JJMLF scholarships help Utah students with dyslexia pursue higher education

PARK CITY, Utah – The Joseph James Morelli Legacy Foundation (JJMLF), awards scholarships to students diagnosed with dyslexia who are pursuing higher education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The Morelli Legacy Foundation was formed in 2014 and has awarded 267 scholarships totaling over $423,000 in eight years.

In 2014, Joseph James Morelli was 20 years old and a junior at Montana State in Bozeman, MT, when he was tragically killed in a car accident while camping in West Yellowstone with friends. Morelli was severely dyslexic and diagnosed late in high school, he found his strength, self-esteem, and identity: loving life, studying mechanical engineering, making the Dean’s list, skiing, and being in the great outdoors.

His parents, Barbara and Joseph Morelli founded the JJMLF in 2014 and reside in Park City. Barbara and Joseph Sr. started the scholarship in their son’s memory to help other young adults with learning differences pursuing a career in the STEM field after high school. Mr. and Mrs. Morelli are hoping to help dyslexic students get the recognition, support, and financial help they might need.

The foundation is nationwide, and individuals who receive the scholarship typically receive $500-$2,500 in aid. To be eligible for the scholarship, individuals must be diagnosed with dyslexia and must be high school or post-high school students who will attend an accredited undergraduate school, technical school, or community college pursuing a STEM degree. The foundation does not take grades or personal finances into account during its decision-making process.

Students who are awarded a scholarship can use the money they receive in any way that helps them become successful. This includes purchasing books, school supplies, rent, or groceries. In addition to scholarship funding, JJMLF partnered with Jake Sussman, the founder of Superpower consulting, where Sussman facilitate peer-to-peer mentoring for scholarship recipients.

Although the foundation is nationwide, the focus of the JJMLF is here in Utah. Typically over 30-40% of applicants are from Utah, and 49 students from Utah have been supported by the JJMLF since 2018. The JJMLF is also partnered with the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, which exclusively serves Utah students.

Maddie Ho, PCHS '22 studying whales
Maddie Ho, PCHS ’22 studying whales. Photo courtesy of Maddie Ho

Maddie Ho, a PCHS class of 2022 graduate, was recently awarded a JJMLF scholarship and is pursuing a degree in oceanography at Cal Poly Humboldt University. Maddie recently went scuba diving off the coast of Portugal to study whales in preparation for oceanography classes this fall.

Brayden Drury, a PCHS class of 2021 graduate, was also a recipient of the JJMLF scholarship and recently started his own company. “Sola is an insurance add-on for tornado damage, leveraging data streams to provide damage payments in days, not months. We will launch by this summer and immediately help thousands of homeowners,” Drury said of his start-up company. “I have traveled across the country and met genuinely amazing people. Whenever I see anyone with a disability who feels discouraged, especially with startups, I tell them that even though I struggle with reading, I can still succeed in such a complex industry as insurance. I am writing important documents and doing things I couldn’t dream about a few months ago. I truly believe if you work hard enough, anything can be accomplished. I try and inspire as many people as I can, regardless of whether or not they have dyslexia.”

Ho and Drury faced adversity throughout their academic career, but with the help of scholarship programs like JJMLF, were able to find the support they needed to reach their education and career goals.

The JJMLF is hosting its annual celebration event for students and donors on Saturday, August 20. The event is being held at the Shed at Promontory in Park City and includes food, music, drinks, and entertainment. The celebration is free to attend, and all are welcome.

The JJMLF is now accepting scholarship applicants for the 2022-2023 school year. If interested in donating to the foundation, applying for the JJMLF scholarship, or to learn more about their organization and upcoming events, please refer to their website.

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