A Singer, a Miracle, a Mentor: Students Stole the Show at the Scholarship Ball

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tyler Shephard, Sophia Hernandez, and Nicole Buchman on stage at the Scholarship Ball

Benedictine College highlighted the amazing stories of three outstanding Raven students as a part of the celebration at the 49th Annual Scholarship Ball. Enjoy the highlights of their inspirational journeys with Benedictine College. To see their full videos and other highlights from the Scholarship Ball and Benedictine College life, subscribe for free to the Benedictine College channel on YouTube.com

Nicole Buchman '21

Nicole BuchmanNicole Buchman, a Raven junior from Minnesota, has long known she wanted a career in sacred music. A job teaching special education as a senior in high school helped to form her dreams in a way she never expected.

“The students that I encountered there were some of the most authentic people that I have ever known,” said Nicole. “On days when the students were upset or I was having a hard time we would go play piano or we would sing, and we all felt connected. I realized that we all communicate through music and faith.”

Nicole came to Benedictine College as a Dean’s Scholar and Gregorian Fellow, and also earned a scholarship in the music department. Her classes in music, education, and special education helped her focus her ambitions in a unique and beautiful way.

“I want to use my degree in music and theology to go into sacred music and work with those who receive special education in the Church,” said Nicole. “Unfortunately, a lot of families don’t bring their children with disabilities to Mass because of the distractions they believe it may cause, but I want to be able to create an environment where all feel welcome to praise the Lord.”

Like many Benedictine College students, Nicole’s scholarships were vitally important in helping her become the person she wants to be. And her time at Benedictine has helped form her to clearly see what kind of person that is.

“I want to be someone who’s well-equipped to encounter all people, because the Catholic Church is for everyone.”

Sophia Hernandez '23

Sophia HernandezRaven freshman, Sophia Hernandez, is a living miracle.

When her mother was five months pregnant, the doctors knew there were serious complications with the baby. No one expected Sophia to survive long after her birth. The doctors offered to perform a “surgery,” which Sophia’s mother knew was a polite way of saying they recommended the young child be aborted.

“My parents said, ‘no, that will never be an option,’” Sophia said.

Instead, her parents started a novena to Our Lady Help of Christians. The novena included the promise from the Virgin Mary, “Whatever the doctors cannot do, I can do.”

Sophia was born May 1, 2000. She was a beautiful, mostly healthy baby girl. But she had one useless kidney and only 30% function in the other. By the time her family moved to the United States when Sophia was 10, she was in desperate need of a transplant.

The call came on May 24, 2014—the feast day of Our Lady Help of Christians. A donor match had been found, and Sophia received her new kidney that evening at midnight.

“Through my whole process from when I was born until still now, everything has been because of Our Lady,” she said.

Sophia’s experience with the nurses who took care of her 24 hours a day through her transplant inspired her to want to give her life in service. She believes God led her to Benedictine College, where she is training to live her dream of becoming a neonatal nurse to help babies who are struggling to live.

“I honestly would not be here without the academic scholarship that I was given,” said Sophia. “I want to thank all who have donated, because you’re not only helping us achieve our dreams, but helping us achieve our mission in life.”

Tyler Shepherd '19

Tyler ShephardTyler Shephard ’19 grew up in the far south side of Chicago, where the daily realities of violence and crime of all sorts made going to college seem like a foreign concept to most people he knew.

“Out of my 8th grade graduating class I know that I am the only male to even graduate from a traditional high school setting,” said Tyler.

Tyler was inspired by the work ethic of his mother and father, who both worked 12-hour days to provide for their family of seven children. Seeing their sacrifice instilled a passion in Tyler to make a difference.

“It made me want to do something to end the cycle of poverty,” said Tyler. “To show people that life is more than what we’re accustomed to. Life is more than what we can visually see and what’s tangible at the moment.”

Tyler long had a goal of playing college football. He was recruited in high school by Ravens Defensive Coordinator, Charlie Gartenmayer ’75.

“He talked to me about becoming a better individual, obtaining a quality education, and developing lifelong friendships. That’s what truly intrigued me,” said Tyler.

Upon graduation, Tyler worked as a community support specialist in St. Joseph, Missouri, helping children with behavioral and mental challenges to build positive selfreliance and a sense of character development. Today he’s back at Benedictine, earning his master’s degree while working on diversity initiatives as a Graduate Assistant, making sure students of various backgrounds become immersed in the culture of Benedictine College.

“I would not have been able to come to Benedictine without a scholarship at all,” said Tyler. “I truly believe that the purpose of my life is to make a difference in the lives of others, and that’s because people have done the same for me. Benedictine has taught me that you’re not reaching your full potential unless you’re helping other people maximize theirs.”