2018 Awards Speech – Bitseat Getaneh


Good evening everyone. I am honored and humbled that the Bernie Scholarship Board of Directors has asked me to speak on this beautiful evening. My name is Bitseat Getaneh, and I’m a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. First, I appreciate the Bernie Foundation for selecting me as a recipient of your scholarship. So many students feel hopeless at the thought of not being able to afford a college education, and many give up looking for sources of assistance. Therefore, I’m very grateful for this foundation for giving students an access to opportunities that makes it easier for students with low-income family to get support. I would also like to say thank you to my family, Ms. Aja, Ms.O, and Ms. Parmelee for their continuous love, guidance and support. And especially my mom, without you by my side I wouldn’t have made it this far. I hope in years to come you will be proud of me in my journey and success.

When people think about America they see it as a land of opportunities, full of resources and choices; that was the ideal I had before I came to America. However, that dream was shattered into pieces because of unpleasant life and death experience I faced. My story begins on my first day in America, I came with nothing but dreams and hopes for the future. It was my very first night in the U.S, new house and new environment, but that day in the middle of the night the gas exploded, and the apartment I was staying in caught on fire. When I woke up the room was covered in flames. As the flames expanded, I rushed to find the exit door through the collapsing apartment, trying to save my life. I ran from one corner to the other. I felt the heat of the flames burning my face, but I still couldn’t find the door. I started praying out loud, “Please, God, save me!” After a few seconds, I found myself outside the apartment. I still don’t remember how I got there, and I did not yet know that both my hosts did not escape, but passed away in the apartment that night . My body was covered with third-degree burns. I wasn’t able to go to school for about four months. It was the lowest time of my life, and it was an excruciating experience to this day.

I didn’t understand why I had to go through that and I was even mad at God for putting me in that situation. But one day I read a quote by Charles R. Swindoll it says, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” that’s when I started to understand that everything happens for a reason and God was trying to show me that death is imminent and that I should embrace life like there is no tomorrow. People should always look forward to the future and not dwell on the pain they faced.

Every individual has a story to tell and I hope my story motivates you to think that life is a valuable thing to hold on to and that every single day counts. Even though, I had a rough start that will not decide where my future takes me. And so I will be attending Bucknell University in the fall of 2018 with a full-tuition scholarship. I will use this scholarship money to pay for my room and board. This second chance I’m given by God; I want to use it making him happy and be his channel to help people. So I want to conclude by saying this “Wherever life takes you, you have to have the courage to stay stronger than your struggles, Don’t let it drown you.” Thank You ALL!

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