The Sure Oak team is pleased to announce Carneal Owens II as the winner of The 2021 Sure Oak Scholarship for $1,000. Carneal was selected from a pool of 600 candidates. Candidates had to craft and submit an essay detailing how their personal values will put them on track to achieving their goals.
Carneal currently attends Washington University where he is working towards a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
As an African American male from the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, I pride myself on not falling victim to societal norms. The name “Roseland” gives off the impression that the neighborhood is safe, clean, and full of roses. Living here for almost 20 years, I can honestly say that is far from the truth. Like most neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago, Roseland is underfunded, lacks resources, and is filled with crime and gang activity. Within the Roseland community, there is also a high percentage of alcohol consumption, drug usage, physical inactivity, and teen pregnancy. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a two-parent household but realized some of the circumstances I’ve faced are not ideal or common for everyone. There are a lot of factors within my community that make my neighbors and me disadvantaged. In our community, we don’t have access to many healthy food options, a great healthcare facility, or parks for children to enjoy. There are more fast-food chains serving food that are high in sodium, calories, and cholesterol in my neighborhood than I can count. The nearest grocery store is about a 10-minute drive away while the nearest fast-food chain is within a one-minute walking distance. This makes it challenging for individuals without transportation to eat healthy and follow dietary guidelines.
The Roseland Community Hospital is underfunded, understaffed, and ranked as one of the worst hospitals in Illinois being known around Chicago as a hospital to avoid, if possible. Being in the middle of an underrepresented neighborhood makes it worse because people do not trust they will receive quality care from their staff but are forced to go there since it’s the closest facility. There are parks in the neighborhood for children but remain they empty due to violence. There are specific times people are allowed to go to these parks since they reside on gang territory. Each of these factors contribute to the prevalence of death, diabetes, and obesity within my neighborhood.
Outside of crime and lack of resources, my neighborhood suffers from a lack of accountability and a lack of leadership. There aren’t too many people stepping forward to change my neighborhood. There also aren’t many role models or celebrities with great success stories that come back to improve my neighborhood. A lot of people are more focused on getting out and never looking back rather than attempting to be a part of the solution. This adds fuel to the motivation I already have in becoming a physical therapist. I am determined to show the next generation that you do not have to become a product of your environment. Ultimately, I want to show them that a doctor grew up in the same environment as them and they can’t let their environment dictate how far they can go in life. My greatest accomplishment so far was earning my Master of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Having the honor to not only obtain one college degree, but two is a huge blessing in my eyes. Many of the men from my neighborhood never attended college. Their education peaked at high school graduation. Some didn’t even make it that far.
My parents have influenced my decision to pursue a profession that is centered around the human body. My father is a mortician and my mother is a funeral director. I was never interested in their profession per se but shadowing my father while he worked drew my attention toward human anatomy and physiology. Since the first day of my undergraduate career, my goal has been to become a physical therapist. During that time, I was employed as a physical therapy technician at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Missouri.
With the experience I received at Boone Hospital, I was able to later obtain an internship at Wilson’s Fitness Center. It was then I realized I preferred to work in an athletic facility rather than a hospital. At Wilson’s Fitness Center, I was responsible for attending consultations and screenings with clients, assisting with program designs for different types of clients, and learning the operational and management side of a trainer and director. Now that I’ve obtained my master’s degree, I’ve learned how to balance an influx of hands-on job skills and the challenge of the curriculum. While pursuing my master’s, I worked at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and now currently work at Sports & Ortho Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine; both as a Physical Therapy Technician. Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush is one of the top 10 orthopedic facilities in the nation. I was fortunate enough to work alongside some of the most well-known physicians in America. At Sports & Ortho Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, I have the opportunity to work with former athletes, local police officers, and local firefighters. It is a humbling experience to hear the stories these patients tell about their field of work. All of these experiences have reassured me that I am on the right track to securing my passion as my purpose.
My diverse background, from my ethnicity, upbringing, education, and work experiences, have all shaped my work ethic into what it is today. These experiences have all given me the ability to be understanding, compassionate, and the knowledge to know how to work effectively with patients in multiple settings. Also, these experiences have granted me the opportunity to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Using my environment as my motivation, I expect to continue my growth and become one of the best at what I do. I hope that my relentlessness inspires others to persevere through adversity. Guided by knowledge and a will to serve others, this scholarship will push me closer towards providing high-quality rehabilitative services to those in need of assistance.