My journey to becoming a
Just like rainbows come after rain, miracles come after struggles.
For me, this major obstacle began when I was six years old. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the entire body. In middle school, I attended classes on a part-time basis and could barely walk up the stairs by myself. Emergency situations followed as my bone marrow stopped working from medications and my body began deteriorating. As a 9th grader, I weighed 60 pounds, was fed through a PICC line, and went to the hospital weekly for infusions. My large intestine was removed, and several surgeries and procedures followed.
That same year, I lost my best friend to Crohn’s Disease (very similar to Ulcerative Colitis) and Osteosarcoma. Before he passed away, we both felt the need for more advocacy for individuals with chronic conditions. The creation of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Crohn’s and Colitis Teen Times, came soon after.
Now, three years later, I blog for U.S. News (often featured on Yahoo! News and the Huffington Post), and a United Nations Alliance. Furthermore, I serve as a motivational speaker at corporate events, leadership conferences and Children’s Miracle Network-sponsored dance marathons.
This past weekend, I was able to meet incredible
My fellow Scholars arrived, and we all broke the ice pretty quickly over lunch. Soon after, we dressed for the banquet and received a warm welcome from Mark Davis, president of the
The Leadership Development Institute formally started and we began discussions with small groups of Coke Scholars and a mentor. Afterwards, we visited the Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta, where we heard the CEO Derreck Kayongo speak about his personal journey with human rights and why he founded the Global Soap Project. On Friday, I learned that empathy can and should be applied to every situation and to every person’s challenging situation. I have often written about how powerful empathy can be, but after visiting the Center for Civil and Human Rights, it was apparent that the majority of the population is not aware of the dramatic fight for civil rights that is occurring in developing nations.
Saturday was the last day of our Leadership Development Institute, and one I will never forget. What was different, overall, about this leadership development program was that it focused more on personal connections. After parting from our small groups, we visited the World of
Whether it was consistently losing at a game of spoons, playing Cards Against Humanity well into the night, or pulling my first all-nighter,
Coming back from Scholars Weekend, I am even more motivated to keep giving back and set my goals even higher. I am currently undecided as to which college I will attend, but will most likely study international relations (diplomacy) and public policy. I'm currently working towards creating a first-of-its-kind national leadership conference for teenagers suffering from chronic illnesses. I have also begun training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to show the world that chronic illness really cannot define your abilities.
One of the greatest things I have learned, however, is that it is possible to create a family in three days. I have felt personally connected to all 149
So cheers to the most genuine and inspiring group of people I have ever met: the class of 2016
Sneha Dave is a 2016