A scholarship is defined to be, simply, "a sum of money or other aid granted to a student, because of merit, need, etc., to pursue his or her studies". To me, however, it is so much more. A scholarship is also belief in self, an appreciation for my past and those surrounding me, and a stronger sense of responsibility for not only myself, but also for my fellow students.
Yesterday, the 19th of July, 2001, I discovered that I was awarded the Laura Haga Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement at my community college. The amount isn’t a grand one, and perhaps to many it would not be such a big deal, but to me, because of who I have been as a student in the past, and how I have felt as a person, this is a tremendous achievement that I am honored to have earned.
As a very young child, I “struggled” with reading. In reality I didn’t at all, but rather saw the other students struggling with certain words and sounds and decided it wasn’t normal for me to understand it so easily. I pretended to be like some of the other students to fit in, and because of that found myself in a “special” reading class. In this class we didn’t actually read, but rather, we played with clay or colored with scented markers. Or at least that is what I remembered about the class time. What I remember about myself and my thoughts as a child, was that if that was all that was expected of me, that was all that I was going to do. Whether I knew it then or just realize it now, I am not sure. But it is clear to me that this was about the time that I had decided that school was going to be a struggle and I wasn’t willing to put too much work in to be placed in lower classes.
Skip past a whole lot of what would be below mediocre studies throughout elementary, middle and high school. If it wasn’t creative, I wasn’t trying. And until high school in Wisconsin, no school official ever told me that I was capable of greater achievement. Biology in my freshman year brought with it a wonderful teacher who assured me that I was not stupid. The first of two teachers that year to realize that I had potential and to share that with me. On tests I would earn A’s easily. I just didn’t do the homework. I’d have much rather been singing than actively trying to remember all the different parts of an eyeball. I eventually graduated with simple classes on my high school transcripts, which, when looking at them, a school counselor encouraged me not to apply to college and stated that I wouldn’t even be considered if I did. I was encouraged to “maybe” try a community college but if I wasn’t ready, despite all the statistics saying it was a very bad idea, she recommended that I take a break.
I “tried” community college, but it felt much the same as high school. The same people, filled with the same drama, behaving the same way I was tired of. For the most part the same teachers just talking their way though classes, unwilling to form a better bond and help students to gain an interest in their subject matter. Filter in grades which evaluated me to be, except in artistic classes, more often than not, a failing student when in actuality I was helping so many of the other students with their work that I didn’t get a chance to write down my own answers. I left, and for many years felt intellectually less than cousins who were 8 years younger than myself and in high school.
After many years of a break, and a failed relationship, I decided that I was ready to give this a serious shot. Not again, but for the first time. I was thirsting for a better knowledge of not just my favorite artistic and expressive topics, but all of the ones I knew basically nothing about. So I enrolled and found a new student within me. One who decided to believe in herself because her biological father was eligible for MENSA, and the women in her line kept one-upping one another in the academic and career worlds. I wanted to be a part of those things.
To my own surprise, without even giving 100% of myself and rather, I’d say, only putting in 80% of my own effort, I achieved straight A’s, which included courses that I’d considered myself incapable of understanding: Algebra and Political Science. Turns out, all that was required of me was attention in class and completion of homework (go figure).
I was encouraged by my English professor to enter into a creative writing contest as well as apply for scholarships. I missed the creative writing deadline, but applied successfully for the scholarship which I was awarded.
I know that I can logically attribute my having been awarded this scholarship to my studies. But I can’t help but feel that the professors themselves have also had a large effect on me. I crave a deeper knowledge and personal expansion in my studies, and at this community college (different than the one I first attended after high school) I have not met a single professor who was not willing to have a personal discussion after class regarding a subject of curiosity, a lacking of understanding of something gone over in class, or even just a casual conversation about life and observations of it. My pofessors, in this case, are people that I am extremely fond of and grateful for, and have been an immensely helpful tool in my success. And for that reason I find myself so much more attached to my school and the people in it. It makes the award that I’ve been given so much more sentimental and rewarding. Because this came from people I have come to deeply admire.
Holding a piece of cardstock in my hand which acknowledges my “outstanding scholastic achievement” is something that brings me to a higher level emotionally as a student, than I ever thought was possible. With a simple piece of thick paper, I find a small amount of responsibility invisibly stapled to it.
I have been giving 80% of myself to my studies and was rewarded. I feel like I should still have done more. I feel like with this acknowledgement, someone who doesn’t even know me is telling me that they believe in me and they see a potential. You can have a family member tell you your whole life that you can do anything, that you are brilliant, but there is just something about it when an “expert” in the field tells you so, or a complete stranger says ‘let me pay you because you’re “outstanding”’ that really just ignites a rocket beneath your butt and sets you really aiming perhaps a bit past the moon so you don’t just land among the stars, but perhaps actually on the lunar surface.
With this scholarship I feel that I have a duty to challenge myself more than I have in past semesters. Not just in the effort that I put into my courses, but also in my emotional and intellectual growth as an individual. I feel that in order to do this, I will be required to help others to do great things and reach their goals. I want to leave a memorable mark on this community college which renewed in me a hope and deservingness for great things in life, whatever I should define great things to be.