Serious about learning “because I know it would make my mother proud”

We are proud to announce Sarah Rich earned honorable mention in the Ohio STEM Learning Network high school essay contest. Sarah Rich is a 10th grader at the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School in Akron, Ohio. She is currently taking post-secondary courses at the University of Akron where, she hopes to major in Biology. Later on down the road, she would to study medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University or The Ohio State University. She’s open to other schools as well, but would prefer to stay in Ohio.

“I am so fortunate that I can say that all of my teachers have been essential and an amazing influence on my education: in particular Mrs. Everson from second grade at Betty Jane Elementary who taught me to love to learn, and my science coaches; Coach Crews and Coach Holcomb from the STEM middle school in Akron and Coach Hanna and Coach Kaffen from my high school. All of them are wonderful and helped me love and appreciate science.”

Read essay below:

Sarah RichIn October 2015, my mother was diagnosed with stage four signet cell carcinoma, a rare cancer. The cancer had spread to the point where surgery was no longer an option and even rough chemotherapy would not help. After being on chemo every other week for over two years my mother stopped treatment and passed away a few months later on February 17th of this year.

In the beginning of ninth grade, before my mother’s diagnoses, I let my grades slack by procrastinating and telling myself to have more fun. Though I got nothing less than a “B-“ in all the grading periods, I remember frantically doing extra credit for my trigonometry class to raise a “C+” to a “B-“ the last days of one grading period. When my mother was diagnosed, my work ethic decreased and I procrastinated more because I thought I had an excuse to not do homework. I was disappointed in myself the last day of school freshman year when all my friends got on honor roll for maintaining higher than a 3.5 GPA and I got merit roll for having a 3.3 GPA. This, in my eyes, was my failure.

I felt ignorant, but worse, I let my mother down. My brothers took College Credit Plus and my mother saw it as a wonderful opportunity. I had no interest in CCP but my mother signed me up for the ACT and helped me study against my will. My mother worked three jobs as instructors at University of Akron and Herzing University as well as a new job she got she considered her “dream job” as a lab director at Akron Children’s Hospitals, and still helped me study and prepare. With her help, I got a 23 composite score and would be signing up for CCP sophomore year. The first semester of sophomore year I took two General Education courses at the University of Akron as well as three mandatory classes at my high school. I was relearning how to be a better student by being proactive about my work and getting at least a “B+” in my classes. I still procrastinated with homework and struggled to schedule out my day setting aside time for homework and study, dance class, and being with my mother. Semester two was when my mother’s condition had taken a turn for the worse.

Proud of what I considered to be “hard work” in the first semester I scheduled four college classes as well as Pre-Calculus and Physics at my high school. My mother had started to become dependent on getting nutrients from an IV because she could not eat without throwing up and taking pain medicines that were so strong she could not legally drive or work. I had started to use a planner to write down homework assignments and making sure every assignment was above finished with at least an 80%. I kept in mind something my mother told me, “school is your number one priority.” Unfortunately, my mother’s condition worsened and was given only a few days. I still went to school because my mother would have wanted me to even though focusing was becoming hard. In the evenings, I would tell her how hard I was working and that I love her. My friends had to tell me not to go to school because I started to act concerned and unfocused. I remained home only the day she passed away and the day of her funeral before restarting school and dance.

I started to realize things about my mother that I had not before. Over 200 people came to her funeral, she touched and inspired so many lives which overwhelmed me. I realized that the only reason she stopped going to work was because she legally could not, and she wanted to work to her very last day. From talking to people she knew I discovered that she could not say “no” to a favor, her students felt like she was their very own mother, that she was never expected to work as long as she did, and that she put education in the upmost regard. My high school’s PTSA program was founded by my mother and they made a scholarship for seniors in her name.

I vowed that my freshman year failure would never happen again the beginning of sophomore year, now towards the end of my sophomore year I want to make a vow on behalf of myself and my mother that I will be the best student I can possibly be. I have started scheduling my day and weeks in advance and writing essays and doing homework that are not even due for several days later. In my dance and academic classes I am more focused and excited to learn. I am taking learning so serious and focusing so hard because I know it would make my mother proud. I intend to graduate the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM School with an honors diploma, attend college with a Biology/Pre-Med major and become a pediatrician or cancer researcher. Through my freshman year failure and my mother’s passing I have become a better student and I am happier with myself knowing that I have made the best out of bad situations.



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