We’d like to formally introduce our 1st Place 2020 Scholarship Recipient, Jess Aumick. The Lisa Michelle Memorial Fund was established to assist and recognize students who have lost a parent to substance abuse. We are proud to award a $1,000 scholarship to Jess this year.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Jess and I am a senior-year history major at Rutgers University. As a student, I am fascinated by the social history of drugs, Appalachian poverty, and different religious practices. In my free time I study mycology, so I love going on long hikes to see what kinds of mushrooms can be identified in my area. I also play guitar and enjoy singing original songs at open mic nights.
Q: Imagine yourself 10 years from now. What goals and ambitions do you have for yourself, personally, academically, and professionally?
In ten years, I would like to be an educator at the university or high school level. My high school experiences with teachers who cared about me had an incredible impact on who I am and how I see the world – I don’t know how I would have made it without them. No matter what career I end up in, I hope to be in a position to guide youth who are struggling and need a supportive adult on their team. Additionally, as a history student, I am excited to have the opportunity to talk to young people about the complicated social issues of our time.
Q: Aside from a college degree, what do you hope to gain from your college experience?
My college experience thus far has shaped me into a more thoughtful, motivated, and well-rounded person than I was before. I hope that the reminder of my time in school will continue to challenge my thinking and put me outside of my comfort zone. I look forward to further unraveling my favorite historical issues and stumbling upon new passions I don’t yet know about.
Q: What motivates you to continue working towards accomplishing your goals?
I am motivated by the complexity of the human condition, my struggle to understand it, and my desire to help others through it. While nobody can get through life without pain, something beautiful can be built out of connecting with one another and attempting to make the most out of the fact that we are alive. No matter how difficult life gets, my worldview is founded on a strong sense of curiosity that motivates me to see each day through simply to see what will happen next. I am also motivated by my desire to build a stable life for myself, as my experiences with instability have taught me the importance of striving for a life I can be happy to live.
Q: What advice would you give to other students who have been through circumstances similar to yours?
Losing a parent at a young age, especially under the emotionally complicated circumstance of addiction, can be an incredibly difficult thing to untangle. Know that your parent’s pain does not have to define you. No matter how much trauma and pain may be in your family’s background, you have the power to break out of toxic cycles and learn coping skills that make life worth it. I believe that when approached in the right way, pain and trauma can be converted into compassion, care, and love for others. My most practical advice is to speak with a therapist so that you can begin to understand more about who you are and how your unique life circumstances can be used to cultivate positive growth in your life.