SMITHTOWN, N.Y. - Any college student athlete will tell you that it can be difficult to balance school work with rigorous practices and competitions. For 22-year old Luci Ferraro, the challenge was intensified two years ago by the diagnosis of Crohn's disease, a chronic, debilitating gastrointestinal (GI) illness in which the body's immune system attacks healthy cells in the GI tract.
Before the diagnosis Ferraro already had established herself as an accomplished student as well as an exceptional athlete. She participated in the NCAA National Leadership Conference, was a Student Athlete Advisor, started for the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Women's Volleyball Team her first two years, is a National Honor Society member and has made the Athletic Director's Honor Roll every semester thus far. Clearly her leadership and determination were only made stronger by her diagnosis of Crohn's disease, as she was voted by her teammates to be a captain of the volleyball team.
Unfortunately Crohn's disease causes a person to lose endurance and strength, symptoms Ferraro had been experiencing on and off the volleyball court for over a year and a half before she was officially diagnosed. Determined to remain active in her leadership role as team captain, Ferraro attended every practice and game even when she was too weak to play and maintained a 4.0 GPA despite extended absences from school.
After trials with several medications, Ferraro was told that she would need a permanent ileostomy, Ferraro knew that it would be a long arduous road to recovery, both emotionally and physically, but she was determined to get back on the court in time for volleyball season and worked through the three-a-day preseason practice to get back in shape.
Although Ferraro was told the ileostomy would be permanent, after 14 months she has been given the chance to reverse the surgery, although it is not guaranteed that it will last forever.
Ferraro's determination and passion for volleyball and adolescent education, her major at NYIT, have helped her succeed on the volleyball court and in the classroom. She is a role model to all of her peers and is living proof that Crohn's disease does not mean an end to an impressive academic and athletic career.
Due to her outstanding academic performance and her dedication to her volleyball team, Ferraro has been awarded a scholarship through UCB's Crohn's Scholarship Program: Reaching Beyond Boundaries. Ferraro will apply this scholarship to her final year at NYIT. She is considering becoming a high school social studies teacher and getting a master's degree in Italian language in order to teach English to Italian children.
Ferraro is 1 of 31 winners out of 800 applicants.
-Provided by Bert Kelly, UCB Public Relations