Like millions of recent high school graduates, Ciara Scott is approaching her first year of college with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation. Scott is excited for the challenges presented by a post-secondary education, but has the typical frosh-centric concerns about making it to class on time and whether or not she'll have a cool roommate.
Unlike many of her peers, Cleveland native Scott has stared down overwhelming adversity to get to where she is now. When she arrives on the University of Southern Maine (USM) campus this fall, it will be due to personal determination and a little help from a scholarship program designed expressly for students like her.
Scott is a recipient of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio’s fifth annual Beat the Odds scholarship, which honors outstanding Ohio high school students who overcame tremendous hardships outside the classroom. One of five students to receive the $5,000 scholarship, Scott will also receive a laptop computer and an invitation to join CDF's youth leadership development programs.
"My guidance counselor told me I'd be the perfect person for the scholarship," says Scott. "I wrote an essay against five finalists and ended up winning. I was kind of surprised I won it."
Scott's long road began at age two following the death of her mother. Adopted by a grandmother who struggled with addiction issues, she often found herself a target for abuse, which resulted in her lashing out at everyone around her. Scott was expelled from school in sixth grade, becoming entrenched in the juvenile court system and shuttled through various schools and a foster home.
In 10th grade, Scott found new direction in her decision to pursue a veterinary career—a dream derived from a childhood surrounded by a menagerie of animals. "We had dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, mice, hamsters, and gerbils," she says. "I always enjoyed being around them. I probably like animals more than I do people."
Scott attended Washington Park Environmental Studies Academy in Cleveland, studying in a live animal science lab. One class had her shearing sheep and learning how to clip animals' nails. At USM, Scott will study biology with a concentration in veterinary medicine, marking the beginning of an eight-year track if she wants to become a full-fledged veterinarian.
Scott has been living with her aunt and uncle in Maine since graduating in June. Living on campus has her a little nervous, but she's looking ahead rather than back when it comes to creating a fulfilling career and life for herself.
"Hopefully in 10 years I'll [have] graduated from medical school and have a job at an animal clinic," says Scott. "I'll be fine because I know how to do my work. Having a lot to do has never bothered me."
Learn more about Scott and her goals in this Children's Defense Fund video: