Emily O.

Undergraduate Recipient

"Describe an achievement or rewarding experience that you are most proud of accomplishing while living with CF, and how it has molded the person you have become."

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Old Rag has a nine-mile trail to a summit elevation of 3,291 feet. Over one mile of the hike is rock scramble. The National Park Service touts the peak as “Shenandoah’s most popular and most dangerous climb”. Looking down from the top of a boulder on the top of the mountain was incredible.

Getting to the base of the mountain was tiring, as I lugged my backpack up a mile-long hill. As I climbed over tree roots and fallen branches and rocks and boulders, I wasn’t sure that I would get to the top. Then we reached the rock scramble: massive boulders that forced you to focus on climbing, sliding, and not falling. At five-feet tall, I stretched to get onto rocks twice my height, and needed a hand to grab when I jumped across large gaps. At that point, I forgot everything but the moment and lived in it, trusting my mind and body. I made it to the top, enjoyed the view, and only after we were in the car, exhausted and heading home, did I reflect on my day.

I pride myself on being “normal” in the sense that I have never let CF hold me back from doing anything that I wanted to do. As a varsity student athlete, I have always thought of myself physically fit. This was the first time I felt truly grateful for my capabilities that consistently allow me to battle CF and win.


Emily O.'s Artwork


This sketch depicts the relationship between horse and rider that I struggle to put into words. Through horseback riding, I have learned things about myself and about the world that I could not have learned from any person or textbook. Horses taught me to trust others and to trust myself and to have faith in and be proud of my abilities. Caring for another creature has been immensely powerful, and I have found purpose and self-worth through doing so. Here, where I am feeding my horse a peppermint, I am attempting to showcase the love and care that I find in horses, who consistently remind me how beautiful the world around me is.

Emily O.'s Achievements

  • Dream Catchers Therapeutic Riding Center, Volunteer
  • Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society
  • National Society of Collegiate Scholars
  • Psychology Department, Research Assistant
  • Honors Research Thesis Fellowship Recipient
  • Seaton Hackney Stables, Instructor and Trainer
  • Arc of Greater Williamsburg, Volunteer
  • Girls on the Run, Volunteer
  • Equestrian Team, Regional and Zone Qualifier (2014); Fundraising Chair (2013 – 2015)
  • Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, Scholarship Chair (2014 – 2015)