Fred McGaughan, Director of Institutional Advancement, Newark Academy

Seniors Add comments

College admission letter on behalf of Pavlo

I am writing on behalf of Pavlo Levkiv, the most remarkable young man I have met in my 26 years in education. As you must know, Pavlo has overcome enormous obstacles-not just with sheer determination, but also with a passion for living that is inspirational. Pavlo is one of my heroes.

While I’ve spent hours and hours with Pavlo over the years, I’d like to tell you about one day I spent with him-a day that reshaped the way I view life. On this day, Pavlo taught me about real courage, persistence, and joy in striving.

I knew Pavlo liked the great outdoors, and so, two years ago on a brisk spring morning I agreed to go hiking with him, his dad, and their beloved dogs. Little did I know when I said I’d go that I would be picked up at 4:00 a.m. for a five-hour drive to a mountain in the Adirondacks. This was going to be a real challenge for me, and I was worried about Pavlo. You see, not only was he going to have to contend with his cerebral palsy, but he had also just recently broken his arm, and it was still in a sling. Despite that, Pavlo cheerfully led us up the trail.

At first I thought I had dodged a bullet–the trail started out clear and fairly level, but before long we were really working. After two hours, I was gritting my teeth and wondering when Pavlo was going to stop. The kid was relentless. I was physically and emotionally drained. We had all slipped, scraped, and literally stared into the abyss, and we weren’t nearly “there.” Finally, we rested.

We came to a place that I thought was our destination, but instead, after a brief break, I was told that we still had a mile to go, and it was virtually straight up. There was a well-soaked cliff of boulders, mud, and branches ahead, and Pavlo went right after it with his dad. Then, with his dad’s constant, firm encouragement, Pavlo got halfway up when something awful happened-Pavlo slipped and came crashing down, smashing the side of his head against the rocks on the way. I was horrified-I believed he could be seriously hurt, and I thought we had made a mistake taking on this impossibly hard challenge. I knew if it were me, my day of hiking would have ended right there.

Pavlo was indeed hurt, and he groaned for a moment as an angry bruise emerged on his jaw. And then-he got up. He looked back up at the rocks, eyeballed his father, and went after that ledge again. No pause, no doubts. In silence and with pure grit and determination, Pavlo conquered that ledge and didn’t stop until we were at the summit. I will never forget sharing the beauty of the view at the top of that mountain with Pavlo. He looked so thoroughly fulfilled gazing across the expanse to the adjacent mountains. I couldn’t believe it when I heard him say, “Let’s go try that one over there.” “No, Pavlo,” said his dad, “not today.” I breathed a sigh of relief.

As is the way with climbing mountains, the trip down was more difficult than the trip up. We got a bit lost; we got caught in a thunderstorm followed by steady rain; all of us fell hard. But with night coming, failing was not an option. By the time we reached the car, I was almost hallucinating with fatigue. I considered that climb to be one of the most difficult physical endeavors I had ever undertaken, and I am pretty athletic and fit. This kid had done it with a disability and a broken arm. I slumped in the front seat and turned to see how Pavlo was doing. Pavlo was looking at me and laughing. “When can we do this again?” he asked.

Nothing will ever stop Pavlo Levkiv. Please consider this letter to be more than a recommendation; it is one way of letting you know that Pavlo Levkiv is a “must-have” student and person-someone whose indomitable spirit will lift entire communities and change the world for the better.

Leave a Reply