LIFE IN HIGH school can be tough. Yet it often happens that the young people who thrive most during and after college are those who met with adversity early on, and gained awareness and maturity as a result of it.
Every child faces adversity in one form or another, from health problems to poverty, and from discrimination to family challenges. These experiences can be very painful, but if young people can learn from misfortune and grow, they not only set themselves up for great lives ahead, they become inspirations to all whom they encounter, admissions officers included.
If your child has faced adversity in any way, first-hand or through a family or close friend, he or she can gain a profound sense of redemption, meaning, and purpose by transforming the experiences into positive action. They’ll find that colleges practically fling open their doors to young people who can learn to celebrate their identity in this way.
As you read the stories that follow, notice how the students addressed the adversity in their lives, inspired those around them, and prepared themselves for the challenges of life ahead.
Kara from San Diego, California
Sparks: Passion for science, sensitivity, generosity
Inspiring Fire: Celebrating health
While we didn’t work with Kara as a client, her story was too inspiring to pass up. Growing up, Kara watched her father and brother suffer from diabetes. After seeing loved ones suffer the ravages of the illness, she decided to dedicate herself to helping those with the disease. She excelled in biology classes her freshman year, and as a sophomore, her guidance counselors advised her to pursue further instruction at a local university program. That summer, she also worked at a hospital research lab and made time to visit with diabetes patients. When she returned to school her junior year, she organized a diabetes-awareness group and a weeklong, school-wide forum to educate her peers on healthy eating habits and making healthy life choices. Her work garnered her recognition and entry into University of California, Berkeley with a full scholarship.
Discovered Brand: Student Leader, Public Health Activist.
Bryce from Olympia, Washington
Sparks: Language talents, good with computers Inspiring Fire: Celebrating cultural heritage
When we began working with Bryce, he told us his hope was to become a software engineer. His underlying ambition was to improve people’s lives. As we got to know Bryce’s family, we learned that his father was a member of the Cowlitz Tribe’s General Counsel and the tribe was facing significant challenges. With declining numbers, the tribe’s language was in danger of going extinct.
Bryce brainstormed ways he could help, and came up with a plan to digitize the language and store it online so that teachers, linguists, and members of the tribe could have ready access at any time. Bryce’s language digitization project combined his personal talent with cultural pride. By his senior year, a number of prestigious schools had already begun actively soliciting Bryce to their campus.
Discovered Brand: Linguist, Computer Programmer
Antoine from Oakland, California
Sparks: Love of hip-hop, writing, courage Inspiring Fire: Celebrating nonviolence
Though not a College Match client, Antoine has a story so inspiring we had to include it here. Antoine grew up in an Oakland neighborhood plagued by violence. By age twelve, he’d watched two of his closest friends get killed in neighborhood shootings. Through middle school, he himself had been in and out of trouble until he got admitted into a local outreach program called Upward Bound.
With their guidance, he became active in an after-school program that taught music production, especially socially-aware hip hop. During the summer and winter breaks, he attended anti-violence leadership conferences at a local university, and his junior year, he teamed up with other youth to write, direct, and produce an online TV series that brought a message of hope to inner-city youth across the country. Inspired to improve the plight of others in low-income areas, he gained admission to three prestigious colleges with vision and confidence in his future.
Discovered Brand: Media Producer
Wade from Kansas City, Missouri
Sparks: Love of computers, ingenuity, discipline
Inspiring Fire: Celebrating unique interests
Wade, 16, claimed to have no extracurricular activities. He didn’t participate in any organized activities, sports, or clubs. He spent considerable time working on his computer, and had even learned to build a computer from scraps that he recycled from discarded computers. His other hobby involved carving and painting model figures of warriors that he’d created. His ability to build computers and work diligently to create an elaborate fantasy world were impressive to us, but Wade had always thought his talents meaningless since he was relentlessly mocked and teased for his “weird” interests at school.
With our encouragement, he began taking pride in his creativity. He began inventing robots and listing his products online for sale. By his junior year, he’d started a business that was so profitable, he was able to hire several employees by the following summer. His “unpopular” interests were transformed into cool assets once he found the right community which prized his talents. The advancement of his talents and entrepreneurship won him admission to Willamette University.
Discovered Brand: Inventor