powering cures, realizing futures

Aleksandra Smith

Aleksandra Smith was 13 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and became a patient at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.  It was her time there that inspired her educational path today.

“Because you spend so much time sick and alone during treatment, it is easy to feel abandoned and afraid,” Smith wrote in her scholarship application essay.  “Instead of sleepovers, movie nights and giggling over boys, I spent high school trapped at home very sick and with only my mom for company.”

She further described the long-term impact isolation can have on kids going through treatment and said the young men and women from Penn State made a huge impact by reminding her that she wasn’t alone.

“My doctor once told me that having a cancer diagnosis as a child can be the best thing that ever happens to some kids. At the time I thought he was crazy! There is absolutely NOTHING fun about cancer treatment! As I look back, I can see that maybe he did know what he was talking about. After all, he’s been saving kids for a long time,” Smith added.

Her truth, she continued, is that getting cancer – SURVIVING cancer – made her a stronger person and a better person.

 “Absent my cancer diagnosis, I would never have become aware of the impact that people and organizations can have on the lives of others. This inspired me to follow in their footsteps. I believe that I was given a second chance so that I could dedicate my life to helping other kids through life-threatening illnesses.  I will be able to sit down next to them, take their hand and tell them, I know what you are feeling because I too have walked this journey. I will now stand with you on yours.”

Aleksandra will start at Penn State in the Fall 2023 where she will major in Human Development and Family Services.  She hopes to become a Family Life Specialist and work with kids who have a similar story to her own.

Have a story of your own? Your experiences propel us on and are the reason why our commitment to power cures and realize futures is unwavering.

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