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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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Joely Way (Photo courtesy of the Way family) Joely Way (Photo courtesy of the Way family)

Joely Way Memorial Scholarship to Benefit Students Studying Sustainability

Donations are being accepted for a new legacy endowment to honor recent sustainability alumna who succumbed to cancer
By Leslie L.J. Reilly

Joely Way had a smile that would light up a room. 

She was kind, intelligent, inquisitive, and thoughtful. She saw the reality of what is happening to our planet and found her calling in life once she transferred to SDSU and chose to focus on a degree in sustainability. 

She made it her life's mission to help ease the suffering of the planet and its inhabitants.

In spring 2021, she faced a diagnosis of Stage IV Cholangiocarcinoma, a rare, brutal cancer with a poor prognosis. She kept to her healthy, clean-eating vegan lifestyle and practiced yoga and headstands until her body denied her that pleasure. 

Although Joely could not use her education to pursue a career because she succumbed to this cancer in May 2022 at the age of 25, her passions and story will live on through the scholarship endowment fund established by Joely’s parents Helen and John Way.

“It's not easy to be a student, especially if you're supporting yourself,” said Joely’s mom Helen Way, an alumna of SDSU’s international commerce (now international business) program. “We want to make it just a little bit easier by helping sustainability majors with their financial burden while they're in school. I hope that they are able to find jobs within their field, in order to do some of the work that Joely had hoped to do after graduating.”

Joely’s parents, family and friends, with support from the Traynor Foundation, plan to aid SDSU students majoring in sustainability by helping them with their educational pursuit of learning how to be stewards of this planet through sustainable practices.

Joely encouraged others to do impactful work in the community

At an early age, Joely enjoyed travel and family vacations to the Baja Peninsula to engage with the gray whales while on panga boats in the Pacific ocean. On one trip to the East side of the Peninsula on the Sea of Cortez, the family spent time on a remote, idyllic bay and enjoyed “just being out there on paddleboards and having whale sharks swimming underneath — it helped foster Joely’s passion for all animals,” Way said.

Joely traveled with her family to New Zealand to visit her dad’s homeland, and to Costa Rica, Jamaica, and many National Parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon where they rafted for seven days on the Colorado river before hiking up the Bright Angel trail to the top. She traveled alone to Australia where she spent six weeks traveling up the east coast of Australia and was able to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. She always felt at peace when she was in the presence of family, nature, and animals.

“Joely really lived her values. She said she had to ‘walk the walk’ when thinking about climate change and what factory farming and dairies are doing to the planet,” said Way. “She chose to become a vegan.” Later she interned at an organic farm in Utica, New York.

The only positive about COVID was that Joely was at home and her mom had a chance to review some of her papers on sustainability. Way remembers a paper Joely wrote about how industrial fishing waste affects the planet’s coral reefs. It was an opportunity to learn a great deal about sustainability from her daughter.

“It was very eye-opening — she became the educator to both my husband and I,” Way said. “She followed David Attenborough and encouraged us to watch nature documentaries — Joely would say, ‘Watch something good for your brain’ instead of those reality TV shows.”

In Tanzania, during winter break with the GIVE international volunteer program, Joely helped build a permaculture garden for a local community. She also went on a safari and swam with wild dolphins while in Africa. After the trip, she encouraged her family to begin composting. Joely even encouraged her parents to start raising monarch butterflies

Kevin Bjerke, a friend whom she met in her cancer support group said of Joely: “She is a light that represents the best of humanity.” 

To further Joely’s legacy of treating the environment and animals with kindness and respect is of the utmost importance,” Way said.


To donate, please visit: Joely Way Memorial Scholarship for Sustainability Students.