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In Spite of All Odds

Purdue student Taylor Schultz spent most of her first semester as an undergrad in a hospital room.

Like most freshmen, Schultz, a native of small-town DeMotte, Indiana, was trying to navigate being away from home for the first time. Her adjustment, however, became much harder when complications from appendicitis and an unsuccessful surgery led to multiple infections, extremely high fevers, and even sepsis.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of a crash cart outside of my room,” Schultz says.

When her brother suffered a traumatic brain injury just a few weeks after her last hospital stay, she thought her time at Purdue had come to an end.

“I remember messaging my professors saying, ‘I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know what to do.’” Schultz says. “I actually asked them if it would better for me to drop out.”

She’s still here, though—and she’s excelling.

Currently a junior studying kinesiology, Schultz made it through the “hardest times of her life” because of her own determination and relentlessness; the encouragement and reassurance she received from her parents; the help she received from friends who would video chat with her and walk her through homework; the flexibility and grace she received from professors and advisors who barely knew her; and—believe it or not—her scholarship.

Schultz is one of Purdue University’s Stamps Scholars, a program designed to give extraordinary educational experiences to extraordinary students. This merit award, which is only offered to students in the John Martinson Honors College, covers the full cost of a bachelor’s degree and provides up to $10,000 to cover expenses for internships, study abroad opportunities, conferences, and more.

As a first-generation student from a rural community, Schultz didn’t think she stood a chance for this kind of scholarship.

“My dad is one of the hardest workers I know, and my mom is definitely my No. 1 supporter,” Schultz says. “I remember she would stay up late looking for scholarships for me and helping me figure out the applications. I couldn’t ask for better parents, but I was nervous that I didn’t have the connections that some of the students from bigger cities had. When they picked me over so many other qualified candidates, it was a huge boost of confidence. It was the assurance I needed to know that my voice, my story, and my perspectives are valued and my abilities can make an impact on this world.”  

While things may not be as difficult for Schultz now as they were her freshman year, Purdue still isn’t easy. Preparing for a future in medicine is not easy.  And in those times where her belief in herself is fading, she thinks about her Stamps scholarship.

“There’s something about knowing that people have invested in me,” Schultz says. “I remember being told that they choose scholars based on who they think can make the word a better place. So when I get kind of down on myself, it helps to remember that people believe in me.”

Schultz has spent her time at Purdue taking advantage of as many opportunities as she can. Her sophomore year, she studied abroad in the Netherlands, learning about the country’s health-care system and its approaches to patient care. Next summer, she hopes to study abroad in Ireland.

She has also served as a team leader for Boiler Gold Rush, the university’s welcome-week orientation program for all new undergraduate students.

“Becoming involved with Boiler Gold Rush was crucial to my Purdue story because I was able to reflect on all of the good that came out of the bad. I get to tell these new students that being a Boilermaker is persevering in spite of all odds, but we don’t do it alone. I tell them my story and that it felt like the Purdue community gave me this huge hug. Most of them barely knew who I was—but they knew I was a Boilermaker.”

You can also be an encouragement to Boilermakers like Taylor by making a gift today. Your generosity can change their lives, and they—in turn—can change the world.