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Amanda Bonesteel


Bold Points








Going to college after many years in the workforce was not an easy decision to make. What held me back was the fear that I would fail- not be good enough, or motivated enough, or feel awkward starting college at my age. Being an adult, non-traditional student meant having no financial help from my family, not having peers in my age group, and having to be utterly self-motivated and self-sufficient. And I love it. Helping and uplifting other people is what I live and breathe for- from my time in AmeriCorps, to getting my wilderness emergency medical technician certification, to being a wildland firefighter, to volunteering overseas. If I ever won some crazy lottery or became wealthy I would start a nonprofit that funded those who want to volunteer but can't afford to. It is such a rewarding experience to help others, yet those who would benefit most from volunteering often cannot afford to do so. My ultimate goal is to help communities on a large scale by addressing the root cause of societal problems. As a sociology major, my focus is on societies and people and how each affects the other. Having recently been accepted into the McNair Scholar's Program, I am hoping to head straight into a Ph.D. program in public/social policy after graduating from NMU with my bachelor's. Pursuing a career in policy or government is where I see myself headed after grad school, and I hope to make a difference in peoples' lives by helping to research and create policies that create better opportunities for people to succeed, be healthy, and pursue happiness.


Northern Michigan University

Master's degree program
2022 - 2024
  • Majors:
    • Public Administration

Northern Michigan University

Bachelor's degree program
2019 - 2022
  • Majors:
    • Sociology
  • Minors:
    • Political Science and Government
    • Behavioral Sciences

Lapeer High School

High School
1995 - 1999
  • Majors:
    • Sociology


  • Desired degree level:

    Master's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Sociology
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Public Policy

    • Dream career goals:

      President of the United States

    • Rural Outreach Coordinator

      Equality Michigan
      2022 – 20231 year
    • AmeriCorps VISTA Leader

      2022 – Present2 years
    • Senior Researcher

      2021 – 2021
    • AmeriCorps VISTA

      Alger-Marquette Community Action
      2021 – Present3 years
    • Wildland Firefighter

      United States Forest Service
      2017 – 20203 years
    • Recruitment and Member Support

      Arizona Conservation Corps
      2015 – 20172 years
    • Crew Leader

      Arizona/Southwest Conservation Corps
      2013 – 20152 years


    Ultimate Frisbee

    2019 – 2019


    • Sociology

      McNair — Researcher
      2022 – Present
    • Sociology

      Northern Michigan University — Researcher- creating surveys, reviewing data, identifying opportunities and challenges, interviewing students and staff, etc.
      2021 – 2021
    • Medical Sociology

      Power of the Patient Project — Senior researcher
      2021 – 2021


    • N/A

      2007 – Present

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Marquette County Health Clinic — Assist incoming patients with forms and directions.
      2021 – 2021
    • Volunteering

      IVHQ — Teaching English
      2018 – 2018
    • Public Service (Politics)

      Citizen's Climate Lobby — Campus Leader
      2020 – Present
    • Volunteering

      AmeriCorps — Conservation corps crew member
      2013 – 2013

    Future Interests





    Debra S. Jackson New Horizons Scholarship
    My college experience began 25 years ago, at the same university I am currently attending. Unfortunately, life sometimes derails your plans and after a short two months I dropped out. I just wasn't ready. My mother had passed away when I was just 12 years old, my dad remarried, a step-sister was added and adopted, my older sister got married and moved away, and I had a traumatic experience my senior year of high school that led to me leaving home. All this and more happened in quick succession, so by the time I went to college, it was more about getting as far away as I could than pursuing an education. I dropped out, started working, and only a year later became a mother and wife. At 21 years old I was working full-time as a restaurant manager and trying to raise a child, while dealing with a husband who was less than truthful (or faithful). One divorce and two failed relationships later, something in me said I had had enough- it was time for a change. In 2013 I began my journey out of the restaurant industry and away from unhealthy, co-dependent relationships. I switched careers completely and entered into something that changed my perspective of the world- AmeriCorps. National Service was never something I had planned, knew about, or considered, but when I completed that first 12-week program busting my rear in Wyoming doing trail mainenance and chainsaw projects for community service, I knew I had found my place in the world. Being a crew member led to being a Crew Leader, and soon I was leading young adults on wilderness projects throughout the Southwest and beyond. Because I had had such a life-changing experience as a new AmeriCorps member, I wanted to instill that same passion for positive change unto others. Some of my proudest moments were when I had crew members who moved into leadership positions themselves, or went on to work in National Forests and Parks as a career. Which is exactly what I did, eventually. After four years working with AmeriCorps programs, I found myself wanting to do more. Wildland firefighting was more. It was hard, grueling even, but ultimately rewarding. The work was tough, the people who do it are tougher still. And while being in that career for a few years, working with different people and crews from around the country, I noticed something. That people who work in the outdoors, especially those who spend most of their time on crews, are just different. Those experiences shape them (and me) in a way that a "normal" job does not. This revelation and my experiences in wildland fire led me to return to college, oddly enough. I was terrified to go back to school as an adult. After failing and dropping out, what woudl happen if I tried again? But, I DID try. I did NOT fail. All those previous life experiences had given me something I didn't have at 18 years old. Grit. Determination. Willpower. A desire to serve my community. And that is how I got here today, pursuing an MPA, holding a Bachelor of Science, and still learning. Ultimately, I want others to find their strength, passion, and place in the world. I encourage people to get out of their comfort zone, do something they are afraid of, and take a leap of faith. With scholarships such as this, it allows me to reach that goal. Being able to focus on others and not just paying the bills makes all the difference.
    Charlie Akers Memorial Scholarship
    The choice to put my own body on the line during the pandemic for the greater good meant that I felt I was doing something meaningful for my community and for society during a time when many of us felt helpless. As a sociology major with a background in medicine and health, I plan to continue to champion accessible healthcare and preventive medicine including vaccines, community engagement in wellness programs and health education, and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders so that people can receive the care they need. With my experience working with the Opioid Prevention and Education Network, I have some applicable knowledge in the field of addiction medicine already. Understanding how communities and the people in them engage and having an understanding of the inequalities and barriers that they face goes a long way towards improving them, and by furthering my education I will be able to conduct more intensive research, understand my community more deeply, and be better able to give back in a meaningful and productive manner. Community involvement is an important part of what I strive to do, which is to help others, empower people, and improve lives. In my community, I have done and continue to be an active participant by working with local and statewide nonprofits focusing on the opioid epidemic, being a victim service providing to the LGBTQ+ community, creating a region-wide resource website and social media page geared towards helping individuals, families, and organizations get connected to information and resources they need, as well as donating time, money, and goods to local charities. Recently, I donated over 150 hours to a new, local nonprofit- Families Against Narcotics- in order to help them become better known in the community and raise funds. We raised $2500 and were able to inform hundreds of people in the county about the existence of this organization, handed out dozens of boxes of Narcan, and engaged numerous students on campus, getting them interested in volunteering for FAN or carrying Narcan in case of an overdose. As I enter my master's program next year in Public Administration, focusing on nonprofits and communities, I hope to continue my work in my community by learning about public policy, the management of organizations, and organizational capacity building. Eventually, I would like to pursue a doctorate in either sociology, public health, or community research and give back to my community by teaching at the very school that has done so much for me these last three-and-a-half years and guiding the next generation of NMU students.
    Michael Rudometkin Memorial Scholarship
    A few years ago I decided to travel abroad for the first time. I had been working as a wildland firefighter during a long, difficult 9-month season during one of the worst years of wildfires I had seen. During my two months abroad I came across more than one incident where someone needed assistance or aid of some sort or another, and I also volunteered two weeks of my time in Romania to teach English to foster children, but the moment that really stands out was during my last day on the continent, the day before I came home to the U.S. I had just finished an enjoyable day exploring the coast of Portugal on foot and was headed back to Lisbon by bus. I was out of money at that point, and I used my last few dollars to catch a bus back to my hostel before flying home the next morning. As I was sitting at the bust stop reading a book, a very elderly gentleman passed by. We were the only two people at the station apart from the ticket lady. He had two of those arm-brace walking canes and was moving slowly and purposefully towards the buses. I barely looked up, only enough to notice him, before continuing to read. I hadn't put my head down for but a few seconds when I heard a sickening "thud", which quickly got my attention, and I looked toward the sound, seeing the man now lying on the pavement, unmoving. I didn't think, just reacted. I ran over and he was unconscious, bleeding from his head where it had hit the ground. Putting my bare hand over the wound to stop the bleeding, and looked around for someone, anyone else, for help. The ticket lady didn't see me, and there was no one to call out to. I started calling out to the lady behind the counter, hoping she would hear me, when a family came around the corner into the station and saw me crouching on the pavement, covered in blood, holding this poor man's head off the concrete. He was still unconscious. I don't speak Portuguese, and I said "help" in English and Spanish, assuming someone would understand between the obvious sight and the two languages. I was in luck, and the young girl with the family spoke a little English. Eventually, I was able to convey that I needed towels or something to press on the wound, which now that there were other people, the ticket lady saw what was happening and provided. The man started to come to and tried to sit up. I assisted, having him lean back against me while I continued to put pressure on the cut. Someone had finally called an ambulance, and they arrived to take over. When they got the man up and into the vehicle, I walked over and just held my hands up as they were painted with blood. The EMTs quickly poured rubbing alcohol onto my hands, making a washing motion. I didn't know what this man might have, and luckily I had no cuts of my own where the blood had touched. This is just one of the ways in which I embody selflessness. I saw someone in need, and I helped, without thought of myself. I may have exposed myself to disease or harm. I may have missed my bus and been stranded. Those things in that moment didn't matter. The person who needed help mattered. The world isn't just a bunch of individuals- we all matter. We need to remember that.
    Tracey Johnson-Webb Adult Learners Scholarship
    Bold Empathy Scholarship
    I always assume that I don't know what someone has been through to make them the way they are. By intentionally thinking to myself about that one simple fact- that I don't know everything about a person- I can almost always be assured that I can be empathetic. Even when people aren't being kind, are having a bad day, or even have toxic traits, I can be empathetic because something, at some time, somewhere, made them this way. It is easy to have empathy for "nice" people, but as a society and as individuals we forget that the "mean" people maybe need our empathy the most. Babies aren't born angry, bitter, or with poor coping skills learned through traumatic experiences. We are made and molded into adults through life, and sometimes life throws some punches. So, I always, always, assume that I do now know what someone's lived experience has been, and I always try to empathize and treat others with kindness. I just don't know- maybe I will be the one person that was nice to them that day. Maybe instead of being critical, I will listen for the sake of them being heard.
    Bold Helping Others Scholarship
    Encouraging people and lifting them up is how I love to help others. By validation, showing them their own potential, and being their cheerleader I help people realize their own potential and build self-confidence in themselves. I tell people when they are feeling low that they are deserving, they are worthy, and they CAN DO IT (whatever "it" may be). The value of building others up cannot be understated and watching someone grow and become the best version of themselves because of love and support is just the best feeling in the world. If we were all more supportive and encouraging to others instead of tearing them down the world would be a better place. Imagine a world where we all helped our fellow human beings, from our closest friend to the stranger on the bus. How much would our collective mental health improve? How much could we lessen substance misuse, violence, crime, etc.? While I may not be able to change the world, I can perhaps change a life by being the person who is supportive, provides encouragement, and reframes those challenges to make them opportunities.
    Bold Wisdom Scholarship
    "Show kindness to everyone, everywhere, because kindness is never the wrong answer." In today's world we often see and hear all the bad that is happening and little of the good, yet in most peoples' lives, those positive and good experiences outweigh the bad. We take for granted the everyday, the common, and the routine. Eating a meal with your family or friends, watching a movie with a loved one, taking a walk on a beautiful day...then one bad experience happens and we hyper-focus on it. We do this precisely because those bad moments stand out in the everyday events happening around us, all the time. Most people are decent, most people are good. And all people deserve kindness, even on a bad day or moment. They need kindness the MOST in those moments. Kindness is not weakness. You can be kind, and firm. You can be kind and still say "no". When we are at our most unloveable is when we need love and kindness the most. If our world and all its people defaulted to kindness as a response, think of just how wonderful our world could be.
    Lo Easton's “Wrong Answers Only” Scholarship
    1.) I don't and you shouldn't give it to me. 2.) To fail horribly dropping out of college while still owning thousands of dollars in loans, and any job I take I will be a complete lazy jerk who gets fired within a week and cannot get a good reference. 3.) I don't overcome obstacles- I just cry in a corner.
    Stefanie Ann Cronin Make a Difference Scholarship
    It starts with kindness, empathy, and selflessness. It starts small, such as being a good listener and having an open mind or seeing the best in people and being aware that I don't know everything that someone is going through. And then, it grows. Being there for a friend, being there for a group, being there for a community. Once you understand just how powerful it is to have made even a small difference, the desire to do more continues to grow. Kindness spreads just as much as fear and hate, and I will always choose kindness over either. I will seek to understand, to walk in someone else's shoes, and I will refuse to believe that our world is a terrible place. I choose to believe that when a person or group does something bad, it is usually due to circumstances such as trauma, fear, and desperation. People are not born criminals, addicts, or warlords. Society makes them that way. As a sociology major, I am committed to studying people and communities. As a human being with compassion and empathy, I am committed to finding solutions to stop inequality and suffering. With my education, my hope is that I will be able to research societal issues and find solutions. I am an advocate for the underdog, the underrepresented, and the downtrodden. I want to lift people up, not break them down. We could do so, so much in this world if people worked together instead of needing to feel like everything is a competition. I want to break down barriers- end the stigma associated with mental illness, substance misuse, and poverty, for example. My goal in the near future is to pursue a Ph.D. in Community Research and/or Social Policy to be better equipped to address these topics. having worked for a volunteer program for the last two years that aims to bring communities out of poverty and end the opioid epidemic, I have seen the impact that people and organizations working together can have on a community and the people in it. We need more of that- more people choosing to love their neighbors, the people in their community, and even themselves. We need understanding, education, and compassion for others, even when we do not know them personally. As humans, we make assumptions about the unfamiliar. Well, let's make these topics familiar! Let us bring awareness and education about what poverty is really like and how it affects the brain, how addiction is a real, physical disease, and how getting help for mental health isn't a weakness. I want communities that encourage each other, that feel for each other. That is how I plan to make a positive impact on the world- by promoting kindness and understanding instead of fear.
    Bold Driven Scholarship
    I cannot talk about my goals without speaking to all three- academics, career, and personal- because they are all tied. My personal life led to several careers, which led me to return to school, and in turn to pursue a new career that I am passionate about because of my personal life. My immediate goals, though, are to graduate from NMU in December 2022 and start planning for graduate school. Pursuing a doctorate in Community Research and/or Social Policy is what I have planned, but I am also flexible and willing to seek out other opportunities and options. Looking into the future, I hope to be an active and contributing member of my community and, hopefully, our society. Conducting research and advocating for and implementing good social policies, public education, and fighting for equality are what I see in the cards. People are important to me- all people, everywhere. The world in this age of globalization is small, and being able to act as a community is more important than ever.
    Bold Talent Scholarship
    The ability to be positive during almost any situation is my talent. It doesn't matter if I've missed a flight, am stranded in some foreign country, hiking up a mountain in three feet of snow, or getting slammed at work while being short-staffed and equip.we keeps failing. Maintaining a positive attitude always gets me through the chaos and allows me to problem solve and work it out. I "practice " this talent by simply reminding myself that even if the situation is stressful or tough, having a poor attitude will only make it worse. Encouraging people and staying positive also helps others in any given scenario keep their cool and remain in good spirits themselves. Nothing is ever made better by being in a bad mood about things that aren't under your control, and people are unable to think clearly when they are stressed and anxious. I frequently expose myself to new situations where I have to figure things out on purpose- it keeps me on my toes, and I look at every new challenge as something to overcome.
    Bold Study Strategies Scholarship
    Stop. Stressing. The biggest barrier I have seen to other students is stress and anxiety. Take a breather, make time for yourself. A big one the work early and finish it in one sitting if possible. I used to be a terrible procrastinator until I went back to college. Now, I do an assignment almost as soon as it's assigned even if it isn't due for weeks. This keeps my schedule pretty light and clear, giving me time to relax, do things other than school, and not rush and stress out at the last minute. For tests and studying, take hand-written notes. You will remember the material better, especially if you make it fun like using different colored pens! Be present and participate in class. Discussions go a long way towards truly understanding what is being taught and retaining it. Most of all though I make sure that I take care of myself. From eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep to having a really great support group of friends and other students. Don't go it alone- there is ALWAYS help available.
    Bold Bravery Scholarship
    Being brave is doing something I am unsure of, afraid of, or unfamiliar with and facing it head-on. I live boldly, bravely, by getting out of my comfort zone on many different levels- traveling to countries where I do not know the culture or language, or even going back to school as an adult afraid that I wouldn't succeed. The epitome of bravery is taking what you fear and doing it anyway. There are many types of fear- fear of failure, injury, or embarrassment. If I never took a chance or a risk, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't be the person I am. Failure is OK, but not trying at all absolutely means that you will never succeed. I have succeeded because I have been bold and brave. By putting myself out there and trying- even if I was terrified of failure- I gave myself the chance to excel. And that is what matters is taking a chance.
    Bold Passion Scholarship
    Kindness. It might sound simple, or even silly, but I truly believe that being kind and valuing kindness gets us far in this world. So many problems-personal and societal- could be solved by having a culture of kindness. When we value being kind, it means that we value others. Being passionate about the value of other people leads us to be empathic, understanding, and willing to look beneath the surface. Kindness will never steer us wrong- even if it may feel that we are occasionally taken advantage of, with every kind act we show others that they have value, that they matter. Think of the cultural shift that has the potential to happen if we spread that type of behavior! To change the world we need to change our values and priorities. In this capitalistic and cutthroat culture we are living in today we have forgotten the value of community. It takes a village is still as true today, but we are so focused on competing with the person next to us we forget that truth. So yes, I am passover about kindness, for to be kind is to put people before profit, community before competition, and to value the lives of those around us.
    Bold Acts of Service Scholarship
    Of all the acts of service I have done, the most powerful to me has been serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA and helping low-income families find resources for mental health, substance use disorders, and food assistance. I love serving in my community, and other things that I do are volunteer work at vaccine clinics, donating to the local homeless shelter, starting a Families Against Narcotics chapter in my county, and mentoring other students. One act of service that is important to me recently is being a participant in a COVID-19 vaccine trial. By putting my body and safety on the line for the advancement of science to find a cure/prevention for this disease that has killed millions, I am serving my country in a big-picture way. Without medicinal volunteers science and medicine could not advance, and I also want to give a shout-out to the other tens of thousands of vaccine trial participants who are trying to be a part of the solution.
    Bold Simple Pleasures Scholarship
    I love ordering coffee from small family farms all over the world, and the smell of a new coffee when I open the bag after it arrives is one of my favorite simple pleasures. It makes me happy to know that not only do I get to try a brand new coffee, but it makes me happy knowing that I helped a small business or maybe a family by making that purchase. Hiking and backpacking are great pleasures of mine and the quiet and peacefulness of being alone in the wilderness fill me with joy. It could be in the desert, the mountains, the forest, or a remote beach, but just stopping to take in the solitude for a few moments is profound. Last but certainly not least is trying new food! I absolutely LOVE trying new foods- from new restaurants, new cities, or new countries. Buying a street taco in Guatemala, eating escargot in France, or trying a Chicago hotdog in Chicago are all experiences that make me happy just have been able to have them. Taking great pleasure from something as simple as unfamiliar food is important, and remembering to appreciate those little things is what keeps me happy.
    Bold Giving Scholarship
    Giving can mean so many things, but to truly "give" means to be selfless. It can be donating money or goods, helping someone in need by giving your time and energy, and so much more, but the key is that giving is selfless and without thought of what you will get in return. Donating solely for a tax write-off is not in the true spirit of giving, or helping someone because it makes you look good, or for fame, pride, etc. No, to truly give is to think of others. I give back in many ways- volunteering my time and energy, donating money and goods, working with nonprofits to build their capacity, teaching others, and mentoring. One way I have given back this past year is to be a COVID-19 trial participant and putting my body on the line for science and the greater good. Giving is an important part of who I am, and in giving and sharing kindness I hope to have a positive impact on the people around me and the communities I am a part of.
    Bold Loving Others Scholarship
    Tell them. While yes, showing the people I care about that I love them through active listening, being a helping hand when needed, or going out of my way to help even when I haven't been asked are all wonderful ways of intimating that you love people, simply telling them makes a huge impact. We as a society don't tell our friends, coworkers, and even distant relatives that we love them enough. I make it a point to tell my friends that I love them, support them, and am here if they need me. That might be just to vent about a challenging situation, it might be dropping off a box of food to a mom and her kids, or giving a family member unasked for funds because I know they are struggling. even with acts of kindness, words matter. Saying "I love you" to someone could be the difference they need that day to keep pushing through. So that is exactly what I do- I make it plain and simple, and tell them that I love them.
    Focus Forward Scholarship
    Working in public service creating and researching good social policies is where I see myself in the future. Helping our communities requires having policies that benefit the whole, uplift those at the bottom, and create equality where it currently does not exist. After graduating from my current university I am hoping to get into the Ph.D. program in Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School (tough and perhaps a pipe-dream, but you don't know until you try). I am fully aware that my career choice will not bring me fortune or fame- I am doing it to help people, which is far more rewarding than money ever could be. I see myself working with nonprofits or the federal government advocating for those whom the rest of society overlooks- I have always been a champion of the underdog. As a sociology major, I am focused on how society creates inequalities, issues, and problems. As a positive-thinker and problem solver, I want to address those issues. Digging into the root causes of some of our society's problems and addressing them is what I want to be doing. Going back to college isn't easy when you are an adult making your own way through life. I don't have parents to support me, help with tuition or housing, etc. One of the biggest deterrents to going to school was money- I had no idea where to start, or if would be worth my time and energy going into debt. This scholarship would be another way to leverage funds for school and reduce my need for student loans, taking some of the financial stress of going back to school off my shoulders. Going back to school as an adult and supporting myself in my college endeavor has been tough financially- I am on my own, and the only way I was able to go back to college was through student loans. Every little bit helps me get one step closer to achieving my goals, and every scholarship awarded encourages me to apply myself that much harder. The less financial burden I have when I graduate, the better abe I will be to focus on making a difference, and a difference I would like to see in the future is making college affordable and accessible to all. The rich already have a leg up academically and education-wise. The poor get a lot of financial reprieve and aid. It is those of us in the middle of the pack who struggle- too poor to afford, it but not poor enough to get much-needed help.
    Bold Best Skills Scholarship
    It may not seem like a "skill" to some, but having a positive attitude is what I consider my best skill. Having a positive attitude opens so many doors, allows for more critical thinking and thinking outside the box, and keeps me from getting stressed, anxious, or feeling overwhelmed. I am great when working under chaos because I stay calm and try to see the best outcome in the situation. This skill is particularly useful when working with groups of people, whether on a project or just as a team in general. being able to lift people's spirits, motivate them, and keep them going would be near impossible without having a positive attitude. Some may call it tenacity, the skill of not giving up, but one needs to have a positive mindset in order to not give up and to keep going under adversity. Staying positive keeps me going, even when times are hard, even when it seems like there is no hope of success. Having a positive attitude means that I will never give up, and I will smile about it until the end.
    Bold Turnaround Story Scholarship
    In 2017 I took on a new experience as a wildland firefighter apprentice with the U.S. Forest Service. For the most part, I was excited about the challenge and to be going to my home state of Michigan to be closer to family. What I was unaware of was that I would be essentially homeless for two years, be bullied at one point, and have my self-confidence turned upside down. In 2018 I was put on a 20-person crew out in rural Montana made up of mostly young men with very different perspectives than my own. From one of the crew bosses making horrifying remarks about suicide and consistently homophobic jokes to several of the guys on the crew being jerks to me all summer to my crew boss getting drunk one night and telling me that "I don't think you're a good leader", it was a tough summer. More than once I wanted to call my boss back home and have them get me out of there. Tears, frustration, and depression quickly took root. BUT...I didn't quit. In fact, I worked my butt off and earned the respect I knew I deserved on that crew. A job no one wanted? I volunteered. Everyone is tired and hungry? I'll make food for everybody. People are rude? I was kind and helpful no matter what, even to the worst of them. In the end, by the time that summer was over not only had I impressed the supervisors but I had gained the respect of those on the crew who had initially bullied and berated me. And I did it with kindness. I won back my self-confidence and sense of self, and in 2020 I completed that apprenticeship- the only person on my home forest ever to do so.
    Bold Growth Mindset Scholarship
    Keeping my mind open to new ways of thinking, new ideas, and being flexible is how I keep a growth mindset. Being a life-long learner, while important, doesn't always mean growth. One can learn information that consistently supports their preconceived beliefs and they will not gain much personal growth. To grow, we must sometimes put what we think we know aside and be open to ideas and ways of thought that go against our beliefs. I keep a growth mindset by keeping in mind that as we learn more, our beliefs may change- and that is okay! That is the epitome of growth. I do not believe the same things now as I did 5, 10, or 20 years ago because I have grown, matured, had new experiences, and learned new ways of seeing the world. Purposefully going into situations intending to come away with something new is important to me, and I never assume that I know everything. I am alright with being told I am wrong and willing to learn from my mistakes, and I think that mindset is what allows me to continually grow and be a better person.
    Cat Zingano Overcoming Loss Scholarship
    The loss of a loved one is never easy, and I lost my mother to ovarian cancer when she was only 42 years old. I think the biggest influence that has had on my life is the knowledge that everyone loved my mother- she was and continues to be described as "the nicest, kindest person I ever knew". That is what drives me, kindness, and I fight every day to figure out what that means and how I can apply it. My mother never got to see me graduate high school, get married, meet her granddaughter, or see me return to college as an adult so that I could effect change in a positive way in my community. I live on as her legacy, and I know that she would be proud of me today if she were here because I not only live life to the fullest, but I am like her- strong, independent, and kind. What matters most in my life is having a positive impact on others, whether that is via knowledge, support, or being the one person who was kind to them when they needed it most. Every time I hear someone speak about my mother, and they say, "she was the nicest person I ever met!" I try a little harder, do a little better, and find new ways to make a difference in peoples' lives. When I pass on, I don't want to be remembered for power, fame, or money- I want people to speak about me as they speak about her. "She was kind."
    Bold Community Activist Scholarship
    Mental health disorders and substance use disorders frequently go undiagnosed and untreated because of the stigma that unfortunately surrounds them. In my community, I advocate for those with these disorders by promoting destigmatization, conducting #endstigma campaigns, providing public education about risk factors, causes, and physical effects of these diseases as well as the effects that stigma has on those who need help, and organizing awareness events. Along with the work I do in regards to mental health awareness, I also participate in other volunteer activities that are geared towards public health and education such as working in the local COVID-19 vaccine clinic and being a vaccine trial participant for COVID-19. This type of community participation allows me to answer questions that people have about the new vaccines, provide some peace of mind to those who are on the fence, and in general advocate for community health. I recently helped start a Families Against Narcotics (FAN) chapter in my county, a program that helps those seeking or in recovery from opioid misuse. This especially needed in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic when many people have experienced loss, grief, undiagnosed mental health concerns, and physical illness and have turned substance misuse. FAN offers peer and family recovery coaches, a program called Hope Not Handcuffs to address substance misuse with support as opposed to punative.
    Bold Mentor Scholarship
    Being someone who supports and encourages others is a powerful ability that can change someone's life. Sometimes all it takes is ONE person to support you, to tell you that you are enough. That is always my goal when mentoring others- to be that person in their lives that encourages them, shows them their own worth, and that they matter. I know what it is like to not only be the one person that changes the trajectory for someone, but also what it feels like to have someone who supports me when I am at my lowest. There have been people in my life that have gotten me to where I am today because they said, "You've got this!" They helped me rebuild my own self-confidence and I credit them for who I am and what I have accomplished. I couldn't have gotten here without them. That is what I do for others- I help them build themselves up, become confident, and show them that they absolutely can do great things. When someone tells me that I inspired them to go after something or to do what they were afraid of, that is enough for me. When someone calls me years later to tell me that they wouldn't be where they are now if I hadn't been a part of their lives, I know I've done my job right.
    Finesse Your Education's "The College Burnout" Scholarship
    Album title: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom "Take This Job and Shove It" - Johnny Paycheck "Head Above Water" - Theory of a Deadman "Believer" - Imagine Dragons "Get Up" - Shinedown "Human" - Christina Perri "State of My Head" - Shinedown
    Bold Science Matters Scholarship
    It may seem cliche at this moment in our history, but vaccines. So much suffering has been averted in the world since Edward Jenner first discovered how to innoculate against smallpox. Diseases that ravished the world in centuries past- smallpox, measles, and polio to name a few- are largely gone from developed nations because of the science of vaccines. How many of us wouldn't be here today without them? How many families would have lost children, parents, siblings, lovers to these infectious diseases? How many people are alive and well today because they exist? Untold millions. We take vaccinations for granted. In the developed world we don't even think about our children dying from measles or polio. We don't live in fear of the horrors of smallpox. And while COVID-19 has changed some perspectives, has rattled our cage, and brought vaccines back to their forgotten glory, there are still many people out there who don't realize just how good we have it today because of them.
    Bold Dream Big Scholarship
    Making the world a better place by spreading understanding and kindness is my dream. I don't care about making the most money, having the nicest car, or the biggest house. I dream of being able to lift others up, to make their lives better through support and empathy. Too often in our society do we judge others without understanding them, assuming the worst in people. In my dream, the outlook is flipped and people see the best in everyone. We all have potential, but we sometimes need others to see and support that potential inside us. Imagine if everyone saw the best in you, supported you, and showed you kindness, even at your worst. How different would our world be? What could we accomplish? My dream life is to be that voice of support for those who don't often get treated with kindness, who are judged harshly, and who have so much unrealized potential. In a perfect world, we should all be so lucky to feel free to be ourselves without retaliation and emotional/mental trauma.
    Sloane Stephens Doc & Glo Scholarship
    The passion I feel for helping other people and for not assuming anything about anyone are what I value most about myself. These qualities work together for me to be able to show kindness to all that I come across, and to aid those that need it the most. It is usually the people that are most judged in this world that need the most support, and they are judged without others knowing their full story. The addict that everyone looks down on who has an unknown history of trauma and abuse, the mother existing on food stamps because her two jobs don't pay the bills, or the college student who is perceived as being lazy because they took out loans instead of working so they could focus on their studies. I have learned to never- ever- assume that I know someone's entire history or situation. People will surprise you. It is my goal to help people such as the above mentioned on a larger scale, and I am ambitious in my pursuit of the education and experience to do so. My passion for helping others keeps me motivated to succeed in all that I do, from school to work. This has already aided me in life- I would not have returned to college after so many years if I wasn't passionate about what I do. My work ethic has always served me well, and I have that work ethic because I enjoy helping people so much. Giving a little extra help at a job, volunteering, helping other students with their studies...all of these add up. It shows people that I am willing to go above and beyond, and by doing so opens up more opportunities for me in school and work. The more experiences and education I have, the better I can continue on my path of helping others. I am planning on getting my Ph.D. in Social Policy at Harvard in the future, and to make that happen I will need to show that I am passionate, dedicated, and willing to go above and beyond. A doctorate degree in policy will allow me to create policies that help not just individuals and families, but communities and populations. Being open-minded and nonjudgmental about peoples' lives and having the will to help those whom society sees the worst in helps make our world a better place. My strengths will serve me in serving others, and that is all I can ask for.
    Bold Impact Matters Scholarship
    Sometimes the seemingly small things can have a far-reaching effect. Being kind to everyone you come across is one of those. I try to be kind and open-minded with everyone I encounter in life because you never will know everything about a person and their experience, and I might be the only one that shows them kindness that day. Being kind can be shown in small ways, big ways, and in a manner that maybe no one sees. Simply being a good and nonjudgmental listener is a form of kindness, as is donating items to, say, a homeless shelter or money to a good cause. The important part to remember is that you could change someone's life simply by being the one who shows them that they are worthy of kindness. I will always choose kindness as I have personally seen what it can do and how it can change someone. I might not change the world, but if I can change even a moment of someone's experience in a positive way I will call that a success.
    Studyist Education Equity Scholarship
    Inequality in education undermines a society and deprives it of its fullest potential. A society cannot fully realize that potential when its citizens are not given equal opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed. How many people are we missing that could have been the next Albert Einstein or Edward Jenner because they were deprived of a good education and community support? How much better would our society be if everyone had access to quality education, where families and communities worked together? What problems could we solve in the world if everyone had the time and resources to focus on education? Educational inequality is caused by a variety of societal factors, from the way institutions are run, racial disparities, socioeconomic inequality, and many others. We need to look at the situation fully and holistically, the big-picture, to be able to start on the path of providing an equal opportunity for all. It doesn't start in college or even high school. Before a person is even born we can make an assumption about whether they will be able to access high-quality education. Will their family have time to help them study? Enough money to buy quality learning materials? Time to read to their children? Is their neighborhood rich or poor, which affects the quality of the school? All of these factor into inequality in education. If we begin on the road to solving inequality in education, we will also be on the path of solving inequalities in other areas of society.
    Paige's Promise Scholarship
    Last January I knew next to nothing about substance use disorders. By May I was organizing a community "Walk for Awareness" to provide educational resources, treatment options, and reduce the stigma associated with SUDs and mental health disorders. This past year I have been working with a community organization as an AmeriCorps VISTA creating a community resource that aims to get people in my area access to treatment for substance use disorders and mental health care, organizing community events, and creating trainings that are geared towards reducing stigma surrounding SUDs and mental illness, and creating educational campaigns. The program I am working with ties in extremely well with my major, sociology, and the summer internship I completed recently. The internship involved researching the social determinants of healthcare experiences. Some of the information we were trying to gather involved asking people about their experience with their healthcare provider in terms of if they felt they were treated differently or discriminated against based on items such as a certain diagnosis (such as SUD), race, gender, socioeconomic status, and so forth. In this way our team was able to put together a final report and present it to physicians nationwide about how their patients perceive their experience. Research such as this is a powerful tool to use data to educate providers on how their attitudes or unconscious bias against people with substance use disorders prevent seeking treatment. I hope to continue to be an advocate in reducing stigma and educating individuals, the public, and providers about how their words and actions are perceived by those with SUDs, preventing them from seeking treatment. Currently, I am working with a couple people in my organization and other community leaders to start a Families Aaginst Narcotics chapter in my county. Bring in a FAN chapter allows us to have more access to peer and family recovery services, training and educational opportunities, better able to direct individuals and families to the appropriate services, and have speakers who are in recovery come and present in our community to provide support, education, and reduce stigma. Next summer I plan to pursue a study abroad program in community public health, which will provide me with even more insight into policies that affect treatment and families. My long-term goals are to get my Ph.D. in Social Policy and have a career in public service, creating, advocating for, and researching policies that promote equality and help those that need it the most. In this way I hope to positively impact peoples' lives on a larger scale by making services available to those in need, reducing stigma, and public education.
    Bold Generosity Matters Scholarship
    I was in Austria, waiting at night for my next train. It was late, I was carrying my big backpack while traveling across Europe, and there was a restaurant nearby the station. Having ordered a sandwich and drink, I sat there for a long while since my next train wasn't due for several hours. As I was getting ready to leave, I asked for my check. The waitress responded, "Your meal was paid for." Startled, I ask who had paid for it, and all she could tell me was that a man with a blue backpack had paid, and he had left already. She asked if I knew him, and I didn't. The description hadn't sounded familiar, like maybe someone I had been on the last train with or anything like that. Just a random act of kindness. Possibly a fellow traveler who saw my own backpack and decided to do something kind. That is what generosity means to me. Generosity means giving to others without expecting anything in return- giving time, aid, resources, or anything that helps someone else. Being generous can be watching someone's child for free so that they can work and save money, it could be donating goods or money, or it could be volunteering time in a community. Or, it could be buying a stranger a hot meal. But, importantly, it should mean that there are no strings attached, no expectations. It means being kind for kindness' sake. Acts of kindness have a way of being passed along, and if everyone did simple acts of generosity the world would be a kinder, gentler place.
    Bold Wise Words Scholarship
    "It's never too late." That piece of wisdom is the reason why I came back to try my hand at college again after 20 years. For a long time, I had thoughts about attempting school again. Unfortunately, time and money were my common excuses for putting it off, instead of addressing the real reason. Fear. I was afraid of failing and of quitting. By the time I was in my late 30's, the new fear was that I was too old and that I would be graduating in my 40's if I went back. Until I talked to a woman at a restaurant one day who happened to be sitting next to me. I don't remember exactly how we came upon the topic. Perhaps I mentioned thinking about it, or maybe she talked about what she did for a living and it came up. I don't recall. But, what I do recall about that conversation was that she graduated from college when she was 62 years old, and looked me straight in the eye, and said, "It is NEVER too late to go back." Six months later I took my fear and shoved it down into a deep, dark place where it couldn't prevent me from following my dreams and I enrolled as a re-entering freshman at my old university. It had been exactly 20 years since I had tried the first time. Now I am a junior, excelling, mentoring other students, and encouraging anyone who feels that it is too late or the barriers too great to go back to school. I haven't failed, I have succeeded. I have gone above and beyond. Because it is NEVER too late.
    Bold Future of Education Scholarship
    Less time spent in the classroom and more time spent in play and activities would aid children in learning important social and critical thinking skills. Today, we spend too much time and resources making children fit into boxes, to be all alike, and forget that everyone learns differently or has different strengths. Instead of focusing on every child getting good test scores, letting children explore their own interests and strength would allow them to be more engaged and happy. Much of education today is geared towards making people "marketable" instead of happy. While one can indeed be both, happy people are generally more productive and creative. By allowing children to decide on their own what THEY are passionate about we would end up with a far happier and more productive society, not to mention one that is socially cognizant. Playtime and group activities have been shown to foster better social bonds, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking skills. When kids play and explore the world around them on their own terms, they learn to be creative, self-reliant, and use their imagination. These are extremely important coping skills as adults as we can see that adults who are creative, self-reliant, and have emotional intelligence are better able to solve problems, have better mental health such as less anxiety and depression, are empathetic to others, and are confident. For future generations, we can see how empathy, critical thinking, and able social skills would be of great benefit to society. Caring about each other, understanding our own emotional states and responding appropriately, and seeing problems with a critical eye as a challenge to be solved would go so far to improve our world. So yes, get kids' butts out of those seats and onto the playground, and into the woods and parks! Allow them to get dirty, sort out conflict among their peers, and be okay with having big emotions. Guide children generation instead of shoving them into little boxes, support instead of punishing when they fall behind in math, and allow them to use that magical imagination of youth to the best of their ability.
    Bold Great Minds Scholarship
    Edward Jenner, who invented the very first vaccine back in 1796, is certainly worthy of admiration, especially when looking at what is happening in the world today with the COVID-19 pandemic. I think many people don't realize that vaccines have been around almost as long as the United States of America. While it is impressive that at age 13 he was already apprenticed to a surgeon, what I really admire about Jenner is that he made the connection that immunity to a similar disease- cowpox- could provide immunity to a much more deadly disease, smallpox. Being observant and of the critical-thinking type, he noticed that dairymaids did not get smallpox after they had cowpox. The proverbial lightbulb turned on, and Jenner started experimenting with inoculating people with cowpox and then attempting to give them smallpox. While these inoculations were rudimentary and unethical in today's medical and scientific world, in the 1790's science was in its infancy, and what Jenner had done ended up saving millions of lives in the end. What is even more impressive and admirable about Edward Jenner is that he never sought to profit off of the eventual vaccine, and he persevered through public ridicule and fear. His life was dedicated to his practice. He held a free vaccine "clinic" in his own garden, called the "Temple of Vaccinia" and welcomed the poor to come and be inoculated, and he visited patients up until the day he died. Edward Jenner gave us something that has lasted for centuries and is continually improved upon and continues to save millions of lives each year. He lived his life with compassion and purpose, to help others. That is what makes me admire him.
    Pandemic's Box Scholarship
    I quit my federal career and went back to school full-time. The pandemic made me notice aspects of society that I hadn't paid as much attention to in the past, and that paying attention made me want to not only learn more but do something about the problems we face in society today. I had already started going back to college pre-pandemic, part-time, while working as a full-time wildland firefighter. In August 2020 I turned in my resignation and returned to school to fully focus on my education. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Now, I am not only a full-time student rocking good grades, but a community volunteer, mental health advocate and working to reduce stigma surrounding mental illnesses and substance use disorders, a student organization leader, in the Student Leader Fellowship Program, and on track to study abroad and graduate early. I would have been able to do little of this had I stayed at my job, and I can thank the pandemic for giving me greater purpose to follow this path.
    Bold Great Books Scholarship
    Having been an avid reader from the time I could put letters together, asking me to pick a favorite is almost impossible. So, while I cannot give you THE favorite, I can give you A favorite. "Watership Down", by Richard Adams, is one of my favorite stories of all time. Not only is it a story about intelligent, talking animals (because who doesn't like that?!), but it is a story about overcome adversity and about thinking ahead, leadership, and putting others before ourselves. I encountered "Watership Down" as a movie before the book, back when I was a young child. It was a cartoon, yes, but quite realistically drawn and graphic. It didn't hold back when showing or talking about the messy parts of life and the struggles of its characters. In fact, parts of it were quite dark and violent for what was dubbed a "kids" movie. I did not read the book until I was a young adult, as it is 50 chapters long and I had seen the movie dozens of times. The book held even more detail and tragedy than the movie (how the creates fit that 50 page novel into a 90-minute show I will never understand), and I read and re-read the book several times over the years. It never gets old. I think that story instilled in me early on the leadership qualities I value so highly today. Don't ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself. Look ahead and solve the problem before it arises. Think about the big-picture. And, most importantly, stand up for those you love.
    Bold Deep Thinking Scholarship
    Individualism. As societies grow and become enamored of capitalism, they lose their sense of community. Instead, everything becomes a competition, a fight for "individual" freedoms, and fighting to rise to the top of the food chain. We have lost our sense of what collective good is, of compassion, of empathy for others outside of our immediate circles, and we have become focused on the "me", the "I", the "my". What happened to "we", to "us", to "all"? Our biggest problem is not seeing the bigger picture or understanding the root causes of problems in general. The focus turns toward the symptoms of a sick society without understanding the cause of the underlying illness. Examples include hot ticket topics like crime and climate change, which we attempt to put patch after patch on instead of addressing the real problem- the causes. Not "cause", because societal problems never have just one cause. They are all multifaceted problems that will take multifaceted remedies to even begin to correct. To begin this correcting we need to first start by going back to the basics- working together for common causes and rediscovering humanity as a collective entity. While we are pulled in hundreds of directs from faction upon faction we lose the ability to focus, we shut down. It becomes easy to only focus on one's self instead because we are overwhelmed thinking about all the problems going on in the world. So let's pick the most important starting point and go from there- relearning compassion, community, and empathy. If we worked as one, humanity could accomplish so much.
    AMPLIFY Environmental Policy Scholarship
    My current study is in sociology and human behavior, and while at first might not seem to relate to environmental policy, it is in fact the key component to it. We need to understand how society works- how people think and feel and react as a community- in order to create good environmental policies that actually work and that people will relate to and support. One could have the best idea in the world but if it is not supported it will go nowhere. Even though I have always been an advocate for the environment and conservation (I was a wildland firefighter and conservation corps leader), after taking an environmental sociology course it really hit home that it is how people see the environment and policies in a collective manner, or in their culture, that affects how they respond to it. A doctorate degree in Social Policy is what I hope to pursue after I complete my bachelor of science in sociology, and the impact of climate change and pollution on certain populations is a big part of addressing inequality. Impoverished people and nations experience the effects of climate change the most, and part of my goal is to address that through policy and research that appeals across the board. We cannot address climate change properly or fully if socially and culturally we are not on the same page. And that is a difficult task to tackle! This needs to incorporate education, cultural norms and needs, and nonjudgmental addressing of what some groups can do better. Pointing fingers and shaming, trying to change other nations' cultures or values, etc. is not the way to address climate change. That tactic breeds pushback and defensiveness, digging in of heels and resentment. And can we blame them? No one- individual, group, or country- enjoys being told: "you're doing it wrong!" Policy changes need to take into account cultural values and be respectful of how others see the world in relation to the environment. Addressing inequality and poverty goes a long way to being able to tackle the issue of climate change- when people have their basic needs met they have the time and energy to put towards other efforts. People living in poverty and needing those jobs that contribute to climate change or pollution aren't going to advocate for shutting down those jobs- they will in fact push back against it vehemently even as pollution sickens and kills them because long-term health does not come before immediate needs. Long story short, we need policies that are person-centered first.
    Mental Health Movement x Picmonic Scholarship
    My generation's attempt to downplay mental health has prevented many of us from reaching out for help when we should. As a young GenX, or "Xennial", I live on the cusp of GenXer and the Millennial cultures. The older generation typically uses much in the way of sarcasm to address the topic of mental health, and ignoring red flags and signs of a mental health problem. Millennials on the other hand are generally more open to seeking help and treatment and see mental illness with less stigma attached to it. For me, it's a tough road to choose. On one hand, my family and generational friend groups very much do NOT address mental health issues very often, use stigmatizing language, talk down about people with mental illness or imply weakness. This makes it difficult for me not to internalize those feelings of inadequacy when I may, in fact, need to talk to someone or need help. On the other side of the coin, I am very much in the other camp as far as I believe in reducing stigma, not judging others, being able to be open about mental health and illness, etc. I am stuck in the middle, where I balk at getting help for myself but am more than willing to help others overcome that same fear. I'd like to use my experience to help older adults realize that it is okay to need help- that it is not weak to admit when one is not alright mentally or emotionally. Our older generations have been taught to be hard-working, strong, push-past-the-pain, and that mental illness equals a problem with someone's character. We need to move past those stereotypes, and once we do then the following generations won't have to grow up internalizing the stigma and shame that currently surrounds mental health.
    Education Matters Scholarship
    In 2013 I moved to Arizona from Colorado with just the clothes on my back and a backpack, riding along with two strangers in a truck across the desert southwest, and was dropped off on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with $40 in my pocket. It was certainly both a low and high point in my life. My life had fallen apart several times, and this latest move to Arizona was about me trying to find myself. I had always in the past been codependent on a significant other. Was married, then divorced. Engaged, then tossed out of my house with my 10-year-old daughter and relegated to sleeping in my older sister's basement while my life was in shambles. This latest relationship had lasted about the same three years as the engagement and had ended with being cheated on and broken up with while a thousand miles from home after moving to Colorado from Michigan. We'd been in Colorado for about 6 weeks when he'd told me he hadn't loved me in over a year, that we were over, and that he'd been seeing someone from work (who was married). I knew next to nothing about Arizona, only that it was a desert and that I was supposed to lead some conservation corps crews down in Tuscon on a 3-month project. Young adults, out in the wilderness, participating in a program that is supposed to teach you personal growth and leadership skills. With a restaurant management background and a high school education in Michigan, my experience in this type of setting was minimal. Managing a restaurant, a business, I understood well. But leading- being a leader- is different, and that was what I had to learn while also teaching it to others all while trying to sort my own life out. The value of my experience during those few months can not be underestimated. As someone who had been in long-term relationships my whole life, the thought of just being alone, far away from anyone I knew, no home, no car, no was terrifying. And yet, I did it anyway. And, I learned an invaluable lesson about life and happiness- that being by yourself is not the same as being alone and that being with someone just to not be alone isn't healthy. I learned the value of positive relationships, communication, and that having something you are passionate about is important. Over three months I learned that certain things I had grown up "knowing" were wrong, and that I could do and be so much more. I hope to finish my B.S. in Sociology early and to continue on to grad school and pursue a Ph.D. in Social Policy. Researching, advocating for, and creating policies that lessen societal inequality is what I aim to do. My educational and career goals stem from my experience- had I not learned that I was capable of overcoming things that made me afraid, to step out of my comfort zone, I would never have returned to college. Going back to school scared me as I was afraid of failing or afraid of not being good enough. I had help along the way. Friends, coworkers, and supervisors who stood up for me, stood by me, or took a chance on me. I realized that those are the people that I really love- those who love and accept me for who I am and who see the potential in who I can become.
    I Am Third Scholarship
    The underdog. The underprivileged. Those that only ever needed one person in their life to lift them up and give them a sense of purpose and belonging. My purpose, my goal, in pursuing higher education is to serve those people. The "why" is because I have seen what happens when you stand up for someone, when you are the one person who tells them that they are worthwhile. An incident that began my drive to stand up for others comes to mind. I was recruiting members for an AmeriCorps conservation corps program, and one of the applicants was a young person of color who was on probation for a crime. He was really interested in the program, passionate, and followed through on all his tasks, paperwork, and interviews. Then, I got a call from him in near tears- he could not join the program because his probation terms stated that he was not allowed to spend the night outside of his county (crews travel across the state and camp for two weeks at a time). He was devastated, and he was one of those for whom a personal and professional development program like AmeriCorps would have benefitted the most yet was prevented from being a part of. So I called his probation officer and had a chat about it to see if there was anything I could do, or sign, or vouch for to get him into the program. There was not. It was court-appointed and there was nothing I could do. This young man called me back and told me that no one had EVER done for him what I had, which was a 5-minute phone call to see if I could help him out. No one stood up for him, gave him the benefit of the doubt, considered him worth their time. He called me to thank me for trying, that he appreciated it, and once he was off probation maybe he would try again. That was 5 years ago, and that phone call and situation had an impact on me. Two years ago he reached back out to me. Not to apply for a position but to thank me once again for being that one person who had a little faith and showed him that he was worth my time and effort. I ended up helping him with his resume. Today, he owns his own business and has a beautiful little boy who I get to see pictures of on social media. We keep in contact and I like to know how he's doing from time to time. I went back to school to study society to best learn how to help others. Hopefully, my path takes me on to grad school where I am planning to get a Ph.D. in Social Policy. My goal is to research, advocate for, and create policies that help people that the world seems to overlook. Sometimes it only takes one person to change your life. I'd like to think that in the big scheme of things everyone needs someone to stand up for them when they are down. Because that is when we need support the most. The future impact of good policy-making and big-picture thinking explains itself. In my vision I see myself helping to improve current policies through research and advocacy, and to create new ones that will have far-reaching effects on many peoples' lives. Whether it is addressing inequality, poverty, racism, etc., I hope that I can help others see their own potential and know their worth, no matter what their situation is.
    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    I was raised on the cusp of two different generations- not quite "Gen X", and not quite a "Millennial". Certain facets of both are deeply ingrained in me, and one of those is the Gen Xer's tendency to dismiss mental health. Not that I dismiss the validity of mental health- far from it- but that I grew up in a family and with peers that didn't learn about mental health, were dismissive of it, and stigmatized those with mental health disorders (whether we realized it or not). The stigma of being labeled, the fear of being ridiculed or shunned, the lack of understanding of what a mental illness was are all parts of my lived experience. No one in my home talked about depression, anxiety, or trauma. We didn't ask about mental well-being. I have had unhealthy relationships with significant others, with my daughter, and with friends because I didn't understand what it was to HAVE a healthy relationship. I didn't know what I know now. It wasn't until I was older and had changed career paths that I started learning about mental health and all of the things that go with it. I started to realize I was affected by my own personal experience with trauma but had never been able to identify or put into words what that meant. The last several years have been a journey and learning experience in personal growth and healing because I was finally exposed to people and organizations that openly talked about these topics, that embraced and helped people with mental health disorders, and didn't judge others. The experiences with these types of people forever changed my opinion about mental health and the way I see the world around me. It built a better understanding of relationships, individuals, and more patience and compassion for others. Since then I have had a passion for advocating for positive mental health and educating others about mental illness. Most recently I organized a "Walk for Awareness" to reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse and educate my community. A large part of my decision to return to college later in life is due to the experiences I had with the organization that taught me so much about myself and how my lived experience affects everything I do, how I feel, and how I react. As a sociology major, I am continuing to pursue an understanding of how society and the individuals in it affect each other, and I am in a unique place to do that having experienced the world views of both generations I am a part of. My goals are to continue fighting against the stigma that surrounds mental health, substance misuse, and poverty by earning my Bachelor of Science in Sociology with a minor in Human Behavior, then go on to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Policy where I will be able to research and advocate for policies that help the people in our society that need it the most. I hope that future generations will no longer have to hide their trauma or their illness- that they will feel secure in seeking help when it is needed, and that we come to realize that stigma, shame, and hiding our pain helps none of us.
    Dynamic Edge Women in STEM Scholarship
    System 001/B from "The Ocean Cleanup" is one of my favorite inventions over the last decade! It is one of the first systems designed to clean the garbage from our oceans and was rolled out in 2018. In just one year the System 001/B cleaned up plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean, and a new model for cleaning rivers is already in the works! I love this invention because instead of like most inventions that make things easier for humans or are invented to make a buck, this was invented solely to improve our world. This isn't an invention geared towards profits or big business, but something that benefits our lives in a much different- and arguably better- way. When people talk about "tech" many of them think iPhones and gaming consoles, electric cars or wind farms, or the latest gadget on the market. We create so much waste because we are so driven by profits and an unwillingness to change the way we live. In my own studies and through my education I hope to do something similar to "The Ocean Cleanup"- improve the world. Through research and finding programs and policies that contribute to the greater human good rather than focusing on profit-making. I know that I will never be rich, and I am alright with that. Wealth is not what drives me. Helping people reach their greatest potential drives me, and understanding people and societies goes a long way to making that happen. Being a positive influence begins with knowing what positive looks like, and it takes time and research to see the effects of a policy or program and its effects. After earning my B.S. in Sociology my goal is to continue on to a Ph.D. in Social Policy at Harvard, where I will continue to learn, lead, and solve problems for the benefit of society. My hope is that I will contribute not only knowledge and policies, but that I will be a role model for others. Leading by example is important to me- I have been led by great leaders and poor ones, so I know the difference it can make in a person's life. Being a good leader means having empathy, drive, knowledge, patience, and integrity. It means that you don't lead for power, fame, or glory for yourself, but that you lead to uplift the people you are leading. And that is what I will contribute to society- lifting others up.
    "Your Success" Youssef Scholarship
    Making a positive impact in peoples' lives is my passion and what drives me to pursue higher education. I have always enjoyed being helpful or helping others, whether it is going above and beyond at work, mentoring someone who needs someone to believe in them, giving a ride to a stranger on a rainy day, practicing emergency medicine, or volunteering overseas in underserved communities. I decided to quit my full-time federal wildland firefighting career last year and focus on my education. While indeed firefighting helps people and communities, my path lies in helping people and communities in a different way, on a larger scale. Seeing the poverty and need in the community where my station was based, I would always think, "How could I help this community? What does it need? How could we improve the quality of life here?" Those thoughts and the musings that came with them led me to explore going back to college, which led to my discovery of sociology, the study of society. Learning about society is the first step to understanding what is happening in it, understanding the context of society and its problems, and I fell in love with my path of study. From learning about how society is created and maintained, to more complex and specific areas such as how society impacts and perceives the environment or the sick, gender, minorities, and class. By discovering how society works, I could begin to see the root causes of things like inequality, environmental degradation, and inconsistencies in health care. And knowing the root cause of something is knowing where to start fixing it. So I am putting myself through college, on my own, so that I can eventually go to grad school and earn a Ph.D. in social policy. That is how I intend to play a larger role in helping people- by creating and supporting policies that address the root causes of social problems, not policies that just treat the symptoms of societal woes or serve to punish those who don't or can't conform. Currently, my involvement in my school and in my community is quite varied- I am a campus leader for a student organization that addresses climate change, I volunteer at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, I have been in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial since last August, I donate blood and plasma (I have a rare blood type), when I can afford to do so I purchase needed item for the local homeless shelter such as socks, mittens, winter hats, and dry food goods. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA working with a local nonprofit and I am creating an online web resource for home health visitors and social workers that attend to mothers and pregnant women that struggle with mental illness, substance misuse, and poverty. This summer I plan on taking a vacation combined with a volunteer program to help an underserved community in Guatemala, and in the past, I volunteered and taught English to foster youth in Romania. I want to help- that is my passion.
    WCEJ Thornton Foundation Low-Income Scholarship
    Going back to college after having dropped out many years ago I think is my greatest achievement so far, because for years the fear of failure kept me from going back. Even though I have had many different types of achievements in my life, none were as intimidating as going back to school. In elementary the teachers told me I was a poor student- I didn't listen enough, do enough homework, or pay attention. In junior high, I failed one class and received poor grades in many others. Somehow in high school I ended up graduating with high honors and did quite well, and in that process, I learned that I had always needed glasses, for one thing, and that I had been bored in my previous classes prior to high school. In 9th grade I got prescription eyeglasses and lo and behold, I could see the blackboard! My English teacher asked me why I was in "basic English"- the only response I had was that I hadn't done enough homework in junior high. He promptly put me in advanced courses, where I proceeded to successfully pass with flying colors. Unfortunately, all those previous years of being told that I wasn't a good student, getting poor grades, and subsequently dropping out of college the first time after two months really made me internalize that I was a bad student and that I would never get a college degree. I concentrated on work, got married, had my daughter, and worked some more. I've since been in a few different careers, moved around the country, volunteered overseas and in my community, and successfully completed a 4-year apprenticeship. Yet even for all that, the thought of going back to college terrified me. "I won't do my homework", "I'll fail", or "I'll get bored and drop out" were some of my fears. None of those things have happened. In 2019 I enrolled back the very same college I had dropped out of back in 1999, and to date I am a sophomore and holding a 3.85 g.p.a., am a campus leader, an AmeriCorps VISTA in my community, and I volunteer at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in my (limited!) spare time. Putting myself through college has been an amazing experience, instead of a terrifying one. My first semester I had a 4.0 g.p.a., and that boosted my confidence so much that I knew I could and would succeed. I am on track to study abroad and finish my Bachelor of Science in Sociology an entire semester early due to my dedication and hard work. This is why going to college is my greatest achievement yet- because I overcame what I was afraid of. I faced my biggest fear, that of failure, and I came out on top.
    Pay It Forward Scholarship
    If we don't help today's generations then we have failed the next, therefore it is vital to not only help in the present but ensure that they in a good position to hand down that knowledge. I, as a parent, need to instill the knowledge and values into my child that will not only help her life now but that she will potentially pass down to others- whether that is children of her own or leading younger generations by example. We also need to first decide as a society what we value. As Americans are we going to value hard work or compassion? Are we going to value money and the economy over human rights? Societies decide what they value, and until we can do that we will not have what we need to see future generations succeed. Americans are torn in a hundred different directions, are divided, and are having a crisis of identity. We seem to value individualism over community, money over humanity, and nostalgia over progress. What do we WANT future generations to look like? Not only that, but we need to realize that future generations will not be what we imagine them to be- we cannot always control outcomes. As we well should know by now, that even actions based on the best of intentions sometimes have negative consequences. Take capitalism and economic progress, for example. Yes, it has helped many people improve their lives and lifespans, yet it has also enormously contributed to environmental degradation, colonialism, and inequality. In essence, neither is more important than the other- unless one cares nothing for the future and only cares about themselves. Is that where we are headed as a society? Our American idealism of individualism seems to have that potential. I think we do care about the future, but as a society we tend to be reactionary instead of pro-active in our decisions. What we think is right today can backfire tomorrow. History has shown us time and again that what we think we know now is rarely what we find it to be later. One has only to look at the industrial revolution or economic globalism and its effects on our planet's ecosystem to realize that. To ensure that future generations succeed we must instill values into our current generations that set them up for success. To determine what "success" means to us is something we need to figure out, first. Our values and social norms need reform if we want future generations to care about each other instead of making a buck. Do we want our children and their children to work themselves into the ground, as our parents did? Do we want them to be cutthroat CEOs who care only about buying the biggest houses or the fastest cars? Or, do we want our future generations to live in a clean, safe world where people help their neighbors and advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves? A world where people can pursue things they are passionate about, where people aren't committing suicide because they are stressed overwork, being bullied, or don't feel good enough. That is the future I want to see, and that is how I will lead today's generations so that perhaps that future can one day be a reality.
    Rho Brooks Women in STEM Scholarship
    How people treat me has been the biggest influencer in my life and has facilitated my growth as a person. Sometimes that treatment has been very negative, sometimes exceedingly positive, but how people see someone and how they treat them impacts their lives more than they generally realize. I had a fiance many years ago who once, during an argument, said to me "you can't fix stupid", and that was one of the most hurtful things I had ever heard him say. The context of it made it even worse- I was trying to express my feelings, and he wasn't understanding where I was coming from. That phrase has stuck with me for over a decade, and even now I bristle if someone tries to belittle or undermine my intelligence and I strive to be the best, get the highest grades, and learn everything and anything. There have been many instances in my life where someone has done or said something hurtful or damaging to me. Some of them pushed me to be better, some of them destroyed my confidence. On the other side are the many positive interactions with people I have had in my life. The kindness of a stranger for even a moment can affect how one sees themselves or the world around them. I have been fortunate to have many people give me a chance they didn't have to give me, and have had support from coworkers, friends, and family at various points in my life when I really needed it. These positive interactions and kindness from others have had the most impact on where I am today. Today I am a confident individual who works hard to get what I want and to help others. Public service was never something I knew much about until one person who had no idea who I was decided to give me a chance at something most adults my age do not have the opportunity to do. That one opportunity changed my life, and steered me in a whole new direction. I went from restaurant management to conservation, environmental and community impact, mentoring, and public service. I chose sociology as my degree because of all of the experiences I have had since then, and because of every positive influence that told me I could. They told me I was good enough, smart enough, kind enough. Those are the interactions I realized that really mattered.
    Liz's Bee Kind Scholarship
    Unfortunately, I will not be able to share this essay with the person who was kind to me, because I don't know who it is. I don't know their name, where they live, or what country they are from. You see, when I was traveling overseas a few years ago I did a lot of it by bus and train, and carried my big backpacking pack around everywhere with me. People could tell that I was a tourist, and I had many, many wonderful encounters along the way. One older gentleman let me wait for my ferry in his car, with the heater cranked way up, and he bought me a candy bar and drove me the last half mile to my destination. He'd seen me soaking wet from walking five miles in the rain, freezing, trying to warm up inside a gas station in Northern Ireland. That is just one example of the kindness that still exists in the world today. The one that made the most impact though was while I was at a restaurant late at night, somewhere in Austria. Again, I had my big backpack near me and I had just gotten off of one train and had a three-hour wait for my next one. After a couple of hours I had a meal, a beer and was ready to pay and catch my train. However, when I told the waitress that I was ready to pay for my meal she told me it had already been taken care of. "By who?" I asked, a little bewildered. She just waved in the general direction of the exit and said, "The man with the blue backpack. Don't you know him?" I certainly didn't know him, and I could not remember anyone on my last train with that description. This sticks out for me because at that time I was traveling around Europe, alone and poor. I was on my way to Romania for a volunteer program, where I was to be teaching Hungarian foster youth English and at that time I had very little money. That this complete stranger, in a country foreign to me, paid for my food and drink without a word before I could thank him was just amazing in that moment. Maybe he was also an American traveling, maybe he saw my backpack, maybe he just wanted to do something nice for a stranger in a strange land...I will never know. But I do know that he made an impact. This was 3 years ago, and I still think about it. It was a small gesture, a few dollars, but boy did it count for something. I think the point is that you never know what being kind to someone will mean to them, or the difference you might make, even if it means little to you.
    A Sani Life Scholarship
    Peoples' perception of reality and how each person sees the world was a big takeaway for me over the last year. One person's "truth" is not another's. While I inherently realized that all people do in fact view the world through different lenses, 2020 not only drove that notion home but exemplified it. From how people rationalize their beliefs to echo chambers to misinformation to being how you were raised and your life experiences...I think we saw just how profoundly different people perceive reality based on a myriad of different factors. For myself, I learned that I cannot teach people what or how to think about things. Even with the best of intentions, if someone fundamentally has a different way of seeing the world than you, then nothing you say or do will change their mind. At heart I am a learner and an educator. This past year was difficult in the sense that I learned so much, about many different things, but failed most of the time in trying to educate others about those same things. I had to learn (and it took me all year) to not try to correct or inform those with significantly different beliefs. Trying to point out a conspiracy theory for what it is, educate about vaccines or how masks work, explaining systemic racism...confronting people on these topics, even in the gentlest of manners, is really tough. Our culture does not allow us to make mistakes and be wrong in our beliefs- it is seen as a weakness, and we get defensive and dig our heels in when we are told that we might be mistaken about something. I also learned and will remember losing friends and even family members because of differing beliefs. At some point, one has to decide what they value and the people they want to associate with based on mutual values. Losing a relationship because you realize that someone's values completely go against your own is hard when it's someone you care about. I had people I've known my whole life stop talking to me on social media because when they would share misinformation or belittle a group of people I would point it out. I did so kindly, with the best of intentions, and tried to steer them towards "correct" information, but ultimately their world view and mine clashed at a fundamental level and eventually they just stopped listening. The same happened on my end. People I've known since grade school- whom I liked the company of and had fond memories with- I had to stop talking to and in some cases even block on social media because of what they would say to me or how they would comment on my posts. An educational post about climate change, vaccines, masks, or BLM would turn not only into a heated debate, but certain people would be downright offensive and rude, leading to me having to remove them. It was frustrating and heartbreaking because these were people I thought I knew, that I cared about. Overall the year 2020 was stressful for us all, and everyone reacts in different ways to stress. We feel the need to control SOMETHING when our world is turned upsidedown, and that can be something as insignificant as buying all the toilet paper or trying to control how people think about the world. But while you can buy TP or bake bread, you cannot control what people think or how they feel. This past year made me realize how important things like education, truthful media, and trust in leaders are. It shaped my own perception of reality and the world and likely changed my own path in ways yet unknown to me. It certainly made me more aware of how people really see things- 2020 brought the best and the worst in people, and that change how I saw them, for better or for worse.
    Little Bundle Supermom Scholarship — College Award
    My essay will be a little different in regards to the topic of single mothers. Yes, I was a single mother, and unfortunately I was unable to go back to school until my daughter was grown. My motivation now is to be a leader by example to my daughter, and show her that adversity and challenges can be overcome. I struggled as a single parent to do more than just work to put a roof over our heads and food on the table, and a change in careers later in life took me away from my daughter at an important stage in our lives. When I chose to become a wildland firefighter, I thought that because I was working only 6 months out of the year and in our home state that I would have more time for my child, especially since she had become a teenager at that time. I also thought that I would have more money and opportunities to help my daughter, or be able to do things with her. Well, you know what they say about good intentions. Because of that job I missed my daughter's 16th, 17th, and 18th birthdays because I was out West fighting wildfires and her birthday falls during peak fire season out there, in early August. When fire season was over she was in school. My job didn't pay as much as I thought it would. In the end, I missed almost 4 years of my daughter's formative teenage years. And I have paid for it dearly. She now has an apartment and works in a small town about 20 minutes from me, but we don't see each other often. In over a year in fact. She resents me for not having been there for her for those several years, and looking back on it- she is right to do so. While in my mind I thought I was doing this for her, in her mind I put my job ahead of her. And when I reflect on it, I did. Four years goes by quickly, and while my intentions may have been long-term goals, I was not present in the moment when I needed to be. My daughter was never a huge fan of school, although she was always very intelligent and liked to learn, read, and draw. She is a talented artist. However, her dad told her when she graduated high school that she had to find her own place within two months. Neither of us could afford to send her to college, and although I suggested many other opportunities and offered to help find programs that she would be interested in I think she was just overwhelmed. While at the moment we only speak briefly and not often, I want to be a positive influence on my daughter, even if it is from afar. I want her to see that challenges can be overcome. I want to earn a degree and create policies that help other mothers like myself be able to spend time with their children instead of struggle to make ends meet. I want to be able to have money to put aside for her for when and if she ever needs it. Just because we are mostly estranged does not mean that I don't care about her or resent her for not wanting to be close at this point in time. I understand her reasoning, I respect her space and her feelings. My hope is that one day she will be willing to forgive me for when I wasn't there when I should have been. That I can be a positive influence in her life. That I can help other single mothers have better relationships with their children and not make the same mistakes I made. My dream is to continue my education after earning my bachelor's by pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy. While I have worked with (am currently working with as well) non-profits, my goal is to be in a position where I can have an impact for the greater good, on many lives. Creating and supporting policies that help individuals and families is a huge part of that dream, and this scholarship would help by taking some of the financial burden and stress away. I know that I cannot afford college without student loans, and scholarships are just one way to help me not borrow more than I will be able to afford to pay back. The less I have to pay back after college, the more money I can save and put away for the future.
    Breanden Beneschott Fire Memes Scholarship
    #justkeepsmiling #thisisfine #everythingisfine #staypositive
    Act Locally Scholarship
    So many things, but improving education and empathy are high on that list. Informed and educated people make informed decisions, and people who have empathy are more likely to be more understanding and tolerant of those they may not agree with, which leads to caring about each other, helping each other, and thereby supporting their communities. I act locally by volunteering with or working with organizations that educate the public and help others. Right now I am involved in several projects, both at my school and outside of it. My position as a campus leader for NMU Citizen's Climate Lobby helps engage students to learn about climate change and carbon emissions so that they can engage with local leaders to fight climate change. As an AmeriCorps VISTA in Marquette, Michigan I am working on a year-long project to bring awareness and reduce shaming of those with substance use disorders, and creating a comprehensive educational resource for home visitors that have clients with children that have neonatal abstinence syndrome. In one class we are doing a research project that will assess what type of and how much research experience undergraduates at Northern Michigan University are being exposed to and see what is working and what we can do better. In the past, I have also been active in the community through AmeriCorps and volunteerism- from working with local community partners to remove invasive species and bring awareness to outdoor spaces and conservation efforts to doing medical triage in a homeless clinic, and having a table at a job fair for homeless youth that led to hiring two people and changing their lives. Everything you do in your community makes a difference. Unfortunately, that also includes the negative things that people do. Many times that negativity is based on fear and misunderstanding, and by educating people and communities, fighting misinformation, being compassionate and empathetic, and listening to each other we can start to get to a place of kindness. Because that is what seems to be missing on a community level in some areas, that kindness component. Being kind means you think about other people, even if you don't know them. It means that you want other people to be healthy, to succeed, to be happy...even if you don't have those things. So in my communities I have acted with compassion, empathy, and kindness. I strive to be a positive influence as well and educational. Even on social media I have a strong drive to educate, inform, and still be kind about it. It's easy to get frustrated with people who see the world differently than you do, and it is important to remember that we are ALL exposed to different things in our lives and socialized differently, and those circumstances make us who we are. Even people who buy into conspiracy theories- it's really not their fault. As a nation we are so focussed on ourselves and on being individuals that we are losing that sense of community and compassion for those in them. The change I want to see is us finding the balance of individualism and community. We can be ourselves and still care about those around us. No matter how much one wants to be an individual or think that they don't matter in society, we are all a part of it. From the person who hands you your fastfood to the person who picks up your trash to the doctor that fixes your broken body- each and every one of us matters, and we need to be able to see that and appreciate each other.
    Harold Reighn Moxie Scholarship
    Beginning with the death of my mother from cancer, my life has been filled with adversity- which has only made me a better, stronger person. From the divorce that got me out of a toxic relationship, a break-up that led me to AmeriCorps, homelessness that showed me how to adapt to almost any situation, and a job that drove me to quit and instead go back to college, all these challenges and setbacks have made me who I am today. I can honestly look back at my life and see the trajectory had each one of those challenges not occurred, and mostly I don't like where I may have ended up. Don't get me wrong though- these things come with drawbacks as well! However, overall I think my life is on a better path right now than it ever has been before, and that would not have been possible without each and every tough time throughout my life. For some context, my mother passed away when I was 12 years old. Now, I loved my mother and she was one of the nicest people anyone could have met. Yet she also let me and my older sister run around and do pretty much whatever we wanted as well, with very little discipline. My sister is 11 years older than me, so experienced this until she was an adult. I got a step-mom who was controlling and a dad who was devastated by the loss of his wife who became over-protective of the youngest daughter. Yes, there were problems with this. Ultimately though it benefitted me in the long run by having more accountability. Even when an incident occurred my senior year and I left home after graduation because of this same overbearing type of parenting, it forged resilience and independence. My most recent challenge was with my recent job. When I took it, I had no idea how little it actually paid, that there was really no affordable housing in the area, amongst other things. This ended in me working full-time as a federal employee fighting wildfires, but living out of my car, finding places out in the woods to sleep because most of the time I couldn't even afford a paid campsite. This position I had accepted was a 4-year apprenticeship, and I refused to give up and quit, even given the circumstances. I didn't quit, and I became the first apprentice ever in my district to complete the program, which has about a 40% success rate. Unfortunately, being homeless was not the only challenge I faced at that job. I got a different boss two years into the program, and it an emotional rollercoaster ride from there-on-out. He made the last two years of my apprenticeship a real struggle- screaming at his employees for little things, not setting expectations, embarrassing fits of temper in public when making purchases, calling us stupid, insulting was bad. That is what drove me to quit after I finished the apprenticeship, but that is also why I went back to school. The experience taught me, even more than before, what not to do as a leader. The above-mentioned adversities are not a comprehensive list of my past challenges, and there will be other challenges in the future. There will ALWAYS be adversities, and how one handles them is what makes all the difference. These life lessons have taught me empathy, compassion, critical thinking, flexibility, self-reliance, independence, tenacity, and more. Currently, I am a sophomore in college, back at Northern Michigan University after a 20-year break from school. I dropped out after 2 months back in 1999, and haven't had the courage to come back until now. Everything I have gone through in the last 20 years has led me back here, and I am doing better than I ever imagined I would be. I hope to keep learning and use what I have experienced and learned for the greater good. Public service has been my passion for almost a decade, and that is why I chose sociology as my major. Understanding society and the people in it are the keys to helping both, and I hope to pursue a path in public policy and leadership. The many challenges I have faced over the years gives me a unique perspective as compared to most college students, and I will use those lessons to my advantage. Experiencing helps with understanding, and that combined with education puts me in a position to make a difference in peoples' lives. That is my goal- to make a difference, and have a positive impact.
    Make Me Laugh Meme Scholarship
    This is from my first large wildfire- I am the second from the left. Our crew had to run to safety on the Sapphire Complex in Montana, in 2018. We watched the fire roar over the hill, come across a marsh, and start throwing embers into our safety zone from across a creek. The fire spotted a quarter mile away and we hiked up to dig line around it because there was a house on top of the hill that was on fire. During the several hours that this all was happening, our crew had one of the best attitudes I have ever seen. Firefighters to a certain degree love the adrenaline and chaos that comes with their job, and we were still safe (mostly) where we were, despite the fire behind us.
    Amplify Continuous Learning Grant
    I am currently working on resource development for home visitors to mothers with substance- particularly opioid- abuse disorder and infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome. This is a one-year long program where I will be doing community assessments in my area on maternal opioid abuse disorder, and then creating a reusable, comprehensive resource for home visitors to utilize that will contain trainings, printable documents, information about OUD and NAS, community partnerships, and more. The goal is to reduce the stigma surrounding substance use disorders while creating accessible materials to better help people with them. Also, I am working on a group research project for my university in one of my classes and hoping to get into the McNair Scholars Program geared towards preparing for graduate school after earning my bachelor's. The grant money would go a long way toward helping pay for any research costs, my college courses, and independent learning that will boost my chances of getting into a good doctoral program, as I plan on going straight to that instead of doing a masters program first. Being a first-generation college student and returning to college after a long time out of school has been challenging, especially financially. Whereas I previously had a federal wildland firefighting career, I gave it up to be able to get a degree. Going from making $45k per year or more to only $15k in a volunteer program is a real financial struggle, but the experience and learning opportunities are worth it.
    Charles R. Ullman & Associates Educational Support Scholarship
    "Having a sense of community." What does that mean? Likely it means something a little different to each person in regards to their own community, but on a whole it means feeling like a part of a group, a sense of safety, and shared commonalities. When we are part of and engaged in a community we learn about the people that make it up. Through frequent association and interaction among others in a community, we build understanding and empathy, trust and security. We start to want to help each other and look out for each others' well-being in our communities. I started being active in my communities several years ago, and I have to admit that I didn't fully understand what it meant to actually "serve a community" until then. There are many, many ways to get involved in a community, and my first experience was through working on public lands. Cleaning and restoring parks and recreation areas by maintaining hiking trails, restoring city parks, and the neverending fight to remove invasive species on public lands. At first I thought I was doing it for the land itself, in the name of conservation, but slowly came to realize that it was the people that were important. Helping other people grow and giving them opportunities they may never have had become my focus. Since that first summer working on public lands in Wyoming, I have stayed active in my communities in many different ways. Through volunteer work during events and national days of service, holding hiring events for disadvantaged youth, working in medical triage for the homeless, purchasing and donating cold-weather items and food for my local homeless shelter, and my current role as an AmeriCorps VISTA creating educational materials for home visitors who have clients that are mothers with opioid abuse disorder aimed at reducing the stigma around substance abuse disorders and getting these women lasting help and treatment, my aim is to help those people in communities that don't have the same advantages as many of us, and that often get overlooked. I returned to college in 2019 to pursue a bachelor's degree in sociology and human behavior in order to understand communities and societies better. After earning my degree at Northern Michigan University I am going to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology with a focus on public policy, and then a career in public policy or government. With knowledge and understanding comes the ability to have a greater impact and help more people, and that is- in simple terms- my ultimate goal.
    Brady Cobin Law Group "Expect the Unexpected" Scholarship
    Legacy means leaving something behind that will affect future generations. Now, that could be for good or bad, but typically when I hear "legacy" I think of people like Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander Hamilton, or Bill Gates. A legacy can be almost anything, but the one thing that, to me, it has to be is something that has a lasting impact. There are many kinds of valuable legacies- from the United States founding fathers in regards to our nation and democracy, to fighting racism, fighting for equality, bringing awareness to the plight of our planet in regards to pollution and climate change (shout out to Greta!), and medical legacies such as Edward Jenner, the inventor of the vaccine. I want to leave behind nothing so tangible as the aforementioned leaders. The legacy I hope to leave is more subtle- a legacy of kindness, support, giving people a chance, and building people up. One of the most rewarding things I have ever heard is when someone I have worked with or been a part of their life has told me, "You made a difference in my life", or "You are the only person who has ever stood up for me". THAT is the kind of legacy I want to leave. When you help people whom no one has ever helped, they remember that. It makes a lasting impression and sometimes even can change the course of their life, thereby giving them the chance to uplift others in turn. In 200 years I don't expect anyone to remember my name, but I hope that my lifting up of others has been paid forward by those I helped today.
    Pettable Pet Lovers Scholarship
    This is Denali, and while he is unfortunately no longer with me he was the absolute best dog. He was a special needs rescue, though I had gone to the shelter to look at a puppy. I immediately saw this fluffy red Siberian husky and my heart melted. It wasn't a question when they let him out and he climbed into my lap, and I took him home that day. He just loved everybody and his only goal in life I think was to be pet by as many people as possible.
    Nikhil Desai "Perspective" Scholarship
    Busting rocks with a sledgehammer in 100+ degree heat will change your outlook on life, let me tell you. Having grown up in Michigan and spending a fair amount of that time in the Upper Peninsula- knowing the same people, working the same job, living in the same community- gave me a pretty limited view of the world. My hometown was a small rural town in lower Michigan and after high school I moved to Marquette in the "U.P." to go to college. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for this transition and dropped out after a couple of short months. Over the next several years I got a job, got married, had my daughter, and generally stayed in one place, Marquette, living a pretty sheltered life of work and hanging out with a few friends. As happens in peoples' lives, problems arose and I found myself separated from my husband and living alone for the first time in my life, back in my hometown. A few years later I found myself out west living in a tiny town in Colorado, with someone that I had moved across the country with, who broke up with me a month after we got there. Not a great situation to be in. How I got where I am today is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but long story short is that the summer in Colorado, after my break-up, I packed what I could fit into a hiking backpack and caught a ride from a couple of strangers to Arizona to start a new job. They dropped me off in the monsoon rains on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, where I spent a week backpacking and living off of the $40 I had to my name. After my first ever solo backpacking experience, I made my way down to Tucson, Arizona, to start my new job. Some background on my previous work experience- I worked for 11 years at McDonald's restaurants, 10 of those as a manager. Other than in my own garden I had never really worked outside other than 3 months in Wyoming that year. This new job was with Arizona Conservation Corps, where I would be leading conservation corps crews into the wilderness areas of the desert to build and maintain hiking trails, to run chainsaws, to drive on mountain roads that were barely navigable...let's just say it was a far cry from my previous life and work experience! My first season at Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC) went really well- I honestly hadn't expected to like the desert, and in fact ended up falling in love with the desert Southwest. In addition to the area in general, the people and the way I managed people was completely new to me. Instead of trying to make a profit and product, I was in charge of fostering personal growth of my crew members. AZCC is a program that is based upon national and community service programs for young adults- it's goal is to give people work, life, and leadership skills to the members. Communication, conflict resolution, and interpersonal skills are some key aspects of the program. My job was to facilitate these things for my crew. It was completely different than anything I had ever experienced before. The fact that I did well that first 4 months, from September-December, really made me want to continue this line of work. As the season came to a close and I was going to start looking for another job, my boss offered me the opportunity to come back for the next season, January-July. I readily accepted, and as we were talking he casually mentioned that my crew would be working in the Grand Canyon. The first AZCC crew to EVER work in the Grand Canyon, by the way. This was not only exciting, but the honor of being trusted to run a crew by myself in a National Park just really made me want to do the best I could do and make our organization proud. So that is how I found myself that following summer, busting rocks in a national park with 6 other people, living in a bunkhouse down in the canyon. The crew makes and eats meals together, lives together, travels together, and works hard together. You really get to know people when you live and work in that type of setting. You learn about your people's needs, thoughts, life stories, problems, embarrassments, happiest times, and more. I had a crew member who was an alcoholic because his dad was dying of a terminal illness. A girl who had never held a job for more than three months in her entire life. A gay man who used sass and attitude as a front to protect himself. These people and that experience are what changed my outlook on life. I learned about PEOPLE during that experience. The greatest impact on me was when two of those people- who hated each other and had had constant conflict all season- worked together to help someone on the crew who was in need. That person in need was me. I had just found out that my Dad had lung cancer and was having surgery that he might not survive, and I didn't have enough money to go to Michigan. Those two crew members worked together to put create a fund for me so that I could go home. If nothing else was accomplished that season but them being able to put aside their differences and work together for a common cause out of compassion and empathy for another human being, I consider that a success. Those 6 months of my life of hard physical labor combined with the closeness of such a diverse group of people helped me be the person I am today. From there on out I have dedicated myself to community service through helping and teaching others. And that experience is why I went back to college.
    Mental Health Movement Scholarship
    One of the most important aspects to helping others with mental illnesses is to remove the stigma around them. There are so many people in need of help who go without because they are afraid that by doing so it will label them or that they will be treated differently. Seeing close family members who need help for mental health issues like anxiety and depression go without treatment is hard, and sad. They may admit internally that they have a problem, but for them to admit it to anyone else or to seek help is almost impossible for them due to their fear of the stigma behind having a mental illness. Even myself there are times in my life when I knew that I should talk to someone, but just couldn't bring myself to admit that I needed it or to seek out help. I am one of the lucky ones that got through some tough situations that could have turned out very different. I want to use these experiences and my education to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and find ways to get people the help they need. It can be expensive, seeking treatment, and many of the people who need it cannot afford it. Making mental health resources readily and equally available is something I would like to see happen. Currently I am using a close relative's experience with opiod addiction to help my community by joining an AmeriCorps VISTA program geared toward reducing the stigma of parents with children who have neonatal substance abuse syndrome. Finding the gaps in coverage and knowledge, I will be creating educational and informative resources for home visitors who work with families in these situations that will help reduce the stigma surrounding it and allow them to better address their clients needs.
    Yifan Zhu "Late Night" Scholarship
    My life experiences are what led me to return to college, so I have those "experiences outside the classroom" to thank for allowing me to even have a college experience. Being engaged in community service-based programs allowed me to see the world differently and change my career goals. It also gave me the self-confidence to return to college after many years with the belief that I could in fact succeed academically. From working with AmeriCorps programs to wildland firefighting, each public service experience instilled an even greater desire to contribute to other peoples' well-being and success. Currently I am in my sophomore year at Northern Michigan University, studying sociology and human behavior, with the intent that after graduation I will be able to utilize the knowledge I have learned combined with my life experiences to contribute to the greater good in our society. That could be in the form of working again with nonprofits like AmeriCorps programs, research, or public policy and government. Being active in the community and having a positive impact on others is important to me. My current ongoing non-classroom activities are being a campus leader for Citizen's Climate Lobby, being an AmeriCorps VISTA member in which my job is to create resources for home visitors who have clients with children with neonatal substance abuse syndrome, and being in the Student Leader Fellowship Program. All these different experiences give me further insight into people and communities, their needs, and what I can do to address those needs. In the past I have of my own volition traveled to Romania to teach foster children English as an international volunteer, taught wilderness first aid to young adults, led volunteer groups on hiking trails to learn about how they are maintained, and many others. I have a lot of areas of interest, and I think that makes me a better informed individual who can make informed decisions. One of my current involvements is being in a vaccine trial for COVID-19. When the pandemic started I immediately began looking into a way to help- from signing up for volunteer services, donating to shelters, and looking at ways to help with research. My first one was being in a six month long mental health study, and shortly after I found that Moderna had one of their vaccine trial clinics close enough to where I could participate. These are things that I can do to be part of the solution in a crisis, and they just reinforce the desire to be a positive influence on people and communities. All these experiences lend themselves to furthering my career goals of helping others- whether that is education or policy or leadership- by reinforcing empathy for people, knowledge, and hands-on skills. Being a "jack of all trades" has served me well in my life. I am an extremely independent person because I have had such a variety of experiences and skill sets. Going back to college was a scary decision for me- I dropped out the first time, and I was afraid of failure. After two years back, I am no longer afraid of failing. I have proved to myself that I CAN do this, and will do this. But it took every life experience outside of the classroom to succeed.
    Great Outdoors Wilderness Education Scholarship
    My life has frequently revolved around the outdoors. From catching frogs and bugs as a child in the backyard pond, backpacking national parks, building hiking trails for AmeriCorps, to fighting wildfires, it seems like every turn I take is geared towards being in, educating others about, or preserving our outdoor and wilderness areas. I have learned just an incredible amount over the years, and surprisingly most of it is actually about people, not just nature. Being outside, especially away from cities, changes people. They open up, they relax, the become...more themselves. After my very first time backpacking I could sense a difference in myself, and in leading other people into the wilderness it was amazing to watch them change. I learned so much about people while spending time with them in our wild areas that it completely changed my goals in life. Not only do I want to save our outdoor spaces, but in doing so teach people about themselves. Seeing people grow, become confident and sure of themselves while learning about each other all while at the same time learning how to live with nature and preserve it is an amazing thing. Taking someone who has never camped a day in their lives and getting them that experience is incredibly powerful. Seeing a young person from their first day sleeping outside and answering the hundreds of questions they ask to a couple months later when they are confident, strong in mind and body, and teaching the next new person about their experiences in turn is just a great feeling. Being able to mentor young people in that way shaped my outlook and my future in regards to my career path and education goals. I went from a restaurant management career to an outdoor career, which has turned into a path of helping others while also educating them about our environment. Recently I took a course in environmental sociology, which was an eye-opener. Learning about how and why people feel they way they do about our environment, climate change, and how they react to it gave me some wonderful insight into human behavior surrounding the great outdoors. I have always been a fan of keeping our world clean and preserving wilderness areas, and after years of working outside, fighting wildfires, and taking classes concerning how people interact with the environment I feel that I am on the right path towards being able to have a greater and more meaningful impact. My plan is to continue to be an advocate and an educator of the outdoors by being an advocate and educator of people. Getting people out there to have experiences in our state and national parks builds a desire in them to keep them wild and clean. However it is costly and difficult for many people in the U.S. to actually get to a national park. Between taking time of work, travel costs, entry and lodging, food, camping or backpacking gear, all that adds up which is making it even harder for families and people of lower socioeconomic status to be able to enjoy our wilderness. I hope to one day be in a position to create policies that help people access green spaces, parks, and wilderness. Whether that looks like more funding for schools for field trips, building green spaces in cities, or having special programs to get lower income household easier access to our parks remains to be seen.
    Nikhil Desai Reflect and Learn COVID-19 Scholarship
    I wanted to contribute to the pandemic in a positive way so I worked with an AmeriCorps program to hire contact tracers while also enrolling in a COVID-19 vaccine trial. I know that a lot of Americans have started to be skeptical of the safety of vaccines, however misguided. By essentially "taking one for the team" it allows me to show my trust in science, speak with insight and education to others who might not understand the testing that vaccines go through, and show them that this IS safe. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly affected us all, in many ways. Personally I have found that being unable to go out and interact with people, reading social media about people not taking the pandemic seriously, and the partisanship that's happening in our country have really made me struggle with my perception of people. Having always loved being around people and talking to people, I have generally given most people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to seeing most people as "good" people. The actions and words of people during the pandemic has left me in an existential crisis- I want people to be good, have empathy and compassion, and do things for the benefit of their communities. However I have come to see so much more hate, ignorance, and a distinct LACK of compassion that I so value. And that negativity frequently comes from misinformation and partisanship. What I have learned is that while I knew beforehand that misinformation was an issue, I don't think I realized just how pervasive it is, and how difficult to near impossible it is to change peoples' minds once they have a belief about something. You can throw all the facts in the world at people, but if those facts go against their world view or personal beliefs they will find some way to "explain" away those facts. It's frustrating to say the least to see what misinformation, partisanship, and lack of critical thinking have done to our society. Currently our country is split nearly 50/50 in our beliefs, which makes it almost impossible to unite together for any one cause, such as this pandemic. We have begun to politicize everything- from vaccines, to climate change, to poverty, to masks, and it is a huge problem. I cannot state just how big of a problem that this is becoming, and it has the potential to become worse. Americans have because devaluing higher education and expertise (such as doctors and researchers) because they see a YouTube video that contradicts what the experts say, yet is what they WANT to hear or believe. Our all-American sense of rebelliousness and personal freedom and independence is actually doing us a disservice because it has made us unable to see the big picture and work together for each other. My major lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic have been that people will not always act for the good, but that it is also not individuals who are at fault but our culture that is at fault. We need to handle misinformation and partisanship, because right now it is literally killing us.
    "Be Bold" No-Essay Scholarship
    Bold Moments No-Essay Scholarship
    That's me, second from the left! This was my first big wildfire after starting a career in wildland firefighting at the age of almost 37 years old. We were in a safety zone because the fire exploded, forcing dozens of us to flee there. A spot fire started a quarter mile away on a hill, near a home, and my crew hiked up it during this to put out the fire before it got to the house on top.
    WiseGeek Life Isn’t Easy Scholarship
    Being homeless while fighting wildfires was certainly one of the more difficult challenges I've experienced. After leaving Arizona to return to my home state of Michigan for a federal wildland firefighter job, little did I realize just how financially tough it would be. Unbeknownst to me when I took the position, I was taking a major pay cut. Adding to that were the expenses of buying work gear, driving to Michigan, and trying to find a place to live. Which proved impossible. The only rentals that might having been affordable were over an hour drive away, which meant that the money I might have saved would just be spent in gas. The town where I was based had no rentals, and the next closest city had only prices over $500/mo. Between my car and insurance, gas, food, gear for work, and phone I just couldn't afford it. I was making little over $11/hr, with quite a few deductions such as health insurance, TSP, retirement, dental, vision and not to mention just regular taxes! But I really wanted the job, as it was a permanent federal career. Also I had come back to Michigan because my dad had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, and my daughter lived there as well, so being closer to my family was why I returned. So I stuck it out- and lived out of my car for two years to make it happen. campgrounds and dispersed camping in the forest, the occasional parking lot or rest stop became my haunts. Frequently my meals consisted of SpaghettiOs, canned beans, gas station food, and other cheap meals that I didn't need a refrigerator for. One of my coworkers unflatteringly labeled me their "resident homeless apprentice". I spend my time off fishing, reading, hiking- all cheap or free past-times. I couldn't just set up my tent most of the time, because I had to be ready at a moments notice to travel for work. So each day I needed to break down camp, which generally was just me taking down my hammock (weather permitting), or most of the time just tossing my sleeping bag from the front seat of my car to the back seat. I own a Nissan Versa sedan...not exactly the most comfortable car to sleep in, even when it was not full of all my worldly possessions. In the end my perseverance and sacrifice paid off, though. After two years, three raises, and a lucky break in finding a roommate, I was able to secure an apartment, get caught up financially, and even go back to college. I finished my apprenticeship early and with flying colors. I traveled to Europe to volunteer with teaching foster children English. I am now a campus leader of a student organization and passed my first semester last year with a 4.0 gpa. The whole experience left me with a sense that I can do anything, overcome anything, if I put my mind to it. Being a problem solver at heart, and just not being willing to give up, gave me the tools I needed to carry on, succeed, and excel. Hardships make us who we are- they cane make or break us. It's all about the attitude one takes any given situation. My attitude is that I see any challenge as an opportunity to learn and overcome it, and come out stronger for it. As far as my future goals, well, again it's all about not giving up, pushing through, knocking off the dust and trying again. It's about keeping that positive attitude through hardship, thinking critically about problems and situations, and even understanding and being ok with the fact that things won't always go my way. These skills with help me achieve whatever I put my mind to in the future.