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  • Empower Orphans

Uncertain, Undecided, Unconditionally Compassionate

Callie Freenock (Junior)

My father goes to work every day, with a smile on his face. He is a doctor, helping and healing people. Prior to last year, he hadn’t taken a sick day since 1987. In November of 2015, he was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery to remove the cancer and thankfully that was the end of it. His surgery took place over my winter break, so I was able to tend to him during his recovery. I found myself on the couch as he paced back and forth. My mother would get home from work and he would excitedly tell her he walked four miles that day, inside the house. But soon, he became bored and begged to return to work. He even made me secretly drive him to his office so he could “finish up a few things”. Although he was supposed to take a month off from work, he ended up returning within a week of his surgery. I’ve always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father. I want to have the same passion and drive in my eyes as I see in his every single day.

Coming to Penn State, my heart was set on pursuing medicine. I had it all worked out. I would declare a pre-med major, take the MCAT my junior year, and attend medical school directly after graduating from college. However, I ran into some unexpected issues. Admittedly, my academic transition from Clarion Area High School to Penn State was not easy. My high school class was a mere 50 students, and the high school itself offered only four advanced placement courses. I did not fully understand this disadvantage until my classes were underway. I knew the science curriculum would be rigorous and understood I would have to work to grasp the material. However, I underestimated just how far ahead my peers would be, and I discovered that hard work was not enough. I quickly gave up my dream to become a physician, and found myself lost in the inherent commotion and chaos of a school with 40,000 students.

I struggled to find my path and began to feel as though I was wasting my time taking classes, considering I did not have an end goal. One night my parents took me out to dinner. I started talking about my work through Empower Orphans. They stopped me and said that they saw my face light up as I talked about Empower Orphans. I laughed and said “If only I could make a career out of that.” My parents looked at me puzzled, “Well why can’t you?” That’s when I realized why I wanted to be a doctor so much. I wanted to help others. And in the simplest way, that made me happy. I’ve always been an all or nothing thinker, black and white. In my eyes, helping people meant you gave them money. But Empower Orphans has taught me that there are so many ways to help people. While financial support is important, educational and emotional support is as well. Something as easy as making another person smile can have a huge impact on their day. That’s why the #JoinTheRipple campaign has resonated with me so much.

Empower Orphans has encouraged me to pursue a degree in social work. The magic of Penn State is that while it is easy to get lost, there is a place for everyone; you just have to find it. Empower Orphans is that place for me. I hope to impact the people around me, just as my father impacts those around him. Now I fully understand what my father truly does, and I realize I have some big shoes to fill.

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