About Me


  • Route: Ozarks
  • Ride Year: 2019
  • Hometown: Del Rio, TX

About: Third year pre-health student at The University of Texas at Austin with aspirations to make the world a better place today for tomorrow.

Why I Ride

“Cancer”. It is a word that is so dark that a shiver reverberates about your body and is yet only six letters. It is a word that does not come close to capturing the people behind it, that experience the damage it can do. This word is not worthy, it does not recognize the fight in people, or the fright that it causes, yet it is not a word that no one has heard of at least once in their life. It is unfortunate that cancer is so prevalent that everybody knows somebody who has been afflicted by the disease, and I too know people, friends, and distant family who have had their lives forever altered because of it. I have met survivors as well as those who have put their weapons down in the fight and found peace: my piano teacher, an old friend, a family friend’s mother, a close friend’s mother, an art teacher, a grandfather’s brother—you don’t have to look far. I have been blessed to have been sheltered from the devastating effects of the disease, however I did experience the grief that accompanies cancer.

Remembering elementary school typically involves monkey bars and scraped knees and having fun classes like art and music. My favorite thing to do outside of writing was going to see my art teacher Mrs. Knoll and seeing what she had in store for us. She was a woman that reminded me of hard candy—while sweet and loving, she was also the kind of woman that resembled strength and was not afraid to put people on the correct path when they needed steering. Mrs. Jill Knoll also inspired creativity, and although she had a plan for our projects, she would give us room to make our own masterpiece as we pleased. Having been at Buena Vista Elementary School from Kindergarten to Fifth Grade, and a teacher’s daughter, I would spend a lot of time at school, even after hours and I got to know many faculty. I learned that Mrs. Knoll was from Iowa, that she loved drawing and making art, that her favorite store was Hobby Lobby, and that knoll meant “small hill”. Despite my observations, I never really understood why Mrs. Knoll was so much like rock candy.

It wasn’t until I got to my later years of elementary schooling that Mrs. Knoll shared with the class that she had been battling breast cancer for a number of years, and that the treatment was taking a toll on her body and she would not always be able to be with us. I remember that she began to wear head wraps and we started to have more and more substitute teachers. It wasn’t until one cold day in fifth grade that a few students, including myself were called to the principal’s office. Always having been a good student, this induced worry for me—even though I knew the principal well. It was then that I was made aware of the loss of my elementary school art teacher, Mrs. Jill Knoll. Still a child, death was still not a concept I was very familiar with and had much less of an understanding of what cancer was. Having had her as an inspiration for self-expression and creativity, a rock, a woman who was like hard candy—strong yet sweet—for almost six years, I regarded her as a friend. But just as the last leaves of fall part from the trees, our Jill Knoll finally had peace. This deeply affected many faculty, staff and students—myself included. I was hurt, and I was upset that most of her family lived in Iowa—because that is where her funeral was to be held. As humans, we crave closure, so Buena Vista Elementary School held a memorial service for her on a crisp winter morning outside the library. I was among the few chosen to speak about her memory and heaven’s newest gift in the form of an angel in front of the newly named Jill Knoll Memorial Library.

Since then, I have made it a point to participate in Relay for Life, and despite the celebration, my favorite has always been the part when the lights are dimmed and a video honoring the lives of cancer survivors and the memory of friends and family that have found peace. At the end of the video, candles that were placed in the stands are revealed to read “HOPE” and it deeply moves me to tears every single time.

Having come across the Texas 4000 table during my freshman orientation over two years ago, I have made it my goal to be a more instrumental part of the crusade for Hope, Knowledge, and Charity. Through Texas 4000 and in my ride, I will honor and continue to fight for anyone who has ever been afflicted by the disease and help bring awareness about its gravity and help teach the communities we reach about how to help prevent cancer. I also want to spread the idea that anyone and everyone can be a catalyst for change and for a cure. Alongside my team, I will help bring an end to the grief that comes with cancer.

As a rider of Texas 4000 2019 Team, I seek to spread the message of Hope, with every person I meet, and to listen to the people in the communities that I meet. Today, tomorrow, and henceforth I ride for the many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends that are so loved. Alongside my team, I will spread awareness and teach, as well as learn about the community, about stories, and about the strength that people have within. Hope is a four-letter word, that within it holds love, it holds resiliency, within hope you find stories, memories, and joy. I hope you can find pain, but it is pain out of love. In my ride year and beyond I will ride for and be an instrumental part in the movement of hope: the one of infallible strength and undying support, one of optimistic perspective for the hope of a better tomorrow and the determination to make that tomorrow today.

Thank you so much for visiting my page and for your endless support--any and every contribution is so deeply appreciated. I would love to hear your stories and experiences, and am always open for conversation. You can reach me at my email, ivanna.english@utexas.edu -- I can't wait to hear from you!

To Alaska and Back!

Ivanna Sofia