USC 2017 | Five Trojans who inspired us this year
? Year in review: These USC alumni, faculty and students will give you some good vibes for the new year (Last in a 10-part series)
We could all use some inspiration to start 2018 off right. Fortunately USC students, alumni and faculty delivered. Here are a few of their inspiring stories from 2017.
The veteran who found his lifes work in writing during wartime
Patrick ONeill always carried at least three things during his tours of duty in Afghanistan: a machine gun, a camera and a journal.
My family sent me that journal, said ONeill, who wrote under the light of a headlamp while other members of his platoon slept. I started writing about the movements of our platoon, while I was sitting on my cot or in the back of a truck. Wed have a really rough patrol and we did lose members of our platoon. Id write about how the guys were reacting, how we were handling it. I wanted to have something to hold onto.
During two deployments from 2007 through 2011, ONeill continually wrote and took photos. He left with vivid images of Afghanistans landscape, capturing its beauty and bleakness. He dreamed of being a photojournalist.
When he came back, the dream of self-expression kept him going. ONeill graduated in May with a degree in English from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Today, hes working as a copywriter in San Francisco while pursuing a publisher for his novel, which was inspired by his service in Afghanistans Helmand Province. I push myself to keep writing, ONeill said. Im always thinking about it, and its something Im never going to stop doing.
The doctors who brought hope to the boy locked in his own body
These USC physicians and researchers refuse to give up on children and teens frozen by dystonia.
Dystonia is a movement disorder in which muscles contract so uncontrollably that they twist peoples bodies into contorted positions. USC Viterbi School of Engineerings Terry Sanger, a doctor whos also an engineer and computational scientist, and neurosurgery partners at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles are trying to calm down the electrical storm in the brain that causes it. Theyre bringing hope to so many lives, like that of Rafael Hernandez. He once couldn’t walk, but now he can pitch, run and throw a baseball.
Once an Olympic hopeful, she speaks out to protect others
Sarah Urke was aiming for the U.S. Olympic team in synchronized swimming, but a kick in the head ended her dreams. After a long recovery from concussion, the USC alumnus is now an advocate for people with brain injuries and shes getting her doctoral degree in physical therapy.
The kid with low expectations who had high expectations for himself
José Barron was a gang member. He spent time in prison; he was shot in the head. But today hes getting a graduate degree at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, thanks to one conversation that turned his life around.
She teaches English to refugees from war-torn Syria
USC student Sofia Deaks family immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. Now Deak is helping a new wave of immigrants Syrian refugees in Southern California.
Deak and her friends at Students Organize 4 Syria USC drive to San Diego, which has more Syrian refugees than any other American city, to tutor refugees who are learning English and embracing American life. Hear her tell their story in our video.
USC 2017 A 10-PART LOOK BACK
See more of our 10-part year-end package, which continues through Dec. 31.