Nicole Listopad

What does inspiration mean to you and how would you use your platform in your future career to inspire others?

At only thirteen years old, forced out of her home country and into one that spoke a foreign tongue, my mother’s life was infused with fear and turmoil. The dangers of Colombia had infected her own family's bubble. Her grandma was kidnapped and ransomed for money. The entire family’s lives were continuously threatened by an out-of-control criminal system. She was ultimately scared away from the only home she’d ever known, fearing for her own life in a home where she should’ve felt secure.

The scenario that forced our family to move to America wasn’t ideal; however, my mother took advantage of the opportunity this country provided and grew from it. She blossomed from an unfortunate circumstance. Seeing how far she has come despite the obstacles in her life is an inspiration not only to me but also to anyone who hears her story. I admire her ability to transcend language barriers and the prejudices against immigrants to become the established dentist she is today. There’s nothing more inspiring than my mother flourishing from these boundaries rather than allowing them to inhibit her growth.

Taking the initiative to study despite the challenges, my mother fought her way through dental school. In my own life, my mother’s journey serves as an inspiration to never cower from obstacles and instead overcome them and thrive. I felt lost after the shooting that occurred in my community and changed my outlook on life. The Parkland community was always a place I felt secure, and like my mother, I lost all sense of safety in my own home.

Every day I walk onto my school's campus, I’m constantly reminded of the horrific tragedy that shook the entire nation. What used to be a normal building with classrooms filled with students eager to learn, now has a memorial at its entrance. My heart grows heavy every time I pass the building to enter my school, a reminder of the pain I endured on February 14th, 2018. Despite our great loss, my community has grown stronger as everyone has supported each other throughout the unrest of the tragedy.

My mother’s inspiration allowed me to overcome the lack of security I felt in my community and instead take strength and motivation from it. I didn’t cower in front of the incident; instead, I allowed myself to gain a new perspective on life. I observed the healthcare workers who endeavored to rescue the injured and saw purpose. A purpose I wanted in my own life: to be there for others in situations that seem helpless. It flourished a passion in me that I’ve always had: working in healthcare.

Through a career in healthcare, I can follow in my mother’s footsteps and fulfill my aspiration of making a difference in others’ lives. As a medical professional, I will work not only to improve my patients’ physical health but also their well-being to give them hope for a better future. I’ll encourage them to overcome their health-related hardships to accomplish their goals.

What are you currently doing to inspire those around you?

My way of inspiring others consists of making change in my community, which I do in a variety of ways. I often volunteer for LifeNet4Families, an organization that supports homeless families and individuals going through financial hardships. We provide them with access to food, clothing, hygiene products, and other materials necessary for living. As the High School Student Ambassador of this organization, I interact with these people firsthand and experience the happiness we bring into their lives. During conversation, they usually share their current situation with me, so I encourage them to stay positive and provide them with items that will help ease any suffering. I perceive the gratefulness they have for our aid and know that I’ve inspired them when they return to visit me at the help center.

I also inspire others by overcoming obstacles in my life. Covid challenged me mentally as I was trapped alone in quarantine for one month with depression. Connecting back with my friends and family after finally testing negative transformed my mindset back to normal, but I never forgot these overpowering, dreadful emotions. This made me think of others who lack a network of family and friends to rely on. In 2020, this realization led me to create my non-profit, Heart Hats Squared (HHS). My goal was to raise money for 211 Broward (Suicide Hotline), support suicide prevention, and create awareness from head to toe; HHS sold my handmade tie-dye hats and shoe-shaped hand sanitizer holders, raising over $1,000. I discovered that any negativity in my life can turn into positivity with determination and effort. With my success, I taught my peers to use their own challenges to create light in both their lives and others’ lives.

Through Interact Club, I inspire students to serve their community. As President, I plan and execute service projects, discuss new service opportunities and club updates at meetings, and deliver donations to local organizations. With my leadership, I encourage members to attend as many service projects as possible to maximize our support for the society. They can get involved in their community in numerous ways: helping the homeless, the environment, foster children, animal shelters, sick patients in hospitals, etc. Each year, current members persuade other students to join Interact Club, who also become motivated to participate in service projects when they see my dedication and passion for assisting others.

In addition to helping others, I inspire those around me to be proactive in their own lives. I’m giving myself a head start in healthcare by attending Nova Southeastern University this summer to take part in a medical internship, which will expose me to different healthcare careers and allow me to be more certain about which medical profession I want to attain. Additionally, I’m shadowing anesthesiologists at the Brosnik Center since I’m currently most interested in anesthesiology. With this experience, I’ll gain insight on what anesthesiologists do daily. By being involved in these opportunities at my age, I’m inspiring my peers to begin working toward their goals.

What you would do with the scholarship award if you were to receive it?

If I were to receive the scholarship award, I would use it to help pay my tuition for a four-year university that will prepare me for graduate school and a career in healthcare. I could also use the awarded money to significantly help cover the cost of textbooks and housing. This scholarship will allow me to continue my education without worrying about the expense.

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