Stephanie Sammons, studying Therapeutic Recreation, is a JustJobs Scholarship Finalist

During my sophomore year, I was involved in a terrible automobile accident. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, which changed the course of my life.

Following my accident, I suffered from amnesia. I didn’t recognize the family members who came to visit me in the hospital. For months, I struggled to read and spell again. I had difficulties with retention and concentration. I suffered from debilitating migraines, vertigo and depression.

Formerly an Honors student pursuing a double major, I was forced to change my goals. I could no longer handle the demands of the Honors program, and had to relinquish my scholarships. I seriously considered dropping out of college altogether. 

Instead, though, I began taking art and theater courses, in which (due to the reduced reading load) I was able to succeed. I discovered that I had some aptitude for art and design, and I eventually worked my way to a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art. Along the way, I met warm, vibrant, lively people — people who helped bring me out of my shell and my depression, many of whom are still my friends today. I began to believe in myself and my capabilities again. 

After college, I worked in various theater, drafting and design jobs. Though I was successful, nothing came as easily as it had before. I needed to work harder, force myself to take notes, to focus…and if I worked too hard or got too stressed, the migraines and the vertigo returned. If I trained too hard athletically, I suffered terrifying seizures.

It would have been easy to sit comfortably at my (perfectly respectable) job, to stagnate, to be safe.

But my true dream was to become an Art Therapist — to help others find the same comfort, healing, and sense of achievement that I’d found in my arts courses. 

So I took at huge risk. I quit a job in which I was well-established, and used my savings to return to school. I chipped away at my Psychology prerequisites while nannying to pay the bills. Last January, I began an unpaid practicum at the local Children’s Hospital, leading art projects in the pediatric oncology ward. I was terrified at first — shy, uncertain, dealing with different families and age groups each week — but over the months I’ve become more confident, less self-conscious, more able to focus on the children and their needs.

Most recently, I became a full-time student in Eastern Washington University’s Therapeutic Recreation program. This was a huge undertaking for someone with my history. I’m terrified, at times, of embarking upon a road this mentally challenging and financially daunting, but I know in my heart that it will be worth it at journey’s end.

To obtain a Therapeutic Recreation degree — and then secure the national certification which will enable me to serve others effectively, compassionately, and with confidence — would be the culmination of years of doubt and struggle. It would mean that I’d truly transcended my injury, to become the professional I dream of being.

JustJobs.com’s scholarship program is proud to announce Stephanie Sammons as one of the finalists for its December 2012 application deadline. Vote for her 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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  • Barbara Brock

    This is a remarkable young lady and I am honored to have her in my classes at Eastern Washington University.

  • Emily S. Messina, PhD CTRS

    As the Therapeutic Recreation Program Director at Eastern Washington University, I’d like to congratulate Steph on a job well done and give her my support as she moves forward as a finalist! Good luck Steph!

  • kendra

    AHHHH I know me and the rest of the TR students at EWU are voting for you!!!! good luck!!! See you in class on tuesday!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/renee.compton.18 Renee Compton

    You are amazing, Steph. I’m privileged to know you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/liz.letson Liz Castoldi Letson

    To know Stephanie is a blessing! This only describes a portion of her amazing accomplishments. As one who has witnessed her conquer physical dreams as well, I can not imagine a better recipient for this scholarship! She positively influences those around her EVERY day!

  • julie

    Truly an amazing journey of perseverance and determination in order to share her talents and experience with those in need at delicate points in their lives. The scholarship would not only serve Steph well in pursuing her education it would serve many others for years to come as she brings her dreams to life. Best wishes to you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kargelc Carrie Kargel

    Beautiful and inspiring story!! Thank you. :)

  • Jenna

    Steph you are amazing and you are doing wonderful things!

  • Faith

    Wonderful, inspiring, and heartwarming story… hoping you are the winner for this scholarship! :) ~A fellow eagle

  • Becky Brown

    Good luck Steph! And if you ever need a place to hang out on campus, come by the biology department!

  • http://www.internetinc.com/ Eric Shannon

    a beautiful story Stephanie, thanks for telling it. wishing you luck!

  • steph

    I want to thank everyone who took time out of their crowded professional and family lives to vote and comment. Shy girls like me aren’t the kind who win popularity contests…but I know that those of you who voted across the years and miles did so from the heart. It couldn’t have meant more, or been a better validation of the path I’ve chosen. Thank you.

  • ap

    I am biased of course, but Steph’s the combination of her desire to help others, her talent, and the immense amount of effort she puts into being successful ensures she will be true blessing to whomever she ends up serving in her new pursuit.

  • bretttbellinger

    A very deserving pick for this scholarship

  • Bryaneugene

    After resolving that she no longer need be my 5th grade nemesis, over years and miles Steph has remained one of my all time favorite creative minds. Her Freddy-Krueger-inspired lament regarding a troublesome Algebra/Trig teacher, topped only by an early 90s riff on my boss in the cafeteria at UPS, continues to be music therapy for me. In all seriousness, she has always inspired me and her recent successes bring me a proud smile.

  • Laura

    Steph seems so humble! It takes true character to pursue a dream through such struggles and to put yourself in one of the most difficult environments. I’m sure that there are a many children and families out there that have been touched by her.

  • Hollie

    You are truly and inspiration.

  • Bernadette

    I’ve known Stephanie and her family all her life. That she has “some aptitude for art and design” is a huge understatement. That she was able, in the face of monumental post accident life changing issues, to discover and nurture her talent is a testament to a life courageously lived. That she chooses to use that talent in the most difficult of situations, pediatric oncology, when she could as easily live a less challenging artistic life, would surprise no one who knows her. She devotes her considerable talent to bringing the gifts of laughter and fun to children and families facing the most frightening of circumstances. I can’t think of anyone who is more deserving of the recognition this scholarship would bring.

  • Yolibee

    Thank you for sharing your story and may the best for you come to be.

  • Nickie Ewing

    What a great journey. Having a daughter who went through chemo treatments (who died from her cancer) this position is very needed. One who embodies compassion as well as passion to move forward. Appears having been through trauma and recovering, Stephanie would know some of the struggles people go through and would be able to apply that going forward. Cheers Stephanie, I know you will get it!

  • Regan Lane

    Is this where we comment to say that Steph will absolutely make the most of this scholarship? A better investment I cannot imagine. Part of her Nanny-to-pay-the-bills stint was with my two boys (current ages 4 and 2 but she’s been part of their lives from the beginning) and her creativity, absolute devotion, concentrated attention and ability to communicate with them compassionately and respectfully cause them to dance and scream with glee (literally) every time her name is mentioned. She has the same effect on all children I’ve seen her come in contact with. They adore her and for good reason. Oh, the dog loves her too.

  • Tamara McGregor

    I had the privilege of working with Stephanie and was consistently overwhelmed by her creativity and drive. She is so passionate about using her talent to help others and I can’t imagine a more worthy scholarship recipient.

  • Mary S

    I can’t imagine anyone more deserving – you’re an inspiration, Steph!

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