Auger & Auger is proud to announce Weston Luke as a winning recipient of our Disabled Scholar Awards for the 2019 Fall Semester. Multiple scholarships for $1,000 are presented during the spring and fall terms to college students across the United States who have exceeded expectations, and worked hard to transcend the impact of their disabilities. All recipients of the Auger & Auger Disabled Scholar Award have achieved excellence inside and outside their classrooms, and are making a positive impact in their communities.
“Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.” __ Leonardo da Vinci
And so begins Weston Luke’s winning essay, with the added notation “these words reflect my life.” This 3rd-year college student majoring in Aerospace Engineering says that ‘his mind is set to the stars.’ When asked to elaborate on how this relates to his life’s mission, Weston’s reply says it all.
“Stars emit light and energy. I try to have a positive impact on other people. I hope my optimistic attitude shines brightly even in my darkest moments.”
Although Weston had experienced the same obstacles since birth, many years went by without his doctors not fully understanding his illness. Finally, in 2007, a team of doctors delivered the proper diagnosis of hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES).
“Life hasn’t been easy for me, due to significant health issues related to HES, along with a plethora of secondary diagnoses with coexisting conditions.”
The eosinophils are the disease-fighting white blood cells in our bodies, which have 2 specific roles; consuming foreign substances to fight infection, and promoting inflammation to isolate and control a disease site. Hypereosinophilic syndrome occurs when the eosinophils persistently overproduce, attacking bone marrow and organ tissues, and causing chronic inflammation.
“For over 2 decades, I have had a feeding tube and a mediport for monthly labs and necessary infusions, and so, I’ve endured approximately 80 surgeries and surgical procedures, countless doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations, labs, radiology studies, and medical tests. Research continues for a cure and is uncovering new treatment therapies”
The strain of his medical regimen would be compounded by the 2,000 miles that lay between the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Weston Luke’s home in Dallas, Texas. CCH is ranked #1 of only 4 hospitals in the U. S. that treat Eosinophilic Disorders. His disorder required multiple trips a year for half of his life.
“Of course, my mother has worked tirelessly to make sure I get the care I need, and the opportunities I want. She accompanied me to all the medical appointments, and would always say, “Your day is what you make it, so make it a great day.”
His parents’ inspiration has helped Weston’s to put his obstacles into perspective — proving they can be overcome with positivity. Rather than feeling crushed by challenges, he has always concentrated on things that make him happy.
“My father took care of my brothers and worked as an engineer to support the family. He encouraged me to build and create things. I have always been fascinated with space, and I have always enjoyed building things — Aerospace Engineering combines two of my passions.”
Weston’s support system was always strong, and encouraging — traits he would incorporate as he held onto his educational opportunities with a fierce grip. And, he credits his faith with keeping him in the right frame of mind.
“Much of my early education was through the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati, and my teachers back home would send work for me to complete while undergoing treatment.”
Weston attended science-based Quest Academy Middle School, continuing the program at iSchool High STEM Academy. Despite his frequent trips to Cincinnati for treatments, he managed to serve as Team Co-Captain of the iSchool Robotics Team.
While involved with the Young Scientists Achievers Program, Weston worked on a team that developed a ‘thermochromic roofing shingle’ — it would change color in response to different temperatures; thus reflecting heat or absorbing it. They received a provisional patent on the product.
“Through all my trials I’ve learned perseverance, a strong work ethic, and how to always have hope for the future.”
Graduating high school cum laude was a significant accomplishment for Weston — considering that his medical challenges only allowed class attendance 60% of the time. But one of Weston’s greatest experiences was being admitted to the University of Colorado, where AT&T offered him 4 summer internships beginning at the close of his freshman year. These opportunities gave him hope that he could work on his own.
“Even in college, there are semesters which necessitate my dropping a course to physically make it through. I’ve navigated the medical setbacks by adapting my schedule to be less restrictive, and I recognize when dropping a class may be necessary to focus and perform well in the others. It may add a year or more to my degree plan and graduation, but I will persevere. No doubt. I’m not a quitter, I am strong.”
Weston learned to accept his disability as a part of who he is. His strength of character continued to grow, further empowering his hope and endurance.
“Due to the severity of my illness, I was given the opportunity of receiving a Wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. My wish was to sail on the Royal Caribbean ship called the Oasis of the Seas because it was the largest in their fleet, and I wanted to explore its engineering features.”
In Dallas, Maggiano’s Restaurant sponsors the Wish Drive by offering Dishes for Wishes on their menu, as well as hosting a variety of corporate fundraising events. One attending car dealer from Dallas heard about Weston and wanted to make sure that his wish was granted. He used his credit card to personally cover the cost of the trip.
“The captain personally took my family on a tour of the entire ship, even allowing us to go to the bridge. This entire experience not only granted my wish but also taught me about the generosity of others and the ripple effect for even more to receive joy. It ignited my spirit to give back what I was given.”
The Make-A-Wish charity organization extended to Weston the opportunity to be their ambassador; sharing his story and raising money for other children and families. He was physically weak and struggling but discovered that it lifted his own will to fight when he helped other sick children receive their Wishes as they battled their illnesses.
“During my year as an ambassador, I was involved in video tapings, restaurant appearances, walks and 5K’s, and various other fundraising events with a Make a Wish’s corporate sponsor. It was the eleventh year this company had partnered with the wish-granting charity, and to date they had raised over four million dollars. In the year I served as ambassador, I’m proud to say that my story and personal appearances helped raised over $1,000,000. That struck a chord with me to never give up, push myself and always show and have compassion — its return is tenfold.”
So, Weston, what message would you like to share with our country, and the world?
“No matter how difficult or challenging life may be for any of us at times, we can always persevere and shoot for the stars, for something beyond our reach.”