Drew is ready for College

Drew Fernandez is the son of Tracey Mayer – one of our Parent Advocates – and like John Gonoude a person that has overcome the stigma of concussion.  Not only is it a real brain injury, not treating it correctly can have life long effects for more people than we care to admit.  As Drew finds time he will send us updates, we hope this avenue will help him as well.

Over the past week, two really great things happened in regard to my upcoming freshman year in college at Illinois State University.  The first was having my request for formal academic accommodations approved, based on my medical condition of suffering from migraines, as a result of a severe concussion.  My parents and I were overjoyed with receiving the email notifying us with such amazing news.

Secondly, based on my outstanding academics, I received a letter from Illinois State University inviting me to compete for the University scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships available to new freshmen at ISU.  It is designed for academically talented, new freshmen from traditionally underrepresented groups or first generation college students who have overcome hardship in achieving their academic goals.  I did not receive this scholarship, however when you don’t receive one scholarship, they put your entry in the run for other potential scholarships.  Catching me by surprise, I was awarded a Redbird Academic Scholarship, renewable for up to four years.

Both of these things are especially significant because ISU acknowledged that what I have gone through is real.  Having them validate it is really important, not only for me, but for all other student athletes who suffer from post-concussive issues.

This is what I had written for my scholarship entry;

Both of my parents attended college, and I have not overcome any hardship due to my Asian ethnicity. However, I have overcome a unique hardship that definitely has impacted me academically.  On September 15, 2008, I suffered a severe concussion during a high school football game, and due to the severity of it I can no longer play the game.  The past three years have been extremely challenging for me cognitively because I had to re-learn some of what I knew, and I had to learn new ways of studying.  I struggled horribly freshman and sophomore years as you can see by the C’s on my transcript, and although my teachers were trying to help, there was no formal academic policy in place so I was really on my own.  It’s hard to describe how hard it was to study and study and then take a test and not remember anything or forget what I learned by the time I got home from school each day.  My doctors told me I was learning the material in the classroom but my brain didn’t know where to retrieve it from when I needed it so I would draw blanks.  As a result, I had to take medication to help me.

My family had to fight hard for two years to get a 504 plan approved because post-concussion syndrome is not seen as a disability.  It wasn’t until I started having migraines that my school finally approved a 504 plan, which allows me 50% more time on tests and decreases the chances of migraines.  

I am proud to say that through all of my hard work and not giving up I received all A’s and B’s junior year, and I made the A honor roll. Despite that, I know college will be an even greater challenge to overcome, and I would be lying if I were to say I wasn’t concerned.  I have applied for academic accommodations, and I plan to work as hard as I can to be successful throughout my 4 years at ISU.

My original plan was to apply to the College of Business at Illinois State. High level math and science classes are now extremely difficult for me due to the intense focusing and concentration they require, which can cause painful migraines.  As a result, I will have to choose another career path. At this point, I am not sure what it is going to be, but I know it will be something that I enjoy doing, and it will be the first step toward a successful future.

I am actively involved in helping other student athletes who have suffered concussions, and this is very rewarding for me.  I miss football so much, but my parents tell me that when one door closes another one opens, and I know great things are in my future.

One activity that I have participated in all 4 years of high school is baseball. Throughout every level of baseball, I have pushed myself to be one of the leaders on the team and really set an example for everyone else. Last year, my teammates and I made Prospect Baseball History by placing 3rd in the state finals.  Outside of the baseball season, I worked at three separate little kid’s baseball camps over the summer.  I enjoyed helping all the kids, and actually starting a relationship with them which still continues today. 

Another activity that I have participated in the last couple years is the Pep Assembly Crew. After suffering my concussion freshman year, I found another way to contribute to each sport and our school spirit. I am now in charge of all the sports student sections, leading chants, and getting the students to show up at the games.  This is extremely fun and is another example of leadership in my everyday life.  My goal is to set an example for the others around me, including all the lower class men who look up to me.

I have also been a Knights’ Way leader for the past two years.  The mission of Knight’s Way is to provide all students with focused leadership opportunities, to develop social consciousness, participate in “pay it forward” activities, and improve the overall civility of Prospect High School.

5 thoughts on “Drew is ready for College

  1. Linda March 6, 2012 / 06:56

    Drew, you have had to overcome a lot! You never gave up! You have great support from your parents. You give a lot of hope to others. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. Best of luck to you at ISU.

    • Drew Fernandez March 11, 2012 / 14:01

      Thank you for all the support! It really means a lot and helps me continue to move forward.


  2. Congrats Drew on your accompliments…and best wishes as you prepare to enter the next phase of your life–the college years!!!

    Your presenting migraines are now medically viewed as part of your ongoing concussion journey…..

    In order that you adequately protect your brain from further and potentially more serious injury and corresponding adverse symptoms, please consider giving serious reflection upon pacing yourself within the classroom setting and while performing numerous physical, social / emotional, and cognitive activities outside the classroom.

    Your brain has 3 major functional components: cognitive, physical and emotional…thus adequate brain rest applies to all 3 core areas.

    Furthermore alcohol consumption may exascerbate concussion symtoms.

    A close friend of mine chose 5 years to sucessfully complete undergrad as the 5 year time frame better accomodated his personal learning style.

    • Drew Fernandez March 11, 2012 / 14:05

      Dear Dr. Brady,

      Thank you for all of the information you have sent my way over the past few months. It has been very helpful. As you know, there are many opinions and recommendations when it comes to the subject of concussions, so your input has taught me a lot.

      I will keep all of the things you mentioned above in mind while at ISU.

      Thanks again,


  3. Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, NCSP, Licensed Psychologist March 14, 2012 / 00:32

    You are welcome, Drew.

    More importantly, I am pleased that you read and digested the material sent to you…material that does not represent the current status quo of concussion information.

    I have no doubt that during your college journey this info will not only assist you but other students you will meet.

    And should you be involved in sports as a coach, you will have the opportunity to protect another child’s brain…through education and the experiential knowledge you have gained re your own concussion.

    Finally, if you have not already, I strongly urge you to have a thorough developmental vision evaluation to assess the overall quality of your vision. Dysfunctional eyes and corresponding dysfunctional vision will adversely impact many areas of daily living.

    Again, best wishes…!!!

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