HERE IS MAKENA’S ESSAY:
“Growing up as the youngest of four children was an interesting experience. While I was subjected to many pranks, I was also privileged in having three role models that I could always turn to in times of need. While all of my siblings had something unique to offer, it was my relationship with my older brother Spencer that has been the most special. I’ve always felt closest to him despite our 10 year difference. We’ve always had a special bond that made me feel at home. I would do anything for my brother, and he would do the same for me. However, myself and my family’s relationship with my brother all changed when my mom received a phone call that would alter all our lives.
On that phone call, we discovered that my brother had been struggling with substance abuse. His addiction to painkillers had derailed his entire life. Once an academic superstar, Spencer’s grades in college had plummeted, as did his overall well being. Spencer had to drop out of school and go straight into an intensive rehab program for several months. Though I was only in fourth grade at the time, the memories from that call are etched in my memory forever. I still vividly recall the night my parents told me and my older sister the news, watching my mom shake as she broke the news.
As a young girl, I had a hard time grasping the disease of addiction and the impact it had on my family. What I knew for certain was that my brother was sick, my family was constantly stressed out, and the brother I once saw very regularly was thousands of miles away in rehab. My most formative years growing up were spent falling asleep not knowing if Spencer was alive and dreading phone calls from hospitals reporting that he overdosed. When Spencer was clean and sober, my family acted like a loving, cohesive unit. When he relapsed, the family crumbled under the pressure of keeping him alive and off the streets.
In the face of all of this pressure and volatility, I knew I had a responsibility to be a positive force for those around me. I learned at an early age that life is very fragile and can be taken away at any moment. This experience has taught me to hold my friends and family close, to set everything else aside for them in times of struggle, whether it be my soccer career, school projects or social events. I have become a trusted child, sibling and friend to those around me, and the impact I’ve had for those around me as a source of light and support. But in reflecting on those moments, I’ve realized that I’ve been sacrificing my own successes to ensure the success of people around me.
As I look to this next chapter of my life, I realize I have an opportunity to expand my role as a positive force - not just for my friends and family, but for the first time in my life, myself. Prior to his addiction, my brother would have given anything to ensure that I was successful in life. Today, as I approach my first step in becoming an adult, I realize that I need to share that mindset. If I am fortunate enough be admitted I will be in an environment where I can focus on my own development. Through the many hard lessons I’ve learned through my brother’s struggles with addiction and growth as an individual, I am confident that I will find that success in the years to come. I will be part of something larger than I’ve ever been part of before, and will be able to impact my community on a larger scale while also developing a strong appreciation for my own life and those around me.”