Student Spotlight: Maria Carney

Maria Carney, a lifetime Arizona resident, packed her bags and moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico earlier this month. After settling into her dorm, Maria started classes at New Mexico State University last week. Though she’s only four hours away from home, Maria is excited to begin her college career at her dream school. What many of the thousands of students at NMSU won’t know is the hardship she’s endured to get to where she is today – in 2010, her father passed away from ALS, which stemmed from his 21 years of service in the United States Coast Guard.  

In 2008, Stephen Carney was diagnosed with the disease behind this summer’s viral Ice Bucket Challenge. Two years later, when Maria was in 8th grade her father passed away from the disease. Her father served in the United States Coast Guard for 21 years, and retired as a Senior Chief. Many of those years, he proudly served as a fire chief where he was exposed to and inhaled different chemicals, and his disease and eventual death was ruled in the line of duty.

Processing paperwork took several years, but Maria’s family was told that her full college tuition would be taken care of, and then during the end of her senior year of high school she was told she’d only receive a certain amount each month. At this point, the VA told her about Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. She called our organization, and we have stepped in to fill the gap between her benefits and the cost of attending the out-of-state college of her dreams, New Mexico State University.

“My father's diagnosis had been one of the most difficult things in life for me. My family and I had watched helplessly as one of the strongest and most caring individuals deteriorated in front of us. Not only was he a father but he was also one of my best friends. He taught me so much. From playing catch with me in the yard, to helping me with my homework, he was always there for me. It was extremely difficult after the diagnosis because we realized he wouldn't be able to experience my upcoming life events; but he also made it clear that in life I need to accomplish my dreams and push myself to my full potential,” said Maria. “If it wasn’t for Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, I would be unable to attend NMSU, and would have done a few years at community college and then stayed in-state. I’m so grateful for their help, and that they are taking away what would have been a large financial burden.”

As a teenager, she helped her mother care for her father, which spawned her dream of wanting to become a Nurse Practitioner. She claims some of the best advice she had received from her father is to do what it takes to get an education and always remember to follow her dreams.

Last week, Maria took on the Ice Bucket Challenge in honor of her father. She is enjoying her freshman year of college.