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Against all odds

If you don’t know the odds are stacked against you, you don’t know you have anything to overcome.

And that is one of the keys to success, says Vail Christian High School graduate Heather Kroschel.

That success, earned by overcoming one seemingly overwhelming obstacle after another, earned Kroschel one of eight Youth Foundation’s Growing Our Own scholarships. Kroschel will use hers to attend Valparaiso University in Indiana, a Christian college where she’ll study education.



“If a child didn’t realize how heavy their load was, then how could they be afraid of it?” Kroschel asked in her essay for the scholarship competition.

Before Kroschel was old enough to know what odds and statistics were, and that they were stacked against her, she had begun to overcome them.



This is the kid in that ancient joke shoveling excitedly through a pile of horse manure on Christmas morning, ecstatic because with that much equine byproduct, there must be a pony in there somewhere.

These is the ant-high hopes that really did carry the rubber tree plant:

– She is diminutive, because she was born with dwarfism.



– Before she knew she was not supposed to be able to walk, she earned a full scholarship to a dance school.

– Before some well-meaning person told her dwarfism was supposed to make here shy, she developed the drive to dance solos.

– No one told her she was supposed to be scared and shy, and so she’s fantastic in front of a crowd. Most people would rather die than be in front of a crowd. Kroschel would rather die than not.

Statistics, Kroschel says, are nothing more than numbers. And numbers, she says, can be made to tell her story.

“What if a person learned that statistics in general did not hold true to their life, their choices, and their circumstances?” says Kroschel. “I have learned that some of the most common statistics do not hold true to my life. Maybe, if society did not limit the human mind, our achievements would be far greater.”

Early in her junior year at Vail Christian, she learned she had fractures in her lower back. That less-than-happy news came as she was named captain of the varsity cheerleading team.

“I was scared that everything I had ever known would be changed,” says Kroschel. “I told my mother that it was impossible to do everything anymore. She told me that I had been breaking the odds each day my entire life.”

Dwarfism, it turns out, made her limbs too weak to carry her weight. After months of physical training to learn to cope with her fractures, she was named one of the top 100 cheerleaders in America by Cheer USA magazine.

She grew up poor, in a run-down trailer park 15 minutes from Vail, a world class playground for the wealthy. She wearies of debating wealthy classmates and others who assert money has nothing to do with happiness – when they know nothing of being without it. At the Kroschels house, new clothes usually meant new to them, and they looked forward to the boxes of food at Christmas.

In addition to a Youth Foundation scholarship, she also won a Vail Valley Foundation scholarship, which pays $5,000 a year toward her college education.

“I never knew any different. I did my best and reaped the benefits,” says Kroschel. “I have received good grades as well as honors all the way through school. Consequently, when people look for an income connection to my success, all they find is a smiling family.”


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