Meet our Spring 2019 Finalist SDL365 Achiever: Amber Henning!


By Janie O'Brien / Posted: May 12, 2019 / 0 Comments / Posted in Student's Corner

Amber Henning - Spring 2019 Finalist SDL365 Achiever

Finalists’ Profile

Name: Amber Henning

Institution: University of Central Florida

Degree: Bachelor of Science

Major: Mental Health Counseling


Congratulations to Amber, one of our finalists in the Spring 2019 SDL365 Achievers Scholarship! Her powerful essay about how she overcame the struggles in her life & used bad experiences as an incentive to become better have just let us speechless. We are happy to offer her a $100 Second Prize in our contest. Congrats, Amber! We’re keeping the finger crossed for you!


The Event That Significantly Changed My Life

My story begins in the summer of 2008. At this point in my life, I lived with my mom and two sisters. After being in Minnesota for nine years, we made a big move to Florida to join other family members. One day, after only a few months of being in our new home, two bulky policemen came knocking on our door.

I had no idea what was going on. My older sister opened the door, and the men burst into our house screaming my mother’s name. At that moment, I knew something was wrong. Moments later my sisters and I were being escorted out of the house. I looked back and, through my tears, saw my crumbled mom on her knees, with shiny handcuffs on her wrists.

We later found out that she was arrested for selling and possessing Methamphetamine, and would be in prison for a minimum of 4 years.

After that incident, everything in my life was different. I started living with my great aunt, Mama Sue, who lived a completely different lifestyle than what we were used to. She also lived in a small town called Apalachicola, which was much different than our big tourist destination city.

Everyone knew who you were, and everyone always helped each other out in times of need, as we quickly discovered when word got out about Mama Sue’s new residents.

My sisters and I now had responsibilities, such as doing chores, reading a new book each week, and even going to church. While living with her until I started college, she taught me that there is always good in every situation, even if the tunnel looks dark now, there is always an end with a light on the other side.

She also showed me how to unconditionally love others, like the way she did for us when she took us into her home. The things she has taught me is most of what has made me who I am today.

Every person on this planet has a story to tell. We all have trials that we have gone through and things that we wish could have gone differently. My life has been a never-ending roller coaster, as I am sure most people can relate. I am grateful for what I went through, however, because it has helped me to have a completely different perspective on the world and bounce back from alleged setbacks.

Through my tribulation, I found that music was what made me feel peace through all of my anger. I have been playing the piano for almost ten years now, and sing my heart out every chance I get. I also found relief in helping others, in which I found two organizations that I am passionate about, and have been volunteering for a few years.

The first is Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars. This program gave me a scholarship to the University of Florida, for being a first-generation college student. In order to give back and show my appreciation, I decided to become a mentor. In this position, I help first-year students who have been admitted into both the school and program, through their transition into college.

The second organization is Gainesville Opportunity Center, where we strive to help those living with mental illness get back into the working community. We teach computer skills, while also
showing members how to make resumes and prepare for interviews. We too do a lot of everyday activities, like cooking, cleaning, and gardening.

Currently, I am about to graduate from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I am very excited to see what the future holds for me. I have recently applied to three graduate schools for mental health counseling, as I discovered I had a passion for.

No matter which school I attend, I want my young experiences to guide individuals through obstacles and help them overcome tragedy. Later in life, I also want to travel around the world. Living in such a small town for so many years has inspired me to go out and see what else this earth has to offer.

My experiences have taught me to work constantly, to explore the limits of nature by consistently exceeding expectations. No one believed that I would ever graduate college, let alone graduate high school, simply because I was the child of parents who were addicts and felons.

I have proved people wrong time and time again, simply because I’ve had endless support from family and friends, and a discovered purpose that I will work towards every day of my life.

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