“At least the beauty of it is, I can help people from these experiences.”

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – We are all a product of our environment and our collective experiences.

Some of those experiences hit harder and endure. And from the bad, sometimes a light of hope appears, even if it takes time to appear.

Maddy Boyd, a senior on the Central Michigan cross country and track & field teams, lost her father to brain cancer a decade ago; six years ago, she lost her only brother to suicide.

At 22 and on the verge of graduation and with the immediate goal of graduate school, Boyd is the grand prize winner of the GO TEACH Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway scholarship, a $ 10,000 award that goes to a college student-athlete pursuing a career in education.

Boyd, a psychology major who carries a 3.92 grade point average, was presented the award on Saturday on the CMU campus by Mid-American Conference commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher.

Each of the MAC’s 12 institutions are represented by one winner and each of those received a $ 2,500 scholarship. The scholarships are award in conjunction with the College Football Playoff Foundation.

Coping with the death of a parent as a pre-teen can be difficult enough. Add to that, just three years later, the death of a sibling and the load can be difficult to bear for anybody, let alone a teenager.

“When my dad passed, it was like everyone knew he was going to pass, and I was too young to really understand that,” Boyd said. “There was really nothing I could have done.

“With my brother’s suicide, there’s always that what if, that guilt; did I do enough? Yeah, I was 15, but I was his sister, right? There’s always that feeling (of), could I have done more? Could I have been there more? There are always those questions of, what could we have done to prevent it? “

Sawyer’s death spurred Boyd to distance running as a coping mechanism. That made her better, faster and stronger and eventually helped her to coach Jenny Swieton‘s CMU program.

“I put all of my time and energy into running and that’s opened up doors of opportunity and that’s why I’m here at Central, running,” said Boyd, whose track & field specialty is the 5K and the steeplechase.

Boyd, along with her mother Amy and some of her brother’s friends, launched the nonprofit Sunset Project to raise awareness of mental health issues in northeast Michigan. Boyd has also put her efforts into working with the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena as she increasingly has turned toward helping young people.

“They made me more empathetic,” she said of her personal losses. “I’m the person my friends come to when they need advice, or need anything; I’m the one who will listen.

“I just feel like I’m a good middle ground for people to talk to and I want to use that going forward to help people through social work and to help people get back on their feet. I just want to be that person who helps guide them. “

“Obviously bad things aren’t great for anybody to go through. But at least the beauty of it is, I can help people from these experiences.”

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