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1st Place Winner 2018 Katherine Harper

scholarship winner 2018

A Life Forever Altered by a Hamburger

Ding- a text from your mom. Commercial on the radio- change the station. Make a wrong turn- adjust the GPS to recalculate. Comforting aromas- dig into the fast food bag. All of these are daily occurrences in the lives of most drivers, actions taken without a second thought as to their potential repercussions. I have personally experienced the impacts of distracted driving in my life, as I was in a serious car accident at a young age, which resulted in the death of the individual who crashed into my family.

In the car accident my mom, sister and I experienced, the individual who hit my family was eating a hamburger from McDonalds, clearly distracted enough from the road that he ran a red light and rammed my mom’s car. He was so intently focused on consuming his burger that the impact of his car caused three of our car’s tires to pop off and his truck to flip, ejecting his body.  

Not only did the accident lead to his horrific death, but it also led to a life of financial burden for my family, due to twenty reparative surgeries my sister and I required. My family incurred the vast majority of healthcare costs from the accident because the individual did not have insurance.

  Not only have the bills greatly impacted our family, but also my sister and I were bullied due to the gruesome appearance of our injuries. “Scar head” was the nickname I incurred at school, along with other names that are too explicit to be stated. The gruesome bullying that both my sister and I received was enough to send me down a difficult mental health road. I became anxious and depressed, not wanting to go to school anymore, just to avoid the name calling. It took several years of hard work for me to spiral out of this deep and dark pit of mental health issues, with anxiety still a frequent aspect of my life. I am proud of myself for climbing out of the dark place that I was in, but I am not going to say that I do not still struggle.

In college, my anxiety is still prevalent and I still go to therapy to work through some of my mental health issues. It is a daily battle but I know that I can overcome it. I have gone from not wanting to go to college and hating it, to enjoying my time here in Athens and not wanting to leave.

Though the car accident led to many hardships and a great financial burden for my family, my future goals were positively influenced by the accident. Due to the car accident, I am a more cautious driver on the road and I take every opportunity to discuss the impacts of my accident to others in my life, in hopes of saving them from the hardships I have had to go through. The accident has also influenced my degree and study of Health Promotion, as I want to promote sober and safe driving habits. I have dream to start an organization that promotes safe driving habits for teenagers by traveling around the United States to different High Schools. I would love to have guest speakers from each state, that my organization travels to, who have personally experienced the impacts of drunk driving. I believe that through the personal stories of people who have been impacted by drunk driving, whether it be a death or major injury, we can change the future generation of drivers. My dream program would target High School Students, especially students who are just learning how to drive or about to get their license. I believe that if we can start teaching and promoting healthy and safe driving habits at a young age, we can save so many lives.  

Overall, the car accident sparked a passion in me to help others by promoting safe driving habits. Instead of looking at the negative connotations of the accident, I am choosing to focus on the positive. The accident has helped guide my future goals and aspirations. I have a spark and passion to promote the dangers of drunk driving that not many people have.

In order to achieve my dream of my program and be successful, I believe that I first must achieve an advanced degree. Therefore, I have chosen to study Health Promotion at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. I have taken on the full financial responsibility of paying for college this year, due to my families current financial situation. Although I believe this huge responsibility has taught me many valuable lessons about financial independence, it is still a heavy burden over my life. Thankfully, I was able to receive a Pell Grant, but the grant is never enough to pay for the astronomical cost of living, books, food, and gas. In order to attempt to stay out of debt, and avoid loans, I have taken on several part- time jobs. Despite my seemingly endless hours at my jobs, I have marinated a 3.87 GPA and somehow thrived in my classes last semester.