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Saints on the Hill: Sometimes All It Takes is One Person

Saints on the Hill: Sometimes All It Takes is One Person

Growing up, Emily ’25 was a happy child—she had loving parents, played different sports, was in the Girl Scouts, played several instruments, and, especially, grew to love karate. That passion was the first time she experienced both the highs and lows that life can bring, and Emily decided to share some of those emotions with classmates during her recent Saints on the Hill talk. 

It all started with her favorite sport. “I loved karate because it allowed me to be myself. It taught me endurance, perseverance, and courage, and it showed me how to truly use my energy for good,” Emily said. “One of my most treasured memories was when I was teaching the younger kids in belt class. One of the girls randomly said to me, ‘I want to be like you when I am older.’ For the first time ever, it felt like I was making a true impact on the community around me.”

Karate became her whole life but eventually was draining for Emily. “I constantly was mad at myself for not getting better, and it was the first time I was genuinely exhausted,” she recalled. “I slowly lost my love for karate over time, and that was upsetting. I ended up quitting.”

She eventually came to Canterbury and was excited about the strong sense of community there. Emily loved her new school, but challenges back home impacted her greatly. “There were multiple deaths and hardships my family faced, but the biggest one was the death of my grandma, Tina,” Emily shared. “She fought a 13-year battle with breast cancer, but you would never be able to tell by talking to her. Despite her living in California and always being in and out of chemotherapy treatments, she was my number one supporter and role model, always encouraging me to do my best.” 

Emily’s overwhelming sadness was heightened by talks with a friend from another boarding school whose roommate was experiencing mental health difficulties. Hearing her friend struggle to process why that was happening led Emily to her own doubts. “I began to wonder why bad things happen to good people. It was all so confusing and unfair,” she said. “I felt an extreme feeling of helplessness—waiting for the next bad thing to happen.”

But then, one random conversation on campus with a Proctor turned it all around for her.  “She understood and saw how deeply pained I was. She brought the Health Center into the conversation when I finally opened up to her about how I was not okay,” Emily said. “I was embarrassed to tell anybody what was happening to me until I finally found the courage to open up to that one Proctor. She helped me get the support that I needed.”

Emily ended up spending some time at home, and while she missed her friends, she began to realize that was exactly what she needed. She started making progress and eventually was able to feel better. She even had the phrase “Focus on the good” tattooed on her arm in her grandmother’s handwriting. “After she passed away, I found it written in one of her planners,” Emily explained. “I now live my life by focusing on the good. I began to journal and take hikes just like I did when I was younger. I found happiness in softball practice and playing Ping-Pong in the dorm. I have learned to appreciate the little victories. I realize that motivation and meaning in my life come from family and friends.”

And it all traces back to that one conversation. “Trusting and opening up to just one person can make the biggest difference and change the course of your life. The Proctor whom I talked to is someone I look up to—a true leader and friend. She helped me through my darkest moments, and for that, I am forever grateful.”

Emily continued: “Even if my story only helps one person, it was worth sharing. I feel like I am making an important impact once again—just like I did for that little girl in karate. I leave you with this line from one of my favorite songs, Call Your Mom by Noah Kahan, which encourages a friend to seek help when they are going through a difficult time: ‘Don't let this darkness fool you. All lights turned off can be turned on.’”