Karissa Hartzell

Karissa-Hartzell-for-webThe International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) is pleased to award a $500 scholarship to Karissa Hartzell from Andover, OH for the 2015-2016 academic year. Karissa is one of four students from across the nation to receive a scholarship award from the IETF.

Karissa isn’t looking for a handout; nor is she looking for sympathy or pity. What she is looking for is a way to make her mark in this world. “Some people would see essential tremor as a setback,” Karissa said, “but not me. It showed me how obstacles can actually make you stronger.” When faced with a chronic condition like ET, many people find themselves frustrated, isolated and depressed, but not Karissa. “It may not be how everyone gets the job done, but I refuse to let ET take over me.”

But just because she has strong personality and can-do attitude, doesn’t mean she doesn’t struggle. Like most people with essential tremor, every day is a test of ingenuity and perseverance.  And every day she passes with flying colors; learning, adapting, compromising. She works part-time at the local ice cream parlor and found it to be a real challenge at first. But by changing the way she holds the cone when giving it to her customers, she is able to deliver the tasty treat without a drop hitting the floor. When playing her favorite sport, volleyball, she throws the ball up two-handed to serve, because she found it gives her more control. She simply finds her own way to make things work.

“Some of my classmates and even a few teachers have made rude jokes or comments because they think I’m nervous or uncoordinated,” Karissa said, “but I know it stems from a lack of knowledge about ET. So I try to educate them about ET and how it affects my life. So if nothing else, ET has helped teach me how to be a better communicator.”

It takes a special type of person to look obstacles in the eye and continue to push forward, regardless of the amount of time or effort it takes. It takes drive, passion, and a strong sense of self, and Karissa has these features in abundance. We know she will go far as a Buckeye at The Ohio State University this fall.