Hazel Schira grew up on a family farm in Mosinee, Wis., a community of nearly 4,000 people. It was early mornings, long days and never-ending hard work. And Schira loved every minute of it.
“Growing up on the farm has been an incredible experience,” recalls Schira. And that love of farming has taken her from Mosinee to Madison.
Schira is now a senior at UW-Madison double majoring in Biochemistry and Chinese. Next year, she will present her research on white blood cells at a conference in Chicago. She is fluent in Mandarin and has studied abroad twice in China.
As a graduating senior, Schira gets asked a lot about what comes next. Right now, she’s isn’t quite sure, and she isn’t concerned about it either. Options include graduate school, medical school, or maybe the peace corps.
She ultimately plans on returning to a rural community where she can help; in a similar way her home community of Mosinee has helped her family.
“I am looking to move to a more rural community, like the one I grew up in. It’s a great place to raise a family,” she said. “They are supporting my family in our time of need.”
Schira is referring to the health struggles both her parents face. Her father is disabled, bipolar and faces an ongoing struggle with depression. Schira’s mother is fighting breast cancer. Her parents’ health challenges are one of the primary reasons Schira is interested in pursuing the medical field.
The community support shown to Schira and her family includes providing dinner for the family every night. Schira, while busy with school and preparing for her future, returns home about once a month to help on the farm. For her, it’s helping out her family most when they need it.
Schira is no stranger to the theme of overcoming challenges; in kindergarten, she was diagnosed with dyslexia. She credits the Mosinee School District with helping her succeed. By middle school, she was keeping up with the other students. While she needed extra time to do it all, she continued.
“I believe I have overcome my disability by working hard,” said Schira. In addition to her dyslexia, she also has an autoimmune disease and physical limitations, but those have never stopped her from pursuing her life goals. Schira shared that she always knew she’d go to college and nothing would stop her.
“If you really set your mind to something, you’ll find a way to do it,” she said.
Schira was the valedictorian at Mosinee High School, class of 2013. She is also a 2013 recipient of the Thomas H. Lutsey-Waseda Farms Scholarship.