As high school seniors prepare for graduation, there are compelling stories of students who turned difficult challenges into success. Clay Today will profile one outstanding senior from every school …
As high school seniors prepare for graduation, there are compelling stories of students who turned difficult challenges into success. Clay Today will profile one outstanding senior from every school in the county. This week, Aya Osman from Ridgeview.
ORANGE PARK – Aya Osman had her blue graduation gown tucked under her arm in between classes Tuesday at Ridgeview High. Once considered too far away and too challenging, the sprightly senior now can now embrace a future.
A year ago, she couldn’t think about graduation. She was too busy studying, too busy with her extracurricular meetings.
And fighting for her life.
A cancer diagnosis forced her to approach life in a series of “baby steps.” Long-term goals, like graduation, was an unnecessary use of focus.
Treatment to kill the tumor in her arm was aggressive. Chemotherapy treatments required three-day hospital stays. But Osman never backed down,
“The first thing I thought was, ‘What will I tell my friends? How am I supposed to manage, you know, arguably the hardest year of high school?’ I wasn’t really thinking too much about the logistics of what came with being diagnosed with cancer,” she said.
“As serious as cancer is, you don’t really think that much long-term,” she said. “You sort of look more so in the moment.”
She immersed herself in her schoolwork and social activities. Cancer be damned.
“It helped to distract yourself, and no matter what it may be, whether it was piano or schoolwork,” she said. “It definitely helps curb the side effects of such a great diagnosis. It helps keep put your mind at ease and keeps you focused about something else.”
Osman’s mother brought her laptop to the hospital so she wouldn’t fall behind. She kept up with her International Baccalaureate schedule as doctors monitored her progress.
She will graduate next month with a 4.77-grade point average, according to school principal Becky Murphy.
“I did everything on my laptop,” Osman said. “So you know, I was laying down on my hospital bed and the nurses would come in checking heart rate, checking my temperature and whatnot. While I would be rushing to finish an essay for IB history or English or having the distraction of schoolwork, to be able to focus on something else really helped.”
Osman said she someday wants to be a neurosurgeon. She hasn’t decided which university she will attend, but she’s successfully applied to more than a dozen schools.
And she will go to college cancer-free.
“I found out I was in remission last April,” she said.
Since she stays so busy living in the moment, Osman still doesn’t think too far into the future. More importantly, she wants to make a difference.
“I’m keeping tunnel vision focus,” she said. “I’m in a lot of extracurricular clubs at school because it helps keep me distracted. One of my favorite activities has to be the Multicultural Club and Earth Club – multicultural club for raising awareness of unique and distinct cultures and to bring appreciation to other types of people so they can feel a sense of belonging at the school and the community.”
As graduation approaches, Osman can finally embrace the prospect of a long and successful future.
“I’m sure it will be such a gratifying moment,” she said. “I’m going to take it in and make sure to look at everyone out there who made it possible, including Mrs. Murphy right here, and all my teachers and friends.”