A Canadian girl who has won an award for overcoming adversity plans to use her scholarship to prepare for a career that combines her love of sports with her desire to help others.
According to the Intelligencer, Sierra Westerman, 17, of Quinte West, Ontario, is one of 85 students in financial need to receive a $5,000 Horatio Alger Canadian Scholarship, awarded for “demonstrating strength of character, strong academics, [and] a commitment to pursuing higher education, as well as a desire to contribute to society.”
Westerman’s adversity arose from living with a father suffering from post traumatic stress disorder stemming from his time as a police officer. She plans to use the scholarship to study kinesiology at Redeemer University College in Hamilton, Ontario. “I love sports and being active,” she told the Belleville Intelligencer. “I just want to be able to help people.” She also described herself as “super competitive.”
“Also, just being part of a team and getting to share the highs and lows of sports with people. That’s just the greatest fun and joy you could have. And just my faith too,” she added. “We’ll see where God leads me.”
The desire to contribute to society in the face of adversity is significant. Even students who don’t face significant adversity are frequently prodded toward self-actualization rather than genuine care for others.
UCLA sociologist Jeffrey Guhin writes in The Content of Their Character, “My research produced a straightforward result. Urban public schools were dedicated to two layers of morality: a commitment to ‘helping’ for teachers and to ‘self-actualization’ for students. There was a kind of ‘moral invisible hand,’ a sense in which the schools’ public duty to the nation was best served by helping each student as an individual be successful in whichever way they chose.”
In contrast, David Sikkink, a sociologist at Notre Dame who studied Evangelical Protestant schools for the same study, marked the importance of serving others: “The virtuous person in small and unrecognized ways looked out for the hurting or sacrificed their time to help others, especially those who were not easy to help because, for instance, they were unpopular.”
Honoring Westerman’s achievement in overcoming adversity and desiring to contribute to society reflects well on her school community as well as on her own character.
If you know a student who has inspired you by overcoming adversity and demonstrating character in service to others, you can encourage them to apply for the Horatio Alger Scholarship program.