- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2023
- Hometown: Kansas City, MO
- School Year: Sophomore
- Major: Business Analytics
- Email: email@example.com
During my freshman retreat in high school, we sat down and wrote letters to our future selves. There, I wrote out a list of goals, but reflecting now on what I wrote, two stuck out to me. 1. Go to UT Austin and 2. Love myself unconditionally. When reopening this letter on one of my last days of high school, I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear. I had checked off both of these boxes.
Considering these goals as I packed up my life and moved to Austin last August, I came to two key realizations that have thus far guided my college experience. First, knowing that going to UT was and is such a dream must be at the forefront of my mind for the next four years. There are thousands of students who would kill to be on this campus and have access to the resources that I do, so I will never take them for granted.
Second, the only way to give yourself to others is by loving yourself first. We all hear this in life, but I challenge everyone to take it to heart. Throughout high school, I gained the confidence to tackle goals or challenges because I know that I am worthy, deserving, and capable of success. My achievements are a product of the love I give myself. However, I also realized that my gifts and talents are best spent helping others succeed. Being a servant leader energizes me and allows me to extend my self-love beyond self-serving purposes.
I hope that little essay gives you a sense of my character and how I see the world. Beyond this, I serve as my team's fundraising chair which has been an incredibly rewarding role. I also love spending time with loved ones, watching comedy shows, running with friends, and grabbing late night ice cream :-)
Why I Ride
I ride in Texas 4000 for my sister and my dad. In the span of five years, they experienced two cancer diagnoses, dozens of surgeries and IVs, thousands of pills, and two remissisons. My mom and I held their hands, wanting to be their rock, but slowly crumbling along the way. I pedal for every minute they lost to pain or boredom while lying in their hospital room. Every time their darkest thoughts kept them lying awake. I pedal for every fight we had when tensions ran high and when we were all at our lowest. These moments are ones that have defined us. Hurt us. But also made us realize how lucky we are to now have our health. Reminiscing on those five years are motivation enough for me to ride 4,000 miles, if not to the moon and back.
However, since those five years, I realized that I have so much more to ride for. My freshman year of high school, I organized a hair donation, remembering the one my school put on in honor of my sister as she underwent treatment. At the time, my dad was in isolation from an immunity-wiping treatment. I kept my home and school lives separate. No one knew that every day I laid in the guest room of my aunt’s house wishing that I could hug my dad. I had never felt more alone until I got an email from Brooke, an alumna of my school.
She was, and still is, undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and she wanted to get involved with the event. We emailed back and forth, but I didn’t meet her until the day of the event. There, she confidently shared her story and was vulnerable with a room of 700 strangers. My perspective was always: once my dad is better, I will tell everyone, and they will be so proud. But watching Brooke on stage, she was in the middle of it. I knew that she had sleepless nights consumed by intrusive thoughts. I knew that every day it was difficult having to get out of bed knowing she would have to fight for her life. I was proud of Brooke because I knew that she did not have to “win the battle” to prove she was strong. She radiated strength in her ability to share her story while it was in the making. In that moment, she became one of my role models. After she spoke, we shared the biggest hug, and from there, we had a bond. We check in on each other, and I honored her at my school’s two Relay for Life events. I used the donation event as a way to give back to cancer patients as well as find a community willing to support me in my loneliest time. In turn, I did just that and met someone who has changed my life forever.
My junior and senior years of high school, I helped found and eventually ran my school’s Relay for Life events. By then, my sister and dad were both in remission, and I opened up to many of my close friends and classmates. The first year of the event, I was the only junior on an exec team of seniors, only one of whom I knew well. I was timid at first — but then I began to learn their stories. Most of them had watched their grandparents, aunts, uncles, or moms undergo treatment. I learned that the effects of cancer ripple to almost everyone I knew. When I asked my friend Amy about her connection to cancer, she explained that she did not personally know a family member or close friend who had had cancer. Honestly, I was shocked. What were the odds that 50% of my immediate family had cancer, while her whole extended family was cancer-free? After she shared this, I wondered why she wanted to be such a large part of Relay. I mean, she was a rock star. She organized, produced, and edited our pep rally video. She spoke to classmates about the event. She helped me and my outreach team brainstorm corporate sponsors. It took months for me to step back and realize that her passion came from empathy. She listened to other’s stories and felt moved to action. Fully understanding this, I changed my perspective. Now that I knew how to share my story, it was time to ask other people about theirs. One of the best ways to be a better activist is to listen.
I ride for Brooke and for Amy. I ride for Dr. Baker, my school’s principal who helped me as a meek freshman find her place through activism. I ride for Rose who dauntlessly shared about her mom’s journey to our school as a freshman. I ride for everyone who donated to my Instagram bingo pages. For everyone who hugged me after my sister spoke at our Relay event. Every student leader on the American Cancer Society National team who gave their mornings, nights, and weekends to spread cancer awareness. There are so many more people I ride for because so many more people made me realize that cancer is not fought alone, ever.