Meet our Scholars

Years Awarded:
2021-2022

No matter where I am, I think back to that Wednesday, and it reminds me of my purpose each and every day and what my survivorship means to me: to inspire others.

It was a normal Wednesday afternoon. I got food after school with my friends and headed over to the night-time service at our local church. I walked in and smelled a familiar aroma of coffee beans and newly painted walls. I proceeded to greet some of my friends before service, then headed into the large arena where the message was given. As more guests started to take their seats, the room filled with a low buzz. The music started to die down, and the preacher slowly engaged the crowd for a message, yet a cold sensation permeated through my body. The head pastor commanded loudly over the microphone “CAN WE PLEASE HAVE RIAN COVINGTON TO THE STAGE”, a crowd of almost 900 people rose to their feet and unanimously applauded me to the stage. What was about to happen in this moment was something special, that would define who I was, and establish my character for the rest of my life.

But to get to this moment was no easy task.

I was just an ordinary kid, eating as much junk food as I could and trying to convince my parents for more TV time. But, this ordinary lifestyle had changed by the time I was 15. On Christmas Eve in 2018, I was told the most sickening words a person can hear. The doctor said I had been diagnosed with cancer: Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My whole world was shattered. The next two years were a big blur of surgeries, procedures, and treatments, that took my body on a physical and emotional rollercoaster.

After two years of dealing with my cancer, I had won the battle, and I was declared healthy again.

The cancer did not define who I was. The lessons I took away from it did.

What survivorship means to me is to help others. I used my story to help inspire others. I have done countless speeches for cancer organizations and volunteered in the community to give back to a group of people who face the same adversities as I once did. I was fortunate enough to travel to Arizona to meet Olympian Michael Phelps to discuss problems surrounding cancer patients and prevalence of drowning incidents. Participating in state competitions for clubs like ROSA (Health Occupations Students of America), helped me to realize my passion for science. Most of my research papers in school focused on ways in which we can improve the lives of cancer patients. I am constantly asking and offering ideas to my doctors and teachers about how we can improve the quality of life for cancer patients.

Through public speaking in my community, I express my vision for change and my passion for inspiring people. I speak from my heart and deliver messages that could change a person’s life. With this, I use my education to explore scientific principles and knowledge so that one day I can understand the causes for horrible diseases like mine. I am constantly being motivated to learn and explore ideas because I know the impact that it could have on someone.

But back to that cold Wednesday night at church. It was an ordinary night, but that had quickly changed. After the pastor called me to the stage, he asked me to share my story. I assured the crowd that they could get through any challenge and that life was full of endless possibilities. I was greeted with a warm standing ovation from a sea of people inspired by me. That night had gone from a routine church service, to a moment that changed my life. When I was speaking, I found my purpose: to help and inspire others. I had gone from an unsuspecting teenage boy to someone with an unbreakable spirit and character that could endure any challenge.

That night changed my life. No matter where I am, I think back to that Wednesday, and it reminds me of my purpose each and every day and what my survivorship means to me: to inspire others.