Skip to main content

A Significant Influence

The following is an essay written by a graduating senior in the Johnson Scholars Program, a college readiness program that is a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach County, Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. We will feature other student authors in the coming weeks.

Amit Ray once said, “Life throws challenges and every challenge comes with rainbows and lights to conquer it.” This quote clarifies that the road to success will not be simple; there will be adversities to overcome. One recognizes Ray’s fight for world peace; however, it is the triumphs of a common man that has had a significant influence on my life. He is more than a man I call brother. He is a beacon of hope and an inspiration to everyone he touches. Wendy Dumerlus has influenced me from an educational standpoint as well as a moral perspective.

students in graduation gowns throwing capsAfter witnessing my brother graduate from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems in December 2014, I instantly knew I wanted to achieve this goal one day. Being a first-generation student and graduating summa cum laude, Wendy opened my eyes to educational success. His achievements have motivated me to pursue a college education. Noticing the financial accomplishments my brother has been able to achieve after earning his degree revealed the opportunities that are available for me as well. The plan is to major in computer science or the like, to enter the information technology realm as a cybersecurity analyst.

In addition to my studies, I plan on getting involved with different organizations. Specifically, I plan on joining a sorority to serve the community and to network with fellow classmates. Also, I plan on joining culture clubs to learn about my roots and to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. Throughout college, my brother was a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, Neg Kreyol Incorporated, and Club Creole. After his experiences with these outstanding organizations, he has stressed the importance of getting involved and building relationships with people. After all, it is not what you know, it’s who you know. Like Wendy, I will also be active in campus activities.

Two people clasping hands Getting involved is vital to serving the community. During my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, I will focus on giving back to the community in various ways. Being a positive role model, tutoring, and serving the homeless are some of the services that are near and dear to my heart. My brother was involved with Parents and Children Advance Together, which is an elementary tutoring ministry; the HipHop Basketball Foundation, which is an inner-city financial freedom organization; and Feeding Tampa Bay, which is an organization designed to help provide meals to less fortunate families. So I not only want to embody the values of my university, I also want to help transform the surrounding communities.

In essence, no one is perfect; however, it is important to have positive influences in your life to prosper. Wendy Dumerlus has set me on the right path and like him, I aspire to be the change I want to see in this world. Whether in school or life, the advice and the push I get from my brother is truly inspirational. Because of that my long-term and short-term goals are set for the future, now all I have to do is apply it and expand it.

Guidna Dumerlus is a senior at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a student in the Johnson Scholars Program, and she plans on majoring in computer science at Florida Atlantic University. Her career goal is to be a cybersecurity analyst.

My Hardships Have Prepared Me

The following is an excerpt from an essay on leadership written by a student in the Johnson Scholars Program, a college readiness program that is a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach County, Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. Her essay offers insights into the struggles many high school students are facing today. We will feature other student authors in the coming weeks.

looking up a spiral staircaseThroughout my life, I have learned that being a leader means to be humble and let yourself be the staircase in which you lead others to walk on to succeed. The setbacks that I had in my life did not stop me from reaching the point where I am and thus becoming the stepping-stone for my family and others.

When I was 3 years old, my father found me unable to breathe and panicked knowing my life was on the line. My parents rushed me to the hospital late that night. The medical team checked my lungs and airway but there was no blockage, leaving the doctors with no explanation. My time was running thin as I became increasingly desperate for air. My parents were struggling with answers and grew impatient seeing their daughter helpless. Finally, a doctor arrived to the hospital and immediately he knew the cause and rushed me to the operating room.

emergency room signHe operated on the back of my neck, trying his best to save me. After almost 20 hours in surgery, I was finally reunited with my parents. I was awake by the time I was coming out, and I saw the tear-filled eyes of my father and mother. The last thing I remember before I went into the ICU was whispering to my father saying, “Don’t cry, Papi, everything will be okay.” The next day, I was waking up when the doctor came by my room to examine me to see if there is any visible neurological damage. As the doctor told me to stretch and move my fingers, we all noticed that I was having motor difficulties. He told to move my legs. Horror hit as I could not move them. My parents and I were devastated by the news that there were high chances that I may not be able to walk again.

Though this hit me hard, a voice inside me told me not to accept this diagnosis. Instead of accepting the wheelchair, I crawled on the floor every day, hoping that little by little, I would gain enough strength to stand on my own. After much time and perseverance, I was beginning to stand on my own and take small steps. With this new hope, I was placed in physical and occupational therapy. It took many months until I was completely rehabilitated. As I grew older, I would need constant check-ups from my doctor, not only because of my operation but also because of my weak immune system. I felt helpless and like a burden.

Books and the letters A B C written on a chalk boardDuring my elementary school experience, I was insecure and self-reserved due to all the health issues I was going through. It became worse as I was bullied due to the scar of the operation and how my fingers worked. My classmates would be cruel and would often exclude me from group activities, leaving me feeling alone and unwanted. I also endured challenges at home, and I had to put on a brave face for my younger brothers in these situations. I am the oldest and so I learned I had to be the strong one within the family.

The bullying did not stop until the seventh grade, where I found people who accepted me for who I am. As a result, I started to gain more confidence in myself and my abilities. Entering high school, I was excited and enthusiastic for what this new chapter in my life would bring me. Turns out, my hardships became essential in my life for those same hardships would help me later on. For example, I became more active in my church. I found a channel to reach out to more people similar to me and have a strong support system.

child playing with blocks

My career goal is to be an occupational therapist. I want to be the inspiration for the children to continue working hard with their therapy and get right back up and continue to live their lives as normal as possible.

This aspiration stems from the doctors and occupational therapists that have done for this for me when I was in need. My hardships have better prepared me to be a leader not only throughout college, but my professional life to follow.

Joselynne Zurita attends Lake Worth Community High School in Lake Worth, Florida. She is in the dual enrollment program, and upon graduation from high school she plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in health sciences at a state university and later pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy.

From Surviving to Thriving

The following is an excerpt from an essay on leadership written by a student in the Johnson Scholars Program, a college readiness program that is a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach County, Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. His essay offers insights into the struggles many high school students are facing today. We will feature other student authors in the coming weeks.

On March 8, 2000, at approximately 3:30 p.m. the world welcomed a baby boy named Sharad Vashawn Jones. Little did my family know, I would unfortunately contract pneumonia shortly after. With the proper treatment and care I needed, I pulled through and survived. For the rest of my life, survival would be my best friend.

EKG print outAt 2 years of age I, for the second time, came down with pneumonia. Only this time I had to be admitted to the hospital for a week. A couple of years later I would be diagnosed with asthma, something that ran in my family. One year around Mother’s Day, my lungs decided to suffer an asthma attack. Sitting at the dining table hooked to a nebulizer, I was lucky to have caught it early and was able to notify my parents before it spiraled out of control. Succumbing to an asthma attack brings on immediate feeling of a pressure so immense that catching my breath was almost impossible. That event left me stranded in the moment and it felt as though no one could help me. Survival is a virtue I know much too well.

Time flies by and in the blink of an eye high school is welcomed with beckoning arms. With high school came many things like prom, applying for colleges, and for me, coming to terms with my sexuality. I knew I couldn’t hide it forever. After three years, with the help of some loving confidants, I was able to share the truth with my parents who, even after hearing what had been burdening me for so long, loved me just the same. Facing those in high school was much tougher, though. The rumors spread like a wildfire across the school and the mumbling in the halls seemed to get louder every day. Slowly but surely, the truth came out and although I had lots of support, there were still those who weren’t as open minded. Through the name calling and disrespect, however, I could see a glimmer of light telling me not to give up.

closeup of a book, pencil and pad of paperThough there were many times I wanted to bury my head and surrender, I knew there was more for me in life. All odds were against me but I kept my head up and prospered throughout high school and ended up a full time dual enrolled college student at age 17. This was unheard of in my family and sparked something in me that gave me hope. I see the brewing potential in my younger siblings and them looking up to me and admiring me as their role model and it is an indescribable feeling. I not only survived but thrived in the face of doubt, and I know now that nothing will ever be able to hold me back from my true potential.

Leadership to me is not a characteristic but a lifestyle. It means being comfortable enough with yourself to not only lead you but to lead others as well. It means knowing when to put others’ needs before yours but not neglecting yourself in the process. Leadership is making sacrifices to benefit the greater good at all times. It’s integrity, loyalty, trustworthiness, and most importantly it’s honesty. It’s not about what you do when everyone is looking, it’s what you do when no one is looking. Leadership is something I always had growing up but never knew the name for it. Once I was old enough to realize that I had the power to influence people and persuade them to do the right thing, I knew that all my struggles happened for a reason and that there was a plan for me. This is only the beginning of my journey and the world better make way.

Sharad V. Jones is a senior at Lake Worth Community High School in Lake Worth, Florida. Through dual enrollment, he will finish high school with not only a diploma but also an associate’s degree. He plans to transfer to a state university and major in biology or forensics.