Amazing Grace: A Story of Defying the Odds

red lighted candle

by Grace Lefcourt

For my entire life, I’ve been called “Amazing Grace.” I was born 12 weeks early, weighing just 1.5 lbs. I spent the first four and a half months of my life in the hospital and finally went home on oxygen and a feeding tube. I was diagnosed as developmentally delayed just 4 months after my discharge from the hospital and spent years in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. I was never expected to live a “normal” life, let alone attend a college-prep high school, taking honors and AP classes. I have been a strong and determined person my entire life.

Prematurity is not just being born too soon and too small. It can also bring lifelong challenges, many of which I have overcome and exceeded expectations. The three holes in my heart closed without surgery, my chronic lung disease resolved as I got bigger and stronger, and my eyesight is okay and stable. There are so many other preemies that haven’t had the same positive outcome that I’ve experienced.

From scars that I will carry forever, knowledge of how truly fortunate I am, and the fact that I am 4 feet 6 inches tall, prematurity has been a huge factor in my life. It’s not always easy being super short in the regular world. I have to strategize about so many things that people take for granted. Everything, from requesting a lower locker because I couldn’t reach the coat hooks in upper lockers, to navigating the grocery store that has tall shelves, is difficult for me. Technically, in many states, I should still be using a booster seat.

Although I am small, I am mighty. I am passionate about life. In fact, I am crazy about history. I always knew I was a little different than my peers, but in fifth grade when talking about a summer adventure my family could take, a visit to California to stay with family and go to Disneyland. I proposed a different sort of trip, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in a small and desolate area called Baker City, Oregon. It was there that I saw a one-man Medicine Man show. I was enthralled, later asking my parents, “How did I not know that I could combine history and theater?!” I was hooked!

My first visit to D.C. changed my life. I knew that is where I needed to be. Everything I had learned and read, led me to this moment. I even performed the Gettysburg Address to my fellow classmates on the tour bus. They were not impressed. . . but I was proud of myself! With new enthusiasm for all things Colonial America, I searched for programs that would allow me to spend time studying in the place I love. I attended the National Institute of American History and Democracy (NIAHD) the summer after my sophomore year. I found my people. Every one of the students was just as passionate as I am about history. The conversations, bonding experiences, and memories (a favorite was spending the 4th of July in Williamsburg, VA) cemented the dream of pursuing my love of history. Knowing that funds are limited in my family, I needed to find a no-cost alternative the summer after my junior year. I was accepted as an Intern for the Fairfield Foundation in Gloucester, VA where I spent nearly a month helping with archeology digs. I am fully committed to spending my life’s work on making history come alive to a new generation.

I believe that my passion for life and learning demonstrates that I will be successful at your university. I am an overachiever, and I have a lot to share with the world.