The Outt Opportunity

Jon Outt.

When I began filling out scholarship forms last year, I didn’t realize that this name would mean anything to me. If I’m being honest, I was just looking for a way to pay for my tuition without accumulating massive debt. I wasn’t in search of anything but a scholarship– and yet I was lucky enough to receive so much more than just that.

Jon Outt was a student at Luzerne County Community College before I was even born. A quiet kid that kept to himself, Jon was an excellent writer and student. He probably would have kept that image had he not lost his life in a car accident. Jon died, and with him, a bit of Luzerne did too.

We always think things won’t happen to us, like for some reason we are exempt from turmoil and tragedy just because we are young or healthy or this or that. We don’t think about dying. We don’t think about others dying. We refuse to imagine that one day we will be gone; and that day may be today, or tomorrow, or next week. We don’t. It very well could be.

When I was awarded the Jon Outt Memorial Scholarship, and was met with the tragedy behind it, I wasn’t sure if it was okay to be happy.

After all, someone lost their life.

I spent a long time wishing my life would end, and I longed for my body to disintegrate into the ground. I wanted my existence to cease so my problems would end. And yet, we had someone who (I imagine) did not want to die. I would like to think Jon knew his talents and yearned to excel towards his future. He had every right to, as we all do.

I’m sorry he didn’t get to.

But this is so much more than death.

I had the opportunity to meet Jon Outt’s father and step-mother, and my God, I never met a warmer couple in my life. Greeted with the most gorgeous flowers and a perfect journal, they hugged and embraced me as if we knew each other forever. This brave couple turned a tragic accident into a meaningful, positive chance for struggling students. Admirable is a good word to describe them, but not a good enough word. When I say that Mr. and Mrs. Outt changed my world, I mean that. I don’t think I deserve this opportunity, much less deserve to honor the name Jon Outt. Whether I do or don’t is irrelevant– I’m running with it.

It’s a tad insane for me to think that I once, and sometimes still do, wish I was gone from this world when so many people did not get the chances they so damned deserved. It’s a little selfish and a lot of crazy.

By accepting this scholarship, I made a commitment to myself and to Jon and his parents to be the very best I could possibly be. This includes moving forward even on my darkest days. Always move forward, always keep going, always keep on keeping on. I am thankful, I am scared, but I am ready.

I owe it to Jon, I owe it to his parents, and I owe it to everybody around me that ever gave me their time.

I won’t let you down.

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