What is your personal story?
I am a first-generation college student from a low-income family in Wheeling, West Virginia, and I am currently enrolled as a Biochemistry major at West Virginia University. I come from a family riddled with opiate, alcohol, and gambling addictions and grew up in a rather hostile environment. School and extracurriculars quickly became my escape from home, and I have been fortunate to have had so many amazing friends, teachers, and mentors along the way who have helped me get this far in life. Two of my high school science teachers acknowledged my aptitude for analytical thinking, particularly with chemistry, and urged me to take more STEM classes during my time in high school. Fast-forward to senior year, and I am applying into the Biochemistry program at WVU from which I am about to graduate. Since being in college, I have actively been participating in undergraduate research as well as being a student director for First2 Network: an NSF INCLUDES Alliance which aims to double the retention rate of first-generation, underrepresented students in STEM programs. I am currently an undergrad research assistant in the forest pathology and mycology lab in the Davis College at WVU. As I am about to graduate, I intend to take a gap year before graduate school in order to gain some work experience or participate in AmeriCorps. Once I am ready to apply to graduate school, I am looking to apply to plant pathology/environmental microbiology programs on the East coast and Southeast.
What struggles have made you strong?
Due to the environment I grew up in, I do suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Periodic homelessness, health concerns, unstable family relationships, and much more have shaped me into who I am now. I did not have control over the circumstances of my life for a long time and was forced to adapt and overcome. When hearing my story, many do consider me to be a strong individual, but I’d like to vouch for those—like myself—who do not feel as though their trauma has made them “strong”. I have come out bruised and battered like many others with experiences similar to mine. Being the victim of an emotional abuser and narcissist has caused me much grief and sadness in my life as I struggle with interpersonal relationships, self-worth, and trust. However, what I do believe makes me “strong” is my ability to recognize what has happened to me is in the past, and I must keep going forward and shape my own life without the weight of an abuser’s actions on my shoulders. I have persevered and am creating my ideal life whatever obstacles stand in my way. I am learning to form healthy connections again as well as setting boundaries with the abusers in my life. I am extremely grateful to all of the people in my life who have supported me and loved me unconditionally so that I am able to be where I am today.
How has the Ambassador Program and the GlobalMindED Leadership Program influenced your professional path?
Both First2 and GlobalMindED have taught me that I have a valuable voice that is worthy of being heard. I have learned to speak up for myself and hope to include that quality in my professional life. While I wish to continue on in academia with research, I also would like to stay involved in re-shaping education and speaking up for those that are underrepresented. Perhaps someday this will lead me to being a dean or chairperson at a college!
Why would you be the strongest candidate for any job? What is special about you that an employer can’t live without?
I am adaptable and resilient. I have always made do with what I have had and made the best out of every situation. Even when I feel I can’t go on anymore or finish a task, I somehow still find motivation within me to push through to the finish line. In addition, I am committed to being a life-long learner. As school has always been my escape, I consistently love to be learning new things and be exposed to new challenges. is your personal story?