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Childhood trauma turns to educational excellence for ASU student

July 01, 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 ability to use others skepticism as motivation led him down a path of self encouragement and scholarship.

By the age of nine, Nathan 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, Nathan was able to find shelter in a permanent foster home where he remained until age 18.

Nathan turned to education as a way to cope with his situation and 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 Nathan. 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 Nathan. “I did not know exactly what I intended to accomplish in my initial pursuit of education but I did realize my desire for perfection so that I would never again be limited in my options.”

Nathan set and achieved significant goals that many viewed as impossible given his unconventional upbringing. He accomplished his goal of becoming valedictorian of his eighth grade class ultimately encouraging him further. This motivation and desire to overcome others skepticism carried in to high school as his academic success awarded him the ASU President’s Merit Scholarship.

“Today I have clarity in the path that I am pursuing, a path that I believe I have gradually come to realize as a result of my life experiences and educational accomplishments,” says Nathan. In addition to his academics at ASU, Nathan dedicated himself to a variety of activities focused on helping others achieve success. Nathan will be 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 Nathan 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.

Nathan 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.

Nathan’s passion for education and scholarship has enabled him to overcome the misfortunes of his childhood while building himself a future rich with opportunity.