Scholarship Essay – Christian C.

Christian was a second place winner of a 2024 NJCTS Scholarship Award.

This is the essay he included with his application.

I have strived for excellence despite challenges in life. While my path has been difficult, perseverance has allowed me to overcome obstacles. My most defining attribute is never giving up, even in the face of failure.

I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 6. In second grade, my friends and classmates noticed my unusual jerking movements. I felt uncomfortable because I was already dealing with an eye condition characterized by “fluttering eyes.” It was easy to explain, but my tics were prominent. My mother had been exploring therapies through NJCTS and learned about a program where a youth advocate would give a presentation to students. The youth advocate tailored his interactive lecture, so my classmates understood the condition in second-grader terms. While he did not address me directly as the student with TS, my peers immediately recognized that I was the subject of this discussion. At the end of his speech, he asked me to go in front of the class. I recalled feeling a sense of terror because I didn’t want to be seen as “the weird kid.” My classmates, however, were overwhelmingly supportive, cheering me on as I made my way to the front of the room. It was a defining moment. I had a new confidence. I began behavioral therapy at Rutgers’ TS Clinic. As I entered middle school, my tics became more complex and unbearable, with constant head, neck and arm jerks and increased vocal tics. I returned to therapy, and I learned to deconstruct the tics and apply the appropriate responses. Again, my obstacles were no longer roadblocks. I took a different route.

As I entered my first year of high school, COVID-19 and a hybrid curriculum posed a new challenge. While I had a great friend group, I became more introverted. My TS quirks made me feel like I was on full display at school. My grandfather’s sudden death, along with my perceived insecurities, made me reevaluate my situation. I focused on my family, faith, education, and friends. As a result, I started to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends while joining exciting clubs. I gained confidence. While the workload and subject matters were challenging, I used the skills in my “TS toolbox” to adapt and succeed.

I made a promise to myself that I have kept to this day: do not let others define you, and be true to yourself. I have accepted who I am, tics and all. I have been given beautiful gifts, specifically my keen interest in learning about everything. As cliche as that might sound, I also realized that being normal is overrated. Everyone has unique and individual qualities, talents, and skill sets. We must cherish our differences because they make us extraordinary. A quote that resonates with me is from John F. Kennedy. He stated, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try,” People can achieve remarkable and revolutionary accomplishments when they remain true to themselves.



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