Bogin, Munns & Munns congratulates Allen Hankins, the 2023 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Scholarship winner. The law firm established the $2,500 scholarship to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol exposure to an unborn fetus, including preventable intellectual and developmental disabilities that can make life challenging.
Hankins, a first-year student at the University of Arizona, resonated with the scholarship because of his personal experiences with FASDs and his desire to share his story with others. “I believe my unique story can inspire others facing similar challenges, showing them there is hope and a way forward,” he says.
Allen will use the award to pursue studies in computer science, a field he is passionate about. After he completes his studies, he may either continue his military service or pursue a career in the private sector. He also aspires to own a business and establish a nonprofit organization to support young people in foster care.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder Presented Hurdles for Allen From the Day He Was Born
Allen shares that his battles with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder began the day he was born. When he entered the world, he weighed only two pounds and six ounces, with little chance of survival.
“Despite the odds against me, I fought through the horrendous symptoms caused by FASD, along with withdrawal from the 13 drugs in my body,” he writes in his scholarship essay. “As I have grown older, I have faced the consequences of this disorder, including developmental delays, coordination difficulties, memory and attention issues, and difficulty learning and communicating.”
Per the American Psychological Association (APA), experts estimate that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) affects 2% to 5% of schoolchildren in the United States. Still, research remains limited, and many are unaware they have a disorder because they have not received a proper diagnosis or treatment.
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Early Turbulent Family Life Leads to a New Beginning and a Brighter Outlook
Allen’s FASD-related learning disabilities and behavioral challenges made him a target for bullying and mistreatment from family members and others during his childhood, he shares. Eventually, authorities stepped in and removed him and his siblings from an abusive and neglectful environment. This meant he and his siblings had to enter the foster care system before they were separated to live in different homes.
Although he lived apart from his siblings, Allen says his foster family welcomed him and gave him the chance he needed to change. He received the understanding and counseling that helped set his path straight and connected with others with similar experiences. Additionally, “my foster parents were patient, supportive, and cared for me in ways I had never experienced before.
“They encouraged me to pursue my dreams despite my challenges and provided me with the tools and resources to succeed. It was a difficult transition, but with their help, I managed my symptoms and made it through elementary, middle school, and eventually high school.”
FASD Challenges Inspire Allen to Redirect His Career Focus, Life Decisions
After high school, Allen joined the U.S. military and excelled in the physical parts of basic training. However, his FASD symptoms affected his ability to keep up with his peers academically. He faced his struggles head-on and “learned to overcome obstacles and rise through the ranks.”
He also was inspired to pursue higher education and earn a degree. After his deployment from Iraq, he sought to go back to school to pursue his career goals and secure a bright future for himself and his family.
Getting Into College a Proud Moment for Allen, and a Chance to Set an Example
Earning a spot at Arizona State University to pursue a degree in computer science was an especially proud moment after all he had been through. It is a significant milestone because he wants to “finally break the statistic placed on individuals that suffer from FASD. I am proud of all that I have accomplished and grateful for the support of my loved ones after all these years.”
Allen says living with FASD has shaped him into who he is today and taught him so much, including resilience, perseverance, and the importance of asking for help. He wants to reach children and young people with FASD to encourage them despite the stereotypes or the hardships.
“I want to use my experiences to help others overcome challenges and achieve their dreams,” he says.
For him, FASD isn’t a reason to count himself out or give up on the life he envisions for himself. It makes him work harder to achieve what he wants for himself. When he is not studying, Allen volunteers with veteran organizations, including the Medal of Honor Society. He also seeks opportunities to be a guest speaker at foster agencies that work with youths and parents.
“I have been able to overcome my challenges and achieve more than I ever thought possible. I hope that my story inspires others to never give up on their dreams, no matter how difficult the road may seem. With the right mindset and support, anything is possible.”
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About Bogin, Munns & Munns
Bogin, Munns & Munns is a first-class, full-service law firm committed to serving the diverse legal needs of Central Florida’s residents and corporate clients. The firm works diligently to help them recover from losses and injuries and protect their interests in their businesses, assets, and more. It also offers services in cases involving criminal defense, immigration law, bankruptcy, Social Security Disability, workers’ compensation claims, and more.
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