City: Manatí, Puerto Rico
Country: United States
Vilmarie Ocasio (18, Manati, Puerto Rico) is a pioneer for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) awareness in Puerto Rico. When Vilmarie was fifteen years old, her mother was diagnosed with MS, a chronic disease in which the immune system attacks and eats away at protective nerve coverings. At the start of her mother’s diagnosis, Vilmarie was nervous and scared, but decided to channel this fear into advocacy and awareness of the disease. Vilmarie focused her Girl Scouts Gold Medal project on raising awareness of MS and cancer.
Vilmarie’s primary avenues for advocacy and awareness are an education program and the passage of Senate Act 1180 in Puerto Rico. To accomplish her goals, Vilmarie worked with hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, pharmaceutical companies and many others. After gathering educational materials and developing an awareness campaign, Vilmarie was prepared to discuss the importance of documenting cases of MS in Puerto Rico at the government level.
Vilmarie did radio and television interviews and was the first Girl Scout in Puerto Rico to be on the front page of a national newspaper. Vilmarie’s efforts led to her meeting the Governor of Puerto Rico and discussing with him the importance of tracking MS cases in Puerto Rico. Through the passing of this legislation, a national registry will have an accurate count of Puerto Ricans with MS, which can be applied to the federal funding and resources provided to the island by the government.