A Ronkonkoma teen has received a $20,000 Foot Locker Foundation college scholarship as one of 20 student athletes chosen from a pool of more than 13,000 applicants nationwide.
Marina Duszak,18, was diagnosed with leukemia soon after beginning high school in the fall of 2014 and went on to rally her community to raise $40,000 over the course of two years for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and local cancer centers. Duszak became captain of her varsity cross country team, and was also a state-qualifier. She is a member of National Honor Society and was elected as Student Government president.
Despite her illness, Duszak barely missed any school nor gave up her cross country training, says her mom, Patty.
“It’s been a quite a journey,” says Patty of her daughter’s illness and treatment. “But my daughter, being who she was, did not give up her life.”
Duszak, a senior at Connetquot High School in Bohemia, says she was pretty shocked when she learned she was getting the scholarship.
“When I found out that I did, no words were coming out of my mouth,” she says. “It was just crazy.”
She says she hopes her story will serve as inspiration for others.
“I just wanted to show people that there are possibilities, even if you’re going through something that’s really affecting you,” she says. “All you need is motivation. And you just need to believe in yourself, honestly. I think that’s what got me through everything. I think that’s how I kept my head up during my treatments. I think that’s what really showed me that I am a strong person and that I can do anything.”
Inspired by a pharmacist she met during her treatment, Duszak says she hopes to become a hospital pharmacist and will be attending St. John’s University.