[D]uring my sophomore year, I was involved in a terrible automobile accident. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, which changed the course of my life.
Following my accident, I suffered from amnesia. I didn’t recognize the family members who came to visit me in the hospital. For months, I struggled to read and spell again. I had difficulties with retention and concentration. I suffered from debilitating migraines, vertigo and depression.
Formerly an Honors student pursuing a double major, I was forced to change my goals. I could no longer handle the demands of the Honors program, and had to relinquish my scholarships. I seriously considered dropping out of college altogether.
Instead, though, I began taking art and theater courses, in which (due to the reduced reading load) I was able to succeed. I discovered that I had some aptitude for art and design, and I eventually worked my way to a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art. Along the way, I met warm, vibrant, lively people — people who helped bring me out of my shell and my depression, many of whom are still my friends today. I began to believe in myself and my capabilities again.
After college, I worked in various theater, drafting and design jobs. Though I was successful, nothing came as easily as it had before. I needed to work harder, force myself to take notes, to focus…and if I worked too hard or got too stressed, the migraines and the vertigo returned. If I trained too hard athletically, I suffered terrifying seizures.
It would have been easy to sit comfortably at my (perfectly respectable) job, to stagnate, to be safe.
But my true dream was to become an Art Therapist — to help others find the same comfort, healing, and sense of achievement that I’d found in my arts courses.
So I took at huge risk. I quit a job in which I was well-established, and used my savings to return to school. I chipped away at my Psychology prerequisites while nannying to pay the bills. Last January, I began an unpaid practicum at the local Children’s Hospital, leading art projects in the pediatric oncology ward. I was terrified at first — shy, uncertain, dealing with different families and age groups each week — but over the months I’ve become more confident, less self-conscious, more able to focus on the children and their needs.
Most recently, I became a full-time student in Eastern Washington University’s Therapeutic Recreation program. This was a huge undertaking for someone with my history. I’m terrified, at times, of embarking upon a road this mentally challenging and financially daunting, but I know in my heart that it will be worth it at journey’s end.
To obtain a Therapeutic Recreation degree — and then secure the national certification which will enable me to serve others effectively, compassionately, and with confidence — would be the culmination of years of doubt and struggle. It would mean that I’d truly transcended my injury, to become the professional I dream of being.
JustJobs.com’s scholarship program is proud to announce Stephanie Sammons as one of the finalists for its December 2012 application deadline. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.