HIGH SCHOOL: Phillipsburg High School
COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY: Rowan University (New Jersey)
GRADUATION YEAR: 2019
My story with BEST began during my freshman year in college after a friend had recommended I apply. I remember at first wondering if I really wanted to commit myself to living in the Lehigh valley area for two years post-graduation, especially for the scholarship amount being offered. I felt at the time that would be a considerable commitment, and I questioned if the scholarship program had enough to offer to make me feel enthusiastic about giving back to the Lehigh Valley area. It didn’t take long after being a part of BEST, especially with the help of personal and insightful conversations with Billy, to understand the underlying philosophy that the group operates on. My feelings toward BEST had changed so dramatically since I first applied to the group that I eventually urged my sister to apply, emphasizing that it’s a great program to be a part of.
What I had come to love about BEST was how much the people involved in the program had to offer to the students, and it was not only the board members. This never appeared clearer to me then when my mother passed away during the first semester of my sophomore year. At that difficult time in my life, BEST members not only showed up in support of my family and I, but they also shared our pain. They effectively provided support, comfort, and assurance that was accustomed to my sister and I, two students who responded to death in profoundly different ways.
Being a BEST student was more than just helping with annual events, having to attend end of semester meetings, writing monthly reports, and being assigned a mentor. It was about embracing the philosophy of paying it forward by donating my time back to the program; being able to sit with board members while being treated like a responsible adult and not a child, surrounded by people who sought not to judge, but to understand; writing detailed reports not only of my academic progress, but also about the development of my entire life, because I knew it was going to be read with earnest intentions, and embarking on an ever-growing friendship with someone who was my biggest supporter.
BEST was more to me than a non-profit scholarship program that helped financially hampered students afford and navigate through college. It was and always will be a community of people who are committed to creating a better tomorrow for the Lehigh Valley area through educating the next generation of Americans.
While I’m very appreciative and grateful for the scholarships that I have received from BEST over the last couple of years, its actually the intangible things that I have come to value the most; things like friendship, networking, making connections, family, and remembering to pay it forward. Its those kinds of things that result in both a longer lasting and more profound impact on your life than money alone could.
It’s remarkable to think that the things that concerned me most prior to joining BEST, the scholarship amount and committing to serve in the Lehigh Valley for two years post-graduation, are the things that are the least valuable in terms of what I’ve gained from BEST. I owe my transformation to the BEST community and want to sincerely thank them for the service they have done.