Colby is a 2nd time recipient of a Jeremy Cares Scholarship. He is studying Mathematics and Economics with a minor in computer science at Bluffton University. He works at the Flying Horse Farm where they teach about leadership and serve children with serious illnesses. He also serves as a mentor for incoming freshman. We asked our renewal applicants to describe how the pandemic has impacted them.
“Everyone’s lives have been affected by COVID in some way shape or form, and I feel that being the sibling of someone with a serious illness has given me a particularly unique experience. My brother Grady had a heart transplant when he was born, and has been taking medication for that every day since. On top of that, a few years ago he was diagnosed with post transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, or cancer of the lymph nodes. This was right around the beginning of COVID, and had a massive impact on our lives at the Schlabach house.
Firstly, during a lot of my senior year, my parents were up in Cleveland at the hospital with my brother. This drastically changed my senior year as I had to make food for myself, make sure I was keeping up with my studies, and do my own laundry, along with many other things that I hadn’t had much experience doing. Although this was a tough time for me, I definitely feel like I learned responsibility in a way that I never could have except for during this time.
Secondly, isolation. When my brother finally was allowed to come home, we had to be extremely careful. Because of his immunosuppression, none of us were allowed to go anywhere. During the second semester of my senior year, I could only go to one of my friends’ houses and we had to wear masks the entire time. This was probably the loneliest part of my life, as I live in an area where masks are largely disregarded, so some of my friends wouldn’t even hang out with me anymore.
Although this may seem like a sad story, the part that is currently being written is joyous. I am at a point in my life where I truly feel fulfilled, whether it is with my friends, my family, in my studies, at work, at church, etc. I’m not fully sure on what all changed in me during that time of COVID, but I went from being a shy, quiet, awkward boy, to an outgoing and talkative man, and going to college here at Bluffton has been the best opportunity I have ever had. I went from having very few friends to knowing half of the people on campus, and went from sitting in my room all day to forming healthy connections with the people around me. Being a recipient of this scholarship last year blessed me so much, I was speechless, but I believe that I found the words now: You have changed my life for the better, and I am hoping that someday I can pay it forward. “
Colby we are so happy to have helped you and will continue to cheer you on to great things.