At first glance, you'd never guess that Samantha Sowa ’21 has a special story to share. She blends in with many other North Central College students as a first-year commuter student, an actuarial science major, and a member of organizations such as the Actuarial Science Club, Cardinal First and the Honors Program. What sets her apart is her experience as a thyroid cancer survivor. Sowa was diagnosed when she was 11 years old. It took more than a year of treatment for her doctors to consider her cancer free.
Being a survivor changes the way Sowa sees the world. Her perception of life and optimistic attitude has a significant impact on her personal and academic interests. “Life can change in an instant, she says. After going through what I went through, regular, daily challenges are not really challenges anymore.”
Sowa is a regular volunteer at the annual CureSearch Cancer Walk at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg, where she helps with checking in walkers and working at the food station.
“What I like most about volunteering at the walk is that it gives hope to those who are in treatment and it makes a difference toward finding a cure,” Sowa says. Sowa plans to organize a group of students to volunteer or attend the walk in the upcoming year.
Volunteering is just one of the ways Sowa gives back to the cause. In high school, she conducted an AP research project studying the influences that persuade donors to contribute to childhood cancer research funding. Through her research, Sowa uncovered the three major methods that research organizations use to reach out to donors—personal stories, statistics on childhood cancer and infographics.
“I chose this project because it hits close to home,” Sowa explains. “This research helps others.”
Sowa knew from the beginning that North Central was the school for her. She loves the small-school feel, one-on-one opportunities with professors and proximity to her family. Most significantly, Sowa can further her research at the College. As a College Scholar, Sowa is required to submit a thesis before she graduates. She expects to continue her research by examining how personal stories of treatment, survival and loss impact donors’ behaviors and decisions. At the TEDx North Central College event in April, Sowa spoke on the topic “Scar Stories: Fundraising for Cancer.”
“Being a survivor has made me more empathetic toward others,” she explains. “I feel that I have a deeper connection with people who are struggling, and that is why I feel that it is my moral obligation to help those who need it.”
By Upasna Barath ’19