Scholarship honors a 14-year-old Queens boy with autism and helps others pursue higher education opportunities
NEW YORK, NY (January 17, 2023) — The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., a boutique personal injury law firm with offices in New York City and Long Island, NY, today announced that applications are open for its 2023 Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship for Autism. The annual scholarship is provided in memory of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism who tragically drowned in the East River after wandering away from his school in Queens, New York, without supervision. The scholarship awards $5,000 to a student on the autism spectrum or a student who has a close family member with autism to pursue higher education, a cause important to the family of Avonte and the law firm that represented them following his passing.
To be eligible for the Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship, applicants must be enrolled in or accepted to an accredited higher-level education institution for an undergraduate, vocational, or postgraduate program, complete an application form, provide academic transcripts, and submit an essay on one of three provided prompts. The deadline for students to submit their application for the scholarship is Monday, July 31, 2023, at 11:59 pm EST. The scholarship award recipient will be notified that they’ve been selected in August 2023.
The attorneys at The Perecman Firm represented Avonte Oquendo’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, in a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her son in 2013. The firm’s attorneys remain committed to keeping Avonte’s story alive and helping students with autism and their families pursue higher education.
The CDC estimates that, in 2016, there were 1 in 68 school-aged children who have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This data correlates to about 1.5 million children living with autism in America today. However, fewer than 500,000 students with autism are attending college. Often many students on the spectrum have to rely on financial aid, scholarships, and awards to finance collegiate pursuits.
“We as a firm are pleased to commemorate the life of Avonte Oquendo by offering our Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship for Autism for the eighth consecutive year,” said David Perecman, Founder and Lead Trial Lawyer at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. “During our time working with Avonte’s mother and the rest of his family, we became deeply touched by his story and wanted to give back to other students in similar circumstances. We hope that this scholarship can help ease some of the financial burdens these families face and allow students living with disabilities to pursue higher education opportunities.”
Alongside the members of Avonte’s family, Perecman championed the passage of Avonte’s Law in 2014, a New York City initiative aimed to increase the safety of students with autism who are more likely to wander from schools. Under the law, NYC’s Department of Education is required to evaluate the need for alarms on exterior doors at elementary schools and schools serving students with autism and other disabilities. Following the passage of the local bill, federal legislation, “Kevin and Avonte’s Law,” was passed in 2018 to provide resources to assist in planning, establishing, and operating programs to prevent wandering and to locate missing individuals living with forms of dementia or developmental disabilities.
For more information about the 2023 Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship, visit www.perecman.com/avonte-oquendo/autism-scholarship.
For more information about The Perecman Firm, visit www.perecman.com.