Yesterday, we announced the second honorable mention for ourAnnual College Book Scholarship. It was very difficult narrowing down over 3,000 applications. My co-writer and I spent a lot of time crying and laughing while reading each essay. All applicants had a unique flavor to add to their writing. Ultimately, we knew we had to decide. The winner of the scholarship is someone who has overcome adversity and continues to work hard for his passions.
So without further ado...
The $500 Scholarship Winner is Gus Hardy!
Gus Hardy is a rising junior at Santa Clara University currently double-majoring in Religious Studies and Political Science. Gus is involved in Campus Ministry, Student Government, Christian small groups, and enjoys hiking with friends in his spare time. After graduation, Gus hopes to attend either Boston College or the University of Notre Dame for doctoral studies in Theology.
Here is an excerpt from his essay:
"I’m very fortunate to even be writing this letter, as I wasn’t expected to go to college in the first place.
I was a bright kid growing up, but even in preschool, I developed a reputation for reciting at length from movies and books I loved, while the other kids didn’t know what I was talking about. Sometimes I would say things that were too blunt, or inappropriate. Put in front of a buffet, I could eat with abandon, oblivious to the stares of others. By second grade, a battery of psychological evaluations confirmed that I had a diagnosis of Nonverbal Learning Disorder, or NLD, one of the less-known autistic disorders.
This disorder, which involves difficulty interpreting social cues like intonation or appropriate proximity to others, meant years of social awkwardness and frequent inability to fit in. Much worse, the psychologists who gave me this diagnosis theorized that I would have about three more “good” years of school. I would hit my intellectual peak in the fifth grade, after which time the increasing social complexity that a child faces as he moves towards adolescence and adulthood would overwhelm me. The likely outcome, my parents heard, was that my grades would suffer, I would become relatively more inept socially, and I would likely fail at school. College was unlikely, and any job I secured would probably be marginal.
I began a long and uncertain process of proving that diagnosis wrong.
With my parents and friends encouraging me to this day, I fought against my disorder, with a combination of physical and linguistic drills, self-correction, memorization of some of the social habits most people take for granted, and lots of rhythmic exercise. I was consciously waging a war, in which my brain was both my enemy and my ally.
...I have just completed my sophomore year at Santa Clara University, where I am majoring in Politics and Religion, the external and internal manifestations of my passions for the world. I’m happy to report that so far the doctors were wrong about me peaking in the fifth grade; given that I’m currently on the Dean’s List (with a 3.89-grade point average.)
Some of my friends are majoring in business or engineering, to their minds more pragmatic fields of study. I don’t have anything against those fields, but life has led me toward different kinds of practicality: The need to address the question, "How should we live, in the eyes of others and in our own eyes?"
We wish Gus all the best throughout his journey!
We want to thank and encourage all of the applicants for the scholarship to apply again next year. Good luck to everyone during their Fall semester!