2019 6th Annual Scholarship Winners

In 500 words, share your favorite memory from your senior year of high school that taught you a useful life lesson that will help you navigate your next adventure.

Abigail Kim, Buffalo Grove High School, Wheeling

“Lily-Lolly, don’t yank-up the carpet like that,” I say, nodding towards my sister’s busy fingers. I glance at the door. When will they get here?

Lily stares at the little pile of fuzz sitting in front of her crossed legs and mumbles an apology. She starts fiddling with the “I’m 9!” sticker on her shirt. I can tell Lily is nervous. Lots of things make her nervous, and today the catalyst is her own birthday party.

I pull Lily onto my lap. Her tense body relaxes into the gentle tugs of my hands as I braid her hair. Time with my youngest sister is always a luxury, but a few months ago it wouldn’t have been a priority. That all changed during my high school volleyball season.

I watched my teammates bond with my four younger sisters. They asked Mikayla about her swim-meet after she cheered for us from the bleachers while wringing out her wet hair. To homecoming, they proudly wore friendship bracelets made by Audrey, with their high-heels. The girls on JV jumped me in their excitement to point out Katherine who was earnestly copying the referee’s every move while standing at the top of the bleachers. When shy little Lily headbutted the girls to catch their attention, they kneeled down and gave her a hug.

My teammates’ friendship with my siblings was a token of the inclusive and supportive mentality that we — the seniors — purposefully strived for during our last high school volleyball season as varsity athletes.

Thankfully, I was pushed to see the disparity between my relationship with my teammates and my relationship with my sisters. Just as my teammates helped me become a better volleyball player, they also showed me how to be a sister. I realized that a busy schedule and growing responsibilities does not have to mean leaving behind my family. Sometimes you choose to be a sister, and sometimes you have to learn how to be a better one.

As I finish braiding Lily-Lolly’s hair, the doorbell rings. She jumps a little and turns to me, looking like a deer-in-the-headlights.

“Don’t be nervous”, I say with a smile, “These are your friends.”

Lily nods with a resolute set to her chin and tramples on her little carpet-fuzz pile as she runs to open the door. There they are. My volleyball team — our sisters.

Lily shrieks with surprised delight as the girls sing “Happy Birthday” and shower her with tickles and homemade cards.

She turns back to where I stand, and her voice is breathy with wonder as she asks, “For me?”

I grin at Lilly-Lolly’s glowing face and my volleyball friends clustered around her, some kneeling or hunched down to be level with her face. I stand up and join the group.

“Yes. For you!”

Martha D. Lupian, Maine West High School, Park Ridge

The feeling of blood rushing down my body. My throat drying out like the Sahara Desert. I want to turn around and back out. The fear that takes over me is more than I can bear. The thought of leaving my mom is too much to take. Standing, listening to my counselor talking about being on my own had set me off the edge. Sadness flashes over me like a switch of a light. Darkness is what consumes me.

Then a tight grasp wraps around my hand and a gentle pat on my head wakes me from my mind and into reality. My friends sit next to me as we hear the roaring of the crowd, the beats of the drums, and the whistling of the wind. I look around me and stare at my friends who are bursting into giggles and cuddling closer to keep the cool autumn wind away.

We stand to cheer as our band plays “Hey Baby,” this invoking millions to sing along, including me, shouting till my throat becomes hoarse. I would probably regret it later, but right now it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that my household is filled with fighting, it doesn't matter that my anxiety and depression had developed, none of that matters. I see our director dance and give us a little jig which provokes colorguard to persuade Abby, our coach, to dance for us.

I gradually start to smile as I realize how far I have come. I have waited so long for my senior year. All this fear and doubt of my future and who I really am it goes away in the blink of the eye. This moment is not perfect. The weather isn't beautiful, not everyone is happy, and surely there are millions of reasons why today, of all days, would suck. Yet looking at my friends, my coach, and the crowd of billions of students cheering our football team is enough to leave me satisfied.

I realize that this is life. You are never going to have a perfect day with no problems and a stress-free environment; it's just not realistic. This helped me move forward and come to terms with the facts. And the fact is you have to learn how to ride the wave. The ocean is tough; sometimes it's quiet and still, and other times there is a full storm. You can't avoid the storm forever, and sometimes you just have to swim through it to make it on land.

All my life I was used to showing my feeling and problems inside me, letting it bubble until slowly it started to erupt out. I have been punched, bruised, and knocked down. The easiest thing for me to do was to run away from it, but you can't run forever. Someday it will catch up to you. It's time to grow up and face your problem and move forward.

This moment and this realization is my favorite. This is the attitude I will display and this is the attitude that will help me become something in this world.

Maricruz Torres, Buffalo Grove High School, Wheeling

1,100 days: I remember sitting in Buffalo Grove's theatre the day of freshmen orientation and seeing the screen stating there was roughly 1,100 days left until graduation. This was the August of 2015. I remember my 14-year-old self turning to my best friend and telling her, "it'll be a long four years." My 15-year-old brain couldn't wrap around the idea that I was going to be at Buffalo Grove High School for four years. My 15-year-old brain couldn’t wrap around the idea that I was about to experience high school. Now, I sit here as an 18-year-old, not being able to wrap my brain around the idea that I’m officially a second semester senior.

High school is conventionally known to be either the best or worst four years of your teenage experience. As I reflect about the past four years, I can’t help but feel nostalgic about it all, while laughing and cringing about some of my best and worst memories.

During my past four years I have lost many friends for the better, strengthened my friendship with my five closest friends, tutored in the lit lab, mentored freshmen advisories, went to a cadaver lab, spent a day at the Rolling Meadows Court, volunteered with my closest friends, got a promotion to a pharmacy technician at my job and the list can go on and on. My high school experience has been a dream and it has shaped me and prepared me for life post high school.

My favorite memory from senior year is the day we had our mandatory senior meeting to order our caps and gowns. I know this may seem insignificant to many people, but I think it was a very memorable moment. We sat in the theatre as almost second semester seniors. The 1,100 days are almost over.

All of the senior 2019 class was sitting together in the theatre where we once were for orientation. Although we all don't talk, we've all grown together and experienced things together. I sat next to my best friend that day to order our gowns and it was a crazy feeling, emotional you could say. I realized in that moment that life happens so fast. I took some moments for granted and I realized it that day. I also felt incredibly proud in that moment that four years went by and I have accomplished so much.

I think the most important lessons learned in that moment was to not take memories, people, the good and bad, for granted. As cliché as it sounds, it's true. We all get caught in our everyday life that we forget to appreciate everything. As I finalize my high school education, I will take this lesson throughout my college education and become the best nurse ever. I will use this memory from senior year to push myself to strive for the unimaginable as I continue to grow and see many more sets of 1,100 days.

Nicholas Wojtan, Maine West High School, Park Ridge, IL

When thinking of the most memorable times in our lives happy memories like; getting into your dream college, or scoring the winning goal, recollect in our minds. Psychologically, we skip to the final outcome --“opening the acceptance letter.” However, we never focus on the lessons we learned from the road that got us to that memorable moment.

My most memorable moment, as a senior, is the journey endeavored by hitting the bar during bench press.

I’ve had a scrawny body my entire life and from this, from this everyone gave me a tough time and associated me with names like “toothpick.” It was as if people ripped my personality out of me and only saw my physical characteristics. Soon I even began to believe them. I looked at myself in the mirror with immense loathing, disgusted with my protruding ribcage, which looked as if they could be played like an xylophone. In the midst of this self-realization, I knew it was time for change.

The plan I had was simple: sign up for my local gym, lift heavy weights, and eventually look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. After all, it couldn't be that hard, right? I entered the gym confident as ever. I began my workout with bench press.

I scooted under the seemingly thin bar and took it off the hinges. As soon as I lowered it to my chest, it felt as the bar was stuck to me like glue. I tried lifting the bar with all my strength but it didn’t budge. With no one to help, I was forced to roll the bar off my body, often called the “roll of shame”. My initial confidence was now drained, replaced with red, hot embarrassment.

I could feel the eyes of the regular gym goers piercing through me, some even chuckled. It felt as if everyone who criticized my appearance was right--maybe I was the “toothpick,” they said I was. These thoughts swirled in my head, and I began to cry. With my head sunk and tears streaming, I dashed toward the doors, convinced I was a failure.

After the emotions washed over, I realized the significance of my failure. Had I somehow been able to achieve my goal, I wouldn’t have learned anything — I would still be the same person. Through failure, I was able to learn and grow. Failing signified my goal was far away, but through hard work I could get there. I decided to work even harder and was never discouraged from going to the gym again. I spent many weeks using lighter weights, focusing on isolation lifts until, I was able to bench the bar.

As I continue to progress in the gym I often come short of my heavy lifts. However, I don’t go crying off, but remember the significance of the lessons that come with enduring failure. I must remember that, though the road is bumpy, accepting failure and choosing to learn from it will lead me to the place I need to be.


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