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Students of the Year Candidates Aim to Establish Emma Willard Research Grant for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Katie Coakley
Each year the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) hosts “Students of the Year,” a philanthropic leadership development program for exemplary high school students, that teaches them professional skills including entrepreneurship, marketing, and project management as they promote and fundraise for the organization.
This year, Emma juniors Mimi L. and Ava T. have been selected as the 2019 Students of the Year candidates for the Albany area, and the first ever to represent Emma Willard School. Their aim is to raise $50,000 for the LLS to establish an Emma Willard research grant.
Emma Communications spoke with them about their project and why it is so meaningful to them.
What is the purpose of your project?
The purpose of the campaign is to raise as much money as possible to help improve the quality of life of cancer patients and their families, as well as to fund research. Our personal purpose is to engage the Emma community in a philanthropic project to better our world.   
What inspired you to pursue it?
The values that the organization LLS represent are similar to the values we learn in our classrooms every day. Also, blood cancer impacts so many peoples’ lives that we felt that this campaign would help many people.
What drew you to advocating for blood cancer in particular?
We both have friends our age that are blood cancer survivors, and their stories have served as inspiration and motivation for our campaign.
The research LLS works to fund also impacts many different illnesses including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and diabetes. The organization impacts so many lives.
Through your advocacy you have connected with a local teen impacted by leukemia. What has getting to know her meant to you and this project?
Ava: Rylyn was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was in second grade. She spent two years away from school, sports, and her friends while going through treatment. What particularly inspired me about her story was that every night during her treatments, her grandfather would put Lourdes water on her. When my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Lourdes in France, where she believes she experienced a miracle and was healed. Every year, my family, including my grandmother, spends a week volunteering in Lourdes. The connection that Rylyn and I share is extremely unique; most people don’t even know what Lourdes is.
There are two fundraising goals, $10,000 and $50,000, the latter resulting in an established Emma Willard research grant. Why is winning this grant important for you?
The grant is important to our team because we want to represent Emma Willard School as best we can, and we want bring awareness about our cause to the community.  
In addition to giving, how can people support your cause?
Spread the word, spread the word, spread the word! Any donation helps. There is a grand finale at the end of the campaign where we are able to provide items for a silent auction and the profits will benefit our campaign. We are looking for businesses to donate items for the auction, and sponsors to purchase program ads. Over 200 people attend the event, so it’s great advertisement. We also can offer advertising at any of our events, including our upcoming dance.
How can people follow your project and progress?
To follow our progress, check out our website:
    • Emma juniors Mimi L. and Ava T. aim to make a difference for LLS research

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