Joanna Vrotsos is your typical 19-year-old teenager who enjoys hanging out with friends and spending time with her boyfriend. What makes her stand out from the crowd is her effortless beauty and humbled confidence that she carries as she works two different jobs and goes to school full time. And if that does not sound like enough to keep her busy, she still makes time to assist coaching the girls’ volleyball team at her old high school, and is also pursuing a third job while maintaining an A and B average in her 16-18 unit class schedule at Cal Poly Pomona. As a college student myself, I know how difficult it is to maintain good grades in college when trying to balance out multiple activities. For Joanna to accomplish all these tasks effortlessly and with a smile on her face, is truly admirable. Although many people may find all of her success came easily, Joanna has a hidden story of hardships that she had to face and endure in order to get to where she is today.
Joanna grew up in the East Coast, moving constantly from Pittsburg to New York because of her Dad’s job demands. By the time she hit middle school she moved to Fontana, California in 2005 and faced a culture shock. She had been used to small towns and spoke a different lingo then people of the West Coast, and now lived in a heavily populated city with schools having over 2,000 students. In attempting to make new friends, she quickly fell victim to the bullying because of her race and could not seem to feel comfortable with herself; but volleyball came to her rescue.
Volleyball served as Joanna’s source for making friends and the foundation for developing her confidence in school and amongst peers in middle school. She continued to play volleyball all the way to her senior year of high school. When I asked her why she believed sports were so important to come with an education she said, “It keeps us healthy; it teaches us life lessons, and the people who don’t have that family support in life can find that in a sport.” Joanna found herself in volleyball, and it fed her competitive drive and pushed her to become better not only in sports but in her education. A teacher can teach you all of the material you need to know to be successful academically, but a coach can teach you the drive and ambition you need in order to have that attitude to succeed in life.
For all of Joanna’s success, it is hard to picture that there was ever a time where she struggled with her health and self esteem. Joanna was in and out of the hospital towards the end of her freshmen year in high school due to gall bladder disease. She went through a myriad of tests and surgeries in order to help manage her health. She not only had gall bladder complications but also faced a weak immune system and gastritis, in which she had to abide by a strict diet. When asked her what was the most difficult part of dealing with her illness she said, “it was all about adjusting again in life, I felt like I had to become responsible and grow up fast because I could not eat the way a teenager eats, I had to be careful or else I could destroy my own body easily.” Her illness prevented her from playing volleyball for a year and at the same time she was facing relationship issues with a boyfriend who constantly put her down, which made her self esteem hit an all time low. With all of the adversities she faced and overcame, she never let her grades slip in school.
Joanna stressed the importance of education as something that gives us the opportunity to explore knowledge and creates a foundation to our lives. Many people may think that college is not worth pursuing, but she believes it is essential. Joanna describes college as the “refinement stage” in your life. She believes that high school is not where we define ourselves, college is. High school develops your skills for life and college refines them, they are the last minute touches before you face the real world and decide what mark you want to life behind. When I asked her where she developed this passion for education, she explains that she always had this competitive drive in her to be the best; it is beyond just making her parents proud, it is making herself proud of who she is.
When we think of role models, we usually think of someone famous, or someone who devotes their whole life to a specific charity in order to fulfill their passion for helping others. However, what we seem to forget is that the term “role model” is not just for those known around the world or around the entire community; role models reside everywhere in our lives. They exist among teachers, parents, relatives, or co-workers. In my case, I found a role model in my friend Joanna. Joanna is now studying Biology to become an optometrist that focuses on Neuro-optometric rehabilitation, where she would help people who have lost their sight in traumatic accidents. She says, “I would love to save lives and help people restore their sight.”
Joanna is making a difference by pursuing her education to save lives. Now you can also help make a difference by just one click. For every Wave for Change® video view at Neutrogena.com/waveforchange or on Facebook.com/Neutrogena, Neutrogena® will donate $1 to GlobalGiving to support U.S. educational charities. Watch. Donate. Share.
Any Neutrogena® Wave for Change® video views on Neutrogena.com/waveforchange and on Neutrogena® page on Facebook 7/1/12-8/31/12 will activate $1 donation to GlobalGiving. Neutrogena® will kick-off Wave for Change® with $100K donation. Then, for each eligible video view, Neutrogena® will donate for a maximum of $130K. For more information about GlobalGiving, visit GlobalGiving.org.
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