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Shannon McEntee


Bold Points




I am a pre-medical student who has survived everything from homelessness to poverty, mental health issues to disability, and I am passionate about giving back in the exact way I have been helped-- as a healthcare worker. Currently I work as a Peer Support Specialist for a nonprofit and as a research assistant for a study about how students with Autism could be better supported in colleges. I also attend school full-time. It is my end career goal to become a psychiatrist, however my blue collar background makes this difficult. I am currently paying my entire tuition out-of-pocket. This is a large strain on my resources, and for that reason I would greatly appreciate any support you could offer. Thank you for considering me!


Sonoma State University

Bachelor's degree program
2015 - 2025
  • Majors:
    • Biology, General
    • Psychology, General
  • Minors:
    • English Language and Literature, General


  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Psychology, General
    • Biology, General
  • Planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:


    • Dream career goals:


    • Writing Tutor

      Sonoma State University
      2015 – 20183 years
    • Homeless Shelter Case Manager

      Veteran's Resource Center
      2018 – 20191 year
    • Pharmacy Technician

      2019 – 20212 years
    • Disability Employment Case Manager

      Compass Human Services
      2021 – 20221 year
    • Peer Support Specialist

      2022 – Present2 years



    Junior Varsity
    2014 – Present10 years


    • Psychology, General

      Primary Investigator
      2022 – Present
    • Botany/Plant Biology

      Undergraduate Research Assistant
      2016 – 2018


    • Writing
      Published in Zaum Magazine
      2020 – 2020

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Telehelp Ukraine — Social Media Manager
      2022 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Zuckerberg Memorial Hospital — Social Services Resource Manager
      2023 – Present
    • Volunteering

      St. Joseph Memorial Hospital — Neurology Ward Volunteering Assistant
      2016 – 2018

    Future Interests




    Sean Carroll's Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship
    As I wrote the first official sentence of my guidebook on Autism, I found myself lost in thought. It was a bright sunny day, and the color of the leaves with the sun behind them was that specific shade that is my favorite. The grass was comfortable, and the laptop in my hands was one I had bought myself– a wonderful feeling, having relied on low-income parents for so long. Other students walked by the winding path by the lake, but I didn’t hear their chatter over the flow of the fountain– a nice, soothing, repetitive sound… just the kind I like. The water was recycled and a wonderful, algae green. I felt at home. What if there was nothing wrong with me? What if everything said about Autistic people being broken, or “less than,” or needing to be fixed was just… incorrect? It’s a radical thought in our society, where so much effort is put into changing minds and brains to conform to the right shape. If you’re not the type of person who can sit, quiet and still, in an uncomfortable chair for 8 hours a day then right off the bat you’re deemed a “bad kid.” This goes on to labeling you a bad student. A bad worker. And the list continues– if you don’t have a brain to fit our modern times, then you fall behind. And that means you need to be fixed. I was also born with the genes for Bipolar Disorder Type II latent in my brain. Maybe some epigenetic event would come along to switch them on, or maybe I was destined to be saddled with the disorder. Science just doesn’t know for sure yet. Many mental health disorders are this way. Psychology is still such a young field, only 150 years old, that there are still many mysteries for us to unravel. We have no idea what the “average” brain looks like, we can only compare people who have a disorder to those who don’t. We have no idea what disorders even are: most of the time, it’s just a colloquially agreed-upon idea that a board of people came up with and put in a book. The DSM isn’t based upon science. We don’t know where consciousness comes from, or why. We don’t know why some people develop some mental disorders and others don’t. What we do know is biodiversity is critical to the existence of any species– we learn this in basic biology. (Here’s where the benefit of being a psychology/biology double major comes in.) Sometimes, it’s just the few with an accidental adaptation that survive an ecosystem-shaking event. Maybe a new predator is introduced. Maybe an oil spill paints their environment black, making it easier for predators to see lighter-colored individuals of a species. Maybe a volcano erupts and those with better mucus in their lungs just happen to survive. The list goes on. So why don’t we value biodiversity in ourselves, our own species? Neurodiversity is a form of biodiversity, one that has been met with significant pushback. It’s the thought that Autistic or mentally ill people have value– an idea that is often seen as radical. We don’t claim that lizards with slightly lighter colored scales are useless, and yet we often seem to think that a person whose brain thinks slightly differently is useless. So odd. What goes on in each brain is so unique, though we share 99.6% of genes. There’s an old Spanish saying that goes, “Each mind is its own universe.” I couldn’t agree more. I feel blessed to be able to peer into the universes that I know, though I’ll never fully understand another person down to their core. I can celebrate them, be overjoyed to know them, but I can only explore each facet individually, and come to appreciate the big picture moreso than each small piece. These individuals shine brighter together, like the stars that make up our universe. This is why I want to be a psychiatrist. I believe psychology is the answer to understanding the universe as a whole, with everything in it. Understanding, accepting, and celebrating our differences is the key to the wider universe we share. We should be overjoyed when we meet a different person. See a different face. Hear a new story. I am a first-generation college student, the daughter of a veteran, disabled– and I am valuable. No one can share my exact thoughts. In this way, unique perspectives make the whole of humanity stronger. They help us explore the universe, together. Meanwhile, I snap back to writing my book. It’s a guidebook, to inform Autistic people and Allistic (non-Autistic) people about how to live with Autism. For Autistics, it’s an advice book about how to cope with your unique symptoms and challenges. For Allistics it’s more educational– exploring the fact that many beneficial historical figures were probably Autistic (Tesla, Lewis Carrol, Dickinson.) It also argues there is value to those who are Autistic and aren’t particularly geniuses– a plea for our continued existence in the face of a “cure” being developed. A cure for myself. A cure for my existence. It’s a plea to allow me to live, respected in my society. A plea that maybe we shouldn’t be broken down and made as close to Allistic as we can through ABA therapy. A unique perspective on the universe would be smothered in its cradle. I thought about all of this as I started writing. More people passed by me, oblivious to the train of thought I had gotten lost in. A class must have just gotten out. Each of those people must contain wonderful stories all their own, some they may never have shared with another person, some they had forgotten about but that changed them ineffably still. The water flowed over the rocks of the fountain, creating a wonderful sound like the rapids of a river, and I squeezed my toes in the overwatered, luscious green grass of the university campus. The universe is here. Now. It is me, you, and all of us. This is my corner of it, and I know that it is beautiful.
    Dr. Samuel Attoh Legacy Scholarship
    I thought about legacy as I stared up at the ceiling, which was streaked with black mold that climbed up the wall from the window. The little speckles were there because my parents refused to paint it over and over again– whether out of fatigue from their multiple jobs each, or because their lack of education meant they believed the mold wasn’t that harmful, I’m unsure. Either way, I’m so grateful I managed to survive my childhood. I remember this particular day– I was 13 at most. I had spent the day hiding away on my computer, playing video games and checking out kid’s websites, the mirror image of my dad on his computer about three feet away from me in the “office” room of our house (remember those?) Now it was night time, and I had this ineffable feeling that I was letting life pass me by. That I was failing to grasp something vital, and if I didn’t act soon then it would be gone forever. I thought, briefly, that my life was important– as I inhaled that cold, wet winter air we couldn’t keep out of our run-down shack in a small mountain village in Northern California. Then I felt ashamed after I had that thought. Who am I to think that I matter? Other people matter, like the children of the vineyard families. Julia Parducci. Mark Nelson. Like the daughter of the senator who inexplicably lived in our small town. Those people mattered. Me? I was nothing. Unless I made myself something. My entire life since my childhood has been an effort to leave my upbringing behind. To break the cycle of extreme poverty. Be a first-generation student. And leave the abuse behind that has been handed down, from parent to child, since time first began. When I entered college, I decided that I was just myself. I would leave as much of my history behind as I could. I started weaving my own story. I experienced severe mental illness– but then sought treatment for it. My parents never would have, since they don’t believe much in medicine.. I experienced homelessness after the 2017 Tubbs fire ravaged my city, but I stayed in school regardless. I kept pursuing my dream of becoming a psychiatrist, regardless of my family telling me that I wasn’t smart enough for medical school. I kept pushing. I keep pushing. Legacy is something I create with my own two hands. Legacy is something I forge at the smithy, guided by my effort and my knowledge. I will pass down what I have done and what I made myself into to my children, and if nothing else I hope they will understand that they can create their own fate. Nothing is decided for them. The entire world is open to what they set their minds to. The cycle will be broken completely and irrevocably. Maybe they too will think about legacy one night as a child, but this time in a warm house, staring up at a clean ceiling.
    Financial Literacy Scholarship Award
    I opened the statement with shaking hands. $8,567.30 for a CT scan and a recommendation to take some tylenol after a devastating car accident that had damaged my spine irreparably. There was nothing else they could do, even as I felt the sparking shocks in my fingertips and toes that meant that I had sustained some nerve damage. I had no idea what to do. I called the nurse hotline first, on the verge of sobbing in fear. I had developed some incontinence– one of the signs of severe nerve damage. The nurse recommended I head to the emergency room. I thought that made sense. I could barely walk at that point. Still in too-big pajama clothes (there was absolutely no way I could change my outfit), I stumbled to an uber and headed to the nearest hospital. I was all of 20 years old. I had no idea how insurance and healthcare worked– my family would be upset that I was away from home at all, and they were very blue-collar and poverty-stricken themselves…there was no way they were informed either. Their advice would be to stay home and wait for it to pass, but with the symptoms worsening I would be far too afraid to listen. With my boyfriend at work and no local friends, I was on my own as the kind uber driver left, wishing me health and luck. I was in an extreme amount of pain. We had taken the elevator, and when the upward travel compressed my spine I was pretty certain– for perhaps the second time in my life– that I was going to pass out from the pain. It rippled up my body in a wave, and I became acutely aware of my injury. It was a gaping maw of hurt. I had to get this resolved. NOW. “Do you take Blue Cross?” I croaked to the man at the front desk, who was shaking his head at me as I sat, looking very dazed probably. “Martha, do we take Blue Cross?” He shouted to a woman just around the corner. “We do!” I heard a shout back. Looking back on it three years later, I should have thought it was odd that no card was ran, no information was taken– I don’t even know if they took my name until I was already in one of the ER rooms. Even more noticeably, I should have thought it odd that the ER waiting room was completely empty. It was about 8 in the morning, but even then, there should have been someone or two waiting to be seen for a silly injury or some suspicious chest pain. But it was just me. This would be the prelude to me being saddled in years of debt. Was it incompetence? A terrible suspicion of “drug seekers” at that particular hospital? I’m unsure. Regardless, it was my burden to overcome. I learned that hospitals often have such a thing called Charity Care for low-income people. My $8,567.30 bill was knocked down to about $5000. Much better. I asked for an itemized bill and it went down to $3300. Even better. From there, I heard of such a thing called The Orion Fund. This is a scholarship fund meant specifically for low-income individuals who have medical debt. I was selected as one of the recipients of the prize, and my debt was eliminated. From this I learned several things: insurance is certainly not to be trusted, and healthcare in our society is a form of extortion, not actual support. Thank you.
    Alicea Sperstad Rural Writer Scholarship
    I went to bed crying, like I did many of those nights as a child. My father had yelled at me again for something I couldn’t help– perhaps symptoms of my autism that he refused to acknowledge. Or, maybe I had upset my mother with my refusal to eat certain food. Regardless, I crept to bed in the small room I shared with my sister. Black mold was in streaks up the wall just beside the head of my bed, but I didn’t mind that– it was what I was used to, my parents were too busy working multiple jobs to continually paint over it. My sister would fall asleep early, with the lights on, but I would stay up. I would write. Read. It was my only escape. I dreamed of being someone else, or better yet being a version of myself that would have survived this place. This small little mountain town. This hovel we were in. I would write stories of women that were stronger than me, who had a better idea of how to survive than I did. I learned from them, these fictional characters, and I grew stronger because of them. I encountered women other people had written and I saw fragments of myself in them, and, sometimes, that was the only encouragement I had to keep going. Proof that my life could be different than it was, better than it was. As I grew older, I relied on writing more. I stopped writing fiction and instead started writing down the things that were happening to me. I wrote about being abused by a man a decade older than me, because I was a child desperate for any kind of parental love. I wrote about homelessness. Mental illness that crept in like the wildfire that destroyed half my city. Running from one bad relationship to the next, and always holding onto that little fire I kept stoked inside myself– the belief that things could be better. I was first published about four years ago. My university’s magazine accepted a creative nonfiction piece about my experience during the fires. It described the deep depression that I was in at the time, and the levels of hopelessness I overcame. That marked a turning point for me. I started writing more and more. I decided that fiction wasn’t my forte, it was turning all the wacky experiences in my life into art– into something relatable and true. The homelessness I overcame. The $10,000 in medical debt I won a scholarship to pay back. And more. Writing is life to me. My experiences sometimes only make sense until I put them down, put them in the broader narrative of my life. At my current job as a peer counselor at a nonprofit, I help teach journaling and other narrative writing techniques to homeless and/or mentally ill individuals. I believe these techniques can be absolutely indispensable as a coping technique. One of my patients has totally taken to it. She has enrolled in a memoir writing class for elderly adults and she loves it more than anything. She has told me something similar to what I think myself– that writing it all out helps it make sense. It gives the triumphs and the defeats a purpose. They’re woven into the larger tapestry. Like Henry Miller said, “Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery.” We dig out and make sense of the things we have experienced, and I, for one, know I would be still half-buried and struggling if I didn’t write. Thank you.
    Eco-Warrior Scholarship
    When I first arrived at my college dorm in my freshman year, I noticed a strange object on my desk amongst the paperwork and flyers that had been left for me. After setting down the giant box I was carrying and saying hello to my new roommate, I picked it up and examined it. It was a rudimentary timer, with a sticky suction cup on the back of it. I thought it was odd. I picked up the paper lying next to it, which said “Stay sustainable! Keep your showers to 5 minutes maximum to save the environment!” A little skeptical, I set it back down. I was the type of person who enjoyed 20, 30 minute showers to unwind from the day. I loved the hot water and how it loosened my tight muscles. But, over the course of the next semester, I found myself sticking the timer to the wall– and using it! At first it started from a place of guilt. After all, aren’t we all responsible for environmental concerns– whether our contributions are big or small? How many gallons was I using with my long showers anyway? I figured it out with a calculator online. 50 gallons! Most shower heads use 2.5 gallons per minute at a minimum– some use up to 5 per minute! Immediately I thought of how that purified water could be better used. There are people in the United States without access to clean tap water, who have to buy bottled water at a few dozen dollars per pack out of necessity. That really cuts into your paycheck if your income is low, like it is for many states in our country. This purified shower-water could much better serve those unfortunate people than just rolling down my body and into the drain. How much of those 20 minute showers was I actually washing? Probably about– as the timer suggested– 5 total minutes. I considered it and decided to try it. Hopping into the shower one day, I turned on the timer as soon as the water warmed up. Quickly, I soaped up, shampooed and conditioned my hair, and hopped back out. Done. It had taken just a little over 4 minutes. I felt rushed, but that was just because I wasn’t used to not dilly-dallying– you know, just staring into space, thinking about my day, or reliving old arguments I totally would have won this time. A massive waste of water and time. But no. Short showers were totally doable. I was clean, quickly, and I had saved dozens and dozens of gallons of water that could be better used in my community. In fire season here in California, that clean water is absolutely vital. I would absolutely love to share with my friends and family the remarkable doability of just taking shorter showers; it’s a sustainable approach that doesn’t require you to go out of your way. The planet, and all of us on it, definitely appreciate it.
    Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact Scholarship
    Psychology is young as a field of study, but it is advancing very quickly. The field of physics is credited as beginning either in the 1600s or the 600s depending on who you’re talking to, but psychology first emerged as a concept only about 140 years ago. Much science fiction has been written about what psychology researchers may eventually accomplish– mind reading, beaming thoughts to other people– but I believe we’ll be able to accomplish something much more useful at a much earlier year. I believe we’ll be able to diagnose mental health problems, so far only diagnosed by observation or survey, by physical symptoms instead. That is, by the changes in your brain. MRIs of today are incredibly useful for looking at developments within the soft tissue of the body, especially the nervous structure of the spine and brain. However, they are still incredibly expensive to take. If one day that changes, and more scientists have access to MRIs for research, I believe we will collect a large amount of useful data– most specifically on what a “normal brain” and an “abnormal brain” actually look like. We have rough estimates of what these are already– we know that splotches in certain areas correlate to some disorders– but we have no strict diagnostic code. We cannot diagnose someone as having an “average” brain structure or an “ill” brain structure, brains are still very much individual. We can run a study on people with depression and gather data on what oddities their brains have. We can say their brain looks healthy by the absence of tumors and other irregularities of size and shape, but we can’t say that it is “normal.” But I believe one day we will have such a large body of data on brain MRIs that we’ll be able to say, “You are within a standard deviation of the normal distribution of brain size/gray matter volume” and etc. Organization of this data is underway as we speak. With these findings we’ll be able to do something even more important than finding a “brain average”– we’ll be able to diagnose mental illnesses based on the brain’s morphology. I believe one day psychiatrists will have much easier jobs. They’ll be able to enter a patient’s examination room and say, “According to that MRI scan we took, you have a much different structural setup in your thalamus compared to most patients– this is consistent with a Major Depressive Disorder diagnosis. Because of the other structures affected (the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex) we believe that SSRIs may be the best medication for you.” We’ll have firm diagnostic codes based on standard deviations of sizes, shapes, and other oddities– and we’ll be able to offer a solution that works best based on those symptoms. This is a massive leg up from the way psychiatry is currently conducted: the patient is typically interrogated, the patient can exaggerate or under-state something, and a best guess is made based on that data. I hope by the time I complete medical school that advances will be made in the affordability and reliability of diagnosing based on physical symptoms instead. This will help save millions of lives. People with complex or multiple disorders will be able to get a straight answer instead of seeing multiple providers who each have their own take. Bipolar Type II? Borderline Personality Disorder? General Anxiety Disorder? Well, the scan clearly shows that it’s all three. Etc. Currently this idea is science fiction, but I believe within a decade or two it will be science fact.
    Elevate Women in Technology Scholarship
    With the seat tilted back all the way, I rested in my car’s driver seat and cried; my boyfriend had just broken up with me by text-message in the middle of my busy workday at a CVS pharmacy. Immediately, I texted a few friends for support– “Can you believe what he did? And while I was at work? Unbelievable!” But it wasn’t the texting that turned my life around when I spiraled, the reality of having moved back into my abusive parent’s house now concrete. It wasn’t the magic of phone-calling either as my friends slipped away– deciding they aligned with my ex-partner more than me. As I slipped further into depression, loneliness, and isolation in my small-town mountain-village environment I was trapped in… it was the internet that truly changed the game, and the outcome of my life. About three days after the breakup I found myself on a server for fans of a relaxing farming simulation game. Depressed, alone, and looking for friends, I sent a few messages to common regulars of the group. One of them is my now-partner, a better fit for me than anyone I’ve ever met before, who shares my sense of humor and far more. He guided me through seeking help for my mental health, seeking housing away from my parents, and finding a much better job. One caveat: he’s about 3,000 miles away– in New Hampshire while I’m in California. This wouldn’t have been possible without the invention of the Internet. The friends I’ve made since then, from members of that original forum to folks in an international study group I host, I would never have met. Since my university doesn’t have many studious folks who share my nerdy interests, the internet has been a complete life-changer for me to make honest friends. Internet communication, that links almost many of us together as one humankind, inspires me every day to be a better person. I hope that in the next few decades, once I am done with medical school, that the world will be even more connected, allowing us to collaborate on a global scale. Solutions to medical problems will arise at an unforeseen rate, as universities on opposite sides of the global pitch in with their data. People will meet and build connections across the globe, just as I have. I can’t wait to see an even more interconnected world.
    Windward Spirit Scholarship
    Dear: the Boomer Generation, When I tell the older generations what we have to cope with on a daily basis they are often surprised. I share the fact that my rent is very cheap at $1,000 for a two-bedroom in my area, when it was $600 just ten years ago, and as low as $50 in their own young-adult years. (Of course, they would have just outright bought a home instead– a far-away impossibility for me.) Then I share that I once left an emergency room with an $8,000 bill. I lay out the many reasons I will owe about a quarter of a million dollars in student loan debt by the time I am done with medical school. I tell them that we, the youth, are squeezed by several forces we cannot combat– the rent, the loans– but also the expectations. Our parents expect life to be simple, very simple. A car was not a $50,000 loan when they were fresh-faced adults. A job was something you walked in and asked for politely. Our shared world has grown more complicated by the day, and as we sprint to keep up our forefathers seem deaf and blind to our puffing breath and exhausted days-in and days-out. We don’t have the nuclear family with half of the adults dedicated to homemaking and the other half to breadwinning. We are carrying the entire load by ourselves, with “5-Minute Simple Meal Recipes” and “Life Hacks” and also pulling late hours at the office, commuting an hour each way, and so much more. We struggle, but it’s a touchstone of our generation that we persevere. Let me tell you a little about my own story. I was homeless at the age of 20. I have been employed in everything from a nice union job to a “fast-paced” pharmacy drive-through setting. I’m also the first in my family to attend college; my father is a contractor and my mother is a chef. I’m very abnormal by pursuing medical school, particularly psychiatry. The older generations often scoff at “mental health.” This mindset is changing, but it is a problem we have inherited as part of the global “mess” you mention. We blame each other for these problems. We point fingers between different races, cultures, and yes, especially the generations. But it is a problem we must solve together. The most passionate people I’ve ever met– about global warming, medical debt, and more– have seen their effects with their own eyes, felt them with their own hands. They’ve fled the fires. They’ve opened officially-stamped statements with trembling fingers. They’ve lived on kitchen scraps. They’ve soldiered on, with mental and medical problems they can’t afford to fix. So, so many of my generation have lived through atrocities like these – when survival was a gift – and so they’ve found their trajectory in life completely altered. For example, I’m pursuing psychiatry because I witnessed the suicide of my boyfriend when we were only 16. On a much larger scale, several years ago the 2017 Tubbs Fire destroyed half of my city. However, it has inspired many to pursue environmental studies. In some ways, my generation is inheriting a world that has been patched over, like a mother darning clothes for her children. It is flawed, yes, but some effort has been made to fix it; together we successfully stopped using Chlorofluorocarbons. The hole in the ozone layer then closed entirely: a hand held out in apology to your children. But even as you work to right some wrongs, we see the reflections of the Greatest Generation in the mirror. We are a war-torn, poverty-stricken sort too. We are counting our $20’s, because that’s what you need to buy anything these days. We work jobs and still have to use food pantries, shamefully– an echo of the bread lines in the Great Depression. On several occasions I sat in a line of cars two-dozen long outside of a pantry, watching people my age or younger load up their trunks with the donated groceries. Would they have thought that they were the Greatest Generation 2.0 at that moment? How about when they hungrily looked for meals they could make from those lean pickings once they got home? I don’t think so. I don’t think either generation would call themselves “Great.” And yet, I think there is a steel rod of strength embedded in everyone my age. We’re resourceful. We’re dedicated. We’re the least locally connected generation to perhaps ever exist anywhere, but we’re enmeshed in webs of communities. We laugh, dance, sing with people we’ve never met – creating works of art to rival those in the Louvre. We create support systems from thin air and reference friends so far away we’ve never been able to touch them. And yet, we continue on. With the unfortunate developments we’ve seen in the world in the past decade, I can only imagine more difficulties will come to strike us – but we will be ready. We’ve adapted to a pandemic, wars in two different countries, and the destruction of the middle class – what more could come our way? I ask, knocking on wood like my father taught me to do. Perhaps we need to connect more with our elders. You’ve made mistakes, but who’s to say we won’t too? After all, it’s always older people who hand me a bag at the food pantry with a smile. Maybe we could teach each other to understand: we could explain the modern world to you, and you could offer the connection we so desperately need as a generation. I’ve always heard that it “takes a village.” Although you, your parents, and their parents have made mistakes, I’m proud that you’re willing to try to fix it. Despite everything you’ve done to contribute to what’s wrong, I am proud you’re acknowledging the issues. Despite all of your mistakes, I am proud to be a part of this world with you. Thank you.
    Manny and Sylvia Weiner Medical Scholarship
    Originally my boyfriend was the one who wanted to be a medical doctor, but when I found him hanging by a noose I knew that duty had passed to me. We were both 16. In that moment, my future was laid out before me like dry stones across a river: a career in psychiatry. However, this was only the beginning to a journey marked by determined survival. I grew up in a mold-streaked house that my parents were too busy working multiple jobs to fix. I was constantly told that we had to eat the food that was in front of us because we didn’t know when we’d have to skip a meal– something that led to the development of an eating disorder many years later. Nowadays when balancing bills between tuition, housing, and other expenses food is still the first thing I cut. My struggles didn’t stop in childhood. As a teenager, I started feeling overwhelming mood swings– I would flip from overhappy to desolate. I had developed Bipolar Type II, though I wouldn’t know that for many, many more years. At the time my parents did their best to help me, but they were adamant that there was “nothing wrong with me” as I fought a battle in my head every single day. I entered college regardless, as a first-generation student. I tried to balance college and my mental health but I felt like my hamstrings had been cut just before starting a race. It was impossible. I was a full-time student, but in actuality I was a full-time maid for myself. Homework, exams, and other assignments took the backburner. How was I going to help others if I couldn’t help myself? The universe pushed me to take action: the 2017 Tubbs Fire eliminated half of my city, which caused me to become homeless. I had a choice. Was I going to be a spectator in my own life, allowing bad finances, terrible circumstances, and unsupportive relatives to doom my own future? Or was I going to stand up for the career that awaited me– serving others through my own experiences with mental illness? I wouldn’t let this illness win. After 5 years of constant struggle, I finally started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. Immediately, I felt like someone had uncovered the real me from inches of muck and mud. Now, at 26, I feel capable, strong, and determined. I balance being a full-time student, working full-time as a peer counselor, and supporting a study part-time as a research assistant. I am also conducting original research on solutions to support youth with mental health concerns. Because of this, I was recently selected to present at a conference on Youth Peer Counseling. I know I will be an invaluable psychiatrist as my experiences with poverty, homelessness, and youth mental health challenges allow me to intuitively understand a broader population than most. My practice will not be doctor to patient, but human-to-human. I’m so thankful for everything I’ve lived through. I’m educated in a way no book can teach. However, no one knows that I still struggle. I pay for my $5000 tuition entirely out-of-pocket. I pay for all of my expenses myself. Often I have to choose between gas, food, or just going without therapy or even medicine for a few months. I’m one catastrophe away from having to drop out of school. I need more support, and I’m reaching out to you to request it. Please consider helping me on my journey to serve others with mental health challenges. Thank you so much for your consideration.
    McClendon Leadership Award
    I volunteer for an organization called Telehelp Ukraine. We help provide direct relief to Ukrainians with medical needs, ranging from simple wound care instructions to complex psychiatric problems. The current medical care structure in Ukraine– or the lack of one, as many doctors have fled the invasion– is unable to support the array of injuries emerging as a result of the war. This is where we step in. We see practically everything. Injuries from mine explosions. Routine pediatric check-ins. Chronically ill patients needing their prescriptions and access to them. We do it all: our doctors help provide diagnoses, prescriptions, guidance to local resources, and more. I am not a doctor (yet.) So, how do I help? I help rally doctors into action. I keep them consistent with their time dedication to the organization. It’s my duty to keep myself tapped into the news in Ukraine, and news within the nonprofit, and to feed this along to them. To keep them engaged. Sometimes I feel very far removed from helping anyone. But, every once in awhile, we celebrate our results as a behind-the-scenes team: An American Veteran was stranded in Ukraine, wounded. But despite the odds, despite the lack of funding, we managed to get him safely out of the country to receive the advanced care for his injuries he needed. I feel proud to support an organization that is stepping in to provide medical solutions to a country fighting off an unjust invasion. While I’m not its creator that lead the charge, I still hold a very important role– to rally the troops of our medical team, to keep them informed of the new medical issues they may see among their patients. I have learned many skills from this experience, and now I also strive to exemplify leadership in projects of my own creation. I knew when I met Stella, Jill, and other friends of mine that I could help them. They were directionless. Needing guidance. Struggling in school, or with mental health, or the thousand other problems that plague a student– usually juggling school, or demanding family members as well– I often saw my friends in a deep dark pit of “I should be”s. I should be studying. I should be more productive. And etcetera. I knew I could step in with a solution. I have ambition, drive, reliability, and the skills needed to create a solution to this problem I saw. So, I created an international accountability program for students in need. Currently enrolled with over 250 members, I spearhead several different projects to keep ambitious folks motivated, dedicated, and on track. From matching folks with accountability buddies, to hosting competitions and other events, we watch people grow from their perhaps “lazier” past selves into someone achieving every goal they set out to do. We teach people to set “smarter” goals, we group-brainstorm solutions to a problem someone might be facing, and we strive forward– all of us, together. So many people have told me that I’ve helped change their life. One student would freeze up when exams approached, but now she has a system of studying alongside my community members for motivation. Another student needed to apply to more jobs– she used a competition I created to see who could achieve the most, and now she has landed a wonderful job she loves. Leadership means stepping in and solving problems where no one has before. Leadership means taking a stand when you know you have the capability, the reliability, the skills to truly make progress for a community, whether it be national or much smaller than that.