Hello, my name is Cassandra Kurnath. I am a junior at East Stroudsburg University, majoring in Accounting. Before this, I decided to take a little time off of school, and just work. Without a degree though, finding a decent job proved to be very difficult. It was a struggle to make ends meet, but my father instilled a great work ethic in me, so I worked hard and got by. However, it was not enough. My dad always told me to be the best version of myself, always pushing me to go further and strive for more. I made up my mind. I would apply for the upcoming semester. I began looking at schools and trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but then, the unthinkable happened. I received a call telling me my dad was in a horrible accident, and I knew our lives would be forever changed.
I can still remember thinking I was having some awful nightmare, as I learned my father was being taken from one hospital to another, because they were not equipped to deal with his trauma. I remember being told he had to be medevac’d home because he was paralyzed and couldn’t breathe on his own, due to a spinal cord injury. I remember thinking, this isn’t real. He was just away on a business trip, like he had been on plenty of times growing up. I kept telling myself that he was going to come back home and be fine, the same as every other time. I refused to believe anything bad could happen to my dad because he’s the strongest man I know.
After my father’s injury, our family life was in complete turmoil. My father was our family’s primary source of income, and although my mother stepped up, and did everything she could, we still struggled greatly, financially. We had to learn how to function under these new circumstances, and we all dealt with this horrible situation in our own way. I, for one, did not deal very well. However, seeing how my mother stepped up, and how my dad kept fighting, I knew I had to dig deep and get it together. Their strength made me see the good that can come from something awful. With faith, love, determination, and positivity, every situation can have a silver lining. I had to let go of my grief and embrace the gratefulness that my father is alive and coherent! I also realized I have Superwoman and Superman, as my parents!
It is the support of my family, especially my parents, that has helped me learn to crawl, then walk through life. The strength and courage they have not only taught me, but showed me, is beyond incredible. I may be getting this scholarship, but it is them that deserve the Award for being the best parents a kid could ever hope for.
I know I can do anything I truly put my mind to, especially with the support of my family. I recently earned my Associates Degree from Ocean County College, and even graduated magna cum laude and a member of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society! With the financial help of The Kids’ Chance of New Jersey Scholarship, I can continue my educational journey and complete my Bachelor’s Degree. I wish I could truly express how incredible of a gift this scholarship is, not only to me, but my whole family. I am beyond honored and blessed to have been chosen to receive this award.
Last but not least, I want to thank all the individuals, companies, foundations and various organizations who have selflessly donated. You are the reason KCNJ is able to continue to award significant scholarships, eliminating or reducing the financial hardships, of children and families, created by the death or serious disability of a parent. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you.