Derrek Coleman, studying Physics, is a JustJobs Scholarship Finalist

My high school physics teacher was a young man, one who was very passionate about the subject and helping his students understand how the world works. He brought the science to life by helping us build golf ball cannons, riding a tiny pink tricycle to demonstrate the Doppler effect, and showing us crazy PBS specials on quantum mechanics. He is still one of my role models, and I strive to be a source of knowledge and inspiration like he was.

That is why I aspire to be a science teacher or professor. I see the cycle of ignorance and poverty repeating itself in cities and cultures across the world. It seems to me like education is the single most empowering gift that a child can receive. It opens them up to new options and possibilities and gives them the strength of mind to tackle life’s problems head-on. Being a teacher isn’t just about teaching chemistry, history, or algebra. It’s about supporting these children as they grow up and encouraging them to take care of themselves, their families, and their communities.

In education and all other areas, my main motivation is to make my mother proud. She is a single mother, I am her only child. Seeing her work day in and day out to support us for decades has inspired me to do my best in school and in life. While teaching is rewarding on its own, my primary goal is to be able to give her the emotional, mental, and financial support she deserves.

Ever since that first year of high school physics, I have dreamed of being a part of the physics department at the University of California, Berkeley. In my senior year I applied to UCB with a fairly robust transcript. But no one is guaranteed admission to Berkeley, and I was denied. This led me to accept an offer from Northeastern University, a private institution nestled among dozens of other colleges in Boston, MA.

I surprised myself and my mother with how well I was able to keep up my academic momentum after being uprooted from my network of friends and support. While my grades spoke to my success, the work-hard-party-harder lifestyle was taking its toll on my mind and spirit. After two years of burning myself out, I faced a difficult decision: continue sacrificing my happiness and stability for academic progress, or pack up and take another leap of faith. After careful deliberation, I moved back to Orange County in the summer after my sophomore year. Over the next year I finished up my general education requirements at my local community college and worked part-time to pay the bills.

Today, I am honored to study alongside some of the brightest minds of our generation, learning from the pioneers and intellectual leaders of those who came before us. It was a long and winding path to get here, but one that has shaped me into the person I am today.

JustJobs.com’s scholarship program is proud to announce Derrek Coleman as one of the finalists for its December 2012 application deadline. Vote for his essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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