My Personal Statement

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By Wayne Russell

Hope is weaved throughout my story. I trace the beginning of my ethos of hope to an overseas trip my parents sacrificially saved for. When I was eleven years old I left the Southern Hemisphere for a six-week ‘field trip’ through Europe, the United States and Canada. It was a trip of a lifetime for a small town boy from Africa. The world was officially opened for exploration. If my parents did not show me a world beyond my own, I would have never known that there was more to hope for. My life experiences have made me passionate about giving students experiences beyond their world to convince them that possibilities are endless.

As a child my parents always encouraged me to dream big and to look beyond my current situation. This was powerfully modeled by my parents a few years after taking our six-week ‘field trip’: My father faced unemployment for two and a half years. Throughout this difficult period my parents remained positive and kept looking upward and onwards. Hope for a better future was our daily medicine.

As I approached my high school graduation my parents encouraged me to aim high. My dream was to travel overseas to attend college. I knew this would be no easy feat and would require determination and grit. My parents were unable to financially support an international college education, but they fully supported my big thinking. We planned numerous fundraising activities before my departure. These included garage sales, in which we received the full support of our community with families contributing all their unwanted goods; late-night vanilla fudge-making for friends; and my favorite, an all-out country and western dance and dinner in which ticket sales went towards my overseas college education.

Once I arrived in the U.S. for college I immediately began working and continued working through all my undergraduate and graduate studies. I took full advantage of summer, fall, winter, and spring breaks to work extra hours. I continued to apply what I learned throughout my childhood: hard work and determination. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. Hope mixed with hard work and determination is a recipe for making the impossible possible.