2018 WINNING ENTRY
I'm a rising sophomore at Columbia University, and I’m double majoring in Neuroscience & Statistics with a 4.0 GPA. Right now, I am doing research at the Neural Circuits Lab of the Columbia Medical Center on the neural wiring behind psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. I plan to use my education to better myself by not just taking advantage of the academic options, but also seeking out practical lab skill development and taking advantage of the opportunities for social justice. I am applying to this scholarship because although I have worked during the summers (most recently at a wildlife hospital) in order to afford tuition, I have also had to work during the school year, on top of time in the lab, extracurricular activities, and a full academic schedule. This scholarship would allow me to put more time into my studies, my research, and my social advocacy.
I hope to leave a mark both on the scientific world and the social world, and so far my education at Columbia University has helped me to pursue both. On the scientific side, my degree in Neuroscience and Statistics, as well as my experience as an undergraduate lab assistant, will be essential to follow my intended career path as a neuroscience researcher. After learning the basics of biology, psychology, and statistical analysis in undergrad, I hope to go onto graduate school, home in on a specialty, and continue my research. Even after graduate school, I never want to stop learning, whether it’s a new computer program to analyze data, groundbreaking literature in neuroscientific journals, or the best sterile surgical techniques. Hopefully, my mark on the world will be one that brings us closer to understanding the beautifully complex organism of the mind, and how to repair it when it malfunctions. I also plan to leave my mark on the social world by pursuing my passion of gender equality, especially the issue of women being pushed out of STEM fields.
"In high school, I saw firsthand the extreme toll that mental health
problems could take on friends and family, alienating them from loved
ones and burning them out far too early."
- Sophie B.
My education will allow me to focus my neuroscientific research on questions that will both push the boundaries of this exciting frontier of science and have real implications for the millions of people dealing with mental health issues. College has already given me a chance to explore this field through being an undergraduate research assistant in the Neural Circuits Lab of our medical campus. Currently, we understand the theory behind individual neurons reasonably well, so my research addresses the questions that are necessary for our field to advance: how do neurons function together, in circuits? Why do these circuits malfunction, and what happens when they do? These questions, beyond just being interesting, have real effects on the world of mental health. I am focusing specifically on the neural wiring behind psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. In high school, I saw firsthand the extreme toll that mental health problems could take on friends and family, alienating them from loved ones and burning them out far too early. Shockingly, though 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year, the treatments for many of these diseases are limited and not rooted in deep clinical knowledge. Though my education and my research, even over a lifetime, will only be a small part of this complex puzzle, I hope that my degree will expand our knowledge on the human brain, the next frontier of biological science.
"Ever since I noticed the severe gender gap in our STEM clubs in high
school, I have used my education to be an advocate for women in STEM careers."
- Sophie B.
I also plan on leaving my mark on the world in the social realm, not just the academic one. Ever since I noticed the severe gender gap in our STEM clubs in high school, I have used my education to be an advocate for women in STEM careers. In high school, after I became the captain of Math Team and Science Olympiad, as well as the captain and co-founder of Rube Goldberg Club, I made it a point of recruiting young girls. These inspiring girls, who would later jokingly call me “mom,” incited a curiosity in me for gender issues that I had never felt before. My senior year, I pursued an independent study where I wrote a 35-page paper on the history of women in STEM careers—and the barriers they have faced—from the 1960s until now. My work saddened me, as I read about the huge implicit barriers that women, especially women of color, still face in certain areas of STEM. However, it also inspired me to continue my advocacy, as I saw the immense progress that women like me have made by getting their STEM education. College has given me an even larger platform to discuss this important issue. As part of the Columbia Science Review, a scientific outreach club on campus, I planned a panel this past semester where Columbia and NYU faculty spoke on the topic of the confidence gap between girls and boys in STEM in early education. I’ve also regularly attended He for She, a UN-based extracurricular activity that focuses on gender equality in the modern world. Although college is certainly not the only place I can pursue my passion for gender equality in STEM, it has given me a platform to use my voice, as well as educational opportunities to learn more through electives in the department of Women’s Studies.
Attending college is just the first step towards my lofty dreams of leaving my mark on the scientific and social community, but it is a crucial one. College gives me a place where I can learn both the academic information I will need for a career in research and the technical lab skills that are equally indispensable. However, it is also somewhere where I can focus on things like gender equality that, although not necessary for a career in neuroscience, will give my mark on the world greater meaning. More broadly, college prepares me for the fact that getting anywhere important takes hard work, sleepless nights, and determination, whether it’s finishing a paper for a neurobiology class, putting up flyers for an event I planned, or performing tedious but necessary prep work for my experiments. These lessons, both in and outside the classroom, will aid me in my career for the rest of my life.
- Sophie B.
2017 WINNING ENTRY
Most of my life has been dedicated to community service and I hope to continue this work with my college degree. For the past five years, I have been volunteering at STAR Equestrian, mainly assisting in therapeutic riding lessons. Each week I serve over 25 riders with various disabilities and help them engage in adaptive horseback riding lessons. Eight years ago, I joined 4-H which has grown to be a huge part of my life. Through 4-H, I have participated in community service projects as well as volunteered with 4-H programs such as Kids Growing with Grains, 4-H camps, Books and Bears, Washington County Fair, and National 4-H Week as well as serving on the Maryland State Council, Washington County Jr. Fair Board, and Washington County 4-H Leadership Committee. In 4-H, I show goats, horses, and rabbits. My passion is working with younger members to ignite their curiosity and educate the public about the role agriculture plays in the life of every person.
Having dedicated so much of my life to helping others and serving my community, my goal is to be able to continue doing so in the future. Both my educational and life goals converge. In life, I aspire to be a therapeutic riding instructor, spending my days working with people with disabilities and horses as well as to raise livestock and continue participating in 4-H through volunteering. Educational goals include earning certification to be a therapeutic riding instructor and to continue giving back to my community.
"The inspiration for choosing to major in EFT came from volunteering
at STAR Equestrian, a therapeutic riding center, for almost five years."
- Bethany D.
After high school, I plan on attending Wilson College for Equine Facilitated Therapeutics. The EFT program allows me to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and certification through the Council for Education and Certification in Therapeutic Horsemanship (CECTH), formerly known as the Pennsylvania Council for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PACTH). The CECTH certification can then be used in pursuing Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) certification as a therapeutic riding instructor. With PATH certification, I will be able to teach disabled riders at any PATH-certified riding center and will be recognized internationally as a certified therapeutic riding instructor. My goals include attaining master status through PATH in therapeutic riding instruction and basic certification or training in another form of therapeutic horsemanship such as interactive vaulting. Career goals include being able to use the certifications to work full-time at a therapeutic riding center as an instructor.
"Through my more than 1,700 volunteer hours I have developed a love
of horses and witnessed the benefits of their use as therapy tools."
- Bethany D.
There I will teach those with disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and veterans with PTSD. They will discover the benefits of an emotional bond with the horse, learn social skills by interacting with others, and also improve physically as the movement of the horse mimics that of the human gait, thus providing three-dimensional physical therapy unique to equine therapy. A degree and certification in therapeutic riding instruction will allow me to change the world one individual at a time by serving riders with various disabilities and helping them overcome obstacles and reach goals.
The inspiration for choosing to major in EFT came from volunteering at STAR Equestrian, a therapeutic riding center, for almost five years. Previously, my interests were in education. The volunteer work inspired me to focus on special education. Through my more than 1,700 volunteer hours I have developed a love of horses and witnessed the benefits of their use as therapy tools. This encouraged me to continue into a career that I am already passionate about. After having the opportunity to assist in teaching and important decision-making concerning different aspects of therapeutic riding, I decided on pursuing a degree in EFT. Having spent a large amount of time recently researching different aspects of the horse and disabled rider and having done work teaching and training at other barns, I found this to be my true passion and refuse to settle for anything different.
- Bethany D.
Congratulations to the Strive for Excellence Scholarship Winners!
Rhine Law Firm, P.C., offers sincere congratulations to every Strive for Excellence scholarship winner on this page. Our legal team celebrates these deserving students who, with the help of a secondary education, are on track to make our country a better place – and after that, we hope, the world. With this prize money, we intend to reduce the financial burdens of select students pursuing a higher education, and Rhine Law Firm, P.C., believes this in a small way serves our global community.
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