Maiah Reilich-Godino



Bonner Scholarship


(5 Short Essays)



  • 1) What is a challenge that you have endured recently, and what did you learn as you overcame it?

      Do you ever feel lost? There is a song that says being lost is better than knowing exactly where you are, and I agree. However that does not mean that feeling lost and alone doesn’t get infinitely overwhelming at times. On December 31st 2019 I moved from Maine, my home for the past 18 years to Maryville Tennessee. It’s almost funny, this is the best experience I’ve had in my life, yet it has also brought up so many unexpected challenges. 

     I started in the Spring Semester. Getting integrated into classes and activities wasn’t hard for me. I attended five different highschools, so I like to consider myself a professional new kid. However, other issues did arise. I kept myself busy 24/7. I would not stop moving from 6am-9pm. At that point I would be so physically and mentally exhausted that I could barely drag myself into bed, pass out, and get up the next morning to do it again. 

     I was running, running away from a growing pit of emptiness inside of me. Up until a week ago I had not  cried in over 6 months. I have had to work so hard to get here that emotions were a luxury I could not afford. I have so many walls, so many rules and expectations I set for myself. Sometimes I forget that it is ok to be human. It is ok to feel things. It is ok to be tired. It is ok to get sick. I am allowed to take a day off. I am allowed to be a kid. 

     Many people say i am like a 30 year old trapped in an 18 year olds body, and I couldn’t agree more. Coming to school here has given me the opportunity to try out being 18. I haven’t had that privilege in a very long time. I can say that it is a beautiful growing experience and I am so excited to see where it takes me. 


  • 2) Describe an experience of service/leadership that has challenged you or contributed to your personal development.

     At the age of 16 I began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. When I first began attending NA meetings I went in support of my boyfriend. My family did have a history of addiction, and I personally struggled with substance abuse to a certain degree, however that was not my main reason for attending. 

     As time passed my boyfriend and I seperated, life became more difficult, and my struggles with addiction became more severe. I continued attending meetings, listening, learning, and praying that someday I would find a reprieve from the everyday hell that was my reality. Most addicts in recovery talk about a rock bottom. That moment where they knew either they get clean, or they die. That moment where they must decide which option will be less painful. I had a moment like that. At the time I decided death would be less painful. However, my higher power had other plans in store for me. 

     Through a series of miracles, hard work, determination, and unimaginable pain, I got clean. Many people believe that getting clean is the hardest part. They could not be more wrong. Staying clean is where the real struggle begins.

     Step 12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” This is where my service and leadership began. After picking up my four month chip I started sharing my story, my struggles, my trials and tribulations. This was not easy, my emotions were still raw, the memories fresh and painful. However, despite this, I found a large amount of gratitude and recognition accompanied these feelings as well. 

     Being 17 years old, speaking to adults who are well into their 50s, and then having them come to me and then tell me how inspiring my story was. How they wished they had been brave enough to get clean when they were my age. That I remind them of their daughter. Through my service I was gifted a whole new family. Their faces and words have stayed with me to this day. Giving back to the community can be just as rewarding for you asit is to those you are serving. This is why service work is important to me. This is why I continue to serve my community and myself every day. 


  • 3) What activities and achievements have been most important to you in recent years?

     I would say the proudest moment of my life was when I graduated from highschool. For many individuals graduating is a given. Simply another milestone in their pre plotted path to their already decided future. It was not that way for me. 

     On March 14th of my Junior year I dropped out of highschool. At the time I was attending George Stevens Academy, my fourth highschool in less than 3 years. Upon leaving I spent the following two weeks bouncing between different friends couches and hallways, living off Bella’s grandma’s old easter candy and PB&J sandwiches. My boyfriend and I ended up finding a living situation, a friend willing to rent us one of their extra rooms. My father reached out to me and told me about a program that allowed homeless minors to enroll themselves in school without a legal address or parental signature. Armed with this information I took the city bus to our local highschool the following morning. The process was long, confusing, and honestly rather annoying, but I am a persistent woman.

     I graduated from that same school, but it was by no means an easy straightforward journey. Through that year and a half I lived in four different homes, had car accidents, was unable to afford food, got suspended, thought about dropping out, missed school, and much more. However, I did graduate. I got my diploma, finishing out with a 3.0 GPA, not what I wanted, but nothing to laugh at either. Hard Work, determination, and sheer will power are what got me through, and they continue to do so everyday.


  • 4) Who has inspired you to serve? Briefly describe how he or she has challenged you and what you find most admirable about this person?

     I have been inspired by many people throughout my life. Each one has taught me different important lessons about what it means to be human. The person who impacted me most would probably be my case manager M_____. She went above and beyond her job description to help me no matter what situation or state I was in. She helped me stay enrolled in highschool. She connected me to community support programs. She took me out to get coffee and talked to me when I didn’t have anyone else to turn to. 

     Through her willingness to give her time to me freely, I learned the importance of service. I would not be the person I am today if she had not supported me in all the ways she had. I hope one day I will be able to help others the way she helped me. 


  • 5) In the face of overwhelming adversity, what gives you hope?

      The world is often a scary, confusing place. It is easy to get lost, to lose faith in humanity. Now more than ever. If you turn on the news you will be blasted with a million vedios of bombings, mass shooting, imigrant holding facilitys,natural disaters and so much more. We must find something to hold onto, some kinds of light to cling to in the growing darkness that is our reality. For me, this is my family. 

     I have two beautiful sisters, they are my light, they are my inspiration, my strength to keep pushing, they are my whole world. Through my love for them, I am able to gain hope and compassion for other misguided individuals in the world. I am able to continue putting my best foot forward even when I am not sure which foot that is. 

      I am looking forward to the prospect that if given this scholarship, I may be able to serve my community and make a lasting impact on others. Possibly even reinstalling  the hope and motivation for life that they have lost over time.



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