Making a Difference
Making a Difference

By Sarah Smith, BA’07

Photo at left: Elizabeth Kosanke is learning and serving in the Dominican Republic this semester with Creighton’s Encuentro Dominicano program. While living with a family in a rural village, Kosanke had fun tending to the chickens. Scholarship support helped Kosanke pursue her Creighton education.

As an undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences, Elizabeth Kosanke has had an opportunity to work in the lab of Jorge Zuniga, Ph.D., a Creighton professor who has developed low-cost prosthetic hands for children through 3-D printing.

It seems fitting – this opportunity to quietly give hope to struggling children dealing with a major life obstacle. Kosanke, herself, is no stranger to major life obstacles.

When she was in eighth-grade, her older sister, Kyleigh, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. Kyleigh lost her short-term memory and the ability to read, could no longer do simple math and experienced excruciating headaches. 

The accident changed her family’s life forever. Her parents would travel from their home in Spokane, Wash., to Seattle each week (a more than four-hour trip one way) for her sister’s medical treatments. Elizabeth stayed with family friends in order to attend school, and soon she began helping Kyleigh, who is five years older, through her recovery.

“We were all really committed to doing whatever it took to help her,” Elizabeth says. 

Paying medical bills was financially difficult on her parents. They could no longer save for Elizabeth’s college. She had to find another way to pay for school.

While finding the means to pay for college was a struggle (she worked two jobs over the summer), finding the right college was relatively easy.

“I knew after visiting Creighton that this was the place for me,” Elizabeth says. “I could feel it.” She was drawn to Creighton’s strong academics and opportunities that would allow her to grow as a complete person.

Because of the quiet, selfless gifts of others, she was able to attend Creighton – as a recipient of the Fr. Richard McGloin, S.J. Endowed Scholarship, which is given to undergraduate students who demonstrate academic achievement.

 “I was very surprised and very, very, very thankful,” she says.  

Elizabeth, a junior exercise science major, has paid that support back through her work in Zuniga’s lab, and through a myriad of other activities.

She is involved in Campus Ministry and has participated in two service and justice trips, and plans to lead another in the fall. This semester, she is in the Dominican Republic as part of Creighton’s Encuentro Dominicano service and cultural immersion program. She leads a Bible study for high school students with disabilities through an organization called Young Life. She has participated in Creighton Clean-Up, the University’s largest student-led community outreach event, and donates blood regularly.

 She loves Creighton, especially the University’s close-knit feel. 

 “Since it’s a smaller school, we’re blessed to know a lot of different people from different groups.”

After earning her undergraduate degree, Elizabeth plans to attend medical school and study osteopathic medicine. She wants to eventually move back to Washington to be closer to family. 

“The more I’m away from them, the more I realize how much they mean to me.”
 Despite the struggle her family has been through, she says her sister’s accident has helped make them stronger and given her a new appreciation for life.

“[My sister is] a constant reminder of cherishing every day and letting the people you love know that you love them. I’ve come to appreciate the gift of a smile. On a rough day that can really make a difference.”

Elizabeth also is thankful for Creighton’s generous donors, like the children receiving the prosthetic hands, most of whom she will never even know. She recognizes the difference they have made in her life.

“If not for the generous scholarship, I would not be attending Creighton,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for those willing to step forward and invest in my future.”