An Open Letter To Robin Roberts

Dear Robin,

I felt an immediate connection to you the second I turned the first page of your book “Everybody’s Got Something.” Just the dedication page alone brought me to tears with your message “To all donors: your gifts are the definition of selflessness.” This past year has been an insane yet life-changing journey for my family and myself. I was hospitalized back in December for severe heart failure and was immediately put on the donor list. It was clear that I would need a transplant to live the rest of my life. I waited just about five months to receive my miracle. I was successfully transplanted on April 20, 2016 and was finally able to return home after all that time just 12 days after surgery. I can say with a grateful and healthy heart that my life is officially back to normal and my health is better than ever.

I have always found a great passion in writing and journalism and I have always found myself admiring news anchors like yourself. Since I picked up your book that day in Barnes and Noble, you have become a daily inspiration to me. I have struggled with putting my feelings into words after my emotionally draining journey. I have so much I want to tell the world, yet I struggle with finding where to begin. Reading your words provided me with a great sense of comfort and understanding. I can never thank you enough for sharing your story with the world and allowing people like me to relate on such a high level.

It is in the past 3 months that I am working to find my “something better.” My routine has returned to a sense of normalcy. My 20th birthday is quickly approaching and I am blessed to say that I can celebrate my special day at home with my loved ones compared to waiting in a hospital room. I am beyond excited to start back at college come the fall and work toward my career in writing and journalism. Because of my donor, my angel, and their family I am able to live the rest of my life.

With every turn of a page, I felt more connected to you and your story. My goal in life, my something better, is to share my story with the world in hopes of connecting with others as you have with me. As you said, “Let the dark moments of your journey inspire you.” I am taking my low points, my moments of weakness and turning them into something bigger and better. I am paying it forward. I hope to show the world how important it is to become a donor by spreading awareness and information.

I feel that thank you will never be enough Robin Roberts. You are such an inspiration to me. Thank you for showing me that I am much stronger than I think and thank you for helping me to see the beautiful opportunities that await me. I hope one day I can have the opportunity to thank you in person. I will carry your words with me in times of struggle and in times of joy. Thank you for being a role model, an inspiration, a beam of light. Thank you for being you. Thank you for sharing your words.



Once A Red Fox, Always A Red Fox.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Driving through the North Gate of Marist College for the first time with my family. It was the summer before my senior year of high school began. I was anxious about the start of the college search and also excited to see what wonderful opportunities the future held for me. I knew as soon as I saw the campus that Marist was where I wanted to further my academic career. It instantly went from a name scribbled down on a list of possible colleges to a place that I dreamt about.

This past year has been an overwhelming rush of emotions. What started out as an exciting new beginning to my second year of college, quickly and suddenly turned into an emotional fight for life. Something I never once had imagined happening to me. It was during that time that I learned a lot about myself and what I want in life. It was during that time that I made the difficult but fulfilling decision to end my time at Marist College and transfer somewhere much closer to home come the fall.

Although I cannot imagine going away to school again after everything I have been through, closing this chapter of my life definitely fills me with a whirlwind of emotions. I have SO much to thank Marist for, it is difficult to find a place to begin. Marist, I may have only finished one full year but in that year you gave me amazing friends, you opened my eyes to an abundance of new ideas, taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined learning and you strengthened my faith.

Throughout my stay in the hospital, the outpour of love that I received from the Red Fox community was beyond moving. I sit here trying to find the words to properly represent my gratitude and the sincere love I have for everyone at the school- from my closest friends, to all of the professors to even the people I never formerly met but just occasionally crossed paths with. It is through every Facebook message, donation, card and act of kindness sent by all of you that I found the strength to smile during such a difficult time. It amazes me that I was able to make such strong connections during my short time at school.

I remember moving into school and the abundance of concerns that filled my mind. Would I make friends? Would I like my classes? Would I be able to survive on my own? It is beyond overwhelming to enter a new place and be expected to just fit right in and find your new home away from home instantaneously. It is extremely stressful to move into a room with a complete stranger and be expected to feel comfortable on the first night. Looking back on my start at Marist, I have nothing to say except that I was incredibly blessed. It was during those stressful first weeks that I met such wonderful people. It was during those stressful first weeks that I met two strangers who would become two of my best friends.

To my freshman roommate and my additional freshman roommate, thank you for being my entire Marist experience. Every good memory, every laugh and every story somehow finds it way back to the two of you. It bewilders me that two people I have known for not even two years can hold such an insane importance in my life. You two have seen me at my absolute worst; from days at school, to days in the hospital. People truly come into our lives for a reason and I know that without a doubt, I was meant to attend Marist for a short time to meet the friends that I met.

I am so excited for the beginning of my next chapter come September. After this past year I am excited to not pack up all my belongings and leave my family. I am looking forward to enjoying my time home, attending my new school and cherishing every moment of the new life I was given. Even though I won’t be watching the sunset over the Hudson every night or strolling across campus to class every day, Marist College will always have a place in my heart. Marist will always be a part of me. Marist will always be a major section of my story. I would not be the person I am today had I not decided to attend there back in 2014. I will always consider myself a part of the Marist Community, for I can never find the right words to express my gratitude for all that has been done for me. Once a Red Fox, always a Red Fox.



A New Chapter.

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.”

– Haruki Murakami 

I remember sitting at my minuscule desk in my colorful classroom as I listened to my first grade teacher speak so eloquently about the basics of addition and subtraction. As I admired her poise and intelligence, I knew in that moment that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I wanted to hear the sound of my fancy shoes as they hit the classroom floor. I wanted to select my favorite picture books to read to my class full of eager students. I wanted to make students love learning as much as I did. But most importantly I wanted to change lives just as my teachers had changed mine starting at such a young age.

This passion and fire inside of me carried with me. I knew this desire was not just a childhood dream. I found myself envisioning how I would design my classroom in moments of pure boredom. When my senior year of high school crept behind me and it was time to fill out college applications, there was no question in my wandering mind over what I was going to study in my future academic years. My answer was still the same: education.

I set of on my journey toward my lifelong goal at Marist College beginning in the fall of 2014. Not only was I following my dream in my studies but I was also attending my dream school. In that moment, I did not think life could get much better than that. I finished a full year there and loved every second of my classes. I knew then more than ever that I was following the right path. I knew then more than ever that one day a room full of kids would look up to me and address me as “Ms. Clarke.” I could not wait for that day.

Things seemed great until my second year of college rolled around. Had you told me in the past that everything would change: my health, my plan of study, my vision for the future, I would have thought you were delirious. Why would I ever think that everything I was once so sure of would suddenly change in the blink of an eye?

My time spent in the hospital this past year awaiting my heart transplant taught me a plethora of life lessons as one can only imagine. Suddenly, the things that I thought were once important were now the most insignificant ideas in my life. My thoughts shifted from irrelevant ideas about outfits and weekend plans over to life saving matters such as my medications, IV and the critical machine I was hooked up to. I was forced to understand new things that many nineteen year olds never imagine having to understand in his or her lifetime.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned during my days of waiting and worrying was to never take life for granted. Despite the obstacles that are thrown at us each day we must learn to embrace the beauty in the gift of life. After I was given the most treasured gift on April 20, 2016, it became my mission to change the world. I know I was given this insane journey and struggle for some kind of reason. God has a plan for everyone and I know with all of my being that my new plan has a great amount to do with what I have been through. I am coming out of this storm a new person. I am coming out of this storm with a new dream, a new way of thinking and a new outlook on life.

I have learned that standing in front of a classroom and teaching a variety of subjects to a room full of students is not the only way I can instruct and change the world. My new goal in life is to change the world with my own words, my own stories and my past. I was never too good at saying what was on my mind or how I felt. This past year has taught me to be more open and to let the words I once kept inside, free. Teaching may be a career that I am putting on hold for a while, but that does not mean I cannot tell stories to a room of students or educate curious minds about required subjects. After everything, I have decided to tell my story- in many forms. I have decided to educate the world on ways that they too can make a difference. I have decided to pay it forward in every single way possible. How thrilling would it be if my own writing, my own experiences helped to inspire someone else out there in the world going through an insanely difficult time? I do not know a better way to express the sincere gratitude I have in my heart for the beautiful second chance at life that I was given. Who knows what the future may hold, but for now I am exiting the storm a new person. Here are my words, here are my stories, welcome to my new chapter.