The Alison Hietala Lee Scholarship
Alison Hietala Lee grew up with a desire to see people for who they truly are. "She was very generous, even as a little kid," said Jill Hietala, Alison's mother. “In elementary school, Alison was often paired with her friend Becky, who had Down’s Syndrome. At first, I didn’t even know Becky was disabled, because Alison always treated her just like any other friend,” said Jill.
During high school ,Alison continued showing genuine concern for others. She was a positive peer counselor. “People could talk to her,” said Amanda Isaacs, Alison's sister. “She was a good peer counselor because she was a safe person to talk to when her classmates were having issues with drugs, alcohol or family problems.” Alison also worked at a center that took care of people with disabilities, including autism. Jill said, "Alison was always very good about seeing people with disabilities as people."
While in school, she became close to her professors. She was so responsible that she would house sit, clean, and pet sit for them while they were away. She also worked with an autistic boy, who became her good friend, and who went on to graduate school himself.
Alison went to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention in San Diego, California, to present a paper she wrote about language and autistic children, “Dysfluency Patterns in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders.” She received a certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in communication sciences and disorders.
Alison’s fulfilling life came to an abrupt end in 2011. She died in childbirth and her newborn daughter died as well.
Alison’s two supervisors at Hutchinson Hospital and the Montessori School approached the family right away. They asked if they could raise funds for a scholarship in Alison's name for the speech therapy program at UMD. The family contacted Cindy Spillers, associate professor in the UMD Communication Sciences and Disorders program.
As proof of how Alison touched others, the scholarship fundraising project took on a life of its own. Gifts were made through the CaringBridge website. Two benefit dinners were held in Hutchinson and Chisholm. Two friends ran a half-marathon and raised money through pledges. The students in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program continue the legacy. In 2013, they are holding a fundraiser for Alison's scholarship as well as other scholarships. A web page tells more of the story — http://www.alisonleescholarship.com/
Written by Korin Olgaard. December, 2012