2016 Scholarship Winner

Essay

Vinh

Wando High School

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There once was a broken boy in a broken home. His father and mother divorced because she would see and hear things, horrible things, that weren’t really there. His father called her crazy; the doctors called it “schizophrenia”. Fast forward a few years, a divorce paper, a plane ride, his mother left homeless in the streets, unable to get a job because of her mental state, the confused boy moved away with his father and his new girlfriend. Because they both worked full-time, he and his little brothers were left alone with their newly diagnosed schizophrenic brother. How terrified that little boy was when his brother would scream at him and beat him and his little brothers. He would lock himself in the bathroom for hours because that was the only place in the house that was safe. He used to overhear his dad and his girlfriend stressing over the unpaid house bills, the medication and therapy for my brother that we could not afford, arguments that turned into violent beatings.

He learned to become a light sleeper because he always had to be on alert in case his father beat his girlfriend or his brother had a schizophrenic episode that night. Even though he was hardly a teenager, at this point, suicidal thoughts began to invade Vinh's mind. I do not share my story for the purpose of pity but as a call to action to wage the war on mental illness in our nation. I was one of the lucky ones that were able to find my way out of the darkness. But my story is only one of millions. Countless unheard cries of help. At school, we are given the opportunity to leave behind the problems we have at home and hone our unique talents and intelligences into a useful energy and prepare ourselves to create a better future. College is only the first leg of my life journey to research the brain to contribute to our understanding and treatment of mental illness and fortify our arsenal on the war against mental illness. Knowledge is nothing if its basis is not in the service of others. Equipped with the weapons of knowledge, experience, and compassion, my life mission to create an charity/outreach program to provide free mental health care to those that need it most, such as children from broken homes and ex-convicts.

Currently, mental health care is a luxury, too expensive for those that need it most even with health insurance, while the incidence of depression and anxiety seems to become increasingly prominent. This creeping miasma is indiscriminately corrupting everyone in its path, no matter what race or financial background, age or walk of life. From my opportunities at Stanford, I will apply for grants to initiate the program and then sustain its operation through donations and volunteers. By providing this necessary health care to the next generation of thinkers and workers, I will be impacting the community for the next 80 years and beyond.