Meet the 2023 Scholars

Get to know the hopes, dreams, and talents of this year's winners.

Grace L.

Undergraduate Recipient

"Write a letter to your younger self during a key moment in your life addressing one or more of the following: words of encouragement, lessons you have learned and/or challenges you have overcome."

Dear Twelve-Year-Old Grace, I remember the night you cried in your room for hours trying to figure out if college was a realistic option given your life expectancy. You sat on your bed with a calculator in your hand and tear stains on your notebook. You never had the best relationship with numbers because of the fear that trailed along with them: test results, lung function, weight loss, and medications. That night was spent staring at the information telling you your life expectancy was 32 years and trying to figure out how to get a degree, start a career, have a family, and tackle all of your dreams within a short time after graduating college. Not long after that heartbreaking night, you would decide to replace that fear and uncertainty with hope and perseverance. Little do you know, that spark of determination to take control of your life, that willingness to fight for something you believe in, carries you through your toughest battles in the years to come. You begin to use running in track and cross country as a blueprint on how to face this life-long battle. Numbers have a different connotation to you now. From the first race of your freshman year to the last race of your senior year, you calculate the times you need to run to hit personal records - not the years you have left. Running becomes more than just an action, it turns into a reason to fight for your health and future. I must tell you that life continues to have its hardships. There are times that you drop out of races because you can't breathe, but it does not stop you from getting on the starting line the next meet. You will learn to think of those moments with health struggles as the hills on a cross country course. You lean in a little more, swing your arms a little harder, and make your strides a little longer. You learn to love the hills in cross country because they have the ability to show you how strong and capable you are even when you didn't believe it before making it to the top. Do you want to know just how much you accomplish in spite of Cystic Fibrosis? Between cross country and track, you will become an eleven-time state qualifier, five-time state medalist, and will hold the school's 5K record. You will share your story to thousands of people through a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation blog, numerous newspaper articles, and a public speech about how your faith has grown through your testimony of running. You will never stop fighting to stay healthy for your future endeavors, but thanks to advancements in treatments, that life expectancy continues to climb. I can assure you that merely putting one foot in front of the other will teach you the biggest lessons in this life: no matter what gets thrown at you, you will thrive because you have the determination, endurance, and ambition to do so.

Grace L.'s Artwork

Grace L.'s Achievements

  • Volunteer graphic design projects for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Iowa chapter, (fundraiser bag designs, website feature art, & Great Strides banner project) 2021-2023,
  • Varsity Cross Country, 2019-2022, State Medalist 2020 & 2021
  • Varsity Track and Field, 2020-2023, State Medalist 2021 & 2022
  • Varsity Dance Team, 2019-2023, Captain 2022-2023, State Medalist 2020-2022
  • National Honor Society, 2021-2023, Vice President 2022-2023
  • American Red Cross Blood Drive Assistant, 2021-2023
  • North Eastern Iowa Food Bank Volunteer, 2021-2023
  • United Presbyterian Church Involvement, (Vacation Bible School leader, Praise Team vocalist, trumpet and vocal soloist, Sunday School assistant) 2019-2023
  • Valedictorian 2023
  • Scholastic Arts Midwestern Region Silver Key Recipient 2023