Fairfield student receives National MS Society Scholarship

By Fairfield Sun on June 11, 2015 in Features, Lead News, Schools

Volunteer, captain and coach are the usual titles associated with Fairfield’s Caroline Pangallo. But this June, she earned a new one: recipient of the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, 2015 Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund Scholarship.

A leader in her community and at school, Pangallo described herself as someone who is eager to reach outside her comfort zones. But little did she know that doing just that would lead her to a new passion.

“I was a little nervous about signing up for AP psychology during my senior year, but I’ve always believed in my ability to rise to a challenge – whether on the basketball court or in the classroom,” she said. “But no one was more surprised than I was when the class engaged me in ways other subjects never did.”

Pangallo, 18 and a graduate of the Fairfield Ludlowe High School, now plans to attend Connecticut College, in New London, to pursue a degree in psychology.

“I want to study psychology, and focus on how it relates to physical performance,” said the varsity basketball point guard. “I’ve learned that the mind influences performance as much as your body does. I think that must be the same thing for people who suffer from debilitating illnesses.”

That insight comes from Pangallo’s experiences with her father, who has been living with the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis since 1990 – seven years before she was even born.

“They say my ability to play as a strong point guard can’t really be taught – it’s innate,” she explained. “I think that’s a gift from my dad.”

As a recipient of the Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund Scholarship, Pangallo hopes that she’s also inherited something else from her father that might help with the heavy course load: his mental toughness.

“My dad has been dealt some pretty tough blows, but he just keeps at it,” she said. “I know college isn’t going to be easy, but I do hope that I can find a way to work through and be successful.”

More than 6,500 Connecticut residents, like Pangallo’s father, live with multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease. The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure. Symptoms can include numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.

A high school athlete who aspires to continue her involvement at the college level, Pangallo attributes her athletic ability to her dad.

“I’ve been told that he started having issues with balance around the same time I was learning to walk,” she shared. “He used to be an avid athlete, but he had to give it up when the demands of playing sports became too much for his body to handle.”

Pangallo was recognized by the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, at its annual Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Scholarship Reception, which was held at the Country Club of Farmington, Thursday, June 4. She is one of 30 students receiving a 2015 scholarship from the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter.


Petit family scholarships are made possible through the Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund, which specifically supports the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter’s family programs, caregivers programs and scholarships. The fund was established in July 2007 by the family to honor the memory of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who had MS, and her daughters Hayley and Michaela, who were active with the chapter helping raise funds to support scientific research for a cure and local programs for families affected by MS.

Information for the 2016-17 school year scholarships will be available on the National MS Society website on October 1st. For more information on MS or for additional information on 2015 MS scholarship criteria, please contact the Connecticut Chapter at 860.913.2550 or visit

Program Continues To Grow Across the Country

The National MS Society established its scholarship program for students who have MS or a parent living with MS 12 years ago, and it immediately became a source of great encouragement for families concerned that MS might put college out of reach. This year, more than $1.2 million in awards were presented to over 800 new and renewal recipients nationwide. Applications are evaluated on financial need, academic record, leadership and volunteer activities, a statement of educational and career goals, and letters of recommendation. Applicants are also asked to provide a personal statement describing the impact MS has had on their life. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $3,000 and recipients are eligible to reapply each year to be considered for a future award. The program is competitive and awards are not guaranteed.

“For the Pangallo family and others affected by MS across the country, there are very few known sources of scholarship assistance specially targeted for these families,” said Lisa Gerrol, Connecticut Chapter president and CEO. “MS shouldn’t stand in the way of an education, and we are hopeful this program will give families some relief.”

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. It is the number one disabling neurological disease in young to middle-aged adults.


About the National MS Society

The Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move their lives forward. To move us closer to creating a world free of MS, last year alone, the Society invested $50.2 million to support more than 380 new and ongoing research projects around the world while providing programs and services to over one million people. Join the movement at