500 Words for $500

My mother has worked on the same floor of the same unit of the same hospital for over thirty years. She has watched it change hands twice to its current and final ownership by Sutter. She bore her children there, watched her brother pass away there, and most recently, treated her mother there. Many life-changing moments happen in that hospital, both before her eyes and the eyes of those around her.

This essay isn’t about my mother, but this hospital, now operated by Sutter, has played a significant role in my life since the day I was born. My education did not begin with experiences in grade school, or the rigors of college, but on the Rodgers Creek earthquake fault on which our community’s best hospital precariously perches.

The recent announcement of this hospital’s imminent closure signaled the beginning of a new era for me, one that makes me question an individual’s contribution to one’s community—be it the immediate family or the family of doctors, nurses, and technicians who will leave our town in less than a year.

I’ve learned from college and from life that nearly everything is about weighing costs and benefits. It’s about balancing homework with a social life, about taking responsibility for the consequences of judgment calls. It’s about that fundamental balance—asking questions, preparing for the worst so that one day I can counter disaster with effective response.

The birthplace of my citizenship—UC Berkeley—rests as precariously on the Hayward fault as my birthplace on the Rodgers Creek fault. Evaluating risk is part of my daily life; it has taught me that my education doesn’t prepare me for a career, but shapes me into a citizen capable of applying my skills to any field.

I don’t know what profession(s) I will pursue with a degree in Rhetoric, but I am confident my education will hone my skills as a cognizant, proactive citizen, which will impact my community as meaningfully and enduringly as the impact my mother has had on the lives of her patients.

If I pursue a path in an organization like the Sutter Health network, I realize now that weighing the choices that I make for myself, my family, and my community is the most valuable application of my education available.

Sutter has done a lot for my family and me, but it can do more by helping fund my education with this scholarship. For it is through learning to be critical of actions, through balancing good and bad, and through taking responsibility to be as prepared for anything as possible that valuable citizenship can thrive—it is these skills that no community, no family, no self can afford to be without.

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