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Nathaniel Semanek – 2018 Student of the Year Finalist

2018 Student of the Year Finalist

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Bedford County High School
Bedford County, Pennsylvania

Business Partner – Corle Building Systems

“Every single student was offered the same opportunity…work as hard as you can, make great choices and define your future.”

The entire message of The Challenge Program has motivated me to be the absolute best version of myself every single day since its presentation at my school. Quite simply, The Challenge Program has given me an extraordinary opportunity to truly be recognized and rewarded for consistently and continually making great choices. The Challenge Program message particularly inspired me because every single student was offered the same opportunity. The message wasn’t for a certain club, a certain sports team, or a certain type of student. The message was simple, work as hard as you can, make great choices, and define your future. That is a challenge I accepted whole-heartedly without hesitation. I have personally challenged myself to have a positive impact on my family, my administrators and teachers, my peers, and my community every day. I was also motivated by the word “improve.” There really is no such thing as perfect, however, I firmly believe we all should work to improve our weaknesses. Let’s face it, we all have a weakness or two. My baseball coach has a quote that inspires me daily, “Strive for perfection, accept excellence.” The Challenge Program message is simply another version of that excellent statement. At the end of the day, it doesn’t cost a penny to make a great choice, it takes the desire to do what is right. Fortunately, we have all been offered the freedom to make great choices. I am very thankful that The Challenge Program has made an enormous effort to inspire and motivate all students to make great choices every day. Also, I admire the countless efforts to recognize the dedication and devotion of those students who are impacting the future by making phenomenal choices today.

Trouble, turmoil, and even heartache does not discriminate. Writing about personal challenges and struggles is very hard for me. You see, the reason I don’t like to talk about mine is the fact that I don’t want to allow such horrible moments in my life a page in my scrapbook so to speak. I’m seventeen and much like most teenagers my age. I’ve been mocked and ridiculed along the way, I’ve been inappropriately labeled from time to time, and I’ve been excluded from the group throughout the years. With that being said, I have not allowed any of these events to cause any lasting hurt. However, at the beginning of my sophomore year, my family and I faced the worst challenge we had ever encountered. An extremely awful and unnecessary hardship was caused by one individual who had a horrific record of making terrible choices. My father was hit head-on and severely injured by a repeat drunk driver. This man had no license and was over three times the legal limit. The drunk driver crashed into my dad just seconds from our home at 2:45 in the afternoon, the same time my school was preparing to dismiss students. His completely selfish act of disregard and disrespect for any laws caused my family and me to be rocked to our core. I found myself, at the time, very angry and very sad about what had happened. I felt helpless and simply had trouble processing daily life. This inner struggle led me to lose sight of my priorities, especially when it came to school. I had trouble coping with the reality that the irresponsibility of one individual could cause my daily “normal” to be anything but. My family struggled, I struggled. I had to drop out of many of the activities that had always been a part of my life. So many material things that I truly took for granted, became extinct. I remember receiving an email from my guidance counselor during this time. In his message, he encouraged me to continue focusing on everything that I could control. He challenged me to help my family by continuing to do my very best at school and at home. Soon after receiving this email, The Challenge Program visited my school, and by sharing their program, presented me with a similar message of hope. These truly inspiring lessons and challenges were exactly what I needed to hear during this period of my life. I worked even harder at home and in school in order to not let my family down. I approached every day with positivity, purpose, and mental tenacity. This led me to excel throughout my sophomore and junior years, as well as to win The Challenge Program’s Academic Excellence award. To this day, I struggle from time to time with the emotions of my family’s senseless hurt and pain caused by the very poor choice of another. There, sadly, are physical reminders that will be present for the rest of my life. So, I make a conscious decision, every day, to not use the most horrible time in my life as a crutch, but rather as very strong building blocks of my ever-developing character.

The challenge of being the best possible version of myself at home, at school, and in my community has enabled me to be more in tune with my goals. The program has given me a reason to continually evaluate and prioritize my daily tasks, as well as plan for the future. It also has encouraged me to always remain positive even through unfortunate conditions. However, the most profound effect that has resulted from challenging myself, is the confidence I have gained in extending my positivity and desire to make the world a better place to those around me. I have strived not only to challenge myself, but my fellow classmates, which I feel is an important aspect of improving in any way. By carrying out the message of The Challenge Program, I am confidently being a positive role model, I am confidently making the right choice instead of the popular choice, and I am confidently pushing myself to do better every single day.

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