Lauraleigh Heffner

Rider Profile
HometownWoodstock, IL
UniversityUniversity of Illinois
MajorChemical Engineering/Atmospheric Sciences
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I am currently a senior double majoring in Chemical Engineering and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois. I have two amazing parents, two older brothers, a younger sister and a sister-in-law who have been incredibly supportive throughout my academic career, from attending the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, IL to summer jobs and programs that have taken me from Madison, WI to Orange, TX to Woods Hole, MA and a few places in between. When I am not studying, I can most often be found sleeping, eating/cooking or working out (in that order). I am also involved with the Society of Women Engineers, University Baptist Church and Cru- a Christian ministry on campus.

Personal Statement

My first semester of senior year of high school, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was not able to return to school as she needed to receive a lot of treatment. She was too young to get cancer, right? I felt very powerless against this disease, paralyzed by the fear. I followed a blog she kept and watched as her beautiful brown curls fell out and her face thinned. I can’t imagine how she felt, but throughout, she continuously posted stories of her “whimsical life with cancer” and funny pictures of giant clumps of hair attacking her. When she returned to school the next semester in remission, I continued on with my life as if nothing had happened and cancer was not a part of my life. However last spring during my Relay for Life campaign with SWE, I reached out to family members for donations & I received a letter from my grandmother. She dedicated 8 luminarias for the event, commemorating friends and family that I was too young to know who battled with cancer. She was so grateful that I had chosen such a worthy cause to support. At that point I realized that I had been avoiding the obvious: cancer is out there and affects so many people, and it is most undoubtedly going to affect my life. I believe it is important to be involved with the fight against cancer because I do not think it should define a person’s life or be that last image of a loved one. I believe that there are so many wonderful medical advancements that are worthy of our support so that no one has to go through the loss of their friends and family to cancer as I have seen with so many people. I ride for hope and I ride for the future. Can you imagine a better cause?