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Childhood trauma brings desire for educational excellence



May 05, 2011

A maturity beyond his years led Nathan Delafield to rely on education as a healthy distraction to the unfortunate realities of his early childhood. His need for guidance and his ability to use others’ skepticism as motivation led him toward self encouragement and scholarship.

By the age of nine, Delafield was faced with the harsh reality that he had minimal guidance and family support to rely on. His mother had abandoned him in central Phoenix, choosing a life of substance abuse and addiction, and his absent father was a career criminal.

Emotions of extreme uncertainty became overwhelming as he entered foster care and became a ward of the state. Fortunately, Delafield was able to find shelter in a permanent foster home where he remained until age 18.

Delafield turned to education as a way to cope with his situation and the resulting emotional turmoil.

“In retrospect, the only thing that I did to overcome the circumstances of my childhood was to completely immerse myself in to my education,” says Delafield. Not only did education serve as distraction from the realities he needed to escape, but it also led him down a path of self discovery.

“It was my belief, as it is today, that I was meant to accomplish something great despite the decisions of my biological parents and their shortcomings,” recalls Delafield. “I did not know exactly what I intended to accomplish in my initial pursuit of education, but I did recognize my desire for perfection, so that I would never again be limited in my options.”

Delafield set and achieved significant goals that many viewed as impossible given his unconventional upbringing. He became valedictorian of his eighth grade class, which encouraged him further. In high school his academic success earned him the ASU President’s Merit Scholarship.

Now he is graduating with a bachelor of science in kinesiology and will be attending the Indiana University School of Medicine in fall 2011. He plans to become a physician with a focus on providing assistance to patients with addictions similar to those that afflicted his biological parents.

Todd Stricherz, director of academic services for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, has known Delafield since his first semester at ASU. “Not only has he beat the odds by surviving, graduating high school and now earning his college degree, he has excelled by becoming one of the most memorable students we have worked with,” says Stricherz.

Delafield is still setting goals. His personal experiences in life and foster care motivate him to serve as a resource to others who are disadvantaged with the hope that he can help eliminate childhood abandonment and encourage healthy families.

“I understand that my acceptance in to medical school is not the final step on this path I am currently traveling down but rather a catalyst to a life of service, family and professionalism,” he says.

Contributed by Latezia Fletcher, ASU College of Nursing & Health Innovation