Originally published in the inaugural edition of Carroll Capital, the print publication of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Read the full issue here.

Most people learn how to tie their shoes as young children, but Jennifer Castro ’26 finally got it down at age 12. What may seem like a small victory was a pivotal moment in her life and a prime example of the drive that made her the ideal recipient for the 2023 Boston College Strong Scholarship.

Awarded annually, the scholarship is typically presented to a first-year student with a permanent disability who has overcome adversity and embodies the Boston College spirit. Castro was born without her left arm from the elbow down. Growing up, she never wanted to draw attention to her limb difference—until she attended the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Kids Camp. “Camp is where I first started to grow and become comfortable talking about my arm,” she says. Not only did she learn how to tie her shoes, but she was able to meet other people with disabilities who bravely shared their stories.

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Jennifer Castro '26

Castro also credits her confidence to the support from her family. Before she was born, her father was involved in an accident and spent years relearning how to walk and talk. His resilience showed Castro that she too could persevere and achieve whatever she set her mind to. She eagerly threw herself into athletics, even becoming captain of her high school varsity women’s basketball team.

After she received early admission to Boston College, Castro’s achievements and attitude impressed Grant Gosselin, dean of undergraduate admission and financial aid, so much that she was the only candidate he brought before the scholarship committee. The award itself was established by alumni from the class of 2005 in honor of Patrick Downes, LSEHD ’05, and his wife, Jessica Kensky, who were both victims ofthe 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, with injuries resulting in amputations. Before starting school, Castro met with Downes and Kensky over Zoom, where they instantly clicked. She visibly brightens while talking about the pair, and is thrilled to be part of a network of people passionate about disability advocacy.

"When you speak to people who are going through the same challenges as you, you can connect on a deeper level,” says Castro. “We have similar outlooks on life—that we should not limit ourselves because of our disabilities. Even though I was born without a limb and [Patrick and Jessica] lost limbs, it’s interesting to see how no matter what limb difference you experience, you still have that same mindset.”

Jennifer Castro '26 accepting the BC Strong Scholarship

From left: Jessica Kensky, Jennifer Castro '26, Ansel-Ikaei Kufta '24, and Patrick Downes '05 at the October award ceremony

Cathryn Cheevers ’23, the 2020 recipient of the Boston College Strong Scholarship, met Castro at the scholarship ceremony and noticed her drive immediately. “I was truly so impressed when I heard what she had gone through and how she has persevered,” says Cheevers, who graduated in May from the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. “She has such a positive attitude.”

Sitting in the Chocolate Bar cafe in Stokes Hall, Castro often pauses to wave at passing friends before continuing on with her story. It’s evidence of how involved she has gotten with campus life already. As a freshman, she began participating in both the student admissions program and the Women in Business Club. Recently, she also joined the undergraduate government’s Council for Students with Disabilities at the suggestion of Cheevers.

“They are a great group of people who are always working for the community and put so much effort into the school to try and make it an accessible place for everybody,” Castro says, smiling warmly. “I can’t wait to get more involved.”

Isabella Kehl '23 is a contributing writer at the Carroll School of Management.


Photography by: Alina Chen for The Heights (Castro) and Patrick Mills '24 for BC News (award ceremony).