Meet our scholar recipients

"Currently, I am living as a survivor which I now understand is an immense gift not to be taken for granted. "

“Survivor” is defined by as “a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.” I feel that my life embodies both definitions. I have heard many times that one’s junior year of high school is arguably the most difficult year. It is during this year that everything is solidified, before we present our best selves in college applications. We are encouraged to take the most rigorous classes (in which we can excel in) to attain the highest cumulative grade point average. It is also during this year that we stressfully prepare for and take the college entrance examinations that will highly affect our desirability for college recruiters and evaluators. To say that one’s junior year is intense would be an understatement. It was in the fall of my junior year that I was diagnosed with Marginal Zone 8-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. My initial thought was that (because a cancer diagnosis was an ultimate death sentence) at the age of 16 years old I had become everything I would ever be. I felt that I had no control, and that my plans for the future had been cruelly snatched away from me. However, I soon realized that I did have a choice. I chose to fight. My family prayed as I underwent treatment, took tests, had blood taken, and was ultimately pronounced cancer free. I am a cancer survivor.

Survivorship to me means more than simply the presence of life. Survivorship is the ability to take what life presents you in stride and go forward with purpose. Survivorship is taking the fear that is associated with things not in my control (ultimately the fear of death) and channel it into the energy required to tenaciously cling to life. It was during my junior year that I earned the highest GPA that I had achieved to date. I excelled in my classes and earned the designation of “AP Scholar with Honors” from the AP College Board. I was thrilled to discover I had earned a “5” on my Psychology AP Exam. Although just shy of my goal, it was during my junior year that I was able to achieve a 29 on the ACT exam. I am a survivor.

I am more than a cancer survivor. Ironically, just before I was diagnosed with lymphoma, my parents were taking the necessary steps for me to be evaluated for mental health. After my treatments were stabilized for lymphoma, I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as clinically depressed. The thought of living and dying were equally appealing. Life had little value to me, so much so that I was not as affected by my cancer diagnosis as my family was. Again, I had a choice. I chose to live. Survivorship means to work with my psychiatrist to determine which medicines help me the most. Survivorship means being an active participant in therapy sessions with my psychologist to allow me to find strategies to aid in my success and to understand and change my outlook. Although life is not a “bed of roses,” I am generally happy. I am excited about high school graduation, attending college and everything that my future holds. I am a survivor.

I am more than a mental health survivor. I am an African-American male. Statistically speaking, I should be a product of a single-parent home. According to the opinion of many, I should be using or selling drugs, firmly rooted in the pipeline to prison. What survivorship means to me is my continued fight to prove the media wrong. Although the expectation of me is low, I will set the bar high. I will continue to challenge my mind with the math and science classes that will prepare me for a future career in the medical profession. I will utilize my resources to show that I am able to do anything that I put my mind to do. I am a survivor. Survivorship means that I will live in the moment, be confident in my contribution and intentional in my desire to change the world.