April 17, 2019
In her young life, Sydney Bocik ’19 has already endured great loss, as her father passed away from cancer when she was just a little girl.
It is a fairly unique experience for someone so young, but instead of facing her grief alone, Bocik sought solace with others in her high school who’d also lost a close loved one.
“We realized we didn’t have to go through this kind of loss alone,” she said, explaining that together with a friend and the help of a school counselor, she started a kind of support group for fellow students. “We developed friendships that gave us the support when we needed it. It’s hard to have support from other people if they haven’t been through it, too. It’s such a unique loss at such a young age.”
UT senior Sydney Bocik, left, has created a support group and a scholarship to help students who have lost parents.
When Bocik came to UT, she missed that community, so in her first year she met with staff at the Dickey Health and Wellness Center to start a similar group on campus, Excelsior, which means “ever upward” in Latin.
According to Bocik, Excelsior is not a counseling group. Instead, its mission is to provide the opportunity for mutual peer support for young adults grieving the illness or death of a loved one and to empower the campus community to take action through service.
Bocik is now a senior and the group is thriving. It meets regularly for social activities like having coffee or doing homework and also completing service projects in the community.
Still, Bocik wanted to do more. She thought of the scholarship she’d received from the Legacy Guild, which has been crucial to her coming to UT.
“It really helped me a lot. I would not be able to attend UT without that, so I thought it was important that if I got some help, I wanted to give some help back,” she said.
So Bocik is starting the Excelsior Scholarship, an annual scholarship that will go to a student who has suffered the loss of a parent. While she finishes her studies in international business and finance, the scholarship will be funded by Checkers and Rally’s, but Bocik plans to take over the funding of the gift once she graduates in December. She also welcomes others to make contributions to fund additional Excelsior Scholarships.
While she is proud of the scholarship, Bocik said it’s important for students to know that even those who don’t receive the financial support are welcome to join the group.
“Especially with the big life changes — going into high school, going into college, moving far away — not having that support (from a parent) makes a big difference,” she said. “So having it with your peers, with people who do understand makes a really big difference.”
This story ran in the Spring 2019 edition of the UT Journal.