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Scholarship Finalists 2016

1. Linda Garcia: The Parking Ticket

A woman was at the hospital with her nine week old son for a couple of days. To her dismay, she realized after coming out that, she received a parking ticket. When opening the envelope that included her parking ticket, a note was attached indicating that a woman by the name of Laura had chosen to pay it for her. Laura states within the note that the mother had enough trouble going on already, and she didn’t need a ticket to worry about on top of all of that. This act of kindness inspired me and I’m sure others as well. I was surprised at the idea that there are people out here today that are generous. Today, the news tends to focus on the violence and corruption in our world. It is a great form of social media that never embraces the good in people. Therefore when I stumbled upon this image, I was amazed. It also made me realize that one small act of kindness can affect a person so greatly. The mother in the hospital appreciated the gesture more than one can probably imagine. Through everything that was going on with her son, the act of kindness bestowed upon her was something that made her life a little bit easier. Nowadays, that’s all we want. We all want things to get a bit easier, a little less difficult. This note inspired me to be more willing to help others, regardless if it’s in the smallest ways. Any small act of kindness can make all the difference to someone. Rarely may we ever get a thank you like the one above, but it is still good to know you can make someone feel better. Throughout my high school career, I’ve volunteered quite a few times. At one point, it wasn’t mandatory, but I still did it. The feeling that I got knowing I helped someone else was enough for me. It made me feel good, because someone else was better off. The best feeling from helping is knowing that you made someone else happy.

2. Amanda Bitetti: The Thanksgiving Food Drive

As a senior in highschool, I was given the opportunity to participate in a Thanksgiving Food Drive hosted by one of my teachers. During this food drive outside of a local supermarket, we would ask individuals to buy a certain canned good and donate it to the food drive as they are leaving. We had a tremendous amount of people handing us not only one canned food, but five to ten of them! At the end of my shift, I personally asked one of the individuals walking in the store the same question I asked everyone that day. I asked him if he would be able to bring out a canned food item to donate to our food drive. He then explained to me that he barely had enough food stamps for his family alone. He then kept explaining that the government was not giving him enough stamps to keep his four children sustained. I felt terribly sorry and told him that he should not feel obligated to buy anything for the food drive. My teacher overheard the entire conversation between myself and this individual. Quickly after the man went into the store, she let all of her students know that she would be right back. She walked into the store, gathered cold cuts, rolls, chicken, canned goods, and fruit. Once the individual walked out of the store, she handed him all of the food she just bought for him and his family. He immediately went into hysterics and repeatedly kept thanking and thanking her. He tried showing us the amount of food that he bought and that it just simply was not enough for his whole family.
After seeing how one small act of kindness could affect a person’s life dramatically, I tried my hardest to keep the nice act going forward. I would open doors for other people, help elderly people, and even started volunteering more in my community. I became a volunteer cheerleading coach and I even helped raise money for the Brentwood School District and also for the Wounded Warrior Project by hosting a raffle. Helping out different communities can truly make a person realize the impact that they can have on a person. A random act of kindness can be as small as opening a door, or as big as donating ten computers to an underprivileged school district. No matter the size or the impact on a person’s life, every act of kindness is important and needed in today’s society.

3. Brody Werner: Orange Out

Every year, our football team has two pre-season scrimmages. In our second one this past season on August 19, we had an "Orange Out". A freshman girl at our school was battling cancer at the time, and her older brother was a sophomore member of the football team. Her favorite color was orange. That week, it had gotten a bit rough for the family and she was sent home from her hospital in Omaha to get to just finish off life in the comfort of home. So, the night before the scrimmage, our head coach sent out a message to the team that said that we should wear every bit of orange we could. Guys were wearing orange shirts, orange tights, and even orange electrical tape on their cleats and wrists. Every member made the letters "TM" somewhere with that orange electrical tape somewhere on their helmet; those were her initials. To me, this simple act shows how tightly knit our community is and how we will love and support everyone we possibly can and do whatever we can to help anyone in need. Sadly, this young girl passed away only a few weeks after. We played our entire season for her and her family.

4. Yoohyun Song: The Philly Cheesesteak, Notepad and Rusty Wheelchair

"Hello sir, my name is Elizabeth. I will be taking you back to your room today. How's your day been going?" I asked as I pushed his wheelchair and turned the corner of the Speech Clinic at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto, California. He and I were heading back to his room, which was located on the fourth floor of the main building. The bright, warm rays of sunlight shone through the windows in the hallway as we made our way to the elevators. When the elevator pinged, we got on, but as we passed the second floor, I realized that he had not responded to any of my questions. Confused, I looked down and saw the old man's hand slowly move towards the right pocket of his hospital gown and pull out a small notepad and pen. I tried again. "My friends and I just went to the cafeteria and had lunch. The food there was amazing today. Had a delicious philly cheesesteak." As I described the weather and other hobbies of mine to him in the elevator, he clicked open his pen and wrote something down on the notepad with trembling fingers. It read, "Hi Elizabeth, I lost my ability to speak while serving during WWII so I can only communicate with you this way."
Screechhh, screech. I wheeled him across the hospital campus and continued to ask him simple questions, and to each, he wrote down paragraph after paragraph of answers. I almost wanted him to stop because I was worried that his hands would start hurting. We finally arrived at his room and I said my goodbyes and turned around to leave. However, just as I did, I felt an old, wrinkly hand brush against my skin and I spun back towards him. He held up his notepad to me and it read, "Thank you. You are the reason why veterans like myself want to wake up each day and live on." I gave him a warm smile, nodded, and exited the room. As I walked down the corridor back to the elevators, I felt a tear run down my cheek.
There have been many instances in my life influencing me to take action, to try something new, to make the right decision. My encounter with the WWII veteran was one of them, for today, I dream of becoming a trauma surgeon for the United States Air Force. At first, my experience with the old gentleman had confused me because I could not figure out for the longest time why I had started to cry as I was walking out of his room. But as time passed, I realized that, to me, the old man I had met had become my hero and inspiration. He had shaped me into who I am today and had influenced me to dedicate most of my life helping out veterans like himself. Because of him, I realized that there are still many veterans out there who need our help and it breaks me to imagine one of them contemplating suicide or being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, as a student at the University of Michigan and also as an Air Force ROTC cadet, I hope to give back to the veteran community by continuing to volunteer at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor and, one day, by working as a surgeon in the Air Force and helping the wounded servicemen and women get back home to their families alive. War is never a good thing and so many people are affected by it on a daily basis. As a citizen of the United States, I believe that it is the duty of the people to take care of each other, no matter their religion, sex, race, etc. The day that I met the WWII veteran marked the beginning of my journey, my dream to help alleviate this cycle of hardship that veterans have to go through even after war and, one day, make them feel at home, home where they are loved, cared for, and welcomed. As one person, I feel as though it would take a miracle for me to accomplish all of these goals but I know that every time I start to think about quitting and giving up, the old man from the VA would take out his notepad, write me the words, "Thank you" and simply smile up at me. For that reason, I will keep going. For that reason, I will always know who I am fighting for.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill

5. Shandi Coil: I Am Beautiful

6. Grace Rowley: The Woman in Guatemala

It is the summer of 2016; the time is 3:00 A.M. and my team and I have recently exited a flight from Rochester, New York to Guatemala City, Guatemala. That flight departure and arrival would mark the beginning of an experience that would forever change our lives. Our mission commenced with a fifty mile car ride to Monjas, Guatemala. Monjas is a municipality in the Jalapa subdivision of Guatemala. Here in this little town, we would establish our temporary one week home at the orphanage called Shadow of His Wings.
With our agenda loosely held we set to work — our service was diverse and included everything from visiting the elderly in nursing homes, to harvesting beans in the field, and even killing an 11 year old rattlesnake. Though none of these endeavors would prepare us for the next challenge we faced on August 9th, 2016: basket delivery day.
The team was now presented with the daunting task of transferring baskets to only some of the countless families in Monjas struggling to survive. These baskets contained several items that would assist families in need of a helping hand. One particular family brought tears to the eyes of my whole team. The mother was 98 years old, a widow, and lived with her autistic son and gracious daughter. When we were given permission to enter her home, we were astounded. This family was living in a single room. A solitary piece of aluminum overhead was called the roof, and the four deteriorating stone and gravel barriers that surrounded us could hardly be labeled as walls. As we collected around the bed where the mother lay, our translator interpreted words from the daughter, who explained, “My mother can no longer walk or sit up by herself, we have not eaten in seven days, but we thank God for giving us this home and sending you all to us.” We sat with the mother feeding her some of the melon we had brought and cherishing her company. While we fed this frail, but resilient woman, she began speaking to us and repeating this very telling sentence: “I’m so sorry I cannot offer you food, I’m so sorry I cannot offer you seating.” This woman had nothing, yet all she could do was apologize for not giving enough.
Words cannot adequately describe my experience with this woman and her family, the time spent with them redefined my idea of perspective. When I returned home, my definitions of sacrifice and forgiveness altered, leaving me in an unknown, redefined state of existence. No longer do I complain of the challenges and difficulties in my life, that in the grand scheme of life are relatively minuscule. Since my trip, I have stopped complaining about things I can't have, and started focusing more directly on the blessing I already have in my life. I am now reminded of the woman who gave all she could while still apologizing for not having enough.

7. Margaret Nielsen: My Lil' Sis Chats with a Resident

Interestingly, the true story in a picture is often what one cannot see at all. Who is reaping the benefit in this photo?
Some speculate that the senior citizen must need help stabilizing her walker. Others assume the old lady merely seeks out a companion. A few even believe that the lonely woman finds necessary motivation to continue living as she converses with a youngster. It is obvious, the resident stands to gain the most!
I, on the other hand, see a child with Chromosome Deletion 6p25 riveted with threatening anomalies: 4 heart defects, joint abnormalities, vision impairment, hearing loss, kidney irregularities, gastrointestinal complications, and neurological issues. My kid sister spends time with another human being that actually understands what it feels like to have aches and pains every single hour. I witness a young girl finding a companion, because no one her own age wants to be her friend. This little lady finds purpose through her volunteer work. It is obvious, the child stands to gain the most!
Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen…they must be felt with the heart.”

8. Maddison Chase: Logan and Christina

The other day in completing the final set of clinicals for my Certified Nursing Assistant license at a Specialty Hospital, I had the opportunity to work on the 3rd floor of the building, the pediatrics floor. It is a long-term care hospital, so the babies and children would most likely live there the rest of their lives in intensive care. I'm not going to lie, I was a bit nervous at the weight of responsibility I would have that day, even just following an employed aide around.
The aide I was assigned to was a young man named Logan, not much older than my seventeen years of age and definitely not bad-looking either, with a confidence that told me he knew exactly what he was doing. He was working toward his nursing license at a nearby community college and was hoping to later continue to be a pediatrician, so I suppose he was in the perfect place to prepare for his future career.
It began a little stressful, starting with taking vitals signs of all six patients assigned to our team for the day, getting the kids who were able to dressed, changing diapers, rotating the bedridden, feeding, showering, and so forth, but after a while it began to feel fun, and I soon grew to enjoy the things I was doing as well as Logan's company. What I admired most about this aide was that the patients he was interacted with weren't just another check on his list, but rather children that needed to be loved and nurtured. He went out of his way to be friendly and positive to them, showing them a level of compassion that I hadn't seen with aides in previous clinicals.
We rotated teams around 3 in the afternoon, and this team Logan made an impact on my philosophy of being a C.N.A., and even my philosophy on the treatment of everyone around me with an act of kindness, in the form of one particular patient, a 14-year-old girl who I'll call Christina. Christina had an eating disorder that causes her to not be able to stop eating until she literally eats herself to death. As a result, she weighs almost 300 pounds, making it so she couldn't walk. She was a teenaged girl in every other aspect, with insecurities and fears like mine.
When Christina first rang the call system to have an aide come to her room, Logan stopped me right outside the door, and explained Christina's diagnosis and her character. "So Chrissy here is fourteen, and she's been living in a hospital her whole life," he said seriously. "She hasn't been able to attend public school or really be able to experience what it means to be a teen in middle school, and really has a lot of self-esteem problems, especially about her weight and how she looks." I nodded in understanding. Those were the same insecurities every teenaged girl has at some point in her lifetime, but the thought didn't escape me that poor Christina couldn't do a lot to change her appearance in some way.
"That's horrible," I said sincerely.
Logan let a ghost of a grin light up his handsome features. "I try to do my best to help, and I think I have it." He leaned closer conspiratorially. "The other day one of the other aides told me she Chrissy has a little crush on me." And with that, he threw open the door and strolled in, me at his heels. "Hey, gorgeous!" He said happily to the obese, miserable-looking girl on the bed. "How are you doing?"
It was truly amazing to watch the girl's face light up with a blush of simultaneous embarrassment and pleasure. "Good," she replied shyly. "Can I have a drink?"
"Anything for you, Princess," Logan said with a heart-melting smile. "They finally have the grape juice you like back."
"Yay!" She said happily.
Logan patted her on the arm, and her face brightened even more. "I'll be right back with it." He turned to go, then paused. "Oh, by the way, you look way cute today. That blue is perfect for you."
We left to retrieve the juice, Logan still grinning.
Though it may not seem like that big of a deal to some people, that girl's whole day brightened because of Logan's act of kindness. He could have chosen to avoid going into her room if he could because of her little crush, or he could have brushed it off. Instead he chose to appropriately cheer her up by offering sincere compliments made all the better by her admiration for him. It was an act of kindness, pure and simple, going outside the realms of his job description by making a patient feel like she was important to someone who she clearly admired.
That is the sort of C.N.A I wish to be, and that is the sort of person I wish everyone to be.

9. Mason Remondelli: Medical Mission in Ecuador

I looked outside the large window of the coach bus and what I saw changed my life forever. Half built, dilapidated shacks, rowed the side of the worn down street. These huts, most of which did not have running water or a permanent roof were the homes of human beings. Poverty and sickness ran rampant throughout the country because of the dirty conditions, lack of hygiene, and fecal waste. This was my first glimpse of Ecuador. I had arrived in Ecuador with a non-profit organization called “Blanca’s House” for a medical mission. What I discovered in a short week about the country and the people of Ecuador showed me the reasons why I wanted to become a surgeon.
During the week, I was given the humbling opportunity to assist surgeons in various surgeries to help the Ecuadorian people. These surgeries ranged from total knee replacements, to cataract surgeries and cleft palates. What astonished me the most about the Ecuadorian people was their unwavering faith. They never lost hope on trying to improve their destitute situations. These people would travel over two hours by foot to receive medical treatment for themselves and their families. It was my privilege to help these determined individuals obtain a life changing operation. Giving people the ability to walk and see again is an indescribable feeling. Having little kids walk up to you and give you a hug for fixing their cleft palate, and seeing the sparkling look come back to their eyes is amazing. Even though we were from a thousand miles away and spoke a completely different language, the ability to show kindness to people is all the same.
On one specific occasion, I was helping out a team of surgeons with cataract surgeries at the local clinic. We worked tirelessly throughout the whole day and were about to pack up when one of the other volunteers noticed an older women patiently sitting outside of the clinic in the waiting area. Accidentally, we forgot this woman who had been waiting the whole day for her cataract surgery. The patience of this woman and her desperation, brought the reality of the despair in Ecuador to light for me. If we asked her to go home, she would've done it without any argument. She would have walked the two hours home and then returned the following day at the crack of dawn. That was the way of the Ecuadorian people that I encountered, relentless in their fight to better their situations. Instead of sending the woman home, we stayed for another hour to do her cataract procedure. She was more thankful than any person I have ever witnessed before in my life.
That night when I returned to the medical team's five-star hotel, I pondered if I deserved the life I was living. I was staying in a five-star hotel in the middle of Guayaquil, Ecuador while the people I am treating are barely living under a shack. What makes me more deserving than them? Why am I here and they are there? These existential questions became a life changing reality for me.
The week I spent in Ecuador changed my life forever. It made me understand that all life isn't full of rainbows and butterflies. However, if you have faith, then you can make the life you have worth living, despite the conditions. I learned that everyone in the world is given a different start, but that doesn't mean those people have given up. Instead, it could mean that those less fortunate are strong enough to deal with their circumstances. The Ecuadorian people treat everyone the same, like their children. The women would come up to you and kiss you on the cheek after seeing the incredible things done to help their family. The trip only made me more passionate about my ultimate goal in life, to save and help as many people as I can through medicine.
By the end of the week, we gave out 1,000 glasses, did a total of 131 procedures, 9 total knee replacements, and had over $1.5 million dollars in medical care donated. Being able to change hundreds of lives in just under a week is truly a rewarding experience. I hope I will be able to go on more future missions because it was a life changing opportunity. My trip to Ecuador transitioned me from a child exploring the diversities of the world into an understanding adult ready to change it for the better.

10. Ansley Landsman: A Ride in the Storm

I have always been inspired by my mother who never thought twice about helping people. There is one random act of kindness particularly that I remember her doing. One night, it was pouring rain and there was a huge lightning storm. My mother and I were driving home from the supermarket, and she had noticed a middle-aged woman running on the side of the road. She pulled over and asked the woman if she wanted a ride home since the storm was becoming very dangerous. The woman showed relief and hopped into the car. She was about ten miles from her house, and she was beyond grateful for my mother offering her a lift home. The feeling that my mother and I had when we helped that woman had taught me how amazing it feels to help someone.
The kindness that my mother shared to our community returned to my family and I when she suddenly passed away from a car accident when I was fifteen years old. Never in my life had I ever thought of how many people my mother had touched during her life. When she passed, the lives that my mother had affected, brought their kindness and generosity to my family and I through our grieving period.
From the minute the community heard of my mother’s passing, everyone wanted to be there for us and help us in any way. Since my brother and I were in high school when my mother passed, the support from our friends and family did not cease after the funeral. For example, my friend’s family offered to take my brother and I to church every Sunday because my father is Jewish. They knew how much church meant to my mother and they took us for the remainder of our high school years. My father had major financial issues, so our neighbors stepped in without any hesitation to stop by every weekend to ensure our refrigerator was fully stocked. We were unimaginably touched by our community’s generosity and kindness.
These random acts of kindness that my community had done for my family has inspired me to never hesitate to help those in need, whether it be to help someone to their car, or even make someone smile by doing something simple yet mean the world to them. This experience has also motivated me to choose a career where I can help change people’s lives every day.
Physical Therapy is the career that I have decided to pursue because helping people relearn simple tasks to return to normal living after major surgery or accidents through rehabilitation is an act of kindness I would love to do every day for the rest of my life.
Through my experience of watching my mother reach out to those in need, it has taught me to also think of others before myself. Losing my mother was a heartbreaking experience, yet I learned many important lessons that people normally do not realize at such a young age. It has taught me to cherish every moment I have with people in my life, grateful for my education, to always think of other people before myself, and most of all persevere through adversities.
I studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia last spring to not only obtain a new perspective of the world, but I also gave back to the new community that I lived in for five months. For ten weeks, I volunteered at the Mater Private Hospital in a gym rehab there. I loved my experience there working with physical therapists and their patients. I comforted the patients which had lifted their spirits through their difficult and painful recoveries. The physical therapists received numerous comments of gratitude for my kindness and selflessness I had showed to them. The patients had told me that even my smile had touched them on an inexpressible level and had helped them get through their therapy sessions.
My experiences have changed my perspective of life, the world, and my potential future, providing me with things that will benefit me for the rest of my life.