Sometimes it is best to let people speak for themselves. The following article by Upper St Clair Senior Marissa Bowman first appeared in Wise Women E-journal.
Upper St Clair High School's graduation will take place on Thursday, June 14!
If you are in attendance, I will be the girl in the white cap and gown ... oh, wait … I may blend into the sea of white and black gowned seniors to the casual observer, but to my family I will stand out like “Waldo.” They know my road to achieving that diploma has been full of hard work academically and passionately pursuing multiple interests since early childhood.
In the decade that I have lived in USC, my formal education and independently satisfying my curiosity have had the dreamer in me planning out my life's path: I would be the next Jane Austen, a cast member on Saturday Night Live or a Nobel prize winning biological anthropologist. Although any of these careers would suit me well, I discovered my calling as I worked my first job as a counselor at Independent Lake Camp in Scranton last summer. Always athletic, I was ecstatic to be getting paid to do what I loved doing the most: fitness, tennis and extreme sports. I learned I thrived on the responsibility and loved making a positive impact in others’ lives.
It was on a sunny July afternoon with my extreme sports campers that my life literally changed in an instant. We were rollerblading down a paved path and a tiny piece of gravel jammed one of my wheels. My face greeted the asphalt. Seven of my teeth were now gone along with trauma to my face. I wanted to freak out but knew that would not help the situation. I prayed. I feel God was there for me. He gave me the strength to communicate essential information with doctors and nurses since my parents were 300 miles away. I learned valuable lessons in self advocacy and the power of prayer.
In the most dramatic exit of my life, I waved goodbye and assured my concerned onlookers that I would be okay as the LifeFlight helicopter took me to a hospital three hours of emergency surgery. Coincidently, my oral surgeon went to University of Pittsburgh for medical school! He chatted away to me about the Steelers, traffic at the Squirrel Hill tunnel and Primanti Brothers! He had great bedside manner. I hope to emulate his comforting style someday.
Instead of pitying myself (well I did a little!), I busied myself with picking up the pieces and putting myself back together with the help of the best doctors in the South Hills and beyond.
One month after my accident, I walked into my high school the first day of school with an altered appearance. To an adolescent girl with missing teeth and 200 sutures holding my mouth together, I knew everything else after that would be easy.
I soldiered on with my senior year of schoolwork, college tours and applications—my top choice being Notre Dame. With my unexpected medical bills, a private university would be uncomfortably stretching our budget. I recalled hearing about a private scholarship worth over $100,000 that at the time I thought would be too lofty and involved to even apply for. I became more confident but with no sense of entitlement, and decided to take a chance—I applied for the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholarship to the University of Notre Dame last fall.
Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars are selected based on four criteria: distinguished academic accomplishment, exemplary moral character, demonstrated leadership abilities and sincere commitment to service. Current scholars include mathematicians, athletes, improvisational comedians, social activists, writers and musicians. They are all intellectually curious, driven and creative—they are dynamic young leaders with a passionate commitment to making the world a better place.
The process was intense and highly competitive among the 1,200 applicants. The first step was composing 17 essays to answer specific prompts. The last step was in March when the top 60 traveled from 20 states and five countries to the Notre Dame campus for three days of problem solving exercises and interviews, knowing that only 25 applicants would be offered the award.
I have had excellent, energizing teachers and coaches in Upper St Clair, and I appreciate all of them. I also owe much of my success to my supportive and loving family. Competing for this private scholarship drew on my solid education and also my time involved in extracurriculars, sports and community service. Much of the skills that made me stand out among the other applicants were developed right here in my hometown.
Over spring break, I received the best news of my life! I opened the email saying “Congratulations!” I was one of the 25 recipients of the generous scholarship! I gratefully accepted and I plan to double major in pre-professional studies and psychology, with a minor in German.
My life lessons, both good and bad, have shaped me into who I am today. They have made me an enthusiastic learner, versatile, and resilient. I’ve become more aware and empathetic of others’ sufferings. These life lessons have convinced me to pursue a career in medicine, where I will be able to help others and to be truly grateful for the blessings I have.