My Bradley Experience

The Flow of the River

Nick Porter ’20

My close friends and family can attest to the fact that I am a sucker for a good river; they flow with definitive purpose, gracefully outline cities, and are oftentimes muddy, dirty, and unashamedly real.

I instantly fell in love with the aesthetic beauty of the Illinois River and the blue-collar landscape that surrounded it while on my first visit to Peoria and Bradley.

The river wasn’t pristine, but that’s what made it relatable. I grew up in the small town of Paxton, Ill., where my life – like everyone else’s – was far from perfect. My father died in June of 2014, and I spent the tail end of my high school career channeling grief into academic and athletic endeavors.

This tunnel vision attitude allowed me to join one of the best distance-running programs in the country and gave me the confidence to pursue a double major in biomedical science and Spanish. It also pushed me to orchestrate my own week-long community service trip and increased my desire to attend medical school.

However, this fixation on success created a façade, one where I put on the mask of perfection despite what happened in the world around me. During my freshman year, the intense demands I placed on myself around high-level athletics, academics and other extracurriculars began to expose holes in the wall I had built. I’ve had a lot of successes while at Bradley, but the weight of the struggles almost always felt heavier than the relief of accomplishments.

My Bradley Experience has been anything but a steady ride. However, at every peak, valley, and countless points in-between, I have had truly incredible professors, coaches, friends, teammates, lab partners and classmates who have picked me up time and again. More importantly, my Bradley family has shown me that being true and genuine is okay.

I offer this very real reflection of my time at Bradley because, just like the Illinois River two miles down Main Street that never masks itself for anything besides what it is, I now value my individuality and identity and work diligently to cultivate it.

I spent much of my last year on the Hilltop thinking about my next steps, especially applying to medical school. While some may feel apprehension about such situations, I did not because of how well Bradley prepared me to attack every challenge that lies ahead.

To my Bradley family and all the Braves reading this, I would like to give you the most true and heartfelt thank you. You have made me a better student, a better athlete and, most of all, a better, more genuine person. For that I will be forever indebted to, and thankful for, the privilege of attending this incredible institution.

Nick Porter

Paxton, Ill.

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