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Farmington Teenager Named 2007 Scholarship Recipient
By Samantha Harrigan, Public Relations Intern

     FARMINGTON, Conn.— Seventeen-year-old Nicole Siroonian’s perseverance has reaped rewards some intangible and others, such as a recent scholarship award, a concrete testament to a life centered more on others than self. Siroonian’s ability to face adversity with grace, poise and resolve has qualified her to be named the 2007 National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarship award recipient.

Siroonian - 1Unlike many college-bound youths, Siroonian isn’t afraid of the responsibilities she’ll have to take on as she prepares to leave home for college. For years, she’s been independent, taking responsibility for her own needs and, in addition, the needs of her mother, Paula, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1993.

“After hearing I had MS, I felt so many emotions,” said Paula Siroonian, “I was angry, scared, and confused all at the same time. I just kept wondering how and why this could have happened to me.”

More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Paula Siroonian, are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a potentially debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system. Symptoms can include numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, fatigue and, in some severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted, and there is no cure.

Despite her mother’s diagnosis and the progressive effects that ensued, Nicole Siroonian’s memories of her mother’s early days with MS are innocent and carefree.

“When I was a kid, everything seemed like fun and games; I didn’t even have a chance to notice that my family was any different than the next,” said the petite, pony-tailed brunette. “Changes such as my mom eventually having to use a scooter were exciting to me. The day she got her first one my brother, sister and I all went out into the driveway to see it being delivered, and then we took turns as my mom gave us each high speed rides around the cul-de-sac.”

Incredibly, in an ironic if not brutal twist of fate, Siroonian’s father, Geary, was also diagnosed with MS in 2002. While he is still able to walk, he is not as strong as he once was.

“When my husband was diagnosed I was in disbelief,” said Paula. “We started looking for someone to blame. What are the odds that we would both end up with MS? What caused this? Was it something we did? We worried about how we would manage long-term, raising three children.” 

But what Paula and Geary Siroonian couldn’t predict was how their children would rise to the occasion. When times got tough, Nicole and her siblings were there to lend a helping hand.

            “It became increasingly hard for my dad to take complete responsibility for caring for my mom,” said Siroonian, “My brother, sister and I had to begin stepping up to help.”

     Along with her twin brother Chris, who’s headed to college in Vermont this fall, and 16-year-old sister, Deanna, Siroonian is now responsible for helping her mother in and out of the car, her bed, and the shower. In addition, she gives her father a hand whenever she can, keeps up with the housework and somehow manages to maintain a 3.8 GPA and her role as captain of the varsity lacrosse team.

      Siroonian - 2A native of North Andover, Mass., and now resident of Farmington, Conn., Siroonian says she was excited to come across the National Multiple Sclerosis Scholarship because she felt the criteria was applicable to her situation. However, she said she was still surprised and overjoyed to hear she had won. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society awarded Siroonian $1,000 toward her college education. The Farmington High School senior will graduate in June and will be attending Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. 

Siroonian hopes to continue playing field hockey and lacrosse as club sports at Wake Forest, which she says was her top choice of schools.

“I just love the atmosphere at Wake Forest,” said the energetic teen. “At first, I was hesitant to apply to schools that were far from home. I worry about how my household will function without my brother and I around to help, but my sister and parents assure me that they will be okay. They don’t want to hold me back from accomplishing my dreams.”

In addition to her participation in sports, Siroonian is a member of both the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and secretary of both the Youth Entertainment Services and the Spanish National Honor Society. In her community, Siroonian is part of Green Team, an environmental advocacy group helping to keep her hometown free of pollution and litter. She also participates in the Travelers MS Walk each year.

Her guidance counselors, teachers, and coaches have nothing but praise for Siroonian. Nelle Andrews, English teacher and field hockey coach at Farmington High School, knows Siroonian quite well, and has enjoyed having her as both a student and an athlete.

      “One of the greatest things about having Nicole on the team is her willingness to put others before herself—she really embodies the concept of team and works very well with others to help her peers achieve their goals,” said Andrews, who describes Siroonian as “genuinely compassionate” and “tremendously focused.”

      “We are delighted to present the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarship Program award to such a bright and gifted young woman,” stated Lisa Gerrol, President, Greater Connecticut Chapter. “In addition to her academic and athletic successes, Ms. Siroonian has demonstrated outstanding compassion and determination in dealing with the challenges faced by a family affected by MS.”

      Despite excellent grades and exceptional athletic ability, Siroonian remains humble, attributing much of her success to the precepts and support provided by her parents.

      “My parents’ battle with MS has taught me so much about the true meaning of perseverance,” said Siroonian. “They have inspired me to live life to the fullest. They’ve taught me to never take anything for granted.”

The National MS Society Scholarship program is offered yearly to vocational, technical or college-bound, high school seniors diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or whose parent has MS. Applications can be downloaded by going to www.nationalmssociety.org. For more information, please contact the Greater Connecticut Chapter at (860) 714-2300 or visit http://www.ctfightsms.org/.



CUTLINE: Farmington High School Senior and National MS Society Scholarship Winner Nicole Siroonian catches her breath on the bleachers after lacrosse practice.
(For the picture of her, resting on the bleachers)

CUTLINE: Farmington High School Senior and 2007 National MS Society Scholarship recipient Nicole Siroonian cools down on the field after a taxing lacrosse practice.
(For the picture of her, sitting cross-legged on the field)

Samantha Harrigan is a senior majoring in communications at the University of Connecticut. She is currently completing a public relations internship, to include 126 hours, with the National MS Society, Greater Connecticut Chapter. For more information on internship opportunities with the Greater Connecticut Chapter, please contact Karen E. Butler, Vice President of Communications, at kbutler@ctfightsMS.org.  


                                                                                                                                           Karen E. Butler
Vice President of Communications
Greater Connecticut Chapter
tel +1.860.714.2300
cell +1.860.997.4487


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