Scholarship America + Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospitals: Giving Hope to Students with Disabilities   - Scholarship America

Resources Our Blog

From thought leadership to incredible stories of student success, this is where you can get informed or get inspired about scholarships and the educational journey.

Scholarship America + Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospitals: Giving Hope to Students with Disabilities  

By Matt Konrad

Scholarship America’s mission is to eliminate barriers to higher education for all students—and students living with disabilities face more barriers than most.  

That’s why we’re so proud to administer scholarship programs like the Mary Free Bed Guild’s Ability Scholarship. Founded in 1891 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospitals—like Scholarship America and our Dollars for Scholars program—began with a community fundraising drive, and it has grown into the nation’s most comprehensive rehabilitation provider.  

Since establishing the Mary Free Bed Guild Ability and Diversity programs in 2013, the Guild has provided students with more than $1 million in scholarship funds, including nearly $100,000 in 2023.  

One of the 24 students receiving a scholarship last year was Benjamin Hosterman of Coopersville, Michigan, whose journey to college is a truly incredible one.  

Ben suffered two strokes when he was born, which partially paralyzed his right side, left him unable to speak and resulted in epilepsy. At the age of three, Ben started coming to Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation. Over the years, he has worked tirelessly with therapists and learned to use a computer to speak—and in 2019, post-surgical therapy helped Ben have a breakthrough, as he related in his application interview for the scholarship

“I did not really understand what ‘restoring hope and freedom’ meant until after my brain surgery in 2019, when I lost the use of my right arm, struggled to walk and battled memory issues,” he recalled. “The [Mary Free Bed] staff helped me regain some use of my right hand and arm and to walk again, as well as lifting the mental fog. This made me happy because I felt like I was getting my life back and that I could do things I used to enjoy, like drumming. Seeing that progress inspired me to work even harder.” 

Ben would go on to earn regional honors in music, to graduate from high school and to be accepted at Grand Valley State University. He set out to major in disability studies, furthering his already impressive record of activism.  

“I hate when people make fun of someone because of their disability, and I am passionate about ending discrimination and bullying,” he said.  “I want to promote more inclusion with things like my Eagle Scout project. To make the playground at our library more welcoming for kids with disabilities, I raised $11,000 and put in an inclusive merry-go-round, installed safety fencing, and built a wheelchair-accessible picnic table. Even though I have some disabilities, I also have many skills and talents that I can use.” 

In honor of his achievements and potential, Ben received the Mary Free Bed Ability scholarship for 2023. Unfortunately, medical setbacks forced him to take a gap year. During that year, he underwent successful surgery to implant a small device for preventing seizures, and after recovering he was finally able to begin his college career and use his $5,000 award from Mary Free Bed. 

This video, provided by Shelley Mishler of the Mary Free Bed Guild, shares Ben’s experiences from his first year of college, and his hopes for what’s next. Shelley says, “Ben continues to awe and inspire us more every year.  We hope viewing his videos and getting to know Ben does the same for you.” 

Like many college students, Ben has faced a learning curve getting used to college life. But his own perseverance and the support he’s received from his family, his scholarships and his community have given him a bright, positive outlook for the future. We’re so proud to support students like Ben, and we thank the Mary Free Bed Guild for their sponsorship of this incredible program. 

If you’re ready to make an impact on students like Ben, get in touch with Scholarship America today and find out how we can help you tear down barriers to education.