Scholarship donors look forward to their student recipients finishing school and going on to lead inspiring, fulfilling lives. But one Neilsen Foundation Scholar is making a big difference already.
Meet Bradley Boe.
The Neilsen Scholarship pays for Boe’s UNLV tuition and fees. As a result, the sophomore biochemistry major is freed from having to work a part-time job to make ends meet. Instead, he’s embarked on a project that’s connecting a very specific group of people who are facing a new way of life.
Boe established an outreach program for individuals who recently sustained spinal cord injuries. He does this because he can relate to their experience: Five years ago, the former high school athlete had an injury that left him paralyzed.
“I’d never met a quadriplegic like me,” Boe said. “When I was in the ICU, no one in a wheelchair came to talk to me. Everyone else would try to encourage me, but no one had been through it.
"So it’s important to me to be there for others.”
Established by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, the Neilsen Scholarship Program supports students with spinal cord injuries in their pursuit of higher education. Neilsen was an entrepreneur and founder of Ameristar Casinos. Before he passed away in 2006, he created the foundation that today is the largest private funder of spinal cord injury research and program support in the U.S.
The Neilsen Scholarship is among the many scholarships offered through UNLV's philanthropy division. It provides full tuition and fees for students with spinal cord injuries, as well as providing supplemental support funds to remove barriers to academic progress related to spinal cord injury-associated needs such as housing or a personal care assistant. Boe is among the first cohort of recipients.
“Brad is amazing,” said Bryan Hilbert, director of UNLV’s Disability Resource Center. “He has a warm, magnetic personality. He’s the consummate student — pre-med and able to manage it all.”
Boe also competes on UNLV’s High Rollers Wheelchair Rugby team, having found inspiration in the documentary Murder Ball after his accident.
The rugby tournaments provide additional opportunities to meet athletes and get tips on navigating the world from a chair: “You learn a crazy amount of stuff, from finding the right hotels, to what equipment to use, to what kinds of tricks they know. You meet mentors,” Boe said.
“You learn a lot about life stages – not just occupational therapy but real-life skills.”
None of this would have been possible without the Neilsen Foundation Scholarship, he said.
“This scholarship,” Boe said, “has been huge.”