Scholarship Fall 2022 Winner Miles Washington

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Fall 2022 Schwartz Injury Law Perseverance Scholarship Winner

Miles Washington

miles washington

Through Miles’ essay, a reader learns of his unique perspective of being a person with quadrapelgia while returning to school as a non-traditional student. Miles’ story is inspiring and as a former student athlete, he paints a picture of the challenges he faced while finding a new passion in academics after losing the ability to walk.

Read Miles’ Essay:

The most challenging experience in my life began during my freshman year at New Mexico State when I suffered a spinal cord injury during football practice on April 13, 2013, two days after my nineteenth birthday. At the University Medical Center of El Paso's trauma center, I spent five days in an induced coma, three weeks in the ICU, and another eleven months rehabbing at Shirley Ryan in Chicago. After returning home to Los Angeles, I dedicated the next three years between 2014-2016 to physical rehabilitation. Impressing my therapists and other random onlookers with my grit and tenacity made significant gains though they were unbeknown to me. This includes an inspiring older gentleman I met named George Clay.

Interestingly enough, he happens to be one of Muhammad Ali's cousins. After recalling stories Mr. Clay used to tell me about his childhood, it began to make more sense. It was he who became my biggest supporter and taught me the value of patience and respecting the present as "a gift to reflect on." In my mind, I had but one goal: to walk again. As the sentiment of that reality felt more like a fantasy with each passing year, it became clear that I needed to shift my focus toward pursuing a degree once again. Though I long to walk once more, I felt the word failure tattooed across my forehead with my decision. In a way, I have felt as if I were shackled to the bow of a ship, based on my limited mobility and the numbness felt from nerve pain medications. This sense of restriction is why I decided to make significant changes.

A student's ability to maintain a solid GPA represents their ability to achieve goals consistently over time. Being educated requires a person to utilize their knowledge from educators and apply it to their lives. Knowledge comes from books you read and your experiences in life. While attending New Mexico State University, I experienced a lousy education. The university wasn't inferior in any way; I was ill-prepared for the riggers of college.

I struggled mightily with balancing my academics, a meaningful social life, and the responsibilities of being a student-athlete. Unfortunately, my spinal cord injury prevented me from redeeming myself from a porous freshman year. When I decided to return to college, I discovered that a few of my medications affected my cognition and reduced my ability to focus and process information at a level I'm capable of. This issue contributed to the 2.5 GPA I averaged between Winter 2017 and Winter 2019. After reducing my dosage, my GPA rose to 3.66 between Fall 2019 and Fall 2021. The perspective you get from life is unique to each individual. In my case, I viewed being educated as a means to discover my independence through personal experiences and the unconventional path I took during a traditional education. With a strong will to learn, a solid GPA, and my unique experience as a person with quadriplegia, I believe I can obtain an excellent education at the University of California Berkeley.

My experience as a person with quadriplegia and the ability I've shown to persevere when I decided to return to school make me a nontraditional student. As a nontraditional student, I aspire to pursue an education in political sciences at Berkeley. My interest in politics originally came from my parents, who emphasized the importance of being knowledgeable about world history and socially conscious. I learned about the transatlantic slave trade, our family ties to the great migration, and other history lessons I never learned in school. The state of our current political environment in a post-truth society influenced my decision to study politics. I believe social media's influence over society and the rise of ethnonationalism have negatively affected the country's political decorum, increasing the threat of politically motivated violence. The study of culture and politics measure the similarities and differences between countries based on their two properties. The four years after President Obama's second term resulted in a strain on the institutions we rely on for order, threats to the deconstruction of the administrative state, and other essential tenets of a free republic that resulted in democratic backsliding.

By the end of Spring 2022, I'll have enough credits to transfer with an Associates Degree(AA-T) in political science. I studied subjects like Statistics, Critical Analysis and Composition, American History After Reconstruction, American Politics, Comparative Government Political Economics, and International Politics. Topics I would like to study more as an undergraduate include learning how global conflicts and data science can secure the interests of democracy. After January 6, I felt as if something within me sparked an interest to get involved in defending the sovereignty of democracies by supporting/defending nations in pursuit of becoming a free society. Though we've had isolationist movements in the past, recent developments in Eastern Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine highlight the importance of maintaining a global presence abroad. Specifically, we need to do a better job of supporting our allies against threats from authoritarian regimes. The state department's role is to promote democracy and protect its interests worldwide. Limiting the number of employees dilutes the department's overall effectiveness at home and abroad. My desire to study complex aspects of political theory and my relentless grit to improve will put me in a great position to learn advanced subjects.

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