It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I become so overwhelmed I have to pull the car over to have a moment and cry.
To start things off, I’d like to give a little background story on what this new, “National Young Woman of Distinction” title means to me. I’m from what some people would call a “humble,” background, but not poor. My parents were very young when I was born. My mother was my age, actually. It was extremely difficult for them. They tell me stories of some of the things they went through to get by, and I still, to this day, will never know of the sacrifices they made for me and my little sister to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, to get a decent education, and everything a kid needed to grow up with as many doors open to them as possible. I don’t know how to express how grateful I am to them. Mom had us to take care of and classes at the same time. She still managed to complete her bachelor’s degree. She’s so inspiring for that.
She landed a decent job as a chemist in the oil industry and we lived a decent life for most of my teenage years. There were a lot of hiccups and obstacles to get past, but we were much better off than most.
To start saving up for college, I worked at a fast food restaurant in high school. Over the summers… I think it’s too dramatic to say I was working three jobs, but I had three main sources of income I was receiving to save up for school. I was still working full time at Chick-Fil-A in the mornings, and the moment I got home, I cleaned up and went to babysit in the afternoon. When I got home in the evenings, I worked on people’s photographs – I had a talent for photoshop, I was good at it, and it was decent money. And for a while, that was my daily schedule. It was difficult, because I’m very close with my family, and not being able to see them except for a “good morning” and a “good night” everyday was… not easy.
Last year, when oil prices dropped, my mom was laid off. We were going to move out of our house to something smaller, but everything outside of what we were already living in was either more expensive or was too far out of range of the school zone my sister and I were in, and it was important we stayed there because it was one of the best public high schools in the nation. So we stayed and maintained a strict budget on food and anything extra. I was going into college as a freshman then. I applied for college loans, but FAFSA was only looking at the financial information from the year before – when my mother was still employed. I barely had enough in loans for my family and I to cover expenses. I sent in a petition for my financial situation, but nothing came. I filled that petition last year. I just got the money from the petition last month.
It was in the middle of last summer that I got the call… from Girl Scouts… saying I did it. I got the scholarship. I asked the lady, Camie, who called me, for whatever reason, the first thing that came to mind was “…why? Why me?”
She laughed and said, “I’ve never been asked that question before.”
“Yes, you can cry.”
And I did. I was shaking, sobbing, “Camie…” I said… “this has changed my life forever.”
I could have made it without the scholarship… it would have been hard, but I had the support of my family and I would have made it. I’m stubborn like that. Scouting taught me there’s always a way if you’re determined to forge it. But this scholarship will enable me to focus on making good grades as opposed to worrying about having money left over for additional expenses like having gas to get to school, being able to save, establishing credit, and so on and so forth.
I have moments where I reflect on my life and can’t help but think about how grateful I am for the people who changed me. I know that sounds corny, but it’s the truth. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the sacrifices my parents made for me. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for the drive and passion my teachers encouraged in me. I wouldn’t have the perspective I have without being surrounded by a diverse and loving group of friends. I made this video for my parents when I graduated high school. The G.I.R.L. 2017 Convention in Ohio is four days away. Before I embark on this next journey that entitles being a “National Young Woman of Distinction,” I find myself watching it again. I find myself in tears again; begging myself to never forget where I came from and the people who changed me. I thought I might share this bittersweet video with you all.