Kristýna Otásková

It’s been almost two years since I received the General George S. Patton Scholarship of Honor. Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to test the theoretical knowledge I’ve gained from my studies by putting it into practice – for example, volunteering with several different here in Plzen (DS Jitřenka – involved in social work; Kačaba – a café serviced by handicapped people, and a Children’s Center, where I selected the theme for my final graduation work for my school). In June, I will take graduation exams and defend my graduation paper. I chose a theme related to the family, focusing on the problems of drug addiction in one or both parents in a family.

After graduation, I’d like to find a job and I’d also like to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. I would be very glad to be able to find work in my field, particularly as it relates to children.

Receiving the Scholarship of Honor and the process of receiving the award was a great experience for me – one which I don’t think I’ll ever forget. After receiving the information about the scholarship, I let go of the idea of pursuing it. I was discouraged by many of the people around me who said there was no point in trying to win the scholarship, but I tried and it paid off.

My interview with the SOH selection committee was really nice - we met at the Pilsen City Hall – and it was great, since I found out that I had been selected for the scholarship. It was a very emotional experience for me. As were many of my experiences following that - my interview for the Pilsen City Hall newsletter, the invitation to a reception in my honor the day before I was awarded the scholarship, meeting all the people involved in making the SOH happen – both those here in the Czech Republic and founders and financial supporters of the SOH in the U.S. It was nice to meet Americans, because of their openness, their friendliness, and their humor.

Receiving the Scholarship of Honor reconfirmed that it is always worth it to try to do everything within our power and to pursue our dreams.

Personal information (as of December 2011)

High School: graduated June 2011

Higher Education: School of Healthcare, Management, and Public Administration (2011-2014)

Interests & Hobbies: I am the leader of a department of an organization that works with children and I am responsible for approximately 10 children during their 2-week summer camp. I have been working with this organization since 2003. In my free time, I am part of a group of jugglers and also a group that does historical sword-fighting.

Essay (December 2011)

To start with, I’d like to say that all of the values represented by the Scholarship of Honor are similar to my values. For example, for several years now, I have been in charge of a department at a children’s camp and I have never received any money or material gain from this work. And yet, at the end of 14 days spent with these children, I have the feeling that I have done something which, in future years, when I meet them as adults, not only I, but also their families and the people in the world around them, will see that they have matured into people who share similar values to mine – people who want to help others and to try to make the world around them a better place, not only through their actions but also in their work and future careers.

The majority of children today don’t know how to imagine life without computers, telephones, or other electronics; life is full of lies, violence, and things which have an unhealthy effect on a person, either physically and/or psychologically. At camp, the children are not allowed to have anything electronic, which actually makes our work, as leaders, even harder. But, even after only a few days, the children realize that their lives are better this way, and the real gift for me is when they have to leave the camp - they cry because they don’t want to go home and I can see how much they are going to miss this world in which they’ve been living for the past 14 days. Although it takes a lot of time, energy, and self-sacrifice, it’s worth it to me, because they are leaving able to live their lives with more assertiveness, self-sufficiency, and a greater ability to discern between good and evil.

I don’t really think of this as “community service”, but I feel like I have helped at least a few people move toward a better life. I had a difficult childhood, due to a hearing impairment, and was shunned by other children. An educational psychologist wanted to send me to a special school because of my hearing. I don’t think that going to a special school would have been bad, but I know that if I had gone to one, I wouldn’t currently be attending the school I am attending and I wouldn’t necessarily have felt the calling to help other people. I know that this childhood experience is now my driving force, because I will never forget how unhappy I was due to my impairment. But now I have proof that some things are worth fighting for – you just need to bite the bullet and go for it!

The values represented in the guidelines for this essay are very important for a department leader like myself, especially with 30 children under my care. There are some camps where people receive payment for their work, but I do it for the good feeling it gives me – that I can spend two weeks with such a wide variety of children - children who are able to experience such immediate pleasure from the simple steps they take but who also, during their lifetime, may make an important decision that perhaps I influenced in some concrete way and, in so doing, touched their lives.

If it hadn’t been for my studies in high school and my training and qualification as an instructor and leader, I believe it would have been impossible for me to have helped a woman who recently fainted at a party. Thanks to that experience, I can even more appreciate the fact that I know what to do in such situations.

Regarding my future plans, my current school is preparing us for our future profession with lots of practical experience – we work with different organizations for five weeks at a time (although we don’t select the organization, our school does). There are different organizations that partner with our school, for example: a combined nursery school and elementary school, an early care center, a non-profit organization working with the people who are poor and lonely, the City’s social services, and many more. We are required to work with one of these organizations once a week and, at the end of each semester, we can elect to continue some sort of volunteer work with one of the organizations, based on our experiences during the required work times. During my studies, I will also continue to volunteer in my free time with the children’s club, Šlápota.

This brings me back to my desire, in my future professional life, to work with children, whether with healthy children in pre-school or kindergarten, or with handicapped children in special day care centers. My desires for the future are related not only to children, but also to adults who are somehow imprisoned inside and who can, with some help, be restored to a normal life. I started to be interested in this type of work after my fourth year of high school, when I was at the Department of Social Security in Pilsen. I believe that my desires will grow, both in relation to these practical application opportunities through my school and also through normal life experiences.