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Kurtis Riener

4285

Bold Points

5x

Finalist

2x

Winner

Bio

My name is Kurtis Riener and to sum myself up in one word I would say: indomitable. I have struggled with Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, and Substance Use Disorder since 2014. The early years were the most challenging and scariest years of my life. With determination, love, and support I have overcome this adversity. I am 2 years sober and live every day knowing it's a gift. Persevering over my struggles was the most satisfying and rewarding challenge I have risen to in life, that is why it is my mission to become licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) so I can practice therapy and guide others towards their own internal triumph. While achieving this dream will take many more years, I do what I can to make an impact in the present. I have founded and facilitate my own substance abuse support group and am the treasurer and a facilitator for a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. I also take what I learned in my journey through addiction recovery to sponsor young men like me who are just entering into the world of sobriety. I am determined to use my lived experience to help those who suffer like I have and show them there is a life worth living.

Education

Chabot College

Bachelor's degree program
2020 - 2022
  • Majors:
    • Psychology, General

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Master's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Psychology, General
    • Social Work
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Mental Health Care

    • Dream career goals:

      LCSW/Therapist

    • Barista/Cashier/Shift Lead

      Share Tea
      2015 – 20172 years
    • Data Entry and Customer Service

      Tri-CED Community Recycling
      2013 – 20218 years
    • Barista/Cashier/Shift Lead

      Toco Tea
      2021 – Present3 years

    Sports

    Track & Field

    Varsity
    2011 – 20165 years

    Cross-Country Running

    Varsity
    2011 – 20165 years

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Tri-CED Community Recycling — Food server and Dishwasher
      2012 – 2016
    • Volunteering

      Self Run Support Group — Founder and Facilitator
      2020 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance — Treasurer and Facilitator
      2021 – Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Michael Valdivia Scholarship
    Fully clothed, I sprinted from my room to the shower and unleashed a torrent of frigid water onto myself. The water felt like daggers on my skin and my breath was stolen from my lungs. The shock to my senses, however, felt like salvation. Just moments earlier, I had been dealing with another agonizingly intense bout of depression and anxiety and knew I was only moments away from doing something rash. Thankfully, the icy water removed the veil of dark thoughts that had been draped over me—for the time at least. Sadly, this was more or less an average day in my life during this time, and it wouldn’t be the last time I had to rush into a cold shower, clothes and all. Since the young age of 15, I have fought a battle with bipolar disorder and anxiety that has tested my will to survive at every turn. Depression weighed me down like a blanket woven with iron chains. Like a thief in the night, it stole my ability to feel joy, gratitude, or sometimes anything at all. Anxiety was an invisible monster that tore me to shreds from the inside out. Every moment of every day I felt like I was in fatal peril, like there was something horrible looming around every corner. I woke up each morning awaiting the moment I could go back to sleep, and I went to sleep each night dreading the coming morning, for only in sleep could I be free of my living nightmare. My years-long struggle with mental illness turned a promising life into a hopeless void. I dropped out of school, was unable to hold down a job, isolated myself, and felt unable to continue on. While my memory from those years is hazy, I remember very well the two attempts I made on my own life, the six times I was admitted to psychiatric wards for my own safety, the countless rounds of electro convulsive therapy, and the accidental drug overdose I had when I turned to substances to numb the pain. And yet, here I am today, writing this essay. I thought those years would be the end of my life, in reality, they were the beginning. Throughout all that time, despite the adversity I faced on a daily basis, I kept fighting. I went to therapy, I took my PHP/IOP programs seriously, I forced myself to exercise and meditate, and I put myself through hell to get sober. Now I’m starting my new life, one I will never take for granted, one where I have the confidence to know I can handle any challenges thrown my way, and one where I can smile. Today, I am over two years sober, volunteer for and facilitate two different mental health support groups, work part time, and am about to transfer to a four year university. I pursue my education with the end goal of becoming a therapist because I want to show people who have struggled like I once had that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I want help to help others see mental illness like I do: a darkness that can be defeated and allow us to appreciate the light in life like few people can.
    Bold Community Activist Scholarship
    I woke up on the ground at my lowest of lows, literally. I had had an accidental drug overdose in the park and passed out as the result of a seizure. My years-long battle with addiction and mental illness had reached an apex. I needed help, and I found it in the open arms of my community. I entered a local chemical dependency program, went to support groups, and put in the work. Today, I am over 2 years sober. Something I learned in recovery is that no one makes it out alone. My recovery was only possible because of the loving, empathetic, and compassionate people around me. Some knew my pain and others didn’t, but they all lifted me up when I struggled to stand on my own. I am only alive today because my community was there for me, and now, it’s time I was there for them. It started shortly after the pandemic. With in person services put on hold and the emergence of virtual one’s still lacking, I founded a local online, addiction support group. The experience and confidence I gained from facilitating that group led me to step up in my local bipolar support group where I volunteered to become another facilitator as well as treasurer for the chapter. But I was hungry to do more, and so the day came when I starting sponsoring young men in addiction recovery. These acts brought meaning and purpose to my life. This work has been the experience of a lifetime and fuels my drive to become a therapist working in addiction and mood disorders. I will never be able to put into words how grateful I am for those who saved me, but I will work everyday for the rest of my life to pay it forward.
    Youssef University’s College Life Scholarship
    My current laptop has a battery life of 1.5 hours. Long enough to dive through the rabbit hole of cat videos on youtube but certainly not long enough to make it through some lectures. As someone with career aspirations of becoming a therapist, buying a new laptop could enable me to change a life. I could use it to take notes on a lecture about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; a modality that can help a depressed teen see that the notion that everybody in their life hates them is a cognitive distortion. Or help someone with OCD realize that nothing bad will happen if they don't turn the lights on and off again 7 times before going to bed. It would allow me to get on Zoom to attend the depression and bipolar support group I facilitate and act as treasurer for, even while I'm away at school. Likewise, I could use it to facilitate the addiction support group I founded. I could even use it for my own self-care. I could go to a coffee shop to write and learn more about poetry, the creative outlet that enables me to express feelings that I sometimes just can't with normal speech. To some, a laptop is just a device to watch funny cat videos on. And I for one am absolutely guilty of this. But it's more for me. A new laptop would be the instrument that allows me to fulfill my purpose in life.
    William M. DeSantis Sr. Scholarship
    Every addict who has found a better life in sobriety knows, and lives by, a single phrase: “One day at a time”. As a proud addict in recovery, I am no exception. This phrase—which represents a much greater mindset—has allowed me to grow from a youth in fatal peril to a vibrant young man thriving in life. Benjamin Disraeli, former prime minister of the UK, once spoke a quote that my own life has silently taught me itself: “There is no education like adversity”. Today, I consider my education—an education that spans so much further than the walls of a classroom—to be beyond extensive; of course, this is only possible because of how familiar I have become with adversity. At the age of 15, I began a relentless battle against mental health and addiction. What followed were years of pain, sadness, and suffering. As a result, I turned to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to cope. This escalated until the day I had an accidental drug overdose in the park, that was the day I realized something had to change and I checked myself into a chemical dependency program. In that program, I learned to live “one day at a time”. In essence, even in a world where the challenges you face are overwhelming and endless, there is only so much adversity that can be fit into one day. Taking this perspective a step further, even less adversity can be fit into an hour or even a minute. Put simply, we do not have to conquer all adversity we will ever face at once. In fact, there is an infinitely small amount we have to overcome in each moment depending on how we look at it. That is not to say our challenges are gone or that we don’t have to deal with them, it’s just that we don’t have to be consumed and overwhelmed by them. This seemingly obvious advice was what enabled me to take my first step in recovery and begin my new life. With this advice in mind, I walked step by step, down a new path. I hold those words close as I pursue my education to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I will focus on one assignment, one test, and one client at a time until I reach my goal. And though my vicious battle with mental illness and addiction has settled down to a mere shoving match, I will continue to cope with the struggles it brings me knowing I only have to tackle one at a time. Despite my newfound strength, for many years in the past, I considered myself weak. There was a time when simply getting out of bed, feeding myself, and attending to my hygiene were monumental tasks. However, I survived and I grew. Today, I work part-time, attend school, do volunteer work on a weekly basis, and live a full life. I am no longer crippled by fear, I go forth in life knowing no matter the size of the challenge, I will always be able to handle it. No, I was never weak, and today, I am indomitable. I now sponsor young men new to addiction recovery and I always instill in them this mindset during our first talk because I know the power it holds. Though seemingly small, a simple shift in perspective can turn a mountain into a mound. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but honestly, I don’t have to. All I ever have to know is what is in store for me today.
    Lo Easton's “Wrong Answers Only” Scholarship
    1. My life has not been an easy one. I have overcome so many obstacles to get to where I am today. But the reason I deserve this scholarship only has to do with one challenge in particular, the most demanding and emotionally taxing of them all—my rise to becoming the world speed record holder of deshelling a raw egg! I deserve this scholarship because I have conquered adversity! 2. I study animal science so that I may better understand the egg. As they say, to beat the egg, one must know the egg. Once I have obtained my Ph.D. in oology, the study of eggs, I plan to give back to the community. I will open a non-profit centered around teaching other's the rewarding art of deshelling raw eggs. My programs will be affordable and eggcelent. 3. As mentioned above, my greatest obstacle in life has been achieving the speed running record of deshelling a raw egg (which is 100% possible due to eggs having a thin membrane between the shell and whites). Honestly, I've been through shell and back. I've had to overcome hand cramps, chipped nails, and salmonella but like the mighty egg, I cannot be broken (assuming you handle me very gently)!
    Bold Wise Words Scholarship
    As someone who is over two years sober, when I pick up a new sponsee (someone new to sobriety who I will help guide using my own lived experience), I end my first talk with them using the same quote: "Live your life one day, one minute, one second at a time". I use this quote because it is the reason I am alive and well today. Before I founded an addiction support group and started sponsoring young men new to recovery, I was struggling with my own addiction. I admitted myself to a chemical dependency program and it was there that I heard the mantra that would go on to change my life: "One day at a time". I've tweaked the quote a little because for me, sometimes even taking things "one day" at a time was too much. And while this advice was what saved me from mental health issues and addiction, it should be noted that it can apply to all facets of life. In short, it means we should focus on the here and now, not necessarily ignoring the future but also not letting worries about the future overwhelm our present selves. It's all too easy to get caught up in tomorrow: "How can I be sober for the rest of my life?", "How will I ever finish school?", "How will I make it to my dream job?". In reality, all we need to focus on is the next step, if we don't, we will trip. So to anyone reading this, whether you have your own mental health or addiction struggles, don't know where you're headed in life, or simply feel overwhelmed, just remember to look at that very next step ahead of you. Live your life, one day, one minute, one second at a time.
    Bold Goals Scholarship
    My pride mirrored his own. He sat there, grinning the widest grin I have ever seen and I couldn’t help but do the same. I was out at dinner with my first ever sponsee in addiction recovery and I had just asked him how it felt to be 1 month sober. In that smile, I found my purpose, my future. That future will be defined by my aspiration to become an addiction therapist. But before I could help others, I needed to help myself. I had struggled with addiction for years and one day found the courage to seek help. I checked myself into a chemical dependency program and, with the help of my peers, I turned my life around. Today, I am over 2 years sober and am determined to pay it forward. While it will be years before I can work on a clinical level, I do what I can to prepare myself for what is to come. It began when I decided to found and facilitate a local substance abuse support group. That experience lit a fire under me and inflamed my desire to do more. I started using my lived experience with addiction to sponsor young men who were new to sobriety. These endeavors have given me a sneak peek of my future career, and I can hardly wait for what is to come. I’ll never forget the look on my sponsee’s face that day. My own journey to recovery has filled me with some of the most intense joy I have ever felt, but sharing that journey with another transcended even that jubilation. I did drugs to feel on top of the world and forget my pain, but that kind of high is put to shame by the unrivaled exhilaration of helping change a life.
    Bold Persistence Scholarship
    “FIGHT IT, FIGHT IT, FIGHT IT!”, I screamed to myself as I ran to the bathroom and hopped in a cold shower, fully clothed. I was having another agonizingly intense period of depression and knew I was only moments away from hurting myself. Thankfully, the blast of frigid water shocked my senses and tore away the veil of dark thoughts that loomed over my mind. I was once again safe, at least, for the time. Since the young age of 15, I have fought a battle with bipolar disorder and addiction that has tested my will to survive at every turn. I have faced no greater obstacle in my life and doubt I ever will. My illness led me down a path of suffering, rage, shame, self-harm, and even brushes with death. Today, these struggles are a thing of the past. I live an incredibly full and happy life, happier I imagine, than if I had never had to face these struggles in the first place. It was no easy task to get to where I am today though. I had to dedicate hours upon hours of my life to therapy and outpatient programs, I had to commit myself to exercise and holding down a job when even just waking up in the morning felt as difficult as climbing Everest, I had to stay sane as my illness tried to tear my mind apart, and most of all, I had to find a way to love myself and believe I deserved a better life. I still work on my mental and physical health every single day because my “obstacle” will never truly leave me, but I know in my heart that I will never let my “obstacle” have that kind of power over me again.
    Bold Generosity Matters Scholarship
    “I’d like to facilitate next week if that’s alright with you guys”. I spoke these words less than an hour ago to the two other leaders of the Young Adult San Jose chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) in our post-meeting chat. Every week we host a peer-led, virtual support group for young adults who are suffering from mood disorders. I volunteered to facilitate—as I have many times in the past—because I believe actively supporting those around you and building up one’s community are essential principles of generosity and make life meaningful. I hold these beliefs deep in my heart because there was a time when I needed the generosity of others. I was battling a relentless battle against bipolar disorder and addiction and I struggled to survive. In the pursuit of health, I met incredible people—people who showed me support and love and enabled me to thrive in life. Once I reached a place in my life where I could prosper, I decided it was time to pay it forward and show the same generosity I received to those who come after me. Today, I am not only the treasurer and one of three facilitators for the San Jose DBSA, but I have also founded and facilitate a local addiction support group in the Bay Area. I have even gone on to sponsor young men who are new to addiction. Generosity is so much more than just showing kindness to others; it is the act of recognizing the trials and tribulations those around us face and actively being there for them and showing them that they are not alone in these difficult times. In the end, I believe generosity is one of the core attributes of the human experience that can make life so amazing.
    Hindsight 20-20 Essay Scholarship
    My sense of relief battled with my disappointment. I was finally getting a break from my nightmare but at the same time, I had failed. Instead of finishing off the last semester of my time in high school with my peers, I had to attend an adolescent mental health outpatient program during the times I should have been in school. I had severely overexerted myself and it had finally caught up to me. I was driven to excel as far back as elementary school. I always got near-perfect marks and was in an accelerated math and English program. In middle school, I took all the honors classes I could and would always be doing at least 2 sports at a time. Finally, in high school, my desire to excel became a destructive fervor to be perfect. I maxed myself out on AP and honors courses, never settling for anything less than an A. All the while spending hours upon hours on the track, pursuing my passion for pole vaulting. Once classes would get out, I would stay on the track till 7 PM. From there, I would do homework and study till the early morning, almost always getting less than 5 hours of sleep before I would have to rise. My obsession to be perfect ended up being my downfall and one of the biggest regrets of my life. With an underlying predisposition towards bipolar disorder, the phenomenal amount of stress I took on paired with a complete lack of much-needed sleep resulted in a severe case of bipolar disorder and anxiety. My illness came truly manifested about my junior year and by the middle of senior year I was so sick I had to be pulled out of school. Due to my stellar history of grades, my school worked it out so that I would still graduate with my peers. But that was little comfort when confronted with an illness so severe that I would go on to try to end my life on multiple occasions. While academically I strongly believe my education prepared me for college, it had failed to prepare me as an individual. My school district fostered an extremely competitive environment where grades and ranking were everything. I ended up being ranked 9th out of a class of 990 students but at what cost? In a way, my school district had failed me, and many of my peers, by placing too high of an importance on education and not enough on how to live a healthy life. Our k-12 education is not just preparing us for college, it prepares us for our adult lives. My schools fell short of this ideal. However, I hold no resentment and acknowledge most of the blame lies in my insecurities and need to be the best. The funny thing is, while in the short term my schooling had led to severe burnout due to a lack of life skills, what followed was a remarkable journey of personal growth. Today, I am completely stable, back in school, have a job, and live a life fuller than I could have imagined. In a way, my education incidentally led to more growth and preparation than I could have achieved without overcoming my adversity. Looking back, I would have done things differently. I would have taken fewer AP classes, more fun electives, and all in all, just tried to live a more balanced lifestyle. It’s great to strive for excellence but don’t strive for perfection. There is no such thing and the pursuit of such an ideal all too often leads to disaster.
    Bold Meaning of Life Scholarship
    His exuberant smile quickly spread from ear to ear as overwhelming pride washed over me like a tsunami. “I just—I can’t believe it, man. It just feels—ah! Oh my god!” I was out at a celebratory dinner, and I had just asked my first ever sponsee in addiction recovery how it felt to be one month sober. I will never forget the look of stunned disbelief and exhilaration on his face that day, nor will I forget how it made me feel. Before I could begin my journey of sponsoring young men in addiction I needed some guidance of my own. I spent years battling a vicious addiction. When I could no longer bear the pain my battle brought me, I admitted myself to a chemical dependency program. Today, I have 2 years of sobriety under my belt and live the fullest life I could have ever imagined. That program not only changed my life but what I valued and sought out of it. As the recipient of unimaginable support and love from those who encouraged me on my transformative journey, I realized I wanted—I needed—to pay it forward. Today I currently facilitate a substance abuse support group that I founded in my community over a year ago. Furthermore, I continue to sponsor young men who are new to addiction, hoping to see that shining smile on all their faces. I have found no greater pleasure in life than that of helping my fellow addicts. In their smiles, I see the beauty of the world, my purpose, and my meaning in life. In the pursuit of this ideal, I aspire to become a therapist specializing in addiction. Addiction almost ended my life, but on my recovery journey, I have found the thing that continues to make life meaningful—human connection.
    Bold Selfless Acts Scholarship
    I came back to consciousness face down on the concrete. How did I get there? The world was fuzzy. What was going on? I got up and found my head was dripping with blood. There was an alarming amount of blood pooled on the ground too. Dazed and confused, I started my walk home... I look back on that day with alarm and regret but also with a profound sense of gratitude. I had had an accidental drug overdose in the park near my house and by some miracle, I survived. I was beyond foolish that day. However, the reason I am grateful for such a terrible mistake is because it brought with it the realization that something had to change. Not long after that fateful day, I admitted myself to a chemical dependency program. There, with the love and support of my peers and the program director, I got sober. Today, I have over 2 years of sobriety under my belt and have been working to repay my debt of gratitude. My first step toward paying it forward was when I founded and began facilitating an addiction support group within my community. Inspired and hungry to do more, I eventually started sponsoring young men who were new to addiction. My commitment to my community has been a symbiotic relationship, as I help them, they help me. I continue both endeavors to this day and desire to help my community further by becoming a therapist specializing in addiction. They say, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". My mistake may have made that phrase a little too literal for comfort but it stands true. I will continue to help my community with everything I have because doing has not only given me meaning in life, it has saved my life.
    Bold Gratitude Scholarship
    It’s funny the difference one day can make in a life. One day I was despairing, hopeless, and had given up on life. The next, I was surrounded by friends and family, so grateful to see their faces. One day, I had swallowed a bottle of pills hoping to end it all. The next, I woke up, very much alive, and surrounded by loved ones in the ICU. Today, I live a full and amazing life, but there was once a time when mental illness and my struggles had beat me down. However, it is my firm belief that contrast can bring out the true beauty in our lives. That is why my battle and the triumph over it have gifted me with a profound sense of gratitude for all the good in my life. I am most grateful for having overcome a substance use disorder. Upon doing so, my life took the most dramatic 180. I am grateful for my peers in sobriety who encouraged and supported me at every step. I am grateful for my friends and family who made sure, every day, that I knew I was loved. And I am grateful for the amazing mental health professionals who worked with everything they had to make my life better. I feel like a young blind man who was gifted with sight. At first, all I saw was darkness. Now, my life is vivid and bright and even the simple sight of those I love can spark an overpowering sense of appreciation for the beauty in my life. However, I find myself with an unsettled debt of gratitude. For the humbling change in my life, I aspire to become a licensed therapist specializing in addiction. Because, what is gratitude without the desire to pay it forward?
    Bold Career Goals Scholarship
    My pride mirrored his own. He sat there, grinning the widest grin I have ever seen and I couldn’t help but do the same. I was out at dinner with my first ever sponsee in addiction recovery and I had just asked him how it felt to be 1 month sober. In that smile, I found my purpose, my future. That future will be defined by my aspiration to become a therapist specializing in addiction. But before I could help others, I needed to help myself. I checked myself into a chemical dependency program and, with the help of my peers, I turned my life around. Today, I am over 2 years sober and am determined to pay it forward. While it will be years before I can work on a clinical level, I do what I can to serve my community today and prepare myself for what is to come. It began when I decided to found and facilitate a local substance abuse support group. That experience lit a fire under me and inflamed my desire to do more. I started using my lived experience with addiction to sponsor young men who were new to sobriety. These endeavors have given me a sneak peek of my future career, and I can hardly wait for what is to come. I’ll never forget the look on my sponsee’s face that day. My own journey to recovery has filled me with some of the most intense joy I have ever felt, but sharing that journey with another transcended even that jubilation. I did drugs to feel on top of the world and forget my pain, but that kind of high is put to shame by the unrivaled exhilaration of helping change a life.
    Bold Success Scholarship
    My pride mirrored his own. He sat there, grinning the widest grin I have ever seen and I couldn’t help but do the same. I was out at dinner with my first ever sponsee in addiction recovery and I had just asked him how it felt to be 1 month sober. In that smile, I found my purpose, my future. That future will be defined by my aspiration to become a therapist specializing in addiction. But before I could help others, I needed to help myself. I checked myself into a chemical dependency program and, with the help of my peers, I turned my life around. Today, I am over 2 years sober and am determined to pay it forward. I want to show others the unbelievable difference sobriety can make in a shattered life. While it will be years before I can work on a clinical level, I do what I can to serve my community today and prepare myself for what is to come. It began when I decided to found and facilitate a local substance abuse support group. That experience lit a fire under me and inflamed my desire to do more. I started using my lived experience with addiction to sponsor young men who were new to sobriety. I have found that both endeavors not only help my community thrive but enrich my own sober life. I’ll never forget the look on my sponsee’s face that day. My journey to recovery has filled me with some of the most intense joy I have ever felt, but sharing that journey with another transcended even that jubilation. I did drugs to feel on top of the world and forget my pain, but that kind of high is put to shame by the unrivaled exhilaration of changing a life.
    Bold Reflection Scholarship
    It was around 11:58 PM and I was ordering an oreo milkshake at the Jack In The Box drive-through. The plan was to be cruising through the green lights, listening to music, sipping on my delicious milkshake, and reflecting on one of the biggest achievements in my life as the clock struck midnight. Instead, I sat idle in the middle of the drive-through waiting my turn to pay. However, I was not dismayed; nothing could stop me from smiling, laughing, and shedding tears of joy as I counted down to my two-year sober mark. My life has not been an easy one. At the age of 15, I began facing the living nightmare that is bipolar disorder. Unable to cope, I turned to drugs and alcohol. What followed was years of a destructive addiction that tore my life apart and ended in an accidental drug overdose. I knew on that fateful day that something had to change. Not long after, I admitted myself to a chemical dependency program and turned my life around. Inspired and hungry to pay it forward, I founded and began facilitating a substance abuse support group in my community. Fueled by the incredible feelings it spurred in me, I started sponsoring young men who were new to recovery. Drugs and alcohol could never compare to the high these activities brought me, and so I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Today I pursue an education to become a therapist who specializes in addiction. I will make it my life’s work to guide those seeking to change their lives because I know just how powerful such a transformation can be. In that drive-through, stuck staring at the car in front of me, I saw the rest of my life.
    Bold Fuel Your Life Scholarship
    Winner
    “How does it feel, Georgie?” “I—I just can’t believe it! It feels—Ah! Oh my god!” Two simple sentences but I’ll never forget them. I had just asked my first ever sponsee in addiction recovery how it felt to be 1 month sober. His reply—remarked with an ear-to-ear smile on his face and a look of stunned belief—warmed my heart and told me I found not just my passion but my meaning in life. For many years I fought an unrelenting battle with substance abuse issues. During those times, I was a shell of who I am today. I had no drive, no passion, and no purpose. Today, with over 2 years of sobriety under my belt, I have found my purpose; I have found that helping others achieve the same transformative journey towards recovery fuels my life. My journey toward sponsorship began shortly after my first relapse. I had entered a time in my life where I found myself with a limited support system. Knowing how vital such a system was, I founded and started facilitating a substance abuse support group in my community. The support group lit a fire under me and inflamed my desire to do more. I began pursuing what was once an idle dream and started sponsoring young men who were new to recovery. Having made progress with this goal, I have found no greater pleasure in life than watching my sponsees reclaim their lives and celebrating their victories with them. The look on my sponsee’s face on that fateful day was all I needed to know what I wanted to do in life. Today, I pursue an education toward becoming a therapist specializing in substance abuse issues. To say guiding others towards recovery fuels my life is not enough, it has saved my life.
    Bold Speak Your Mind Scholarship
    I have been warned by those who have come before me that I should avoid sharing what I consider to be a very important part of my identity. They advised me that doing so will result in being ostracized and will hurt my career. They told me I shouldn’t share with people that I am bipolar and an addict. But I refuse. I am proud that I have bipolar disorder and am a recovered addict. Mental illness was the single greatest adversity I have known. And while I still have my challenges, I no longer let mental illness call the shots. I am able to effectively deal with the adversity it presents and I live a full life. My battle with bipolar disorder and addiction is a key part of my identity because I am not defined by what my challenges did to me, I am defined by how I overcame them. So with that in mind, why would I ever hide the single greatest triumph of my life? Do people sometimes get uneasy when I mention I am afflicted with mental health challenges? Yes, but they are not the people I choose to fill my life with. Have employers given me a hard time because I was honest in saying that the reason I needed a week off was because of mental health complications? Sadly, they have; but I do not fear them or the power they may hold over me. And most of all, I stay true to speaking my mind and being open about my challenges because I know it paves the road for the next generation. I envision a world where mental health issues are treated with the same urgency and acceptance as physical illnesses are; I envision a world that is stigma-free.
    Bold Encouraging Others Scholarship
    “So how does it feel, Georgie?” “I—I just can’t believe it! It feels—ah, oh my god!” Two very simple sentences but I will remember them forever. I had just asked my first ever sponsee in addiction recovery how it felt to be one month sober. His reply, spoken with an ear-to-ear smile and a look of stunned disbelief, warmed my heart and told me I had found my purpose in life. Before I could begin my journey of encouraging others though, I needed a substantial amount of encouragement myself. I suffered from years of substance abuse issues that tore my life apart. I checked myself into a substance abuse program and thanks to the amazing people I met, I recently celebrated my two-year sober anniversary and have been using my lived experience to sponsor young men who are new to addiction recovery. As a sponsor, I walk a fine line between gentle support and tough love to guide my sponsees towards the right path. To encourage them on this difficult journey I will find and go to meetings with them, help them set and achieve goals, check in often and make myself available when crisis situations develop, and do just about anything else to let them know they are cared for and supported. On top of ensuring they attend outside meetings, I will have them attend the self-run substance abuse support group I founded and facilitate so they can talk to their sibling sponsees and the very people who encouraged me. Recovery saved my life and I want others to experience the same life-altering transformation for themselves. I will continue to guide those who are seeking a better way and I will do it like I have done for my own journey, “one day at a time”.
    Bold Confidence Matters Scholarship
    The first day I found true confidence, even if it was just a sliver at the time, was October 22, 2019—the day I finally decided to admit myself to a chemical dependency outpatient program. There, surrounded by fellow addicts who would become my family, a program director that cared about me more than I even cared for myself, and unlimited decaf coffee, I began to learn what it meant to have confidence. In that program, I learned I can overcome all adversity and that I am worthy of love. The program director taught me how to face my challenges, my peers showed me love and instilled in me that I have inherent self-worth, and the coffee—well the coffee wasn’t half bad either. I write this essay on May 22, 2020, and on May 26, 2020, I will be two years sober. While the program got me started on my journey, I had to work on furthering my confidence every day since then to get to where I am today. In the pursuit of continuing to overcome adversity, I facilitate an addiction support group that I myself founded, because it is there that I continue to learn new ways to thrive. In a similar vein, I remind myself of my self-worth by sponsoring young men who are new to sobriety because as I help them find love for themselves, I recognize I deserve no less. I didn’t have confidence because I was an addict and I was an addict because I didn’t have confidence. To me, confidence is an unrelenting belief in our ability to persevere and the realization that we deserve love. I’ve found my confidence and I will work every day to build up not just my own, but that of my peers in recovery.
    Bold Bucket List Scholarship
    I’ve seen all of America’s national parks, skydived, and have competed in the Junior Olympics. For some, these are achievements and dreams worthy of scratching off their bucket list. And while I cherish these experiences, they are not penned onto my own list. For what fills the page of my own lifelong aspirations are solely goals surrounding the lasting impact I hope to impart on others. My life is one that has been saved and influenced by those around me. Due to a debilitating battle with mental illness, I didn’t think I had much of a life to live at all, certainly not one where I could rise to my own dreams. Now, living a full life, it’s my turn to pay it forward and help those who still struggle. On the top of my list, bolded and underlined, is the phrase: “Become a therapist”. As a therapist, I will be able to repay my debt of gratitude and make an impact. This aspiration encompasses all the biggest goals I hope to achieve in life. Whether those be to show another addict the wonders of sobriety, to show another person with bipolar disorder that there is more to life than manic highs and depressive lows, or simply to be the person someone can turn to when they need help. Achieving my main goal will take years but I do what I can today to begin. I currently facilitate and act as treasurer for a bipolar support group, I have founded, organize, promote, and facilitate an addiction support group. And I sponsor young men like myself who are entering the world of addiction recovery. There was a time when my bucket list was empty—now it’s filled and I will make it my life’s work to scratch each and every item off.
    Bold Relaxation Scholarship
    “Oh jeez, that’s hot!” I blurted out as my back rested against the wood that made up the sauna’s bench. It was my first time in a sauna and while I expected it to be hot, I was not anticipating the stinging burn I would feel as I put my back against the wooden rest. Thankfully, the sudden spark of discomfort was short-lived, and so I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath… Relaxation and mental health go hand in hand and by finding the time to do the former we care for the latter. My ritual of relaxation is two-part: first I’ll get a good sweat going at the gym, and then I’ll get a great sweat going in the sauna. By itself, exercise is one of the best ways we can care for our mental health, and while exerting yourself to the extent that you scrunch up your face and grunt is not exactly relaxing, what follows is an unrivaled sense of peace and calm. Taking it a step further, I have begun unwinding in the sauna after a workout. And although the heat and torrents of sweat feel good, the true benefits of my time in the sauna lie in the meditation and mindfulness the environment promotes. My sauna time is my “me” time. It is my respite from the world and my troubles. As I walk out of the gym—and after a much-needed shower—I feel I can handle anything life has to throw at me. In a post-pandemic world, we could all use a little more relief and relaxation in our lives. I found mine, and perhaps you could reap the same benefits if you gave my routine a try. But, if it’s not for you, I guess it’s nothing to sweat about.
    Bold Empathy Scholarship
    My mind was muddled; the brain fog was severe. Unsurprising considering it had only been two days since an intentional drug overdose. I was in a dark place—devoid of hope and overwhelmed by depression. I needed support; I needed someone who understood. And in the adolescent inpatient psychiatric ward at Herrick Hospital, I found it. I met kids who I could relate with and who were there for me. It was like we were in the trenches together trying to survive the throws of mental health. With empathy in hand, we did everything we could to stop the bleeding and bandage each other’s invisible wounds. I had always understood empathy was an important quality to possess and use, but ever since that day I knew in my heart that, for some, empathy saved lives. Today, I apply that “bandage” as often as I can manage because I know empathy can heal the wounds we can’t see. I believe empathy is like a muscle, you need to use it to build it up and make it stronger. To build and maintain my empathy muscles I do a variety of things. One of the primary ways I do this is through the most simple but perhaps most powerful empathy exercise of just listening, relating to, and being there for someone. And as someone who can often relate to others’ pain, I may take more direct action to cheer them up by baking them something or buying them a small gift—a way of letting them know there is someone out there thinking about and caring for them. At the end of the day, I believe empathy is more than just understanding and sharing someone’s emotions, it’s using that powerful connection to be a healer, to be their medic in the trenches.
    Bold Hope for the Future Scholarship
    In the fall of 2015, I lost all hope. My battle with bipolar disorder got the best of me and I couldn't keep up the fight any longer. Without hope and filled with anguish, I rushed to the medicine cabinet, grabbed a bottle of benzodiazepines, and urgently downed them all before I could change my mind. Without hope, I had no future. Yet, here I am today writing this essay. Although I only made it past that dire day due to chance and luck, I owe it to an ever-growing sense of hope and optimism that I've made it through every day since then. Despite my disability, I consider myself lucky because even though I am afflicted by mental health issues, I do so in a society that is beginning the movement toward a world where we can talk about mental health issues with the same confidence we would a broken bone and treat them with as much urgency as we treat cancer. Watching and being part of such a movement lets me know there is indeed a brighter and better future ahead of us. This movement is still young, but it shows promise. I've observed in mental health support groups I attend that older generations will not talk about their mental health challenges outside of the support group whereas younger generations will not only talk about them openly in their personal lives but will even mention such challenges to their employer in some cases. I do not blame my seniors for possessing the mindset they do, they have been conditioned to keep their struggles under the surface. That is why I am grateful that I have the privilege of being as open about my illness as I want; I know not everyone feels the same way I do yet, but I strongly believe we are progressing towards such a future. Not only is the conversation beginning to take place but we are finally putting the importance on taking action that has been so desperately needed. More and more people are accepting the help of therapists, attending support groups, and practicing self-care. The fields of therapy and psychiatry are also expanding to meet the need. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment will rise by 16% for Marriage and Family Therapists and 12.5% for psychiatrists from 2020 to 2030. The rise of self-care and the expansion of mental health services make me optimistic that one day, we will give as much credibility to a mental health day as a sick day. A future without hope is no future at all. Today, I possess a profound sense of hope; I bear witness as more and more courageous souls begin to let their stories be known and advocate to get their needs met. This movement towards increased awareness and recognition of mental health issues is what gives me hope for a better tomorrow; looking ahead I see a brilliant future, one bright enough for us all to bask in.
    Jameela Jamil x I Weigh Scholarship
    Helen Keller once said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much". The concept of a community is a beautiful thing; a group you can share the experience of life with, depend on, and rally with. Community is something of an ideal for me and I strive to improve my own, but to understand how I have shown up for my community, we must first discuss how my community has shown up for me. From 2014 to 2020 I struggled greatly with a debilitating mental illness. Every day was a battle; a battle to get up, a battle to feed myself, a battle to survive. Life during that time was not only terrifying, but it was agonizing. Desperate for relief and clueless as to how to find it, I turned to drugs and alcohol. By 2019 I was deep in my addiction and had lost hope. In the fall of that year, my addiction got the best of me and I had an accidental drug overdose. By grace and luck, I survived, and it was then that I realized something had to change. Not long after, I started the journey toward the rest of my life, and it all began when I admitted myself to Fremont Hospital's chemical dependency outpatient program. In that program, surrounded by fellow addicts, I met the people who would go on to change my life. I was shown unconditional love and support. I spilled forth my shame and guilt and was met with acceptance. I struggled through the pain with them and I celebrated victories with them. The people I met in that program became my family, and I loved them. Inspired by the type of people I met in the program, I began attending support groups in my community like AA and Lifering. When I saw the fantastic change such services brought about I began attending bipolar support groups and there too I found understanding, acceptance, and support. Today, I am less than 2 weeks away from being 2 years sober, I'm completely stable, and I am loving my life. My community gave me a second chance at life, and that's why I will make it my life's work to repay my debt of gratitude. In order to rise to this aspiration, I am working on my education with the end goal of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker so that I may practice therapy in my community. And while this goal will take many years to see come to fruition, I am already working hard to further my already incredible community. Inspired by the people who put on these life-changing social services and support groups, I began to follow in their footsteps. I currently facilitate a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and carry out the role of treasurer for them. Furthermore, I facilitate an addiction support group that I myself founded. Lastly, I have begun sponsoring young men like myself who are new to addiction recovery. Seeing the change happening in my community and knowing I had a hand in it-there are simply no words good enough to describe how it makes me feel. On my own in life, I barely managed to stay alive; with my community, we thrive. My community saved my life and continues to improve my wellness every day; it's the gift that just keeps giving. I don't think I will ever be able to put into words how thankful I am for them, but I will use my actions every day for the rest of my life to show it.
    Bold Motivation Scholarship
    Motivation is essential to survival. Without the drive to eat, we starve. Without the push to care for each other, we perish. And without the pursuit of wellness, we cannot truly live. I made my way through life for many years without the capacity for motivation. I struggled deeply with my own mental health and addiction issues. Thankfully, I found my motivation. I found the incredible healing powers of a loving community that inspired me, and allowed me, to truly live. My journey through mental health, and especially through addiction recovery, taught me that while some of us are not always strong enough to make it on our own, anyone can persevere with the support of loved ones. It was through the help of many support groups and group mental health programs that I got to where I am today. I am nearly 2 years sober, completely stable, and loving life. To pay back my debt of gratitude for such services but also to ensure my own wellness I currently facilitate a mental health support group and an addiction support group, the latter of which I founded myself. I also use my lived experience with addiction to sponsor young men like myself who are trying to find their own path to sobriety. It is through these bonds and communities, both old and new, that I found what I was looking for. Every day I learn something new, every day I am inspired by the effort I see put forth by my peers, and every day I am reminded that we are stronger together. I couldn't make it through life on my own, but I never had to, because I realize now all I needed were the right people in my life to motivate me to thrive.
    Bold Joy Scholarship
    I have found no greater joy in life than the joy of helping others. But before I could help others, I first needed help myself. From 2014 into 2020 I struggled with severe mental health issues and addiction. The concept of joy was foreign to me. I woke up despondent and went to bed despairing. Every day was a battle; a battle to get up, a battle to feed myself, a battle to simply survive. Thankfully, I was surrounded by incredible people who showed me the restorative powers of love, support, and human connection. Today, I am nearly 2 years sober, completely stable, and loving life. Joy was once a foreign concept to me but now it is a gift I am fortunate enough to experience on a daily basis. Oddly enough, my battle with mental health led me on the most joyous journey of my life. I will be forever grateful to those amazing people who gave me a second chance at life and I am determined to pay it forward. In my pursuit of repaying that debt of gratitude, I aspire to become licensed as a therapist, not only so that I may show others the joys of life but to nurture my own sense of joy. While that goal will take many years of school and hard work to come to fruition; I seize joy in the here and now by trying to help my community. I currently facilitate a mental health support group and an addiction support group, the latter of which I founded myself. Furthermore, I use my lived experience with addiction to sponsor young men like myself who are trying to find their own path to recovery. I found my joy, now, I will help others find their own.
    Bold Best Skills Scholarship
    My best skill is one I gained through observation, exposure, and lived experience; it is my ability to support those around me emotionally. In its adolescents, this manifested as me being "the shoulder to cry on" for my friends. To me, support isn't necessarily about giving advice, though I will if it's requested of me, but rather it's simply being there and listening to those going through a hard time. However, this skill was, in large part, molded by my experience being the one needing support. From 2014 into 2020 I struggled greatly, first with mental health issues, and later from addiction. It was through the love, support, and connection with those around me that I was healed. Today, I am nearly 2 years sober, completely stable, and loving life. My journey through recovery showed me the importance of having a support system. I was inspired by those who gave me a second chance at life, that is why I aspire to become a therapist; an everyday superhero who can provide the ultimate emotional support. And while that goal will take me many years, I nurture my budding skill by trying to improve my community in the here and now. I currently facilitate a mental health support group and an addiction support group, the latter of which I founded myself. Furthermore, I use my lived experience with addiction to sponsor young men like myself who are trying to find their way into a sober lifestyle. Each of these endeavors revolves, primarily, around supporting the emotional needs of those around me; whether that takes the form of listening, empathizing, or even just finding a way to bring a smile to a peer's face on a bad day. Support is not just a skill to me, it's my reason for living.
    Bold Loving Others Scholarship
    I'm sure we've all heard the proverb, "Time heals all wounds", but I would argue there's an equally true phrase, that is, "Love heals all wounds". I am a firm believer in this notion because it was love, support, and human connection that healed my deepest of wounds. From 2014 into 2020 I suffered greatly from mental health and addiction struggles. I couldn't win the battle on my own, thankfully, I didn't have to. In the fall of 2019, I admitted myself to a chemical dependency outpatient program and met people who would become my family; people who taught me love conquers all. You see, the core principle of recovery is support. That's what we did, we supported each other. We checked in every day, opened up about our flaws and shame to each other, and were there for each other. I still talk to my peers from recovery nearly every day, they are my family, and I love them. Those incredible people saved my life and I will be forever grateful for them. And while each of us knows, without a doubt, that we all have love for each other, we recognize the importance of paying it forward, not just to ourselves, but to the addict still struggling. That is why, following my graduation from the program, I founded and began facilitating my own addiction support group. It began with those peers I met early in sobriety but has expanded to those we invite who we know need the support. Furthermore, I make it my mission to sponsor young men like myself who are new to addiction recovery, guiding them with my own lived experience. Love does indeed heal all wounds, that's why it's my mission to create a community of love so that together, we can prosper.
    Trudgers Fund
    Winner
    My journey through addiction was a subtle one. At first, no one noticed, especially not myself. With time, those closest to me began to take notice, and gently, tried to nudge me in the right direction. I wasn't exactly resistant but I did not take their suggestions to heart. It seemed my slow and steady march towards destruction was not enough cause for alarm. It took something with a little more flair, a red flag that said, "This path is killing you", for me to realize I needed help. In the fall of 2019, an accidental drug overdose caused me to have a seizure in the park and woke me up to the reality that I needed help. I was lucky to survive, but I was just as lucky for everything that followed. Not long after that fateful day, I began my time in a chemical dependency outpatient program. It was there, with the incredible people I met, that I turned my life around. My path toward addiction was an all too common one. I suffered from severe mental health problems including bipolar disorder and anxiety. Desperate for relief from symptoms I had no skills to handle, I turned to self-medicating, primarily with alcohol and marijuana. The drugs and alcohol masqueraded as a support, they brought relief and a smile to my face, but behind the scenes, they were digging me into a deeper and deeper hole. It didn't even occur to me that each draw made the psychosis more real or that every drink made the depression more severe. In the end, I was simply seeking relief, but from all the wrong sources. Through love, support, and human connection, I found the relief I had been seeking, and with it, I found a full life. Overcoming my mental health and addiction struggles was the single most rewarding experience in my life but I would be remiss if I said I had done it alone. It was only through the love and support of my family, friends, and health care professionals that I made it to the other side. I cannot express the gratitude I have for those who gave me a second shot at life, but I will make it my life's work to pay it forward. I am in school to achieve my aspirations of becoming a licensed therapist with the goal to help those who suffer from mood disorders and addiction. While this goal will take many years, I still do what I can today to begin repaying my debt of gratitude. I currently facilitate a mental health support group and an addiction support group, the latter of which I founded myself. I also use my lived experience to sponsor young men who are new to addiction recovery, guiding them as I myself was guided by those who came before me. I have found that there is no rush like impacting the lives of those around you and no drug can compare to the joy and pride I felt the first time I took a sponsee out to dinner to celebrate their one-month sober date. I will always remember the look on my sponsee's face when I asked them how it felt to be sober, the radiance and triumph on their face was infectious. That look assured me I had found my life's calling. It was validation, redemption, and purpose all in one. Recovery saved my life, and I will work endlessly to show those who still suffer that the same is possible for them. Just like sobriety, I will achieve this one day at a time.
    Bold Know Yourself Scholarship
    Looking back, I can acknowledge I possessed intelligence, character, and charm in high school. However, at the time, I saw none of it. Instead, I saw someone who was not enough, who failed too often, and desperately needed to do better. That mindset nearly killed me. In the pursuit of becoming what I "should" be, I lost sleep, took on too much stress, and tortured myself for what I wasn't. With time and unfortunate genetics, this developed into severe mental illness and addiction. Before my first quarter of freshman year of college was even half over I had to take medical leave and moved back home. I had failed, all those negative beliefs about myself were true, I was nothing. The funny thing is that in the years that followed I learned I had it all wrong. My journey through mental health and addiction recovery taught me I am insightful, loving, and indomitable. Overcoming my adversity was the most challenging thing I have done in life, it nearly ended me, but I persevered and saw myself for who I truly am. Not only did I overcome my own battle, I now help those who suffer as I once did through volunteer work. I currently facilitate a mental health support group and an addiction support group, the latter of which I founded myself. I also sponsor young men like myself who are new to addiction recovery. I am now back in school, working to become a therapist so I can help others see themselves for who they truly are. I am grateful for my journey, without it, I wouldn't have learned what an amazing young man I am. I will go forth in life knowing my self-worth and I will make it my life's work to help others discover their own.
    Bold Helping Others Scholarship
    As someone whose life has been saved by others, I understand the true value of helping those around you. From 2014 to 2021 I fought a battle against bipolar disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse. While I put in tremendous work to get to where I am today-nearly 2 years sober and completely stable-it would have been entirely impossible without the love and support of those around me. My family, friends, and health care professionals were always there as a shoulder to cry on, to talk to, and encourage. I learned the true beauty of support, it saved my life, and I will make it my life's work to pay it forward. I aspire to become licensed as a therapist to help those who struggle as I have but till then, I do what I can to begin my repaying my gratitude. Currently, I am the treasurer and a facilitator for a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a national mental health support group organization. Furthermore, I have founded and facilitate my own addiction support group. Lastly and perhaps most rewarding of all, I use my lived experience to sponsor young men like myself who are new to addiction recovery. Overcoming my own adversity (with significant help from my support system) has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, however, I am finding that helping others do the same is perhaps even more rewarding. I cannot express the joy, gratitude, and pride I felt the first time I took a sponsee out to celebrate his one-month sober date. I will never forget the look of disbelief and triumph on his face as I asked him how it felt. That look is just one of the reasons I know that this work is my life's calling.
    Bold Wisdom Scholarship
    As someone who is nearing two years sober, when I pick up a new sponsee (someone new to sobriety who I will help guide using my own lived experience), I end my first talk with them using the same quote: "Live your life, one day, one minute, one second at a time". I use this quote because it is the reason I am alive and well today. I went from fighting a battle with mental illness and addiction on a daily basis to sobriety, stability, and once again pursuing my dreams. Today, I help facilitate a support group for a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, organize and facilitate an addiction support group I myself founded, sponsor young men like myself who are new to addiction recovery, and am pursuing my education to become a therapist. And while this advice was what saved me from mental health issues and addiction, it should be noted that it can apply to all facets of life. In short, it means we should live in the here and now, not necessarily ignoring the future but also not letting worries about the future interfere with our present. It's all too easy to get caught up in tomorrow: "How can I be sober for the rest of my life?", "How will I ever finish school?", "How will I make it to my dream job?". In reality, all we need to focus on is the next step, if we don't, we will trip. So to anyone reading this, whether you have your own mental health or addiction struggles, don't know where you're headed in life, or simply feel overwhelmed, just remember to look at that very next step ahead of you. Live your life, one day, one minute, one second at a time.
    Bold Perseverance Scholarship
    Growing up I lived a privileged life. I am a straight male of mixed Asian and White descent, I come from an upper-middle-class family, and was afforded every opportunity to establish myself with a solid education. During most of my adolescents, there was no significant adversity for me to persevere through. However, as I entered my junior year of high school in 2014 I began to face challenges I couldn't comprehend. Little did I realize, that year marked the beginning of my battle with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and in the years to come, substance abuse. From 2014 to 2021 I fought for my life on a daily basis. I acquired numerous scars, both physical and mental. I spiraled down a path of self-medication and addiction. I admitted myself to inpatient psychiatric wards and outpatient partial hospitalization programs nearly a dozen times. And through sheer luck, I survived two suicide attempts and an accidental drug overdose. I went from living a privileged life to gaining a deep and thorough understanding of adversity. But here I am, in 2022, less than 2 weeks away from being 2 years sober, completely stable, and back to pursuing my dreams. In those 7 years, I learned a lifetime's worth of lessons about resiliency, hope, and love, none of which I would trade for anything because, without them, I would not be the man I am today. I learned adversity is the foundation of growth, that a sliver of hope can be the guiding light through the darkest of nights, and that there is nothing more beautiful than the relationships formed with those who love and support you and vice versa. As it turns out, my greatest privilege in life is that I was afforded the chance to persevere, which taught me the beauty of life.
    Bold Happiness Scholarship
    "What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." -John Steinbeck To truly understand happiness, one must first become familiar with sadness, fore without contrast, there can be no appreciation. For years, depression-sadness' stronger older brother-was my constant companion. I woke up despondent and went to bed despairing. Deprived of anything resembling even modest contentment, it didn't take long for me to seek solace in the arms of drugs and alcohol. They masqueraded as a support, friends who I could rely on to bring a smile to my face. It took years of abuse for me to realize these "friends" were, in fact, a poison that only added fuel to the fire that was my sorrow. To say I had become familiar with sadness during that time is an understatement, sadness was one of the only things I truly understood in those days. Today I am nearly 2 years sober and couldn't be happier. I wouldn't trade those tempestuous times for anything because I now have an immense gratitude for all the good in my life, big or small. My journey towards health taught me what truly makes me happy in life. It's not the deceptive and false joy of drugs and alcohol but the beauty of human connection. Whether it be the bonds I formed with those who pulled me out of the deepest of pits, the fellowship with those who knew my pain, or the restorative relationship between myself and those I went on to guide and mentor using my lived experience. In a world where depression can be as cold as winter, I see now I can count on my loved one's to shine through and melt the ice, and together, we'll bask in the warmth.
    Bold Legacy Scholarship
    The philosopher Pericles once said, "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others". I do not aspire to leave a legacy known to all man kind, I do not dream of being memorialized in stone or to have my own holiday. My only wish when I leave this world, is to have made an impact on those I touched directly in life. I want to live a life that speaks to those I knew and who knew me and says "You are never alone and you can overcome anything". My life has not been an easy one. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety at a young age, years later I developed a substance use disorder. For years I suffered, struggling to survive. Every day was a battle; a battle I would have lost had it not been for the amazing family, friends, and health care professionals who provided me with unrelenting support. Today, I am nearly 2 years sober, am in control of my mental illness, and am on a track to become a therapist; none of which would have been possible without my incredible support system. Those amazing people wove a thread of hope and love into my life and I will never forget the impact they made, they are my personal hero's. My legacy will be everything I do in life to pay forward the gift I was given by those around me. I will be the support for my friends and family that they were for me and I will be the therapist that eases the burdens of the next generation. My legacy will be measured not by how many people know my story, but by how well those I influenced live.
    Bold Books Scholarship
    As an avid reader of fantasy, I appreciate a break from reality; however, the most inspiring book I ever read breaks from reality in an entirely different sense. Rather than a tale of magic, far away lands, and quests, Elyn Saks’ “The Center Cannot Hold”, took me inside the mind of a woman suffering from Schizophrenia and presented a story of hallucinations, medication, and self-proclaimed madness. Like all great fantasy though, Saks’ autobiography tells an inspiring tale of perseverance, personal growth, and overcoming adversity. Although I rarely read outside of the fantasy genre, picking up Saks’ autobiography seemed only natural. It was chosen as the book of the month for a mental health book club I am a member of. Though I suffer from Bipolar Disorder and not Schizophrenia, reading this book made me and my struggles feel both recognized and validated. While our symptoms may not match up exactly, I feel a bond with Saks’ in that we have both been met with significant adversity and had been betrayed by our minds. Not only did her book make me feel seen, it instilled in me a sense of hope. Her story is one of overcoming; she still deals with her illness but she lives a full life in spite of it. To see someone who has also faced the worst mental illness has to offer go on to become a successful lawyer, advocate, wife, author, and so much more gives me hope that I can aspire to not just survive but thrive. I will carry her story with me, literally and figuratively, as I make my way through my education to become a licensed therapist. I will create my own story of courage, resiliency, and triumph. And one day, I too will make someone feel seen.
    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    Most days when I wake up I get out of my bed, use the bathroom, weigh myself, and get dressed. In the fall of 2016 I woke up in a room I did not recognize and had no earthly idea how I got there. In fact, it was hard to think about anything, it was almost like a dream. Once my vision became less blurry, the first image I saw clearly was the crying yet relieved faces of my parents. They explained to me I was in the ICU and that I had just survived a drug overdose. Realization rushed over me, clouded though my mind was; I remembered the crushing despair, the complete loss of hope, and the urgency I felt to take action before I could change my mind. I had swallowed a whole bottle of benzodiazepines the day before in an attempt to end my life and now I was in the hospital, barely conscious. Despite my memory coming back, I felt or thought very little; there was too much in my system. I could barely keep my eyes open and so I closed them, deciding to approach the situation in the morning. My battle with mental illness began my junior year of high school in 2014. Between a lack of sleep, an abundance of stress, and a family history of mental illness I had stood no chance. I was originally diagnosed with major depressive disorder which was quickly changed to Bipolar I. From there, generalized anxiety and social anxiety disorder were tacked on. Years later I would be gently convinced I struggled with a substance use disorder. From 2014 to 2021 I faced the most challenging, scariest, and excruciating years of my life...and I wouldn't trade them for a thing because I know for a fact I wouldn't be the indomitable, remarkable, and caring person I am today without having gone through them. To quote C.S. Lewis, "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny"; and it was during my struggles as an "ordinary person" that I made two attempts on my life, was admitted to inpatient psychiatric wards 6 times, went through 3 different PHP/IOP programs, and have undergone electro convulsive therapy (ECT). To say this experience changed the person who I would become would be the epitome of an understatement. For one thing, it changed the way I viewed the world, adversity, and myself. It instilled in me the belief that overcoming our adversity only makes us stronger and that every challenge thrown at us is an opportunity. Prior to my journey with mental illness I lacked confidence and faith in myself. Now that I'm on the other side of things I can see that I am so much more today than I was back then. Adversity and the act of overcoming taught me I am unstoppable, determined, and can achieve anything I put my mind to. I have prevailed over and accomplished what I myself said was impossible all those years ago; now I go fourth in life believing that with enough resilience and hope none of my aspirations and goals are impossible. I cannot express how grateful I am to be here today, enjoying life to the fullest. That being said, I would be remiss if I didn't say I am only here today because of the loving family, friends, and healthcare workers in my life who kept me going. My struggles with mental illness showed me the incredible beauty those around me had inside them. From my parents who were always there to talk and did everything in their power and then some to help me survive, to my friends who visited me in the hospital and showed me despite my challenges I could still smile in life, and finally to those nurses, therapists, and doctors who made confronting the toughest times in my life easier and even enjoyable at times. Every bond in my life was elevated by the fight that almost ended my life and some days I simply can't believe how lucky I am for that. While my present life has been incredibly impacted by my battle with mental health, it is my future that is and will be the most influenced by what I have gone through. Nothing in life has been more rewarding or satisfying than overcoming my adversity. It taught me I am resilient, courageous, and quite frankly, great at overcoming challenges. Not only that but it taught me how to empathize with the world and those who struggle through it. That is why I want to use my lived experience to help those who suffer like I once suffered by becoming a therapist. Eager as I am to start that journey, I have already done what is within my power to help those who suffer around me now. I currently facilitate a substance abuse support group that I created myself as well as act as treasurer and facilitator for a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Furthermore, I am a sponsor for a young man who is new to addiction recovery. Currently, I am working on obtaining my undergraduate degree in psychology so that I may pursue a masters in social work and become licensed as a LCSW. From there, I will fulfill my dream of practicing therapy with those who suffer from mood disorders and or addiction. My battle with mental illness almost ended my life. It is only through a combination of love, support, and quite frankly, luck that I am alive. However, I learned that I have grit beyond measure, that there is nothing we should treasure more in the world than our loved one's, and finally that my suffrage will not be in vain because it has driven me to help those like me. My journey will not be over until the day I die and to that all I can say is that I can't wait to see what else I have to learn.
    Elevate Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
    Most days when I wake up I get out of my bed, use the bathroom, weigh myself, and get dressed. In the fall of 2016 I woke up in a room I did not recognize and had no earthly idea how I got there. In fact, it was hard to think about anything, it was almost like a dream. Once my vision became less blurry, the first image I saw clearly was the crying yet relieved faces of my parents. They explained to me I was in the ICU and that I had just survived a drug overdose. Realization rushed over me, clouded though my mind was; I remembered the crushing despair, the complete loss of hope, and the urgency I felt to take action before I could change my mind. I had swallowed a whole bottle of benzodiazepines the day before in an attempt to end my life and now I was in the hospital, barely conscious. Despite my memory coming back, I felt or thought very little; there was too much in my system. I could barely keep my eyes open and so I closed them, deciding to approach the situation in the morning. My battle with mental illness began my junior year of high school in 2014. Between a lack of sleep, an abundance of stress, and a family history of mental illness I had stood no chance. I was originally diagnosed with major depressive disorder which was quickly changed to Bipolar I. From there, generalized anxiety and social anxiety disorder were tacked on. Years later I would be gently convinced I struggled with a substance use disorder. From 2014 to 2021 I faced the most challenging, scariest, and excruciating years of my life...and I wouldn't trade them for a thing because I know for a fact I wouldn't be the indomitable, remarkable, and caring person I am today without having gone through them. To quote C.S. Lewis, "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny"; and it was during my struggles as an "ordinary person" that I made two attempts on my life, was admitted to inpatient psychiatric wards 6 times, went through 3 different PHP/IOP programs, and have undergone ECT. To say this experience changed the person who I would become would be the epitome of an understatement. For one thing, it changed the way I viewed the world, adversity, and myself. It instilled in me the belief that overcoming our adversity only makes us stronger and that every challenge thrown at us is an opportunity. Prior to my journey with mental illness I lacked confidence and faith in myself. Now that I'm on the other side of things I can see that I am so much more today than I was back then. Adversity and the act of overcoming taught me I am unstoppable, determined, and can achieve anything I put my mind to. I have prevailed over and accomplished what I myself said was impossible all those years ago; now I go fourth in life believing that with enough resilience and hope none of my aspirations and goals are impossible. I cannot express how grateful I am to be here today, enjoying life to the fullest. That being said, I would be remiss if I didn't say I am only here today because of the loving family, friends, and healthcare workers in my life who kept me going. My struggles with mental illness showed me the incredible beauty those around me had inside them. From my parents who were always there to talk and did everything in their power and then some to help me survive, to my friends who visited me in the hospital and showed me despite my challenges I could still smile in life, and finally to those nurses, therapists, and doctors who made confronting the toughest times in my life easier and even enjoyable at times. Every bond in my life was elevated by the fight that almost ended my life and some days I simply can't believe how lucky I am for that. While my present life has been incredibly impacted by my battle with mental health, it is my future that is and will be the most influenced by what I have gone through. Nothing in life has been more rewarding or satisfying than overcoming my adversity. It taught me I am resilient, courageous, and quite frankly, great at overcoming challenges. Not only that but it taught me how to empathize with the world and those who struggle through it. That is why I want to use my lived experience to help those who suffer like I once suffered by becoming a therapist. Eager as I am to start that journey, I have already done what is within my power to help those who suffer around me now. I currently facilitate a substance abuse support group that I created myself as well as act as treasurer and facilitator for a local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Furthermore, I am a sponsor for a young man who is new to addiction recovery. Currently, I am working on obtaining my undergraduate degree in psychology so that I may pursue a masters in social work and become licensed as a LCSW. From there, I will fulfill my dream of conducting therapy with those who suffer from mood disorders and or addiction. My battle with mental illness almost ended my life. It is only through a combination of love, support, and quite frankly, luck that I am alive. However, I learned that I have grit beyond measure, that there is nothing we should treasure more in the world than our loved one's, and finally that my suffrage will not be in vain because it has driven me to help those like me. My journey will not be over until the day I die and to that all I can say is that I can't wait to see what else I have to learn.