneurship, with a concentration in biomedical engineering to develop innovative business ideas and new medical devices specifically for neurological disorders. Rachel graduated from Fusion Academy Loudoun and also took classes in Business and American Sign Language at NOVA Community College. She has earned several awards for her outstanding scholastic achievements, such as Fusion Scholarship Foundation recipient and National Society of High School Scholars.
John Steinbeck wrote “You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” For people who suffer from chronic pain, this level of empathy is rare and often leaves the sufferer feeling alone and isolated. Rachel watched several of her family members deal with chronic pain and undertook the support role for many years until she herself developed chronic migraines. However, rather than let this condition define her life and growth as a person, she has used it as an opportunity to channel her energy in the education of and advocacy for others who also suffer from chronic headache disorders. For example, she was the Chair of the Teen Advisory Council (TAC) with the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Pediatric Headache Clinic. TAC is a group of about six high school students who collaborate with UCSF Pediatric Headache Clinic and Miles for Migraines to support adolescent patients and their families. Her role was to work and coordinate with other adolescents, doctors, nurses, and staff.
Rachel organized outreach events and applied her creative talent with her team to create videos for pediatric patients to help ease the stresses associated with the ‘unknowns’ of hospital visits and inpatient headache treatments. The doctors and nurses at the UCSF Pediatric Headache Clinic share these videos with their patients to help relieve stress and anxiety. The following link provides an example of one of these videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RS42zVxPyw. Because of her strong collaborative and leadership skills and first-hand experience with migraines, Rachel was invited to be the Keynote Speaker at the University of California at San Francisco Teen Migraine Camp.
Another aspect of her high school career was the conception and formation of a Community Advisory Council (CAC) at Fusion Academy, which provides community outreach support for the student community. Rachel has also volunteered and baked cakes and desserts for special events for underprivileged children. She is truly a person who thinks of others before herself and who uses life’s challenges as an opportunity for personal growth.
In her free time, Rachel enjoys many outdoor activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, hiking, rock climbing, and photography. She described her love of photography as the opportunity ‘where you can stand still in a specific point of time’ and record it. Rachel also enjoys baking and the science behind it. For almost two years, she has worked in customer service as a retail clerk at Mom’s Apple Pie.
Rachel has excelled in her academics and has demonstrated empathy levels that go above and beyond ‘understanding.’ When asked about this, her answer was “Well, as far as medical issues go, you have two choices: Give up or keep going. Don’t give up!” The Lucketts Ruritan Club is extremely proud to support Rachel in this next exciting phase of her life, and we wish her the best of luck in her studies.