The first-place winner of the ESA Youth Scholarship Program, Emma Fatzaun, accepted her $9,000 scholarship on the ESX Main Stage during the Closing Keynote Luncheon on June 6.
Her father joined her on the stage, where she stepped to the podium and gave the following acceptance speech:
“As I eagerly sat in my classroom wearing my plastic red fire helmet, I was, by far, the most excited Kindergartner in the room.
It was fire safety day, and I was going to see my daddy, Fireman John, who would be telling us how to stay safe in fires and how to prevent them.
All day, I boasted to my friends about how brave and strong my dad was, fighting fires and driving big, red fire trucks.
To this day, I still carry that same appreciation and love for my dad and his job, which protects our community each and every day.
Growing up as a firefighter’s daughter, I was taught many things about the critical importance of safety.
Although useful, my dad taught me something even greater that applies to my life forever — the importance of service, leadership, hard work, and, most of all, character.
My dad embodies how a person should act in times of stress. Respond in times of hardship. How one should persevere through life’s victories and defeats.
Not only is my dad employed by our city fire department, but he also volunteers for our rural county fire department.
Day after day, year after year seeing my dad go out of his way to serve our community — to do what he is passionate about.
He inspires me to do the same. He has shown me that when I find something I am passionate about, I must pursue it with everything I have.
So, that’s what I’ve decided to do: pursue my love for science.
He has shown me what a good and effective leader looks like, one who leads not only in words, but also in actions.
His actions not only speak louder than words — but they mean more.
He has prepared me to “fight my own fires” in my life.
He has recounted many times of triumph and defeat in his job; sometimes, despite his best efforts, things don’t work out the way they are planned.
However, he continually reminds me to never let the failures or setbacks define my next action.
In order to “fight fire,” something is going to burn at some point; it is the response to the burning that determines the outcome of the situation.
In each and everything my dad does, he always emphasizes good character and integrity.
He taught me an acronym for life that he lives by- DTRT. It stands for “Do The Right Thing.”
He keeps a picture of my family and the letters DTRT inside his fire helmet. It symbolizes what he values most in life.
No matter what, do the right thing.
When everyone is watching. When no one is watching. When it’s a big deal to many. When it means the world to just one person.
In the spirit of my dad, John Fatzaun — I encourage you all to leave this convention center and DTRT.
Dad, your hard work has inspired me to fight my own fires —Being far from home in Boston will be overwhelming at first. I say ‘ya’ll’… not ‘wicked.’ I’m accustomed to a small town, not a big city.
But your support, your guidance has made me strong enough to run into my own blazing fires. Because of you, I am not fearful. I am hungry to take this challenge on with all of my heart.
Although I may not be able to carry an air pack and or throw a ladder, I hope with what you have taught me — I can succeed in the field, contributing to my community as you have.
Thank you, ESA. Thank you — in the audience — I am off for Harvard to pursue a future in medical research in the fall. I will not forget this honor. Thank you for granting my father and I this very special moment.”
For more information on the ESA Youth Scholarship Program, visit esaweb.org/Programs/Youth-Scholarship.