Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – Building Bridges


Building Bridges

was 13 years old when I first learned of my family’s addictive
past. Sitting in my 7th grade English class, I heard the school PA
system direct me to go to the office immediately. It was there where
I heard that my mother’s closest sister, my Aunt Denise, passed
away from a drug overdose. At the time, I had an elementary knowledge
of substance abuse and certainly did not know it affected my mother
so intimately. Over the next few years, my parents disclosed greater
information regarding my family and our history with drugs. Countless
grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of mine were either
currently addicted or had died as a result of narcotic dependency.
Hearing this taboo subject allowed for the disjointed pieces of my
life to come together. For example, my parents rarely took my
siblings and me to other family members’ houses– it was because
of the rampant substance abuse. For years, I wondered why my mother
and father abstained from alcohol; now I knew their addicted parents
and siblings kept them away from this lifestyle. This influx of
information shook me to my core and, even though I had no idea how, I
knew my future rested in affecting change in the area of substance

the time of my aunt’s death, I vehemently hated the power that
drugs and alcohol lorded over people. They prevented my entire family
from being able to socialize, disconnecting me from so many loved
ones. The emotional toll addiction brought because of deaths and
financial burdens were enough for me to grieve users and vowed to
never involve myself in drugs and alcohol. Despite this promise I
made to myself, I still had no idea how to express empathy toward
affected populations while actually creating change.

was not until my junior year of college when I began to feel
meaningful compassion toward victims of substance abuse that could
truly help others. During that year, I had the chance to volunteer
with the United Wesley Foundation and their initiative to alleviate
the suffering of the homeless population of South Florida. On
Saturday mornings, I was able to clean and disinfect mobile shower
units and sinks for the homeless. Then on Sundays at around 5 AM, I
was able to sort through donated clothes, organize toiletries, and
serve them breakfast. I learned that many of these individuals were
coming out of addictive pasts as well. Due to circumstances of
incarceration and resulting financial hardships, many of them were
facing uphill battles of detox and recovery. I remember speaking with
many young people especially about how difficult rehabilitation can
be for addicted imprisoned persons. This impacted me in better
understanding just how important the acts of a few are in the service
hundreds, including those who severely lacked social capital and

effort of understanding how to affect change memorably occurred
during my enrollment in an Anthropology class titled “Violence and
Ritual.” The research I conducted in this course explored the role
of symbols, rituals, and ideologies in shaping and contesting power
within communities. The work not only culminated in a robust report I
presented at a conference but contributed to this grander theme of
the necessity of attacking the disease of addiction. When I
successfully convinced people that there were relationships between
the legendary Hatfield-McCoy myths and modern American gang culture
closely tied to substance abuse, I believed my scholarship had
real-world weight. Not only could my interests mix, but they engaged
society in a practical sense.

the last few years, I’ve learned that when my convictions drive my
actions, bridges emerge between people and action. I sought to
fortify these bridges by applying to law school and after years of
preparation and diligence, I am humbled to say I’ve been offered a
spot in multiple Fall 2020 classes. I envision using my future Juris
Doctorate degree to create policies that will positively affect the
state of rehabilitative programs in prisons. Addiction is a disease,
but it does not have to be terminal. Substance abuse has affected my
life in the best way in that it has directly led me to my career path
and passion. Thanks to my family, community, and experiences, I can
contribute something essential to the larger task of understanding
the individual and their world to create concrete change.