Brennen Kohlman

Growing up in my hometown of O’Fallon, Missouri, I participated in several activities and sports. Whether I was completing my homework assignments or engaging in soccer, I loved keeping busy by challenging my mind and body. I was a competitive person in all endeavors and didn’t mind working hard to reach my goals. Things changed for me in the 5th grade when I began to encounter difficulties with both mental and physical tasks. My body began to exhibit odd and painful movements over which I had no control. This concerned my parents, and shortly thereafter, I was examined by my doctor who diagnosed me with Tourette Syndrome. I had already been diagnosed with ADHD and OCD when I was younger, so hearing this news made my heart sink as I knew more struggles would follow.  At the time, however, I didn’t completely understand what this diagnosis would entail.

As I matured, I began to experience several adverse effects of these disorders. My Tourettes made it challenging to focus on my schoolwork; my ADHD made this process more difficult by not allowing me to control my energy levels. Entering high school, I knew that my studies would severely task me, however, I refused to give up on my dream of becoming an engineer. I became cognizant of a reality that served to empower me in my academic work: that every person faces adversity, but personal values, such as perseverance and a strong work ethic could overcome personal struggles – that is what truly shaped one’s character.

As I entered my junior year, I felt a quantum leap in my intrinsic motivation to succeed. I pushed through my struggles, and through grit and hard work reached my expectations of excellence by receiving all A’s, including in all of my AP classes. I vividly remember standing in my room at home after junior year grades came out, reading my report card as emotions of joy and happiness flooded my mind. At this exact moment, I realized my Tourettes was overcomable. Those grades on my report cards were tangible proof that I could achieve success, even in a world that afforded me handicaps that most students never envisioned. This personal triumph will forever hold its place in my mind and heart, ready for retrieval anytime I am doubting my abilities.

My struggle with Tourette Syndrome taught me life lessons that are invaluable. I realized no barrier can stand between you and your dreams as long as you always give it your all and refuse to accept failure. A determined mind, I know that the lessons I learned from overcoming these obstacles will be fundamental in my future success.

I intend to bring this never-give-up attitude to the rigors of my college coursework. Every student relates to a different story, but I can confidently say that my story has shaped my personal values and will continue to provide the fuel that propels me to greater levels of excellence in the future.