As you know, The Woods Academy is “an inclusive Catholic community preparing boys and girls to lead lives of significance." When I graduated from The Woods in 2008, this statement had not yet been adopted, however, it was clearly the school’s mission. Here is how I know. After my time at The Woods, I attended St. John’s College High School (2012), and now attend the University of South Carolina and graduated in May 2017. Since a young age, I have been fascinated by service and helping others. It was apparent early in school that this would be a passion that would grow with me into adulthood, but I never knew just how much it would grow.
In college, I got involved with an organization called Dance Marathon (USCDM) which raises money for our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. USCDM fundraises all year long. In the spring, they have a giant 14-hour, no-sitting, no sleeping event where they celebrate their hard work for the entire year, honor their Miracle Families, and reveal the final amount they’ve raised throughout the year. I participated in USCDM my sophomore year simply as a dancer and fell in love with it. I had to get more involved.
In my junior year, I joined USCDM’s staff as part of the public relations committee. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with meningitis early on in the year and missed out on a lot of the planning and work of fall semester. That year (2015) we raised $501,528 for Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. Despite my absence for most of fall semester, I decided to apply to be the Director of Public Relations for my senior year. At the time, I thought that was where my road with Dance Marathon would end. I knew I was a few classes behind and would be graduating a bit late, but I figured I could take them in the summer and fall and graduate in December. Little did I know, this would not be my last go-around with Children’s Hospitals or USCDM. Just before our event in the spring, I had been offered an internship with Children’s National Health System, here in Washington, DC. I had the opportunity to come home and do what I loved for a bit longer. However, if I took this position, I could no longer graduate in December. I found myself in a bit of a pickle and decided to think about it for a while longer.
Just before we revealed our 2016 total, a girl I barely knew on another committee approached me and told me I had been her inspiration the entire year. She admired my hardworking attitude from afar and told me I motivated her to push her limits and exceed her potential. I was living a life of significance that affected someone else without even knowing it. That year (2016) we raised $527,810 for Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. In that moment, I decided I was going to take the internship, stay at USC for an entire fifth year, and apply to be President of USCDM for 2017.
I was chosen to serve as USCDM’s president for 2017 – an honor and privilege I’ll never forget. We set a lofty goal of raising $700,000 in 2017. When we announced this goal, people were worried we couldn’t make that big of a jump. That’s a lot of money…from where are we going to get it? I told our staff that if your goals don’t scare you a little bit and excite you a lot, then they aren’t big enough. We raised $703,289 for Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, and I personally raised $7,171 – something I never thought possible for myself. Not only was this the highest USCDM had ever raised, but it was also a $175,479 increase from the previous year — an increase that at one point seemed impossible.
Reaching and exceeding that $700,000 goal was a challenge and an incredibly rewarding experience. I truly believe that service to others is the rent you pay for your time on Earth – and I’m glad that I could serve my community in this way. I hope to stay working with non-profits after I graduate from USC. After all, I believe you’re born with two hands — one to help yourself, and one to help others.