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2014-15 Student Volunteer of the Year: Helen Montie
Congratulations to Helen Montie of Bedford, Massachusetts, Scholarship America's 2014 National Student Volunteer of the Year! Helen was nominated for the award by her local Dollars for Scholars affiliate, Lincoln-Sudbury Scholarship Fund Dollars for Scholars, and received a $1,000, four-year renewable scholarship.
While Helen looks forward to attending college this fall, it was just five years ago when her life was turned upside down with a chilling diagnosis: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Her cancer diagnosis meant that Helen’s daily life as a then-eighth grader abruptly shifted from sports, orchestra, friends and schoolwork to long stays at a hospital and clinic in Boston. Usual activities the rest of us take for granted -- running, jumping and, eventually, walking -- became impossible.
Helen underwent chemotherapy for two years. "I was bald and puffed out on corticosteroids. I was nauseated, fatigued, and in pain from cell-killing drugs. Every consent-to-treat form I signed informed me of the risks I was facing," she said. During her stays at the hospital, she met -- and lost -- many friends who had similar diseases. The experience took a toll on her physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually, she said, during a time when she would have experienced a very different freshman and sophomore year of high school.
But a tragic diagnosis wouldn't stop Helen from fighting for her life -- and didn't stop her from beating the odds. After two years of intensive treatments, Helen could add another title to her name: survivor.
As a result of her life-changing years, Helen knew that she wanted to give back and raise awareness for what she and others have endured. Twice she participated in a bike-a-thon, raising nearly $2,300 for cancer research. Twice she was the keynote speaker for the Bedford Relay for Life event. She even started a school club to raise money for cancer research. She also maintained a stellar GPA.
Throughout it all, Helen took advantage of what she experienced, which influenced her future goals and aspirations. With her natural interest in the sciences, she learned as much as she could about cancer, took multiple biology courses and strived to understand the complexities of the human body. By the time Helen finished her sophomore year, she knew that she wanted to work in medicine. "Cancer … forced me to think beyond my years," she said. "My journey, while challenging, kindled my curiosity. Living through cancer provided me with the perspectives of a patient, a survivor, and a student."
After her undergraduate studies, Helen intends to pursue medical school, with the dream of becoming a doctor either domestically or internationally to help others, just as she was helped by her medical team. Helen's determination, resilience and success as a student and community member led to her winning nomination for the Scholarship America National Volunteer of the Year -- support that demonstrates her success for years to come.
Dream Award Supporters
Scholarship America’s Dream Award received its initial funding thanks to the support of Katie Couric; since the program was created, more than 50 other supporters have also stepped forward to help establish this innovative new scholarship vision. We thank all of them and invite you to join the mission!
The Scholarship Coach
Scholarship America's blog, The Scholarship Coach, appears weekly at USNews.com, featuring expert advice on all kinds of scholarship issues. Here on the site, we feature a new highlight from the blog every week, and you can also download a free Scholarship Coach e-book!
Focus On The Finish Line
Scholarship America is dedicated to helping students get their degrees. Our 2013 Annual Report, Focus on the Finish Line, features statistics, stories, and student accounts of the importance of college completion.
Visit the online report to learn more and hear from our President, Lauren Segal.