Meet our Scholars

Years Awarded:

But now I have an opportunity to not only keep growing as a student and an engineer but as a person.

Taking Control

All I could think was don’t say anything, I felt the blade slicing through my skin. Don’t say anything, why am I being subjected to such horrible suffering? DON’T say anything. Why am I even here? DON’T SAY ANYTHING     The striking pain was too much, I whimpered “ow.” The towering blue figure glanced at me and said something, something too distant to understand, and quickly went back to working on the gaping red hole in my abdomen, as blurred consciousness faded away. This was my welcoming to life.

My first memory was waking up on the operation table. The hospital was my home, the doctors and nurses were just as much family as my parents, and they were all working tirelessly to assist me in a battle I wasn’t even aware I was fighting. It only took two years of life before the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) diagnosed me with stage three high-risk neuroblastoma. I faced life-threatening surgery, nauseating chemotherapy, an isolating stem cell transplant, and monotonous radiation all for the 50/50 chance I was given to live. Up until this point, I’ve had no experience of the outside world. My entire existence was shaped by cancer’s cruel grip. My life was so ingrained within the hospital, that at one point I even asked my parents when my brother got to leave, even though he had never been a patient. As weeks turned into months, I wanted nothing more than to play with what seemed like hundreds of toys on my windowsill, and yet I was always too weak or in too much pain to move, but I never said anything. I kept it to myself. Throughout my whole life, from my first memory on, I have refused help, refused to ask questions, and refused to burden others with my issues. Even when it was the doctor’s job to make my surgery as painless as possible, I still tried to stay quiet. It’s always been a part of me.

Looking back, after having my hand held through childhood, I didn’t want help anymore. I just wanted to be free, free from constant attention and worrying about my future health. I wanted to be seen as every other kid, and in a sense, I was, I just didn’t feel that way. I went to school, and played with my friends, like every other kid. I struggled at the beginning to complete assignments and to get good grades, insisting on pushing through on my own. This extended out of school into my passion for designing and building. I loved to discover new things on my own, with complete independence. I would spend countless unnecessary hours on assignments as well as personal projects as a direct result of my refusal to ask for assistance. In school, when I struggled to understand a topic, I would reluctantly force myself to see teachers after school even when it felt wrong. Unfortunately, the time spent building up the courage to ask for assistance left little time for improvement. Their aid would be futile as deadlines on assignments or tests came far too quickly.

However, over time my desire to learn new things and grow my knowledge of the inner workings of different mechanisms changed my attitude towards receiving aid. I’ve always been fascinated with the engineering and collaboration that goes into building complex systems like rockets, which led me to join different engineering clubs. A few of these are, Science Olympiad and Project Lead the Way. Throughout high school, I’ve come to value and understand how working with others can not only further my own goals but also help others succeed in their way.

From the moment my pediatric doctor felt a small lump in my abdomen, my life was never certain. I felt guilt for what my family was put through even though everything was out of my hands. But now I have an opportunity to not only keep growing as a student and an engineer but as a person.

Over my years, I have come to value that I am far from alone in this world. Asking questions, seeking help, and absorbing others’ perspectives, will allow me to seize my second chance in life, and continue to expand my curiosity.