We often lose sight of how fortunate we are, and the stories and struggles of others can offer us perspective and humility. As a summer intern in GSK’s communications department, I was given the chance to work on the GSK Opportunity Scholarship program. This college scholarship is awarded each year to students who have overcome great adversities and are changing their lives through education.
We filmed two of the Philadelphia scholarship recipients in their homes, and their stories made them heroes to me. I met Matthew Williams, who wasn’t much older than me. He spent his childhood in and out of shelters. At 18, he deferred his education to work and help financially stabilize his family. This scholarship will fund the last year of his 10-year journey to obtain his college degree. Excited to go on to help others live healthier lives with his nutrition and dietetics degree, Matthew had a light in his eye I will never forget.
Just a few blocks from Matthew’s house lived another GSK Opportunity Scholarship winner, Nyasia Cooper. I took the lead on this interview. In the small kitchen of her South Philadelphia home, this timid teenager nervously rubbed her legs as I helped her prepare. As nervous as Nyasia was, I think I was more nervous. As I coached her through the interview process, we both overcame our butterflies and really began to connect. I never expected to be so deeply affected by this project but as she sat across from me telling her story I was touched. It wasn’t necessarily her hardships that touched my heart, but her focus and determination to survive and become an author. Before me sat a young woman who overcame open heart surgery and other major medical conditions to become an honors student now preparing for her freshman year at Kutztown University.
Yesterday, I was able to meet the rest of the Philadelphia winners at the award ceremony. How serendipitous, through the internship of a lifetime I would meet a student, Edwin Braswell, who attends my beloved institution, Cheyney University. As Edwin stood at the podium making his acceptance speech I was proud to call him a fellow Cheyney Wolf. His poise, articulation, and passion engaged the audience as he accepted this award. He dedicated it to the countless, voiceless young men in his community who cannot afford many of the same opportunities. Last but certainly not least, there was Nadia, a quiet and reserved young woman whose passion to help others is her driving force. Nadia will enter into her freshmen year this fall Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
I feel truly fortunate to have had this hands-on experience during my internship to help share these inspiring stories. Despite how much we endure in our lives, we can overcome with persistence, determination, and strength – like Nadia, Edwin, Nyasia and Matt.