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LEAD at 10

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of LEAD Scholars, we are sharing a few of the many application essays.
Read time: 3 minutes

The ruminations of a teenage college applicant can often sound callow. But not always. As many a college essay proves, such thoughts can be utterly inspirational. The same can be said of essays submitted by applicants to the Alumni Association LEAD Scholars Program.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the program, we are sharing just a few of the many essays submitted. In this 10-part series, you’ll read of the experiences of those who come from relatively sheltered backgrounds to those who have had to deal with more than their share of adversity.

Our first essay is by Sara Beck, ’16, MSE’17, who came from a small Native American community in Marquette, Michigan. She is currently a materials engineer in Connecticut.


Lessons From a Tragedy

On August 14, 2010, just after midnight, my brother was hit by a car. Danny was riding his motorcycle at highway speeds when a woman turned in front of him, causing him to lose control of the bike. He was then run over by the car and died of a broken neck. This experience has had major repercussions on my life. My brother, older than me by two years, was only 18. The worst thing that has ever happened to me is losing my brother, and it has forced me to grow in many ways.

In the days immediately following his death, I could not fathom what happened. The drive to the hospital was the longest half hour of my life. We had no idea how bad the accident was. I recall telling my dad, my mouth dry with anxiety, “Danny has to be fine. There’s no way he can’t be.” How wrong I was.

Surrounded by friends and family, I struggled through the first weeks, but with their support, I managed. When I started my junior year of high school, it felt so strange to be back at school, acting normally. Slowly, I got used to it. I began to realize that my brother would not want me to simply wallow in grief but to actually live my life. One of his favorite sayings—“Go for it!”—reflected the invincible attitude he had. Now that he is gone, I try to remember how he believed nothing could stand in his way and I should not let anything stand in mine.

My friends and family became very important to me after this ordeal. It was remarkable to see how many people were affected by this tragedy. I find it astounding that a single person can have such a major impact on a countless number of people. The accident made me realize how important my actions are; what I chose to do in my life affects other people. I am more thoughtful and less sarcastic due to this realization. I have a greater awareness of my actions and how they may influence those in my life because of the impact of the loss I experienced.

Losing my brother has made me a stronger person. The everyday difficulties for some seem so trivial to me. For example, a friend of mine was venting to me that he was upset he played poorly in a soccer game. This occurred on the 1-year anniversary of Danny’s death, and I could find no emotion to sympathize with him, because it seemed so insignificant. I have learned to look at the big picture. I ask myself, “What do I want to get out of my life, and how do I want to be remembered?”

Viewing my life in this way has given me focus to achieve my goals. I am not going to waste my life and I want to accomplish all that I possibly can. My brother’s death taught me the importance of living my life.


The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students who have been accepted into the U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

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