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Strengthening the Feeble Knees

February 2020

A photo of Ashlyn Brinkman sitting in BYU-Idaho’s Ricks Gardens.

Some might shy away from BYU-Idaho because of the cooler climate, but that’s precisely what attracted Ashlyn Brinkman who, at the time, was living in Arizona. After touring the nearby universities in the Phoenix area, she visited her sister in Rexburg and set her heart on BYU-Idaho, and not just for the temperature.

“What I love most about BYU-Idaho is the atmosphere—how nice everybody is,” she says. “At BYU-Idaho, you can sit down next to someone and just talk. That wasn’t going to happen on any of the other campuses I visited. And my teachers have been super supportive and helpful.”

Ashlyn has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which leaves her with weaker, more flexible joints that ache and bruise easily. She sometimes has to miss class or come in late, and she can’t do long hours on her feet.

“It’s kind of frustrating when I want to go out and be active but I can’t because I don’t want to strain my joints too much,” she says. “If it flares up to a point where I’m bedridden, I end up having to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around.”

That has made finding a job sometimes difficult. When a restaurant manager asked her to do deliveries, for example, she had to say no.

“Back home, I have a job at a childcare center,” she says. “They put me in the rooms with the younger children so that I have a two-hour break when the kids nap so I can sit and recover.”

Even with that job, she had a tight financial situation. Covering tuition, books, and housing was going to be a daunting task. Fortunately, Ashlyn received donor-funded need-based university aid.

“I was actually really worried about paying for tuition and books,” she says. “And then I found out I was getting [university aid], and I was super excited. That was a huge load off my back, and I was really relieved.”

Ashlyn still has a long way to go, but thanks to donated funds, the road to graduation got a lot easier to travel. “I just want to stress how helpful it is,” she says, “and how appreciative I am that I’m receiving [financial aid].”