Advice From Our Scholarship Recipients

Each year we ask our scholarship recipient a series of questions. To assist students in similar situations we are consolidating all their answers to the following question:

What advice would you give to other students who have been through circumstances similar to yours?


2020 Scholarship Recipient (1st Place), Jess Aumick

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.


2020 Scholarship Recipient (2nd Place), Kylie Gamber

My advice to others who have been through similar circumstances is to be honest with your feelings. I battled depression, guilt, anxiety, relief, love, and anger somehow all at the same time. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. I went to a grief group, went through counseling, and became closer to extended family members than I had ever been before. It’s ok to feel however you’re feeling, just don’t fight it and don’t go through it alone. Eventually the deepest pain will pass, and if you take care of yourself, you’ll find the memories can come with joy and you’ll be a better person because of it.


2020 Scholarship Recipient (3rd Place), Katherine Blank

Find your people. I found mine after being named a @horatioalgerassociation scholar. I have been introduced to thousands of scholars and distinguished Americans across the country. Losing a parent at a young age is devastating enough, losing a parent to a substance abuse adds a stigma from the decades of degradation at the hands of the opioid epidemic can be very isolating and traumatic. Having friends and a community to lift one another up is more important than ever.


2020 Scholarship Recipient (4th Place), Carson Watts

When I found myself in my situation, I noticed that I had two pretty clear choices: I could either feel sorry for myself and wallow in my grief, or, I could pick up the pieces and persist through whatever lies ahead. My advice is to always persist. I quickly realized that the world around me was continuing to move and certainly wasn’t stopping or slowing down for me; so, I found that my ability to press on and become resilient, was not always easy, but undoubtedly made me stronger and more prepared for the future. Definitely allow yourself time to grieve, but know that your ability to adapt and persist will always set you apart.


2020 Scholarship Recipient (5th Place), Victoria Rogers

To anyone who has gone through something similar to me, I would advise to not spend so much time worrying. It is natural, of course. I worry all the time if I will ever be able to move on, if I will end up just like my mother, if there was something more I could have done. You are going to be okay. Take those worries and use them to move forward. Create or do something that your loved one would be proud of; that you can be proud of. Thank the universe for the time you had and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from becoming the person you want to be, because, let’s face it: you have been through hell and made it out to see another day. Make it a good one.


2019 Scholarship Recipient, Alexandra Tulowiecki

My biggest advice for anyone who has lost a loved one to substance abuse is to take that pain, that sadness, and that hurt and use it for something positive. Personally, I find it helpful to volunteer at the hospital and help others going through similar situations. Losing a loved one changes everything. It is crucial to find positive outlets such as exercising, talking to friends and family, or listening to music. Do what you love, and understand that nothing is your fault. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. 


2018 Scholarship Recipient, Veronica Nation

The advice I would give to other students who have been through similar circumstances would be to give yourself time to heal. I think time is one of the biggest factors when it comes to acceptance after grieving. It’s important to remember what you can control and what you cannot, and death of a loved one is one of the hardest things to go through. Let yourself grieve and learn to cope in a healthy way, but don’t allow a hardship to overtake your life.


2017 Scholarship Recipient, Daniele Martino

I want to stress to others who have experienced the loss of a loved one to substance abuse, that just because this person grappled with addiction does not mean they didn’t care about you. I know that my father loved me and I know that because of his dependency he was not able to be as present in my life as he would have liked to have been, but he would not have wanted me to lose sight of who I am in this process. It is so easy to relinquish control and lose track of your goals in the face of tragedy, especially given the nature of another person’s addiction being so far out of our control. I hope that any young person who has lost a family member in this way is able to find solace in advocating for things that are within their control, and to use this loss to push them in the direction of the person they hope to be.


2016 Scholarship Recipient, Micole Fuller

My advice would be to try not to lose sight of who you are in the emotional turmoil of family and life. It can be easy to forget such things when someone you love has lost themselves to substance abuse, as you tend to get caught up in their problems and identity crisis, and from the guilt you may feel when you can’t seem to help them find their way. But you have to remember that you can only help someone who wants to help themselves, and that your identity is just as important as helping others find and maintain their own. Indeed, it is far easier to help others when you have the confidence and sense of self to support your desire to reach out to them. It is far more difficult to help someone (re)gain their identity and find the right path when you’re still questioning your own identity.