Janessa Pedersen, Union High School

Janessa Pedersen

I stare at this blank piece of paper thinking about how I got to where I am today.
Today…yes, I know that day. That’s the day where I became Union High School’s Science Sterling Scholar. It’s the day where I, the oldest child in an extremely low income family, got accepted to Colorado School of Mines with a $48,000 scholarship. It’s the day where I will be the first generation of my family to go to college and graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree. It’s the day where I look to the future and ask myself if I’ll be able to find a chemical engineering career. It’s the day that just over 17 years have created for me. What will my future hold?

I may not know what my future will hold for me aside from a glimpse, but I do know what my past holds. My past holds a lot of heartache and hard work. A couple things I have struggled with are moving and being near poverty. I have spent most of my life moving from place to place, attending 11 different schools. Most places I lived in for less than a year, except here in Ballard, where I have lived for 6 years with my grandparents. Many wonder why I live with my grandparents. Well, I live with them because my mom is struggling so much to keep my sisters and her off the streets while fighting her Lupus symptoms and my dad is in prison for 5 years.
My entire life I have struggled with being poor. Most of the reason I moved was because my parents couldn’t afford where we were living. After they got divorced everything got worse. My sisters and I had to rely completely on extended family to help us find a place to live and have enough to eat outside of free lunch. It was also hard being so poor because I couldn’t afford to go out with friends or even take piano lessons with everybody else. But even though it was hard, I learned that by working hard I’ll accomplish my goals.

I worked hard to get past the limitations of being poor and the judgments that come from others about my father. Working hard has led me to programs like Upward Bound, which have helped me prepare for college, and ultimately allowed me to become my school’s Science Sterling Scholar. With all of this in my past, I am certainly looking forward to everything my future holds.

Richard Conrad

Richard Conrad

My story…is no different from any of yours. I am 17 years old, my name is Richard Conrad, son of Richard Conrad and I’m really just stepping towards success. But success has a specific and personal definition for each one of us. For me, success is the dream that one day I can raise a family, support them and most of all be economically stable no matter the times. But I am not so naive to think that just by thinking of success I will attain it. No, because for anything successful to come, hardships and struggles must be faced.

I have never really been focused specifically on one career or one aspect of my life. I think it’s important to keep myself ‘well-rounded’ and never put all my money on one hand of cards. Honestly I’ve been all over the place with interests. I used to be determined that I was going to develop video games, then I was going to be a psychologist, then a doctor and now…business!

Some adversities that I feel have pushed me away from the idea of an average American family would be, well…my family! When I was a kid my dad got sick, my parents separated due to abusive relationships, we moved to Roosevelt and to this day live with my grandparents in an extended family setting. Growing up with my mom as a single parent, but then also my grandparents right there also has definitely changed my attitude toward the absolute importance of an education.

I’m low income, a first generation student and a business and marketing sterling scholar! I will never allow my background or the struggles throughout my life to affect who I am and will be. Education is of the utmost importance, it will be the biggest stepping stone for the future.