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    Posted January 23, 2012 by
    Audubon, Pennsylvania
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Remembering Joe Paterno

    More from dchang11

    Thank You Coach Paterno


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     High school senior dchang11 says, 'When I learned about JoePa's death, the first words that came to my mind were 'Thank You.' Before learning the life lessons Paterno regularly taught his players, I had little understanding of the world around me. After learning life lessons such as hard work, determination, taking challenges, and working to your full potential, I gained a greater perspective of the world around me and became a better individual in the process.'
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    When I first heard about the death of Joe Paterno, my first thoughts were “Thank you coach for making the biggest impact on my life.” Because it made such an impact on me, I wrote about it on my college application essay to Penn State.


    “I’ve always put forth a strong effort in everything I do, but after my first college visit to Penn State, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to achieve my potential. So after I took the initiative to request a GPA report from my counselor, the facts were a wake-up call.


    This wake-up call marked the biggest academic turnaround of my life. As junior year started, I realized that a strong work ethic is the key to success, and I needed to change mine in order to succeed. As the year progressed, teachers praised my new work ethic, one saying it was the best he’d seen in his career. However, that wasn’t the biggest thing I learned that year.


    When I was researching Penn State College of Liberal Arts, I came across a video about the Paterno Fellows Program. In the video, the first question asked, “How does a good student become a great student?” Later on, after the director of the program said the mission of the program is to challenge good students to become outstanding; I felt I needed to take my own challenge to surpass my potential. After doing some research, I decided to execute a challenge that was impossible, but knew it was the right thing to do.


    Although I didn’t take the AP US History class because of not meeting the requirements, I decided to take the exam so I could expand my passion for history. Preparation time was extremely short. Despite this impossible challenge, I passed the test! Taking the exam was the best academic decision of my life. It allowed me to realize that I need to overcome challenges that will await me not only in college, but in life as well.


    I never expected that my first college visit to Penn State was the start that turned my life around. Because of this, I want it be the place to continue my education with the goal of becoming a Paterno Fellow. The task isn’t going to be easy and I need to overcome many obstacles to reach that goal. Taking challenges are vital for me to succeed, and if I reach the goal of becoming a Paterno Fellow, it will be the beginning of a new series of challenges.”


    The video link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll2NsFP8Sfc&feature=player_embedded


    The events described above were only a portion of Coach Paterno’s influence on me. The “Grand Experiment” and “Success with Honor” motto taught me the importance of how education plays a vital role in the game of life. It also gave some sort of a bump in my path towards college, regaining my pride in schoolwork, which was lost in the bridge between middle and high school.


    I got my acceptance letter to Penn State moments before the Board of Trustees announced they fired Paterno from his head coaching position.


    The results of the impact Coach Paterno made on exceeded beyond my expectations in regards to post-secondary opportunities. I received scholarships, acceptances to numerous respected/prestigious universities, and even made an impact on the lives of several underclassmen who are applying to college in a few years.


    If I had to thank one individual for my life’s accomplishment twenty years down the road, the first person that would come to mind is Joe Paterno. The lessons I learned from him made a huge impact on the way I view the world and got me ready to face the real world. As I attend college next fall, I will never forget the lessons he taught me as I will apply them to school and everyday life.


    Thank you Coach Paterno.

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